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Allan Kingdom leads off March's 10-song Twin Cities rap roundup

Allan Kingdom

Allan Kingdom Anna Gulbrandsen

It’s an exciting time for Twin Cities hip-hop.

New artists are emerging with new styles, while veterans continue to please their long-established fanbases. Here are 10 songs from the past month or so that serve as a sampler of what T.C. rap currently has to offer.

Allan Kingdom -- ‘Know About It’
Album: LINES
Label: So Cold Records/Empire

Earlier this month Allan Kingdom returned with his first single since his acclaimed Northern Lights project. Produced by Ronny J and FNZ (known for their work with Florida phenom Denzel Curry), “Know About It” is a neon-lit showcase for the pop instincts and creative flows that have made Allan one of Minnesota’s favorite artists. His new album, LINES, is set for an April 7 release and will feature Curry, Kevin Abstract, and Minneapolis’ own Finding Novyon.

Bobby Raps -- ‘Purgatory’
Album: Non-album single
Label: Republic Records

Haunted by death and addiction, Bobby Raps’ utterly original “Purgatory” is an especially relevant song for rap’s dangerously druggy current era. “Is there heaven for an addict/ Or is it just that feeling they chase but could never capture?” he speak-raps before the song explodes, letting his voice crack with sheer intensity. Heavy stuff, and maybe not for everyone, but hard to listen to intently without getting goosebumps. Be on the lookout for Bobby’s upcoming solo project, Mark.

Brother Ali -- ‘Own Light (What Hearts Are For)’
Album: All the Beauty in This Whole Life
Label: Rhymesayers Entertainment

“Own Light (What Hearts Are For)” is the lead single from All the Beauty in This Whole Life, the new album from resurgent Rhymesayers artist Brother Ali, out May 5. Ali has called it the album’s “theme song,” a soulful flash of optimism comparable to his own previous works and the positivity of Oddisee, and Ant’s beat, heavy on electric guitar, is one of the Atmosphere producer’s finest of late.

Lil’ Ant and Mello -- ‘Bottom’
Album: Non-album single
Label: Self-released

When he’s really on, Lil’ Ant, of St. Paul’s East Side, raps as well as anybody in his city. (Check here, here, here, etc.) While “Bottom” is more chorus-driven than some of Ant’s previous output, he still does his thing on the verses with mesmerizing rhyme patterns. Mello is a less established spitter who’s quickly making a name for himself. If these guys collab again, it’ll definitely be worth a listen.

Muja Messiah -- ‘PyrExpeditioN (Brick in Da Bag)’
Album: PyrExpeditioN
Label: Sound Verite Records

As the name suggests, the title track from Muja Messiah’s excellent new album has more than a little to do with narcotic salesmanship. But Muja is too clever and inventive to make unoriginal trap music -- “PyExpetitioN (Brick in Da Bag)” is closer to something from Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... than it is to, like, a song off the latest Ralo tape. Produced almost entirely by on-fire St. Paul native Tek, PyrExpeditioN is an early contender for Minnesota album of the year.

Omie Tha Homie -- ‘New Babylon’
Album: Non-album single
Label: Self-released

There’s something so pure and passionate about the music of as Omie Tha Homie; he seems entirely intent on expressing himself artistically and entirely unconcerned with rap trends. “New Babylon” is a deeply affecting song, with Omie rapping about, among other things, the African-American experience. (“We livin’ in a country where being white is right, but being black is wrong,” he begins.) Andre Mariette’s dark, boiling beat is a perfect backdrop.

Spiffy Wilds -- ‘Trippin’
Album: This Time Last Year
Label: Trimega

With a glinting beat from Zaytoven, the endlessly influential Atlanta native who’s one of the most in-demand producers in all of rap, St. Paul’s Spiffy Wilds didn’t have to do a whole lot to make “Trippin” a success. He could’ve let the beat do the majority of the talking. Instead, he goes hard to make sure the song has multi-dimensionality, with charged-up flows and strong hooks. Look for Spiffy’s This Time Last Year on April 2.

Tarxan -- ‘Myself’
Album: Non-album single
Label: Self-released

Two years after setting St. Paul on fire with his “Faneto” remix, Tarxan remains a curious case: undeniably popular though he hasn’t released a full-length mixtape or even posted on an official SoundCloud page. One of the hottest rappers in his city. He show off his versatile skillset on “Myself,” which explodes like Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares” or Tee Grizzley’s “First Day Out.” Here, Tarxan transitions from melodic sing-rapping to a more fiery deliver reminiscent of his excellent 2015 song “The Intro.”

Taylor J -- ‘West$ide’
Album: Non-album single
Label: Scenious Entertainment

Over the course of his globetrotting music career, Taylor J has made moves in major rap cities including New York and Atlanta. Still, his heart remains in St. Paul. On “West$ide,” he brings it all back home. Though Taylor has access to producers including Lex Luger, the beat here comes from another St. Paul native and close friend of Taylor’s, FL Studio wizard Kush2x.

Toki Wright -- ‘The Situation’
Album: At the Speed of Life 3 EP
Label: Soul Tools Entertainment

Earlier this month, rapper Toki Wright (who also produces as Mamadu) released seven songs in as many days, collecting them for his new At the Speed of Life 3 EP. “The Situation” is a definite highlight, a fluid showcase of Toki’s long-honed talents as a lyricist, technician, and producer.