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Lexii Alijai thinks out loud about 'Young Black America' in this month's Twin Cities rap roundup

Lexii Alijai. (Photo courtesy of the artist.)

Lexii Alijai. (Photo courtesy of the artist.)

At the end of May, the music fans who came from all over to witness Soundset 2017 got to check out a crop of Twin Cities hip-hop acts in the process. The fest showed those listeners why they should be paying attention to T.C. rap, and over the next month, some of those artists and their local peers kept the momentum going by releasing plenty of new material. Below, check out 10 of the best local rap songs from June.

Lexii Alijai -- “Young Black America (Remix)”
Album: Unofficial remix
Label: Self-released

St. Paul's Lexii Alijai has released a handful of remixes in recent months while her next project is marinating. Here, she takes the beat from Meek Mill and The-Dream’s “Young Black America” (itself a rework of Jay-Z’s “Momma Loves Me”) out for a spin. As on “Black Lives Matter” from late last year, Lexii fills the track with observations on the differences she sees between white and black America.

Cashinova ft. Finding Novyon and J. Plaza -- “The Vision”
Album: Single
Label: Stophouse Music Group

Three rappers, three fire verses, and a strong hook gluing them all together. St. Paul’s Cashinova is the most recent signee to Stophouse Music Group, and as his first song for the label, “The Vision” makes sense -- it’s fueled by his confidence in his near future. Finding Novyon and J. Plaza join in as complementary forces, with the former delivering an emphatic verse that may be even better than his appearance on Sean Anonymous and DJ Name’s “Cups,” named City Pages’ Best Hip-Hop Verse 2017.

Ced Linus -- “Cold, Cold”
Album: Prequel to Winter
Label: Pledge Empire Records

Whenever Pledge Empire Records’ Ced Linus raps, you listen closely -- he not only has a strikingly deep voice, but his tone lets you know you’re hearing a craftsman at work. “Cold, Cold,” the first single from Ced’s Prequel to Winter EP, is no exception. After Ced lets the beat establish a certain grittiness, he proceeds to familiarize the listener with his unwavering devotion to his rhymes and the soul he puts into them: “This the recipe until we rest in peace/ Get the word out, help me speak my piece.“

Finding Novyon ft. Allan Kingdom -- “Tall Hills”
Album: That’s My Dawg
Label: So Cold Records

This melodic single from Finding Novyon’s new album, That’s My Dawg, is yet another standout collab with fellow So Cold Records artist Allan Kingdom. Allan is already known for his way with melody, and here, Novyon meets him halfway, resulting in a bright, bubbly album highlight. Novy and Allan find inspiration in the California hills and what they symbolize: fortune, relevance, and so much more. This one definitely has the potential to be the pair’s biggest song together since their SoundCloud smash “Lots.”

Mike Dreams -- “Curry from 30”
Album: Single
Label: Self-released

With a hook inspired by Steph Curry and plenty of other hoops-related lines, Minneapolis rapper Mike Dreams’ “Curry from 30” is a trap banger with bars (“Said you was balling like James? I don’t think none of you Worthy”). The song is set to appear on Mike’s upcoming Young Vet EP.

Niles -- “Chadwick”
Album: Single
Label: Self-released

On “Chadwick,” one of Niles’ three new songs, the Lansing-bred, Minneapolis-based rapper reflects on the things that make him the person he is today, from his faith to his sober lifestyle to his enduring love of hip-hop. It’s a song full of heart and honesty, and D Smooth’s chipmunk-soul beat adds to the introspective effect.

Pilot Jonny -- “Jonny”
Album: Single
Label: Self-released

Propelled by a sample of Kendrick Lamar’s “XXX.,” this self-produced song is explosive and defiant, with Pilot Jonny explaining his decision to drop out of college. (Sample line: “Nothing compares to what my OGs bestowed upon me.”) Jonny may not be putting eye-popping SoundCloud numbers on the board yet, but he’s a talent to watch, with a growing reputation among his peers in the T.C. scene.

St. Paul Slim ft. Precise Logic -- “Mic Down”
Album: Delgado
Label: Stophouse Music Group

“Mic Down” is a head-bobber from the moment St. Paul Slim’s flow clicks with the concussive East Coast rumble of this beat. Slim proceeds to make his case for the extent of his musical ability, promising that, while you may overlook or underrate him, “you can never turn my mic down.” With a solid verse from Precise Logic to boot, this standout from Slim’s new Delgado is good enough that I fuck with it despite Slim’s jabs at this very music section: “Gimme Noise? Gimme a break!”

Taylor J -- “Five Times”
Album: Who Would’ve Thought
Label: Scenious Entertainment

“Five Times” is the first song on Taylor J’s debut album, Who Would’ve Thought, and thematically, it’s a fitting intro to the project. While Taylor acknowledges that some have written him off in the past, he’s winning now: “You a worker, I’m a boss, I’ma ball, mane/ And what’s a worker to a boss in his Balmain?”

V.I.C.E. Boys (CHVNSV ft. Connor Marques and RoDizzyy) -- “In the Air”
Album: CHVNSV’s Lost Cause
Label: Self-released

“In the Air” epitomizes the potential of the V.I.C.E. Boys crew. While each Boy has his own unique traits, the members who rap here (CHVNSV, Connor Marques, and RoDizzyy) flow seamlessly, with their propulsive energy rippling atop the 808 Mafia-style beat. With the rise of not only Migos but also the Band Gang and SOB x RBE, we may be entering a new era for rap groups and collectives -- a movement that makes the emergence of V.I.C.E. Boys that much more intriguing.