Something unprecedented happened to the Twin Cities rap scene in November, when it was revealed that 20-year-old St. Paul native Nimic Revenue became the first solo artist from Minnesota to sign a deal with Def Jam, earning the respect of local peers and even Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.
While one record deal like that may or may not boost the national visibility of our rap scene as a whole, it's a win for sure—a sign of collective momentum for Minneapolis and St. Paul as so many artists grind and strive to grow their career.
Dig into the return of our 10-song Twin Cities rap roundup this month and see the vast spectrum of talent thriving locally right now, from new faces like Nimic to the steady veterans of MuOg (Muja Messiah and OG Grip).
Allan Kingdom -- “Energized”
Label: Yebo Inc. / Opposition
A definitive and Earl Sweatshirt-approved distillation of Allan Kingdom’s elastic exuberance as a vocalist, this song will just make you feel good. We didn't get a full-length from Allan this year, but he still closes 2018 strong with this single—one of my favorite songs of his yet.
Astralblak -- “Money”
Label: Sound Verite
As eclectic and wide-ranging as their sound can be, Minneapolis synth-funk trippers Astalblak (fka ZuluZuluu) typically have hip-hop baked into their sound. That's especially true when member Greg Grease is rapping. On “Money,” he and guest MC the Lioness take one verse apiece inspired by the titular topic, both proving why they’re among the most thoughtful lyricists in the city.
Dem Atlas -- “Early Train”
Album: Bad Actress
Label: Rhymesayers Entertainment
Five years after signing with Rhymesayers Entertainment, Dem Atlas finally made his full-length RSE debut with Bad Actress. "Early Train" is an highlight, a deeply introspective and honest rap-rock hybrid.
GainesFM Ft. Rico Nasty -- "Forever"
Label: FreeMinds Ent.
For his latest single, FreeMinds Ent. leader GainesFM recruits one of 2018's breakout rappers, Maryland "sugar trap" artist Rico Nasty. Rico has a lot of energy and personality, but Gaines refuses to be out-rapped here, resulting in a dizzyingly fun collab.
Kush2x Ft. Taylor J -- “Dancin’ in the Trap”
Album: Dancin’ in the Trap
Label: Scenious Entertainment
For the past few years, St. Paul producer Kush2x has been on a mission to prove Minnesota can be a place where trap music can flourish. His second album, Dancin' in the Trap, is filled with Twin Cities street-oriented artists both well-known and not as well-known. The title track features St. Paul star Taylor J, who, as he often does, brings hard, believable trap talk and a sleek hook.
Lucien Parker -- “Southside”
Though 20-odd years separate Lucien Parker and Atmosphere’s Slug in age, both proudly represent Minneapolis’ Southside and sound good together on this highlight from Parker’s Mephoria EP, with Parker warmly sing-rapping and Slug adopting a more conversational approach over producer Tone Jonez’s bright organ progressions.
Nimic Revenue -- “Tag”
Nimic Revenue has released two songs since the reveal of her aforementioned deal with Def Jam, though neither appears to be an official single with the label. Her new song with Chicago star Lil Durk, “ A Lie,” is a good look, but the other loosie,“Tag,” is even better. There may not be another artist in the Twin Cities who can create a ridiculously catchy song like this with seemingly little effort.
Maria Isa -- “Confusion”
One of the highlights on Maria Isa's new album, Sasa, released on Election Day and entirely produced by J. Hard, comes toward the end with the hypnotic, swaggering "Confusion."
MuOg (Muja Messiah X OG Grip) Ft. Remo Williamz -- “Pay Phone”
Label: Unstable Intellect
Muja Messiah and OG Grip's new joint album as MuOg, produced by Minneapolis' Emazin, is one of the best-rapped albums out of Minnesota this year. That's exemplified on "Pay Phone," where Muja snaps in his signature zany way, rhyming Henry Ford with Boston George with Al B. Sure! The song also has one of the strongest choruses on the album, courtesy of Remo Williamz.
Tarxan -- “The Intro Part 2”
Album: Rider Music, Vol. 1
St. Paul rapper Tarxan’s long-awaited mixtape Rider Music, Vol. 1 finally arrived at the end of October, opening with the worthy sequel to his 2015 street hit “ The Intro.” Borrowing the minimal beat from rising Texas rapper Splurge’s song of the same name, Tarxan comes with some supreme trap talk of his own on “The Intro Part 2” (“I made the pack do a backflip and did it again like I practice gymnastics”). Plus this is a prime example of how ad-libs can make a rap song more exciting and infectious than it already is.