As I predicted last month, 2019 is shaping up as a year for fresh and/or young talent to infiltrate the scene—several names areeappearing in this column for the first time ever this month.
DB Tha Rasta ft. JonRay – “Designer Diva”
St. Paul’s DB Tha Rasta is in this space for the second month in a row—this time for a collaboration with Minneapolis’ JonRay. The two come together for a rock-solid street single with a flashy, accompanying MinnesotaColdTV video that makes both look like real-deal stars.
Lizea Harper – “Fantasy”
An intoxicating hybrid of rap, pop, and electronic sounds from Minneapolis’ Lizea Harper. Some of her singing here reminds me of Lana Del Rey, but Harper can spit, too.
Hunchoboy Skinny – “No Hook”
Hunchoboy Skinny is a brand-new name to me, a Somali-American rapper from Minneapolis who, it sounds like, recently completed a prison sentence. With the self-explanatory “No Hook,” Skinny is off to a hot start in 2019, generating strong YouTube numbers and even some attention from the popular Chicago blog Kollege Kidd. Here, he breathlessly goes in over a booming beat with a flow that reminds me of Chicago’s Cdot Honcho.
iLLism – “New Money”
The duo of Minneapolis natives Envy and Fancy, together known as iLLism, have a distinct part-rap, part-R&B dynamic that serves them well throughout their new album, Illuminate. Case in point: the bag-chasing highlight “New Money.”
Mic Q.A – “For the Love”
Album: Another Soft Ass Rap EP
Just because Mic Q.A gave his new project the self-deprecating title Another Soft Ass Rap EPdoesn’t mean you should guiltlessly scroll past it. It’s a solid eight-track release (six proper songs plus two genuinely funny skits), with some of the Minneapolis MC’s purest rapping coming on the gorgeous Beats in My Backpack production “For the Love.”
Pilot Jonny ft. Knucky and Sole2dotz – “Selfish”
The prolific Pilot Jonny’s self-produced latest single offers an effective contrast between Jonny’s simple, Auto-Tuned hook and a cypher-like rotation of verses from himself, Knucky, and Sole2dotz.
Will Robinson ft. J. Plaza – “Get Lit”
Album: The Monkey Paw EP
Label: Peace of Mind & Drugs
Let’s be honest: In today’s rap landscape, a song called “Get Lit” doesn’t promise a ton of originality. An artist needs to go extra hard for the track to not be ridden with cliches, and fortunately, Will Robinson—one of the acts selected for City Pages’ Poised to Poplist last month—and J. Plaza accomplish that on this roaring whirlwind of a single. It’s the first taste of Robinson’s upcoming The Monkey PawEP.
SKNY – “C4”
Label: Machine Entertainment Group
Minneapolis’ SKNY and his signature hairstyle showed up in a couple of rap’s internet hubs in January, first with his WorldStarHipHop-premiered “I Got” video and then with his “C4” visual, which debuted via Elevator. Here, SKNY dizzingly alternates between Playboi Carti-style ad-libbing-as-rapping as well as some faster, trickier patterns.
Taylor J – “Never”
Album: Coolin Till My 3rd Album Drop EP
Label: Scenious Entertainment
St. Paul favorite Taylor J is gearing up for his third album, and he’s once again released a warm-up EP to get his fans ready for the follow-up to last year’s Only Us. But not one of the four songs on Coolin Till My 3rd Album Dropsounds like a mere throwaway that’s unfit for a proper album. Standout track “Never” centers on just how little life, rap, and street experience you have compared to Taylor. I wouldn’t be mad if this pops up again on the Rosestracklist.
Why Khaliq – “Real”
Why Khaliq kept his #WhyWednesday series rolling after he released “Seasons Change,” selected for January’s roundup. “Real” is his latest midweek drop and possibly the best of the bunch, centering on what may be hip-hop’s most essential adjective.