More than any recent month, November’s T.C. rap roundup features more artists appearing here for the first time.
That’s a good thing: It’s a clear indicator that there are new artists keeping local hip-hop fresh and vital, in addition to the more familiar names reliably doing their thing. Here are 10 songs that prove it’s an exciting time for Minneapolis and St. Paul rap.
Atmosphere ft. Beyond -- “Broken Rewind Button”
Album: Overcast! (20th anniversary remaster)
Label: Rhymesayers Entertainment
Atmosphere’s 1997 debut album, Overcast!, is the only LP the group recorded while MC Spawn was a full-time member. On this previously unreleased song from the 20th anniversary remaster of the album, Spawn joins Slug on the mic, and so does Beyond, aka Musab or Sab the Artist, and the track bursts with the level of rap talent developing in Minnesota at the time.
Ced Linus -- “Winter”
Album: Winter Sessions EP
Label: Pledge Empire Records
Here, Minneapolis rapper and Pledge Empire Records artist Ced Linus gets real as hell, thoughtfully rapping about subjects including race and police profiling. It’s the first single from Ced’s upcoming Winter Sessions EP.
Robb Hayes ft. Savanna -- “Brand New”
Album: The Eugene Album
There will always be something to be said for a rap song (or any song, really) that simply makes you feel good, which is what this single by Kentucky-born, Minneapolis-based rapper Robb Hayes does. It’s off Hayes’ upcoming LP, The Eugene Album.
Muja Messiah Ft. Roc Marciano -- “You Haven’t Lived”
Album: Saran Rap
Label: Man Bites Dog Records
“You Haven’t Lived” is the first single off Muja Messiah’s upcoming Saran Rap EP, produced entirely by NYC cult-hero rapper-producer Roc Marciano. It’s also the one song on the EP where Roc joins Muja on the mic, and man do these guys complement each other well. Muja brings his slyly funny hustler’s tales (“Blowin’ money fast/ Snow bunny with drugs up her ass”) while Roc delivers his densely rhymed opulence (“Givenchy on the toes/ I’m ‘bout to paint the Bentley gold/ I’m cold”). Saran Rap is out November 24 via Man Bites Dog Records; pre-order a digital or vinyl copy of the EP here.
Nimic Revenue ft. Allan Kingdom -- “SK8BOARDFLEX (Official Remix)”
If I had to bet on one new Minnesota song to become a bona fide hit and do astronomical numbers, I’m taking Nimic Revenue’s phenomenally catchy “SK8BOARDFLEX” or this new remix with Allan Kingdom. The gleaming Dej Loaf-style chorus alone could launch it to internet-sensation status. Meanwhile, the addition of Allan’s knowingly goofy verse makes the remix even more fun than the original.
Omie Tha Homie -- “Frogtown Freestyle”
Album: Tha H.O.E. Album
St. Paul rapper Omie Tha Homie is unjustly overlooked, and if you’re still sleeping on him, here’s a song to wake you up. Over his brother Jevonechy Beats’ production, which throbs and pulses like Nas and Lauryn Hill’s “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That),” Omie vividly strings together memories of growing up in the titular St. Paul neighborhood. The song is from Omie’s impressive latest project, Tha H.O.E. Album (with “H.O.E.” standing for “hell on Earth”).
Poppy Loco -- “Labels”
Album: I.M.O.C (I’m My Own Competition)
Slain St. Paul rapper Poppy Loco had a passion and talent for writing about topics including racism and police brutality. It’s something he does memorably on “Labels”: “Nowadays it ain’t ‘bout the evidence/Your skin color, that’s what make you guilty/ You can pay your taxes, have no record/ When they see you, they’ll still try to kill you.” The song is a highlight from Poppy’s mixtape I.M.O.C (I’m My Own Competition), released posthumously last month.
Rae Santana ft. Bookie -- “Bodies”
St. Paul’s Rae Santana and Minneapolis’ Bookie are two young street rappers who consistently amass big YouTube numbers, and “Bodies” is their first collaboration. The song, which might be classified as “Minnesota drill,” is reminiscent of G Herbo and Lil Bibby’s game-changing collabs circa 2012-13. While drill music is arguably dead, “Bodies” is proof the style can still be uniquely electrifying in doses.
Student 1 -- “Hour 1”
Album: Whatever EP
It can be a blast to hear a rapper sound like they are having a blast, which is what Minneapolis’ fast-rising Student 1 does here. He flows energetically and animatedly over the undulating, bleary beat courtesy of Mississauga, Ontario producer K. Rain. Student 1’s Whatever EP comes out next week.
Why Khaliq -- “Smile”
Album: The Mustard Seed
Label: Six5 Records
It was hard to choose just one song from Why Khaliq’s new album, The Mustard Seed, to include in this space; it’s my favorite Minnesota album of the year, and there isn’t a less-than-good song on it. Right now, though, “Smile” is the one track I can’t stop playing. An introspective Khaliq spends the song articulating his general feeling of doubtfulness in his life -- even as he’s making such excellent music. Read our new interview with Khaliq here.