Even before it began, 2017 was supposed to be a breakthrough year for Twin Cities hip-hop.
In some respects, it has been – young artists are developing their craft and coming into their own even more so than in previous years. And yet, there's definitely room for the rest of the rap world to recognize what's happening in Minneapolis and St. Paul music.
Fortunately, Florida's rapid rise in 2017 shows that it's possible for an often overlooked state to become widely known for its young rappers practically overnight, and it's conceivable that Minnesota is on the cusp of a similar advancement.
For the purposes of this monthly roundup, what matters is the quality of the music, not hype, and the past month has offered plenty of quality. Below, find 10 new songs that prove that to be true.
Angelo Bombay, Muja Messiah and J. Plaza -- “Finland Ain’t Got No Prisons”
Here, Minneapolis’s Muja Messiah is as bluntly clever (or cleverly blunt) as ever, while FreeWifi member J. Plaza raps with more menace than usual. Meanwhile, Angelo Bombay’s piccolo-laced beat functions as a carefully crafted showcase of the MPLS/LA producer’s ideas and abilities. You should be excited about Muja’s upcoming EP with Roc Marciano, Saran Rap, out September 22. Hopefully, we’ll get J. Plaza’s anticipated debut solo project soon, too.
Cashinova -- “Foolish”
Label: Stophouse Group
St. Paul rapper Cashinova’s second single as a Stophouse Group signee, the J.J. Jabber-produced “Foolish,” is propelled by pure, easy confidence and an atmospheric, efficient beat. Following Cashinova’s previous single “The Vision” with Finding Novyon and J. Plaza, it’s the sound of an artist on a winning streak, reveling his undeniable momentum. Catch Cashinova performing at Prof Outdoors 4 this Saturday.
DB Tha Rasta -- “Henny Dance”
Here, St. Paul native DB Tha Rasta is faded off his favorite cognac, swaggering and talking shit. Recorded in New York while under the influence of Henny, “Henny Dance” has a couple key things in common with Young M.A’s “OOOUUU,” and it’s fun and loose like that Brooklyn rapper’s mega-hit from last year -- DB even used M.A.’s name as a tag for his SoundCloud upload of the song.
The Lioness -- “Parapraxis”
Minneapolis’s the Lioness always sounds like one of the most necessary voices around, an extraordinary and evocative lyricist of truth and honesty. “Parapraxis” confirms this in under a minute and a half. That beat reminds me of J. Cole’s towering, teetering “A Tale of 2 Citiez,” and I love that Cole beat.
Lizzo -- “Water Me”
Label: Nice Life/Atlantic
OK, the latest Lizzo single is maybe more “pop” than “rap,” but the switches in Lizzo’s partly sung, partly rapped vocal deliveries make “Water Me” a kinetic joy. And of course, Lizzo remains a reliable source of self-empowerment: “I am my inspiration,” she belts here.
Nazeem & Spencer Joles -- “The Jug”
Album: Years of Obscurity
After a few eventful months that involved festival appearances at Soundset and Summer Set, the young Minneapolis duo of Nazeem & Spencer Joles are heading into fall with the release of a new project called Years of Obscurity. Premiered with Elevator Mag, the dense, explosive “The Jug” is a standout from the nine-track sophomore record, released earlier this week.
Lil Nuka -- “Magnolia”
Album: Unofficial remix
By the time that Minneapolis’s Lil Nuka released his “Magnolia,” rap fans might have been collectively tired of hearing remixes of Playboi Carti’s insanely catchy breakthrough hit of the same name. But Nuka’s remix is exceptional, with the Minneapolis rapper gracing Pi’erre Bourne’s flutey beat with the swagger it requires. In the process, Nuka delivers some sneakily clever lines like “Ain’t no more parking spots, nigga, I done sold a lot.”
Destiny Roberts -- “All in the Name”
It was a strong month for the women of Twin Cities hip-hop, with St. Paul’s young Destiny Roberts adding a standout track of her own. Here, over a woozy, spacy beat, Roberts is both technical and laid back at the same time, playing off the meaning of her first name.
Shredders -- “Xanthrax”
The arrival of “Xanthrax” might have been even a bigger deal than the initial announcement of Doomtree offshoot Shredders and the four-piece’s coinciding debut EP -- this single premiered on HBO’s Ballers. In P.O.S and Sims’ dueling verses, there’s a thrilling kind of Killer Mike/El-P dynamic here.
Vo -- “Many Men”
Album: Unofficial remix
Vo’s rap career has repeatedly been interrupted by stints in jail, but the East Side St. Paul rapper is always liable to release a street hit while he’s a free man; numbers-wise, his remix of Tee Grizzley’s “First Day Out” is one of the biggest Twin Cities rap songs of 2017. Vo is a guy who’s made an art of remixing songs both old and new, and he recently took on the steely beat from 50 Cent’s “Many Men.” Here, he raps with a slight raspiness that reminds me of Chicago’s young phenom G Herbo, but he injects enough of his own story and style (whether it’s in his lyrics about street controversy or in his signature ad libs) to make it his own.