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Six Twin Cities hip-hop albums you may have missed

Spooky Black
Spooky Black
Screengrab via YouTube

There's a glut of hip-hop coming out of the Twin Cities, and it can be a lot to try to digest. We've selected six recently released albums by local hip-hop artists that deserve recognition; welcome to Gimme Leaks #5.

Spooky Black - Black Silk
There's plenty to be said about Spooky Black's questionable aesthetic and the problematic etymology of his name, but goddamn, that voice. The 16-year-old durag enthusiast of St. Paul recently went viral with his video for "Without U", partially for the mesmerizingly slowed James Blake-esque vocals, and partially for the internet's love affair with the arrestingly strange. He's since linked up with Allan Kingdom, Psymun, and Bobby Raps for a supergroup of sorts, THESTANDARD, whose pair of songs "Decisions" and "Doors" are forward-thinking examples of a budding, chilled-out sound emanating from the continually growing local scene. 



The Level Heads - Reinvent
The Level Heads often perform shows with a live band, but with their latest project Reinvent, out May 3, rapper Lipset and producer Lokes incorporate the band into the writing and recording process to create a new sound altogether. Lokes' beats have always pulled from a variety of genres, but with the help of guitarist Kevin Israel, bassist Nick Johnson, and drummer Jesse Gaston, his meticulous production process comes off as bigger and tighter than ever before. Songs are longer and take off in different directions, allowing Lipset to flex his singing and lyric writing muscles, and he uses the opportunity to touch on bigger subjects with more nuance. It's a meticulous and varied project that brings out the best in the group.

The Levelheads play a CD release show for Reinvent on Saturday, May 3, at Icehouse with IBE and Benzilla.


Manny Phesto - Southside Looking In
Entirely produced by Mike the Martyr, Southside Looking In is Manny Phesto's tribute to the many sides to the inner city, as he drifts between celebratory and critical lines about the everyday life. Playing with the sampled soul beats with straight-forward but powerful raps, the album takes a blunted look at society and calls out modern problems both systemic and personal. With a great sense of imagery and rhyme patterning, Manny crafts an excellent album you'll want to return to.

Manny Phesto plays a free CD release show at Honey on June 19, hosted by DJ Snuggles and Mally, performances by Tall Paul, Devon Reason, and DJ Frank Castle. More info here.


 

Kev Sez - First Attempt At A Second Chance
"If I didn't create this music, I'd most likely be dead right now," says Kev Sez of his latest album, which centers on the loss of his unborn daughter and the unraveling of his life that followed. It's music as therapy that's much looser and creatively adventurous than that description might imply. Kev plays around with flows and delivery to bring the heavy subject matter to new territory, and he works through difficult experiences and heady ideas with tinges of humor and an unorthodox approach to rapping.


Mental Madness Wreckords - March Madness (The 31 Day Series)
Last year DJ Kool Akiem brought back Mental Madness Wreckords, the local label that released Micranots' debut The Farward EP in 1999, and has since been steadily dropping songs on Bandcamp and Soundcloud from a string of Minneapolis and Chicago artists. March Madness collects 31 tracks from rappers like Tall Paul, Soulution, Double Helix, Reefa Rei, KnoX, and G. Malicious, as well as some remixes and soundtrack work from Akiem himself. It's a massive collection of consistently great free music, and is just part of a monthly release schedule from the individual artists.


Illab - Good Life, Life's Good, Worth Living
Wielding a deep voice and a positive mentality, Illab delivers a strong release that pulls the intensity of his years on the battle scene and contorts it into reflective personal music. It's a nice juggle of lighthearted lyricism and hard rapping, and moves in a number of different directions. As with his last project It's All Been Said Before, Good Life features beats from Mike Frey, Dimitry Killstorm, and Wisdom, who provide a wide spectrum of upbeat underground boom-bap that Illab makes his own. 

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