Sophia Eris leads off September's Twin Cities rap roundup

Sophia Eris

Sophia Eris Graham Gardner

Earlier this month, almost exactly two years after it was first released, Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, a position it’s occupied for the past four weeks, breaking the record for the longest time atop the charts by a solo female rapper.

While Lizzo may not live here anymore, her recent success has definitely provided inspiration to artists across Minneapolis and St. Paul. It’s often hard to forecast such breakouts, but one thing is for sure: There’s no shortage of talent, whether rising, established, or otherwise, in this month’s Twin Cities rap roundup.

Sophia Eris – “Arrogant”
Album: Single
Label: Self-released

If I had to bet on one song from this list to blow up imminently, it’s this, and not just because of Sophia Eris’ close association to Lizzo. Produced by Lazerbeak and Bionik, it is, like many other Eris songs before it, a colorful, kinetic, danceable jam where she shows off her versatility as a vocalist.

Travis Gorman ft. Devon Reason – “When I Say.”
Album: Nah.
Label: Too Many Wolf Pictures

Named City Pages’ Best Hip-Hop Producer two years ago, Travis Gorman returned last week with a nine-track, 14-minute album simply titled Nah.It’s mostly instrumentals, but for the dank, spacey “When I Say.,” Gorman taps Devon Reason, a frequent collaborator and fellow member of the Rotation collective.

J. Plaza – “Kawhi Leonard Laugh”
Album: Single
Label: Self-released

Before Kawhi Leonard properly commenced his championship 2018-19 campaign with the Toronto Raptors, the superstar forward and self-described “fun guy” went viral with an awkward, robotic laugh at NBA media day. Here, Minneapolis’ J. Plaza laces that unforgettable soundbite into what might be called a novelty song if Plaza weren’t so obviously a technically gifted rapper.

JDown – “Watch Out”
Album: Single
Label: Self-released

JDown is one of the most intriguing street-rap prospects out of St. Paul’s East Side, a newcomer whose music I’ve been keeping up with for a year or so. Here, over a booming, minimal beat, he brings an intensity that reminds me, at least a little bit, of Memphis teen phenom NLE Choppa.

Ness Nite – “GucciPrada”
Album: Single
Label: house Braless

NYC/Minneapolis polymath Ness Nite had been fairly quiet following her great March 2018 album, Dream Girl, at least until her new single “GucciPrada,” produced by Mike Frey and engineered by Alex Tumay (Young Thug, 21 Savage). Like much of that album, it’s an intoxicating and, well, dreamy hybrid of sounds, with Ness nonchalantly cycling through flows and deliveries, both rapped and sung.

OKnice – “Nothin’ New”
Album: Single
Label: Super Dope Records

St. Paul’s OKnice is one of the most underrated lyricists in Twin Cities hip-hop, an honest writer with an elite command of language, and he proved that over and again this summer with his single series “Can I Bum a Loosey?” “Nothin’ New” is my favorite of the bunch.

Prof ft. Cashinova – “Cousins”
Label: Rhymesayers Entertainment

Before embarking on his latest tour, Prof released this single with tourmate and fellow Stophouse Group artist Cashinova. No one can quite match the familiar, maniacal energy Prof brings here and elsewhere in his catalog, but as heard on previous collaborations “No” and “Skyscrapers,” he and Cash make a complementary unofficial duo, one I wouldn’t mind hearing an EP or even a full-length from.

Sean Anonymous – “Young Sean”
Album: Anti / Social
Label: Self-released

A clear standout from Minneapolis mainstay Sean Anonymous’ latest album, Anti / Social, “Young Sean” brings together autobiographical memories, evocative storytelling, and one of Sean’s strongest choruses to date.

Shredders – “Vanilla ISIS”
Album: Great Hits
Label: Doomtree Records

Song title of the year.

Why Khaliq – “Skies Not the Limit”
Album: Single
Label: Six5 Records

Why Khaliq hasn’t exactly become one of my favorite Twin Cities rappers through big, anthemic bangers; he tends to traffic in subtler, more eloquent gestures. But relative to most of his stuff, “Skies Not the Limit,” produced by fellow St. Paulite Smokey Visions, feels thrillingly bold and emphatic, with Khaliq sounding as clear-headed and reinvigorated as ever. It’s the first single off Khaliq’s next project, whose title he has yet to reveal.