Minneapolis and St. Paul are hip-hop towns.
Atmosphere, Heiruspecs, and Lizzo have worked to cement the Twin Cities in the national rap scene, and their success has somewhat limited the rest of the country's perspective of what our cities have to offer.
Week after week, Local Frames is dominated by hip-hop artists, confirming this assumption. But what’s often overlooked is that few MSP hip-hop artists resemble each other. Take, for example, the rappers featured here today: Taylor J, Derrick Branch, Bigger Picture, and GainesFM. Despite sharing a genre and a metro, no two of them are alike. They carry on the Cities’ hip-hop legacy, but they do it without threatening homogeneity.
Taylor J – “SKRT” (Remix)
Easily the most slept-on rapper in Minnesota, Taylor J has been hyping his debut album Who Would’ve Thought for months. The record finally dropped yesterday, on his birthday, officially giving the lyrical St. Paul street rapper a base to build his empire from.
But before Who Would’ve Thought came out, J released the time-biding mixtape Coolin’ Til My Album Drop, filled with his takes on popular radio rap. In his latest video, J freestyles over Kodak Black's "SKRT” from his back seat, like a dude who knows he has nothing to worry since he’s got a formidable debut ready to go. @13TwentyThree does the work behind the camera.
Derrick Branch – “Rockstar”
Dressed like a member of Mötley Crüe and singing like The Weeknd, Derrick Branch is a walking contradiction. But the young artist has married his greasy rocker element and yearning R&B style perfectly in the new video for “Rockstar.”
Coming via M&A Productions, “Rockstar” plays like a tragic hero’s last moments. Branch splays himself out on the bed of a trashed hotel room, imbibing whatever substances lay within reach, hallucinating his memories onto a TV screen. Barely rising above a whimper, Branch’s vocals create a foreboding, intoxicating mood that lingers after he loses consciousness and the song’s final notes play.
Jessica Manning – “Wither” (Live)
Stepping away from hip-hop for a moment, we join the ongoing Pony Rug series for their third video, this one featuring the soothing sadness of Minneapolis singer-songwriter Jessica Manning. Eschewing his other band members, Manning takes to the Pony Rug’s basement with just her keyboard and her burdened soul to sing “Wither.”
Stripped down, there is just so much room for contemplation in “Wither.” Absent the echoey backing vocals and knocking drum machine, the solemn ballad from February LP What If I Run becomes intensely personal – a feeling the Pony Rug has already become adept at producing in their scant run on YouTube.
Bigger Picture – “Small World”
When you think hip-hop, you might not imagine playgrounds or flyover state lakefronts, but the St. Cloud rap crew Bigger Picture wasn’t into fronting when they filmed their video for “Small World.” In the words of director Mercies May, “The aim was to really offer an introduction to the group as people by including a bit of their real uniquely Minnesotan lives in St. Cloud instead of trying to posture or synthesize a more ‘urban’ and recognizable aesthetic.”
It’s a great vehicle for Bigger Picture, whose sound is anything but slick. Showing clear signs of influence from party rap (think Asher Roth meets Bubba Sparxxx), “Small World” gives St. Cloud a voice in hip-hop that makes sense. As Double A and Navey G take turns over the Neubeats production, not an instant feels fake – an auspicious sign for debut album Sounds Like a Plan, slated for July.
GainesFM – “Southside”
If you’re addicted to Boomerang, then the latest video from GainesFM will be right up your alley. Basically an animated GIF of the Minneapolis rapper’s press photo, the video for “Southside” oscillates between a handful of animations, creating an effect that’s as mesmerizing as the heavily AutoTuned song it’s paired with.
Gaines’ creative partner Robert Henry made the video, and though not extremely complex, it’s a gorgeous piece of visual candy. As the perpetual hook of “Southside” plays, you watch Gaines twitch back and forth, each repetitious element amplifying the other.
Dream of seeing your video appear in Local Frames? Email writer Jerard Fagerberg at [email protected]