It was an especially difficult year to compile this list, as there were so many great hip-hop projects that dropped from all over the Twin Cities. Everyone involved in the local rap scene really seems to be pushing themselves to new levels, expanding on their older ideas or coming out of the woodwork with something new. Presented in no particular order, Gimme Noise whittled down the glut of records to our 10 favorites. Be sure to let us know in the comments what we got right and what we got wrong.
See Also: The 10 best Twin Cities punk albums of 2013
Lizzo - Lizzobangers
If it wasn't already blatantly clear that 2013 is Lizzo's year, go take another listen to Lizzobangers
. Twice topping Picked To Click
, the international tours, the spots on big local shows -- it all makes immediate sense when you pop in her debut record and hear her powerful voice pack a punch equal to Lazerbeak's giant horn stabs and drum pounds that quake underneath every track. She's adept at hard-as-hell fast rapping and gorgeously melodic singing, and has the songwriting chops to know what belongs where. If you're tired of the hype surrounding Lizzo, it's because you've never listened to her or seen her perform. Everyone who has is a convert already, and she's proven herself to be exactly the spark our scene needed. An unbelievably strong statement that warrants multiple listens. Lizzobangers
isn't just one of the best of the year; it's one of the strongest records from any Minneapolis musician, period.
Up Rock - Let That Bass Shake
Up Rock's second project continues their devotion to trunk-rattling bass, electronic grooves and smooth flows, and finds them tightening their unique formula and producing something considerably original. The album boasts some of the biggest low-end rumbles to emanate from the Twin Cities, and the beats consistently deliver both hard-edged hip-hop and underground rave vibes. MCs Dundee and Digie are veterans of local rap as members of the legendary Abstract Pack, but their flows and styles have evolved further still to compliment their futurist digital production work. Progressive and heavily dance-oriented, it's got the spirit of old school but comes off as strikingly new.
925ve - Three Numbers, Two Letters
Despite the countless hours that went into the creation of this record, it slipped under the radar when 925ve abruptly released it to Bandcamp with an announcement that it was their last. The combined efforts of Prizm, Iggz Flider, Tigre Cole and Brando make for a tightly realized rap album that dances around the margins of boom-bap leaning underground, which should satisfy traditional-minded heads while still making strides forward. Prizm's off-kilter flow meets Tigre's controlled cool in the middle and finds footing over beats that are crisp and subtly innovative, and the result is an understated local gem that will hopefully not go unappreciated.
Kaoz - Enter-Sextions Vol. 1 & 2
The conversations on sex and relationships Kaoz delves into over his two volume Enter-Sextions album range from enlightening to funny to disturbing, yet manage to be anchored by an elastic flow and a steady shake of bombast. It's an engaging listen that bounces all over the map, hitting humorous strides and pop hooks alongside dark subjects and weird cadences. There's nothing quite like it in the Twin Cities rap spectrum, both in terms of subject matter and execution. The album is introduced as a safe space to touch on difficult ideas, and if more artists opened themselves up in the way Kaoz has here, their work would be just as powerful.
The Lioness has a confident flow that gets her pointed lyrics across whether she hits a machine-gun rapid pace or a slowed sung passage, and her choice of beats gives her room to stretch her abilities across a wide range. Her message is one of empowerment for herself and others, which is expressed both through somber down-tempo tracks and brash big beat bangers. Lioness's impressive live style comes across on every track, and this project cements her place in the local scene as a consistently excellent rapper.
Metasota - #BlackFriday
It was a tough decision to put Metasota's recently released #BlackFriday
project on this list over January's incredible Still Happy I'm Present
, but without question one of them had to be included. Meta is a lyrical powerhouse that manages to improve in both the pure craft of rhyming and grasp of content, adding real insight and nuance to his message while spitting circles around basically everyone. The internal rhymes and choice of voicing never stand in the way of Meta's often heavy and thought-provoking song topics, but the fact that he takes every aspect of his instrument very seriously makes #BlackFriday
a compelling listen from a number of different angles.
BiG Wiz and Mike the Martyr - Vintage Cloth
Long Doe's BiG Wiz and Mike the Martyr's collaborative effort refines their classic beats and rhymes format into a slick listen that stands as one of the best to come out of their camp. With well-crafted bars about drugs, women and fine garments, laced over soulful sampled production largely done by Martyr, it's a long album chock full of street rap excellence. Mike the Martyr's production has only gotten better, and his rhymes with Wiz recall hip-hop's golden age in a way that still feels fresh. With an impressive roster of guests, it's a strong contender among both other local albums and the rest of Long Doe's catalog.
Rapper Hooks - All Black Jesus
Since his split with producer Big Cats, Rapper Hooks has continued to expand the smooth yet hard-edged style he's been progressing towards, and his first official solo effort is possibly the best example his artistic capabilities. Hooks' beat selection, including production from Amati, Noam the Drummer, and 1990, walks similar ambient territory as his TTxBC albums but pushes further into electronic realms that help draw out his rough-around-the-edges chill persona. It's the kind of album Minneapolis needs: Simultaneously raunchy and cooler-than-thou, but forward-thinking in scope and not held back by anything.
Tufawon - Schwag
Mavin MC of Illuminous 3 took on the identity of Tufawon, a grimy scrapper dedicated to living the high life on a shoestring budget, for his latest EP, and it sums up the Minneapolis rap lifestyle perfectly. Atop self-produced beats that elucidate the grit of our hero, Tufawon details his days piecing together enough dollars to smoke low-grade weed and sleep with single mothers, but the message is ultimately one of making do and staying positive in otherwise tough times. Listeners will definitely be able to identify with the daily scrape and impoverished good times, and the physical album even comes wrapped in a plastic baggie with a Tufawon-branded lighter and weed jar. Full of hard bass and heady hooks, Schwag is a great example of the innovations Illuminous 3 have been putting forward since the beginning.
Dem Atlas - Charle Brwn EP
To those who've seen him perform or heard his six song debut, the announcement that Dem Atlas signed to Rhymesayers made perfect sense. His free-flowing, energetic voice recalls the best of early 90's West Coast underground, and he's got a refreshingly distinct philosophical take on optimism and self-confidence. As the best rappers have always done, Dem Atlas makes the incredibly complicated fast flows sound effortless and multi-textured, and his unique stage energy bleeds through onto his recordings. His Charlie Brown-themed EP is a fun and impressive standout local album at just six tracks, and sets him apart as the most exciting new rapper in recent memory. The best part of this project is the notion that this is just the start of what is sure to be a great run of music.
Crunchy Kids - Mint
Greg Grease - Black King Cole EP
Haphduzn and Dimitry Killstorm - Whittier Alliance
P.O.S. - WDELH/MDS/RMX
Desdamona - DigiPhenom
I.B.E and Benzilla - This, That and the Third
Empire Status - Empire Status
Rocky Diamonds - Artofficial
O-Lay & Diatonic - Safe Travels