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Top 20 best Minnesota rappers: #10-1

Top 20 best Minnesota rappers: #10-1
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Related:


Top 20 best Minnesota rappers: #20-11
How Rhymesayers set up the Soundset Festival
Top 20 best Minnesota musicians: The complete list
Top 20 best Minnesota songs: The complete list

10> Mictlan
Origin: Minneapolis/Hopkins/Los Angeles | Active: 2001 - present | Songs: "Prizefight," "Game Over," "Clam Casino"
Mictlan is the hardest, fastest, and most abstract member of the Doomtree crew, spitting mile-a-minute verses that effortlessly destroy any beat thrown his way. Doomtree have worked to maintain individual identities while still coalescing as one, and Mictlan manages this balance startlingly well, crafting legitimately heartfelt torchlight tracks with style when you know he'd rather be articulating a verbal massacre. At times he's strikingly poignant; at others he's so beyond our scope at such a pace as to be hard to follow. Either way, Mictlan is always a menace and forever a joy to see in action. --Jack Spencer

Top 20 best Minnesota rappers: #10-1
Photo by Anthony Brandenburg

Photo by Anthony Brandenburg
9> MaLLy

Origin: Minneapolis | Active: 2007-present | Songs: "

Shine

," "

The Renaissance

," and "

Heir Time

"


It's easy to root for the guy so intent on putting in the work. MaLLy's not only honed a consumable flow that's akin to Pharoahe Monch's intensity and lyricism, but the guy has a charisma that balances the knowledge that he's a talented guy and a lingering humility that this fact is still percolating. With the release of

The Last Great...

and last year's

Free on the 15th

, he caps a productive couple of years working with producer the Sundance Kid. Together, they answer that question, "Will the throne be mine?" It's not whether, it's when.

--Reed Fischer
Top 20 best Minnesota rappers: #10-1
TrinaAnn

TrinaAnn
8> Carnage the Executioner

Origin: Minneapolis | Active: 1996-present | Songs: "

Star Destroyer

" and "

Hunger

"


It's hard to know where to even begin with someone like Carnage. He's more than just a rapper; he's a one-man DJ-sampler-producer-and-MC, plus hype man, hit man, and whatever the hell else he finds time for. The most unique of those different talents is his beat-boxing, and it's plenty jaw-dropping at that: as if through slight of hand, Carnage conjures entire songs with his vocal chords (and more than a little bit of chutzpah). It's the sort of thing that not only makes him a must-see live performer, but also the most dangerous guest spot this side of the Mississippi. Of course, with all that said, it's almost possible to overlook Carnage's absurd skill as a straight-up rapper -- but not quite; he might not show it off like he used to, but no one spins a tighter, faster, deadlier rhyme than the Executioner.

--Jeff Gage
Top 20 best Minnesota rappers: #10-1
Photo by Ryan Siverson

Photo by Ryan Siverson
7> Crescent Moon

Origin: Minneapolis | Active: 1995 - present | Songs: "

Mighty Fine

," "

Moonshine

," and "

7-8-9

"


From his beginnings as part of the pioneering group Oddjobs to his current turn as frontman for the avant-garde duo Kill the Vultures, Crescent Moon has proven himself as both a skilled traditional MC and an innovative envelope pusher. His early work was rooted in the freestyle scene he came up in, and remains engaging to this day, but his current output with abrasive producer Anatomy is striking in a way that's closer to beat poetry than breakbeats. The tight rhyming and simple cadence remains intact but everything has gotten more intense and claustrophobic. The experimentation wouldn't work half as well without Crescent Moon's veteran experience in the art of rapping. All told, Crescent Moon has been involved in some of the most forward-thinking and respected rap music our scene has ever produced.

--Jack Spencer
 
Top 20 best Minnesota rappers: #10-1

6> Dessa

Origin: Minneapolis| Active: 2005-present| Songs: "

Seamstress

," "

Sadie Hawkins

," and "

Little Mercy


A voice like Dessa Darling's is so important within the

sameness

that envelops hip-hop from coast to coast. Folk traditions and textures have been a part of rap music at least as far back as Arrested Development 20 years ago, but in an age of Auto-Tune and auto-opinion, songs that are instructional and inspirational -- and aren't just a "better" version of the bullshit already out there -- are essential. With Dessa, you get a rapper who can sing her own hooks with stirring complexity, and balance ferocity and tenderness in a performance setting that'll get even the hairs on the back of your neck thinking for themselves.

--Reed Fischer
Top 20 best Minnesota rappers: #10-1
Photo by Skye Rossi

Photo by Skye Rossi
5> I Self Devine

Origin: Minneapolis/Los Angeles | Active: 1993 - present | Songs: "

Ice Cold

," "

Crime

," and "

Pretty Sickness

"


Chaka Mkali's effect on local rap cannot be overstated. Bringing elements of hip-hop culture from his native Los Angeles to the budding Twin Cities scene in the early '90s helped build what is now the Rhymesayers empire, and his groundwork as a solo artist and with the Micranots and Dynospectrum provided inspiration to nearly every major artist you can name. But beyond his powerful material on record, which spans an impressive two decades, his hand aiding the next generation's music -- via community space at Hope on Franklin, which provides equipment, tutorial and critique for aspiring rappers and producers -- ensures his continuing presence in the scene's progress. After a several-year hiatus from music, his latest slew of new tracks have amazingly both lived up to the early work and advanced his style forward to find him at perhaps the height of his career. Few rappers have succeeded in creating consistently engaging music that is as moving, politically conscious, provocative, and inspiring as his, and it's safe to say few will argue with his inclusion on this list.

--Jack Spencer
Top 20 best Minnesota rappers: #10-1
Photo by Daniel Corrigan

Photo by Daniel Corrigan
4> Eyedea

Origin: Saint Paul | Active: 1993 - 2010 | Songs: "

Blindly Firing

," "

Now

," and "

Smile

"


Eyedea was so good at rhyming and at being an MC, that it bored him sometimes. So much so that he had to start a rock band. He had to pick up a crayon to draw something, he had to express his intelligence in other forms. His mind was always working and creating. A true musician. Not only was Eyedea an exceptional musician, poet, artist and out-the-box genius, but one of his most underrated qualities was when he asked you "How was your day?" he actually listened and cared about your answer, which then would turn into a three-hour conversation about life, music, or whatever. As much as people were enamored by his talents, he was more interested in yours, and mentoring artists was something he did on the reg. Basically, he cared about you. I hope he knew that millions cared about him also.

--Lars Larson
 
Top 20 best Minnesota rappers: #10-1
Photo by Dan Monick

Photo by Dan Monick
3> P.O.S.

Origin: Minneapolis | Active: 2001-present | Songs: "

Bleeding Hearts Club

," "

Optimist

," and "

Drumroll

"


No artist has improved as much over the years than P.O.S. Crossing over from a punk rock background into hip-hop is tough, but not since the Beastie Boys has someone pulled it off quite like Stefon has. He is easily one of our best lyrically on paper and live. And don't forget that he's punching the clock for Doomtree and the Marijuana Deathsquads in addition to his sizeable solo career. He's a road warrior constantly crossing the country with festivals and one off gigs and brings it every show. The scary thing is that he keeps getting better on record and on stage; well it's not scary for us. But maybe for his fellow rappers who will "try" to compete. Bring it.

--Lars Larson
Top 20 best Minnesota rappers: #10-1
Photo by Dan Monick

Photo by Dan Monick
2> Slug

Origin: Minneapolis | Active: 1989-present | Songs: "

Watch Out

," "

Modern Man's Hustle

," and "

Scapegoat

"


Let's be honest: No one has been more prominent in our music scene since the days of Prince, Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis than Atmosphere. They basically made independent rap cool -- when getting signed by a major was the "in" thing to do -- and planted its capital right in Uptown. Sean and Ant created a new genre of rap taking about women's issues, relationships and growing corn. But don't think Slug is soft; he can verbally bash you as well. Ant's production style has spawned millions of wannabe home producers trying to find his formula, while Slug has had the same effect with teenage boys wanting to scribble in their pads about their girlfriends. Basically, they changed the game, almost Prince-like.

--Lars Larson
Top 20 best Minnesota rappers: #10-1
Rhymesayers.com

Rhymesayers.com
1> Brother Ali

Origin: Madison, Wisconsin |Active: 1998-present |Songs: "

Not a Day Goes By

," "

Uncle Sam Goddamn

," and "

Self Taught

"


As one of the earliest Rhymesayers artists, Brother Ali has grown into a goliath of rap in these parts. It's an election year, and Ali is turning his campaign trail into burning magma. Sure, he's getting ready to release

Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color

in August, but the guy would prefer to dish out eloquence on the level of a civic leader. When the talking head pundits talk about how our children need someone to, Brother Ali has proven himself as a guy who can translate the conversation on the streets into narratives that are as thought-provoking as they are lyrically supreme. And a lot of people are hearing and internalizing his powerful orations about

race relations

in this country, the

foreclosure crisis

, and the

pillars of the local hip-hop community

. He can be a gentle giant at times, and there's a wealth of positivity that mixes in, but stand back when he's ready to roar.

--Reed Fischer

Related:
Top 20 best Minnesota rappers: #20-11
How Rhymesayers set up the Soundset Festival
Top 20 best Minnesota musicians: The complete list
Top 20 best Minnesota songs: The complete list


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