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Twin Cities rap/hip-hop roundup: December's essential 10-song playlist

DB Tha Rasta

DB Tha Rasta MPLS Streets

2016 has arguably been the most exciting year in Twin Cities hip-hop history. Countless new artists are emerging with various styles, while veterans like Atmosphere, P.O.S, and others continue to please their long-established fan bases. Here are 10 songs from the past month or so that, when combined, serve as a sampler of what T.C. rap currently has to offer.

DB Tha Rasta -- 'Thuggin'
Album: Single
Label: Self-released

In September, St. Paul rapper DB Tha Rasta released “Drill Season,” a collaboration with Chicago’s G Herbo whose SoundCloud play-count has already reached the low six figures. DB actually has collabs with a few nationally beloved artists (including Boosie Badazz and Young Dolph), but anyone who’s questioned whether he can get the job done by himself should hear solo songs like this one. "Thuggin"'s autobiographical lines are detailed enough to be believable, and Blasian Beats’ instrumental is a thing of beauty, starting with the piano progression of the intro.

DevonXTravis -- '50 in a 30'
Album: Reazolini
Label: Self-released

At the beginning of November, the duo of high-energy rapper Devon Reason and prolific producer Travis Gorman (who, like Finding Novyon and Dwynell Roland, are both members of the Rotation crew) dropped a collab EP called Reazolini. All five songs are solid, but my personal favorite is the manic “50 in a 30.”

Finding Novyon -- 'That Check'
Album: Super Saiyan 2
Label: Self-released

Another Finding Novyon/Sonny Digital collab following “Let’s Get Lit,” “I Can’t Lose,” and “Been on My Job,” “That Check” is similarly turnt-up. Anyone questioning Novyon’s talent as a lyricist, though, should check out impressive stretches like this: “Do what I want, no such thing as complyin’/ No limitations, so I am defiant / What you gon’ do for that opulent payment? / Spun on the pole, then she dropped to the pavement.” Plus, this might be one of Sonny’s best beats of 2016, which is saying something.

Greg Grease -- 'Everybody Cool'
Album: Astral Beat Theories 3
Label: Self-released

Minneapolis rapper Greg Grease is enjoying a wave of attention and acclaim due to the emergence of his band ZULUZULUU -- the best new act in Minnesota. No one is losing interest in his solo work, though, and “Everybody Cool” is a prime example of why that is. It’s both light-hearted (“I’m blowing on that kiwi, mellow as the sea breeze”) and serious in tone (“Everybody wanna be cool, why nobody wanna be free?”).

Nazeem & Spencer Joles -- 'Black Friday'
Album: Single
Label: Self-released

Nazeem & Spencer Joles, who are arguably the Twin Cities’ most exciting young rap duo, have been on a roll since the release of March’s The Album. The lyrical content of their latest song, the massive-sounding “Black Friday,” is more street-oriented than most of their stuff, but it works for them.

Prof -- 'Time Bomb'
Album: Single
Label: Rhymesayers Entertainment

Prof brings a crackling energy to the Rhymesayers roster, and you wouldn’t expect a song called “Time Bomb” to be subtle, would you? It’s not. Sonically, it’s pretty close to Finding Novyon’s “That Check” (see above), though it’s filled with Prof’s signature charisma and humor.

Sole -- 'Questions' (feat. Vic Spencer)
Album: Single
Label: Self-released

Minneapolis rapper Sole links with Chicago’s great Vic Spencer for their second collaboration, following “Jedi Games.” It’s shocking how few SoundCloud plays this has so far; in a fair world, it would at least be in the low four figures by now.

Tarxan -- '4 Minutes of Hell Pt. 3 (Remix)'
Album: Single
Label: Self-released

Tarxan’s remix of G Herbo’s “4 Minutes of Hell Pt. 3” is as fiery as the original, and it also brings to mind the rage of 600Breezy’s signature song, “Don’t Get Smoked.” “I ain’t have no presents sent on Christmas / And I ain’t have no letters during that sentence,” Tarxan raps, remembering a jail stint he endured before he became what he is today: arguably the biggest street rapper in St. Paul.

Taylor J -- 'Up & Down'
Album: Single
Label: Scenious Entertainment

Before releasing The 91 Project EP with super-producer Lex Luger earlier this month, Taylor J dropped this single, produced by frequent collaborator Red Drum Beats. It’s a definitive example of Taylor’s ease with melody and his ability to go back and forth between rapping and singing.

Tek -- '95'
Album: Single
Label: Self-released

Here, Minneapolis’ Tek -- whose most recent project is August’s Local EP -- delivers a warm and melodic flow, plus brassy production reminiscent of Drake and Soulja Boy’s “We Made It.”