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.
Finding Novyon -- 'Been on My Job'
Album: Super Saiyan 2
Minneapolis rapper Finding Novyon’s relationship with Atlanta producer Sonny Digital is one of the biggest things to happen to any Twin Cities rapper recently. Following their previous collaborations “Let’s Get Lit” and “I Can’t Lose,” “Been on My Job” is the latest evidence that Novyon and Sonny are a more than compatible pairing. It’s a song all about Novyon’s relentless work ethic, and it’s one of four Sonny productions set to appear on Novyon’s Super Saiyan 2 project, dropping later this month. Click here to read our recent Picked to Click profile on Novyon.
Heiruspecs -- 'theskyisfalling'
Heiruspecs’ unique style of live instrumentation is something that Twin Cities hip-hop -- hell, hip-hop in general -- can always use more of. The title track of their new EP is one of the project’s clear highlights, with sagacious verses and a soulful chorus. It’s a gorgeous balance of the elements that have made Heiruspecs one of the most beloved St. Paul groups of the past 20 years, in any genre.
LA Bank$ -- '6 Rings'
Album: Legendary Collection
St. Paul rapper LA Bank$ is enjoying a productive 2016, starting with his seven-track Trap Waves EP, entirely produced by St. Paul’s Smokey Visions. Here, Bank$ connects with another rising local beatmaker, Kush2x, for a high-energy banger with a heavy Atlanta influence -- not unlike the sonics of Finding Novyon’s collabs with Sonny Digital.
J. Plaza feat. Why Khaliq -- '#Go'
Earlier this year, Minneapolis’ J. Plaza and St. Paul’s Why Khaliq connected for the smooth, relaxed “Long Sunday,” produced by Been Reza. With “#Go,” they crank up the intensity while keeping a sense of composure -- sort of like Usain Bolt in the iconic photo that serves as the song’s accompanying artwork on SoundCloud. Also worth checking out: Plaza's recent video for "Fuck It." Just don't Google "fuck it video" -- NSFW!
Dwynell Roland feat. P.O.S -- 'Been Here'
Album: The Popular Nobody
It’s hard to pick a single highlight from Minneapolis rapper Dwynell Roland’s new project, The Popular Nobody, but “Been Here” feels the most significant of all the tracks, a song that bridges two generations: his own and that of 15-year veteran P.O.S. Read our recent profile on Roland here.
Sims -- 'Icarus'
Album: More Than Ever
Minneapolis rapper Sims dropped a new solo album, More Than Ever, earlier this month, and “Icarus” is the best indication of how the Doomtree member is taking things to a new level. With a beat similar to that of Vic Mensa’s Kanye-assisted “U Mad,” it’s an earthquaking track featuring what might be Sims’ most confident vocals to date.
Tarxan and King Savage -- 'Cheaper by the Dozen'
Label: NDO Music Group
Tarxan and King Savage, of the St. Paul street-rap group NDO, have hopped on numerous tracks together, with last year’s “It’s Been Merched” amassing over 250,000 YouTube views and more than 100,000 SoundCloud plays. With “Cheaper by the Dozen,” it appears they have another regional hit on their hands. Tarxan, who’s come up with some of the catchiest choruses in Minnesota rap in the past couple years, delivers a hook that unsurprisingly sticks, while Savage attacks the beat with a fierceness that’s become his signature mode.
Taylor J -- 'Notorious'
Label: Scenious Entertainment
St. Paul rapper and singer Taylor J recently spent some time out in New York City, a trip that included a meeting with none other than 50 Cent. This may help explain the East Coast influence of “Notorious” and its Biggie Smalls-depicting cover art.
Tomorrow Genius -- 'Money Mitch'
Few movies have had more of an impact on 21st century hip-hop than 2002's Paid in Full, based on the lives of ‘80s-era Harlem drug dealers Azie Faison, Rich Porter, and Alpo Martinez. Here, Minneapolis rapper Tomorrow Genius delivers a track that’s specifically inspired by the movie’s character Mitch (based on Porter and played by Mekhi Phifer). Gotta love the timber wolf growls, too.
Why Khaliq -- 'Dirty Showers'
Why Khaliq and producer Lelan Foley dropped the excellent Under the Perspective Tree EP earlier this year, establishing Khaliq’s knack for cohesion and conceptual lyrics. Though Foley’s beat here has more bass than any of UTPT’s tracks, there’s still room for Khaliq to be his poetic self. Here’s hoping these two continue collaborating for years to come.