Being that I'm sick of all the interweb whining, but completely agree with most grievances voiced, I've decided that it's time to start my own annual list of 10 awesome rap music guys that people should be checking for. You will easily recognize several differences between their list and mine, however; most notably, my intended focus on the actual QUALITY OF MUSIC as opposed to volume of buzz, hype, and trendification. No, "trendification" is not a word, but if you're reading this blog, you probably don't give a wiggle about spelling and grammar correctivity anyway. Anyway, let me kick this thinger off...
In no particular order, this is ANACRON's first official annual
10 UNFAMOUS UPPER-CLASSMEN.
These are the hip hop guys you should be watching for that aren't as famous as the hip hop guys that those other guys said you should be watching for just because those hip hop guys are pretty much already known hip hop guys.
This rowdy NorCal cut-up is so far beyond "Freshman" status. Serving raps and slaps since the 90's insurgence of the West Coast underground, this cool cat has remained one of the most innovative and envelope-pushin'-est rap guys to ever keep it beneath the surface. Aside from banging out beats that create paths to outer space, and rhymes that narrate the journey along the way, this MC also helms his own label dedicated to pushing progressive hip-hop. By now you should already be bumping one of my favorites from his latest wave of works; but if not, just hit the "play" button above.
Fresh to the national hip hop scene from the often overlooked mid-western locale of Ohio, this young lyrical upstart has done more than impress with his first official indie releases. Following in the footsteps of several mid-west giants before him, this bro reaches for rap perfection with a cool blend of metaphors, punchlines, and conversational sensibility, selflessly exposing internal struggles that many of us face daily. Dig one of his most introspective cuts, "Just Like You" at the "play" button.
As one half of the functionally flossy and famed crew Bleu Collar, Reese One brought independent knock to LA's changing underground scene sometime around the turn of the century with serious but fun music and fresh nightlife events. Today, having fully evolved into something darker and slightly more brooding, Killer Reese has emerged as the dark side (figuratively and literally) of the hipster-clowning yet hipster-adored no-nonsense squad of King Fantastic. Bringing back the long lost art of gangsta rap, Reese weaves exciting but poignant tales of reality over tracks crafted for the futuristic thug in you. Get a sample at the "play" button, smarty.
Talk about young genius. I first saw this little 'nilla getting loose at an open mic set that the homies Jedi and Pocho Joe run on the west side of L.A., and I was instantly blown away. With freshly self-produced beats, hilariously fun raps, and an awesome stage presence, this kid has the ability to make pretty much anyone love the fact that he's impossible to hate -- if that even makes sense. From award winning remixes to fabulous original tracks, Zack bridges the gap between all things mainstreamingly hipster-esque and the classic sound and ideals of true indie hip hop, without trying too hard or busting out some extra-weird contrived dumbness. Preview one of his older cuts at the little triangle above.
TWO B. ERA aka BLVME
With one of the most unknown but best independent rap albums to ever be released in the history of rap music (no really), bLvMe has been teetering on the edge of success and anonymity for quite some time. A direct affiliate of well known Cal-based turntable funk troupe People Under The Stairs, and a full fledged member of global hip hop arts network, The Peanut Gallery; The Two B delivers intricate flows in a timbre so smooth that it could flatten Billy Dee Williams' hair. From storied beginnings in Los Angeles' rap landmark, The Good Life Cafe, to his full length releases on the Cold Medina record label, Two B. Era has continued to display the "other" west coast sound in it's best form. Get a sample at the "play" cue.
"A female Japanese reggae rap artist" probably sounds like the beginnings of a hearty NO to most people, but that's because they haven't heard the brash tommy-gun teeter-totter of vocals that Ryo Vibez slings effortlessly in her songs. Hailing from Ichihara City, Japan, this producer/MC has already begun to garner some attention for intense reggae, ragga, and rap projects that have broken both cultural and musical barriers in the hip hop and reggae underground. Listen to one of her Kingston-seasoned jams at the "play" button above, but also be sure to check out one of her effortless hip hop bangers HERE.
The mainstream steals all it's ideas from us, the creators of underground hip hop and rap that exists without rules and boundaries as defined by what the rest of the world thinks. Dirty Digital, a Chicago-based pair consisting of Qwazaar (Typical Cats) and Silence (Frontline), are the perfect display of jut how far into the future hip hop can go. Intertwining forceful and punchy lyrical delivery with uptempo synthesizers and drum machines has been the signature sound of this duo since long before LMFAO put on leopard-skin leggings and started acting like "The Running Man" was something else. These dudes did the music minus the gimmicks, and much better. Press "play" to find out whether or not they're sexy; and furthermore, if they know it.
Slowly but surely building a following, a buzz, and most importantly, a strong catalog of music, LA native Thusfar has broken through the mold of typical west coast MC's with introspective lyricism and emtionally rich flow. Not much can be said about this new dude -- at least, there's not much I know about him aside from the fact that I bought his mixtape directly from him on Santa Monica Pier one unseasonably gloomy Summer day. While the mood of the music matched the weather, I was duly impressed with the over-all maturity of his songs, which struck me as odd being that he's such a young guy. It's tough to find any playable content online for this one, so follow the link above to listen to a super fresh mixtape from Thusfar.
With a sing-songy alto tone and a slight vato accent, Wizdome can turn the simplest lyric into a catchy and memorable moment. Having grown past a deep history with former groups in the Los Angeles scene, Wizdome has turned the tides in favor of his artistry, pursuing a solo career as well as a side group project entitled "Tailored For Success Club" with cousin and vocalist Drew Anthuny. Supported by production reminiscent of golden-era hip hop, Wiz can bust basic verses and blaze melodic hooks like a pro, all the while displaying an immensely positive energy about himself. I love it when he rocs this heater live, so press the "play" button above to put a smile on your face.
The red-rag-flying little homie from Indio, Pimpin' Quinn is intent on following in the footsteps of the greats when it comes to taking the portrayal of the pimp game to new limits. Just a young buck still growing his sea legs, this desert eagle's been busy over the past few years, bringing cool to the Palm Springs area by way of several mixtapes and a slew of videos. The best thing about Quinn is that while he's going off on topics that delve into some may refer to as "typical rap", his delivery and overall creative (sometimes abstract) approach to the subject matter is what drives his unique display of skill. Despite whether or not you like or agree with what he's spitting, it's nearly impossible to deny that this kid gets busy on a mic. Observe exhibit A at the "Play" button above.
So, that just about wraps it up, AnaManiacs... Ten of the freshest MC's that you probably had no idea even exist, wrapped up into the first of many annual group introductions to come. I'm putting you kids on to that heat that's so hot that event the so called heaters don't even know what it's about, so be sure to seek out each and every one of these artists and SUPPORT their music hustle. Now you can be the first at your school / job / halfway house to claim that you were knocking bangers by these ingenious artists way back when they were on Anacron's UNFAMOUS UPPER-CLASSMEN list, and you owe me one.
Disclaimer: Yeah, I've collaborated with many of the artists on this list. The fact is though, that if I didn't like what they do and truly believe that they are the best at it, then I would never have agreed to work with any of them. However, none of the artists were contacted, publicists weren't involved, managers didn't schmooze, marketing departments didn't spam, and industry politicking didn't take place prior to the structuring of this list. Each and every face up there is the real deal, and the standard "freshmen" list had better hope that these guys don't ever decide that it's "scrub day".