10 Minnesota Nice MCs You’re (Probably) Sleeping On
Equally as talented as a rapper and as a producer, St. Paul Rapper Ecid has been active on the indie rap scene for about six years, and has collaborated with many notable figures, including a full length album with California Strange Famous artist Awol One. Neatly balancing a variety of organic and creative beats with fast-paced and intricate rapping, Ecid is a tremendously talented musician. Signed to his local label Fill in the Breaks, with Arsenic and Carnage among others, Ecid is determined to make the music of their label known, although his ultimate goal is not to be heard; simply to create music as is his passion, and he does it very well.
Despite the speed and complexity of his delivery, his music hits you with force and clarity, with a candid but not-too-serious demeanor. Not one to shy away from serious subject matter, Ecid is not concerned with what other people think of him, and this frees him to experiment with concepts and subject matter that is often outside the normal bounds of hip-hop. He has released five full-length solo albums as well as an album with Awol One; each one a unique work of art. Ecid is the type of artist that you have to discover for yourself, and it is definitely worth it.
Listen: Ecid – Beautiful Smile
5. I Self Devine
Signed to the local independent record label Rhymesayers with Atmosphere and Brother Ali, among others, it’s a wonder this MC is not more widely known and recognized. Irrepressibly socially aware, each song by I Self Devine is a call to arms, filled with frustration and anger. A strong advocate of his inner-city community, I Self Devine is very active in the struggle to improve conditions, and is as caring as he is talented.
In an era of self-promotion, bravado, and braggadocio, I Self Devine is humble and dedicated to those in need, a characteristic that is much needed and hard to find in today’s hip-hop community. Not to mention his quality music, I Self Devine is incredibly active, with a fruitful solo career as well as the front man of The Micranots, member of The Dynospectrum with fellow RSE artists Slug, Musab, and Gene Poole, and half of Semi.Official with DJ Abilities. Despite being a prominent MC on the underground scene for about fifteen years, I Self did not release a full-length solo album until 2005’s Self Destruction, possibly due to admitted self-sabotage. This humility is evident in his music, yet he manages to command the mic, as well as the underground scene, with powerful presence.
4. St. Paul Slim
Representing St. Paul in a rap scene that is often focused on Minneapolis, St. Paul Slim does it well. A determined hustler, Slim has been grinding exceptionally hard in the Twin Cities rap scene over the past couple of years. A veteran of the Marine Corps as well as holding degrees in pharmacy and nursing, Slim brings a wide variety of skills to the rap game. Showing immense range and versatility, from the dark and conflicted “Demons” to the playful and clever “Paul Masson Rap” to the romantic “Rest of My Life”, he is clearly talented and wields these gifts on the mic with relentless swagger and charisma. He dominates the stage, commanding atte
ntion from the audience with his sleepy eyes and effortless rhythm, and draws them into the performance. Although his two full-length albums, The Slim Case and Bald Headed Samsun have not reached high levels of recognition, last year’s collaboration with fellow Stophouse labelmate Prof, the free Recession Music album, was a fan favorite. Putting on nonstop dynamite live performances all over the metro area and tirelessly promoting his work, it’s a marvel he has not achieved widespread recognition yet, but he will no doubt continue to work hard and build his skill and fan base until he does.
Listen: St. Paul Slim – Is This Mic On
3. Sims (Doomtree)
With the Doomtree crew finding recognition and success as of late with their first headlining national tour, Sims deserves as much recognition as the rest of the extremely-talented crew. With POS signed to Rhymesayers, Cecil Otter signed to Strange Famous, and Dessa receiving widespread praise for her latest album, A Badly Broken Code, Sims is the next up to the plate. With a raspy yet smooth voice delivered with clarity and precision and always-quality Doomtree production, Sims has consistently made hip-hop into a well-crafted art form, from his 2005 LP, Lights Out Paris to last year’s False Hopes EP. Although the dark and socially aware Lights Out Paris was critically acclaimed, it failed to receive widespread recognition, despite how well-crafted, intelligent, and poetic it was. However, his recent work seems more uplifting, positive, and playful, and his upcoming release will hopefully achieve the success of his DTR counterparts.
The illustrious Doomtree crew has been playing momentous live shows in the Twin Cities for over five years, and as a group display tremendous synthesis and variety within their musical abilities. With sincere emotional subject matter, Sims is not afraid to experiment and grow as an artist and let the listener into his soul; he is guaranteed to change and improve with time. Sims is also one of the most technically talented MCs to come out of the area, and the upcoming release, Bad Time Zoo, his first full-length solo project in almost six years, will surely be a masterpiece.
Listen: Sims – Here I Stand
2. Bight Club / Spyder Baybie Rawdog & 2% Muck
Both of these groups formed in the past year or so, but they still deserve recognition. Although they both feature vocals by MC Jeremy Nutzman aka Spyder Baybie Rawdog, they both create a distinctly different sound through both production and lyrical content. They both dip their toes in dubstep and electronica, both have released an EP and a full-length album, and both have developed a small cult following, but their sounds are both unmistakably unique.
Nutz and his charismatic DJ Tony Tone create an energetic and futuristic sound in Bight Club, with soulful nasally crooning and smooth rapping over heavy synthetic electronic beats, and Spyder and DJ 2% Muck have a much different sound, with over-the-top hyperbolic party anthems about sex and drugs over syrupy mind-warping beats. The unifying factor of the two groups is their pure creativity; they blend the most futuristic aspects of several genres to create two entirely unique sounds, and the live shows are sweaty, trippy, and energetic. Although both duos have received high praise from the local media, they have yet to receive widespread recognition in the hip-hop community. Spyder & Muck have released all of their music for free, and Bight Club continues to play small local shows in basement lounges; their genre-warping music must surely be on the verge of a breakthrough. Keep an eye on these guys and try to catch some of the rowdy and numerous shows before the throngs of hipsters catch on.
1. Kanser / More Than Lights / Big Zach
Chronically slept-on for the past decade and a half, Kanser is a South Side Minneapolis crew has been steadily and consistently creating quality music since the mid-nineties. Comprised of MCs Big Zach and Unicus as well as Gabe Garcia on the wheels after DJ Elusive relocated to Chicago, and often featuring singer Alicia Steele, Kanser was signed only to their small local label Interlock Records until it dissolved about two and a half years ago. They have released over seven records and EPs in the last fifteen years, and are absolutely integral to the Twin Cities hip-hop scene. These seasoned veterans manage to capture the spirit of Minneapolis like no one else; their uplifting and nostalgic music embodies the Twin Cities music scene. From 2000’s momentous Inner-city Outer-space to last year’s nostalgic Future Retro Legacy, they continue to masterfully walk the line between fun-loving and playful, and socially conscious and important; the lilting effortless voice of Big Zach weaving in and out of the energetic beats can warm up the iciest of Minnesota days.
Their band More Than Lights brings a new element to hip-hop; live instrumentals, and the solo career of Big Zach has also been notable with his recent album, White Jesus, receiving unanimous praise and a new one on the way. Putting on dozens of dynamite live performances per year that really feel more like parties, the feel-good music of Kanser, Big Zach, and More Than Lights deserves hall of fame status in the Minneapolis hip-hop community.
Listen: Kanser – Footsteps
Download the official 10 Minnesota Nice MCs You’re (Probably) Sleeping On mix below featuring tracks from all of the artists listed above.
1. Bight Club – 40 oz
2. I Self Devine – Ice Cold
3. Big Quarters – Beacons 2.0
4. Ecid – Big things
5. Culture Cry Wolf – Come Come
6. Bight club – Feedback To The Future
7. Guante & Big Cats – Limb From Limb
8. St. Paul Slim – Is This Mic On?
9. Sims – Pop Gun War
10. St. Paul Slim – The Paul Masson Rap
11. Kanser – Pleasant
12. Spyder Baybe Rawdog & 2% Muck – Moses
13. Kanser – Just For You
14. No Bird Sing – Ars Poetica
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Get FamiliarJ. Kennedy
Meet Midwest-by-way-of-SD MC/producer, J. Kennedy, and check out the premiere of his brand new project, ‘California Dreaming’.