Nine overlooked Minnesota hip-hop and R&B albums from 2017

This year had a ton of hidden gems.

The Twin Cities hip-hop scene continued to flourish in 2017, and the embarrassment of riches in local talent meant that a few albums were bound to slip through the cracks. 

We're going left of the dial to bring you the most underrated, under-appreciated, and underground Minnesota hip-hop and R&B from the year, so buckle up. 

Nick Jordan - Dividends

A bonafide R&B star-in-the-making, Nick Jordan does it all, and does it with a look-at-me charisma that you rarely see coming from Minnesota. He sings with a lovely, delicate tenor, does his own choreography, directs his own high-concept music videos, co-produces his own beats, and commands a stage like he was born to do it. Jordan's Dividends EP is recommended for fans of Frank Ocean and Miguel's art-damaged R&B sensuality. 

Izell Pyramid - Priestcraft

The flipside of Nick Jordan's extroverted R&B, Izell Pyramid is a South Minneapolis duo cloaked in mystery and new-age spirituality. Similar to their Totally Gross National Product predecessors like GAYNGS, Izell Pyramid's rich and complex vocals are obscured with splatters of helicon and auto-tune, layered into shifting, restless in-house production. Their EP Priestcraft offers little in the way of insight into the enigmatic brothers who created it, but still manages to feel achingly vulnerable and relatable.

Why Khaliq - The Mustard Seed

St. Paul, stand up! Why Khaliq might be the coolest person to come out of the 651 since Maria Isa. With a gravel-smooth flow and a singing voice to match, Khaliq's equally reminiscent of low-key locals like Greg Grease as is it to the jazz-influenced musicality of Anderson .Paak. Khaliq's ambition is equally admirable, in addition to The Mustard Seed's 12 tracks, the rapper also released a gorgeously shot short film of the same name. 

Manchita with Bionik - One

Manchita got into the studio with electronic bass music producer Bionik to release an unexpectedly tender EP titled One. In a stark contrast to the swaggering bars of her GRRRL PRTY debut, the EP finds Manchita dabbling in elements of trip-hop and FKA Twigs' cataclysmic R&B. While it's an unexpected turn, One sounds like Manchita stepping into her own as a fully realized artist to watch in 2018. 

Parables of Neptune - S/T

Whomever is responsible for pairing Lady Midnight's golden voice with the dulcet pianos and production of local beatmaker Afrokeys definitely deserves a gold star. If Parables' dusty boom-baps and ivory tinkles seem familiar, it's because Afrokeys has lent his talents to a certain little-known local artist called Atmosphere, and "Crazy" from the EP would sound perfect on a summer morning playlist next to "Sunshine."

Neon Blaque - Exo Tropica

Combining for a record that's even better than the sum of its parts, rapper Zeus James and producer Infinity Suite have created a day-glo collage of brainy, head-nodding hip-hop in Exo Tropica. Infinity Suite's beats are lush and eclectic, and James' verses and hooks have a throw-it-at-the-wall creativity that never sounds forced. In a dark, dark year, Exo Tropica is a welcome splash of humor and color. 

Muja Messiah - PyrExpeditioN and Saran Rap EP

A legend in the Twin Cities rap game, Muja Messiah's ice-cold, East Coast-style flow is as effortlessly smooth as ever on his pair of 2017 releases. PyrExpeditioN is a confident distillation of Muja's primary interests: drug talk and world traveling, featuring deft lyricism over grimy, minimalist beats from Tek. The more-recent Saran Rap doubles down on the NYC focus, with production and a verse from Long Island's Roc Marciano, plus a feature from Guilty Simpson. 

Lexii Alijai - Growing Pains

Assembling a 16-track album at 19 years old would be impressive enough, but with Growing Pains St. Paul's Lexii Alijai creates a deeply lyrical record that's also as fun and vibe-y as anything on Soundcloud. Filled with sneering kiss-offs to scrubs, doubters, and shine-blockers, Growing Pains also showcases a conceptual depth that marks greatness to come. Witness it on "Ms. Jackson," in which Alijai flips the script on the Outkast classic to ruminate on her relationship with an ex's mother. 

Greg Grease - Down So Long

After spending the better part of the last few years on his afro-future-funk project ZuluZuluu, Greg Grease has returned to solo work with the excellent Down So Long. Fans should be thankful for the diversion, as Grease's time in ZuluZuluu created a deep pool of collaborators like Trelly Mo, Proper-T and Javier Santiago, whose contributions make Down So Long far more organic and musical than any of Grease's previous work. Taking the reigns of his beats and production, Grease has never sounded more comfortable, meticulously crafting a cohesive, intoxicating record. 

Next Up

covid-19 testing site sign

Minnesota to offer free COVID rapid testing at 9 more sites

Three new rapid testing sites opened in Minnesota this week.


Elvis Costello cancels Mystic Lake show, will play vax-requiring First Ave instead

Those who bought tickets to Mystic Lake will be refunded, and need to buy new tickets.


23 Minnesotans infected with salmonella linked to onions

Four of Minnesota residents were hospitalized. None have died.

Anthony Edwards

Timberwolves smash Rockets in season opener

The Timberwolves showed they have plenty of firepower in a victory over Houston.

Knuth - Nezhad - side by side

Frey challengers Knuth, Nezhad agree to rank each other 2nd

They're urging supporters to do the same on Nov. 2.

Jerome Horton - Sherburne Co. Jail - CROP

Charges: Man lied to buy gun later used by St. Paul mass shooting suspect

He's accused of making false statements during the purchase of a firearm.

Screen Shot 2021-06-04 at 6.30.24 AM

BCA releases investigative file in Winston Smith's shooting death

The file contains 1,000 pages of documents, hundreds of photos and dozens of audio files.


Fire at Mpls. pizza joint weeks after opening, owners suspect arson

The owners arrived at work Tuesday to find the building on fire.

vaccine, covid

New COVID charts show hospitalization, death rates based on vaccine status

The unvaccinated are far more likely than the fully vaccinated to become hospitalized or die.


First Avenue's annual Best New Bands showcase announces 2017 lineup

Go 96.3's Jordan will help host this night of sterling local talent.

High School for Recording Arts marks 20 years with album and concert

The St. Paul magnet school is celebrating 20 years of hip-hop education.

Dessa will ring in 2018 with a new album called 'Chime'

The Doomtree rapper and singer-songwriter also debuts the new song, 'Fire Drills.'