As 2016 comes to a close, here are the hip-hop songs coming out of Minnesota that mattered. We'll unveil the first five this week, and the rest next week with some honorable mentions.
Ness Nite feat. Nick Jordan - “Yes” (prod. by Ness Nite and Mike Frey)
Released along with a powerful visual that captures the freedom inherent to Ness Nite's core sound, “Yes” is simultaneously fully-realized and indicative of future growth. Here's a stunning introduction to Ness Nite’s upcoming rise to fame. The self-produced collaboration with singer Nick Jordan is an exciting example of fluid songwriting that absorbs the vibes of experimental electronic-leaning R&B, soft-spoken raps, and Lorde-esqe dark pop.
P.O.S feat. Allan Kingdom, Astronautalis, Eric Mayson, Kathleen Hanna, Hard_R, Lydia Liza, Lizzo, and Nicholas L. Perez - “sleepdrone/superposition” (prod. by P.O.S)
P.O.S executes the busy, conceptual eight-minute drone-rap epic “sleepdrone/superposition” with a profound grace. Soundtracking a dream sequence with synthesized beats and live drum fills, a SleepDrone5 oscillator drone machine, and the disconnected dreamscape voices of multiple guest vocalists, P.O.S raps like it’s the last song he’ll ever make. He delves into the health scare surrounding his kidney transplant two years prior to the song’s release date with his trademark propulsive and human directness. It’s also about “being black, beefs, loves, hurts, victories, pride and the future,” according to a post that accompanied the song’s release, the first new music from P.O.S since 2012’s boundary-pushing We Don’t Even Live Here. Among the most innovative rap songs possibly ever, P.O.S once again moves music to fit his mental state.
Taylor J - “Heaven Like” (prod. by Red Drum Beats)
Professing roots in struggle but putting his mind towards higher ground, Taylor J’s music often struggles with religious convictions that butt heads with his day-to-day life. Here he reflects on his past, proud of his accomplishments but worried about the cost: “Is there heaven for a hustler, ‘cause all I know is hustling, and that ain’t really heaven like,” he asks atop the stairs of a church, talking to himself and the heavens in his unique melodic flow.
Destiny Roberts feat. Nsikak - “Free Your Mind” (prod. by Destiny Roberts)
On “Free Your Mind,” Destiny Roberts’ rap sound circles around a laid-back flow that lazily drags behind her acoustic guitar-driven beat, and vibrant choruses. Where much of her latest project Just a Reminder finds where her political consciousness and downtempo sing-song style fit within modern trap pacing, here she brings that driven energy to a sound more explicitly neo-soul. Lying between the meaningless genre qualifiers, Roberts finds the future of the sound of conscious rap.
Allan Kingdom feat. Chronixx - “Fables” (prod. by Rex Kudo, Charlie Handsome, and Leon Thomas)
Allan Kingdom pushes ethereal Enya-rap to new luscious new heights with “Fables,” going deeper with cathedral reverberations and gigantic choruses while rapping about church and having braids in 6th grade. With an amazing video filmed in Kingston, Allan is joined by Jamaican reggae musician Chronixx, and both follow the theme of individuality and truth for a beautiful final product that stands unlike anything else in rap currently.
Next week: The rest of the best, and honorable mentions.