5 must-hear Minnesota hip-hop tracks: 11/16/16

Freshly picked local gems from Why Khaliq, Izell Pyramid, and more.

There’s a near-constant stream of quality music coming from the Minnesota rap scene, and we’ve taken it upon ourselves to pick a few highlights from the past week in new releases and videos. Here are 5 that are definitely worth your time.

Mike Dreams - “Change Up”

Mike Dreams delivers one of his strongest efforts to date with the powerful black-and-white video for “Change Up,” a reflection on the moral compromises incurred in seeking the all mighty dollar. Immediately illustrating the struggle of making ends meet, the video follows Mike Dream’s impassioned inner conflict by highlighting some of the desperate measures and impending consequences that face his community. With a flow that finds the intersection of trap triplets and heartfelt unburdening, the song is at once evocative, devastating, and hopeful, seeing the world as it is and praying for the strength to make it through.

Saint LaRon - “All I See”

R&B singer Saint LaRon finds a foil to his sleek, reverberated come-ons in Tek’s stuttering ambient production, laying down an audio seduction on the breathy, downtempo “All I See”. Painting the picture lyrically and sonically (“Let’s take a trip, let’s go to Vegas / Let’s book a suite, walk around naked”), LaRon continues to define a distinctive style, and hopefully this team-up with Tek is a sign of some future collaborations and new projects.

Izell Pyramid - “Absence”

Despite supporting spots for high-profile shows including Poliça and Post Malone, and the 40k+ views on this song alone, the enigmatic Izell Pyramid remains a bit of a mystery: We’ve never gotten much of a profile beyond “MIDTOWN MAESTRO, SOUTHSIDE SYMPHONIES,” and we’ve never seen the face underneath the mask. Poliça announced on Twitter prior to performing with Izell at 7th St Entry that we’d see Izell’s project “Sandcastles” by the end of this year, but that was in March and there’s been no word since. About a year and half since being featured on Bobby Raps and Corbin’s collaborative project couch potato, Izell dropped a solo song out of nowhere last week, the spacey “Absence,” produced by prime cut and Psymun. The sphinx-like stage of Izell’s career is certainly intriguing, but ideally we’ll hear more in the near future.

Why Khaliq - “Brandy”

Why Khaliq works his smooth vocal fry over a subdued loop from producer Been Reza to preview an upcoming project The Mustard Seed, delivering a front-to-end rap that eventually fades out, leaving the beat to continue for a bars-forward display of skill and execution. Laid-back but subtly forceful, Khaliq uses his elastic style to cover a wide range of topics including sex, death, and resourcefulness, with enough of an overarching vibe to connect everything under one umbrella.

Farr Well - “Time Machine”

Farr Well of the Afrofuturist duo Khem Clan breaks out on his own with a globetrotting video for single “Time Machine,” in which the smooth-voiced rapper dons a Twins hat and explores Egypt. Lending appropriate visuals to the liberty-driven lyrics, Farr Well (aka Farrington Llewellyn) soaks in his surroundings while embracing a change in mindset and an appreciation for the outside world. Interspersed among shots of pyramids and the Sphinx, sunny backdrops, and awe-inspiring architecture, are messages critical of a technology-obsessed culture, implying a worship of screens distracts from the serenity that surrounds us; the chill vibe of the song gives off a meditative tranquility matched by the powerful views.

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