5 must-hear Minnesota hip-hop tracks: 11/23/16

Fresh local tracks from ZULUZULUU, Mike the Martyr, 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:

ZULUZULUU - The Cover Up mixtape

Teased in a video trailer stylized in the form of classic black action cinema, the anticipated culmination of ZULUZULUU’s long stretch of live performances and solidfreereleases is here: A mixtape of covers that represent a broad spectrum of black music across generations. The Cover Up mixtape displays ZULUZULUU as the incarnation of the represented musical past and a glimpse towards the future. The directions the crew push these classics, both sonically and lyrically in their interpretations, capture the vibes of the originals while reimagining them comfortably within the band's own style. You might get chills hearing the synthesized flip of Dilla’s beat in the mesmerizing crawl of “Stakes Is High,” or the buttery vocal interpretations of “People Make The World Go Round” and “Mama Used To Say". The songs tend to bleed into one another with little transitioning, highlighting the group’s gift for flipping a multiplicity of styles into one form, and especially in tandem, the songs make a strong statement artistically and politically.

Standout Tracks: “Back Stabbers”, “Tonite”

Crunchy Kids - “Wrong Medicine”

In a stunning video comprised from still shots from the acclaimed photographer and director Peter Jamus, Crunchy Kids live out the last legs of a night out in the blurred haze of spinning lights and half-remembrances. The stripped-down ambient track was a standout on Crunchy Kids’ latest record, Crop, and the video adds new layers with a compelling visual interpretation of the song’s addled meander. A great example of Chance York’s singing voice, the reverberated, stripped-down feel masks a song focused on surveillance culture and police violence: “Need to find a ride home,” gradually leads to “while the law getting’ ready for war,” as the end of the night’s giddy stumble comes with a caveat.

Hard_R - “SPvCE - 2 Gone”

A preview of the upcoming LostInMyself mixtape, due to release in December 16, Hard_R enlists Arvell Genius and RPHooks to rap on Dimitry Killstorm’s atmospherical jittery beat. Swinging between Yachty-esque auto-tune falsetto, vehement scream choruses, and low-talking mumble-rap, the track refuses to land on a flow and achieves a sort of laid-back agitation in synthesizing the methods and pushing the vocals deep within the skeletal beat. Most visibly featured as a buried guest embedded into P.O.S’ epic “sleepdrone/superposition,” Hard_R’s latest alongside the handful of other releases suggest his unfixed explorations will continue to develop into some interesting ways.

GainesFM - “MN LIT”

Anthemic and aggressive, GainesFM’s latest aims for a turnt live experience and hits the mark enough to lend an elevated energy to the recorded track, living up to the genre label “punk rap” applied to the Soundcloud track, and the cover of the project Smile, of which this serves as a preview. After DJ TIIIIIIIIIIP’s reverse shoutout introduction (“GainesFM is straight up just ass-cheeks… I don’t fuck with him none”), Gaines tells us he’ll “be millionaire with or without rap” before dropping into a scream-along chorus evoking his home state’s namesake, alongside a a silky guest verse from local boy made good Finding Novyon.


Mike the Martyr - Mike The Martyr Instrumentals

Mike the Martyr is someone to pay close attention to regularly, as he is wont to release new, long-form projects suddenly and frequently (among countless one-off songs, he’s released no less than four full projects in addition to works with other artists), including a new series of instrumentals he recently uploaded to YouTube. Each adorned with a photo of Martyr masked by a spinning blur à la Mr. Krab, the series comes together as a project that uniquely highlights the unadorned warmth of Martyr’s timeless approach to sample-based production. Martyr claims credit for a swath of the local scene, having produced work for Muja Messiah, Long Doe, Manny Phesto, and Alex Foley, among others, and this series is a head nod from front to back.

Standout Tracks: “Fire Mountain”, "Vintage Cloth"

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