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.
Brother Ali - “Pen To Paper” / “Own Light (What Hearts Are For)”
Brother Ali has announced his forthcoming album All the Beauty In This Whole Life, his first since 2012's Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color and his return to working with Atmosphere producer Ant. The positive perspective of “Own Light (What Hearts Are For)” seems to signify the record’s themes (“It’s completely about the idea of beauty, and love, and the truth that’s communicated when hearts are connected,” the rapper says in a video blog detailing the album release). “Pen To Paper” exercises the firebrand’s biting, combative side in a simple-yet-effective video.
Millz to Cold - “2017 Flow”
“Ya’ll done gave this beat to the wrong motherfucker, man,” Millz to Cold begins as she goes in over “Oochie Wally,” referencing the current year in the title while evoking the roughneck vibe of the early 2000s Nas classic. She's flexing in the gym while throwing out threats. Talking about the conditions that built her hardbody exterior, the song is a solid indication of both her rapping ability and her take-no-sh*t attitude.
Guante & Katrah-Quey feat. Jayanthi Kyle - “Our Relationship is a Slowly Gentrifying Neighborhood”
In a beautifully directed video by E.G. Bailey, Guante and Katrah-Quey's song about the "casual exorcism" of gentrification from their 2016 collaborative album, Post-Post-Race, gets visual representation. Jayanthi Kyle's softly sung hook is even more haunting as she observes movers gradually taking her belongings, leaving her to meditate amid dim candlelight at the video’s conclusion. “Progress isn't always related to growth / The first step in building a skyscraper is digging up a very deep hole,” raps Guante, who manages to simultaneously pen a lost-love lament and a layered political metaphor.
Travis Gorman - Layt
Rotation beatsmith Travis Gorman flexes his production muscles on Layt, a diverse collection of remixes that includes new takes on tracks ranging from Felt to Future to J. Cole to Gwen Stefani. Restructuring numerous styles to fit his varied, sample-based style, the project finds a consistent groove while being impressively varied. It showcases why his work with his crew (Finding Novyon, Dwynell Roland, and Devon Reason) is able to straddle different eras of rap beats.
Bobby Raps - “Purgatory”
“Purgatory” is an intriguing indication of how the rapper and producer Bobby Raps is breaking ground in contemporary music while subtly upholding the introspection of the Minnesota hip-hop old guard. An experimental track that pivots from a droning synth to a blasting turn-up apex, Bobby's second preview from the upcoming project Mark gradually progresses his driven, bass-heavy sonic style while talking sensitively about death and drugs. It speaks to the future of both the modern underground at home and writ large, hinting at a strong project that’s sure to change the conversation.