As 2016 comes to a close, here are the hip-hop songs coming out of Minnesota that mattered. After unveiling the first five last week, here are the rest with some honorable mentions.
Cashinova - “Know Me Well” - (prod. by ISM)
“I can tell, you don’t really want this sh*t for real,” Cashinova raps, sounding almost disappointed in you for not being on his level. Lending his slowed, slightly somber tonal flow to a hook-heavy beat featuring a barely present synth wave and a distorted bass, Cashinova hits a humble stride. Its subtle strength, summing up his storied years in the rap scene, will truly hit after the hundredth time the chorus plays in your head.
Lizzo - “Good As Hell” (prod. by Ricky Reed)
Spirited self-love anthem “Good As Hell” helped solidify Lizzo’s ascension to stardom, as an undeniable R&B/pop/rap hit that featured on Barbershop 3. It was a hopeful sign of optimism sung with “Lift Every Voice And Sing” among election night panic on Samantha Bee’sFull Frontal. Any track off her quirky, funk-laden rap-fusion project Coconut Oil could have wound up on this list, but the feminist optimism and unbridled energy on this track specifically is a necessary reminder of inner strength that truly soars.
ZULUZULUU - “Stakes Is High” (prod. by ZULUZULUU)
This immaculate remake of De La Soul’s J Dilla-produced 1996 album track is a fresh take on a hip-hop classic, drawing out the deeper elements of the jazz and funk undercurrents that Dilla sprinkled throughout his work. The original’s variety of vocals and snapping groove remains, but where the song was once grounded in a sample-driven groove, it now floats in outer space, breathing and evolving naturally. The group that seemingly dominated the local scene challenged themselves with their choices of songs on cover album The Cover-Up. This is perhaps their most ambitious and satisfying among a string of winners.
The Lioness - “Nah” (prod. by G Mo)
The Lioness fine-tuned her developing sound on the exceptional Growing Pains, which is perhaps best exemplified by the slow drive of “Nah.” It combines her bouncing live energy, introspective headphone lyricism, and melodic lilt impeccably. She touches on her hardships and how she built a bright future, and she points to how to similarly find self-empowerment. The message is delivered with a strong, complex approach to sung triplets and poetic lyricism.
Metasota - “Hands Up” (prod. by Tek)
Metasota’s blistering “Hands Up” is a self-defense anthem for the American police state. It opens with samples from a recorded cop shakedown and concludes with a frustrated barking flow that builds up from the song’s growing tension. With a posse of backing vocals from B Rolla, BDF, Sti-Lo Reel, Tek, JessListen, and Dante Pedro, Metasota symbolizes the fight for survival as a black man in this country as both personal and collective, as he contorts his passionate, rhyme-heavy style into a pointed act of defiance.