Midwest hip hop
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Midwest hip-hop is hip-hop music performed by artists from the Midwestern United States. In contrast with its East Coast, West Coast and Southern counterparts, Midwest hip hop has very few constants. Its first dose of national popularity came in the mid-90s with the extremely fast-paced rappers known as Choppers, such as Bone Thugs-n-Harmony (Cleveland), Twista (Chicago), Tech N9ne (Kansas City), Atmosphere (Minneapolis), and Eminem (Detroit).
However, while the artists mentioned above became the first to introduce Midwest hip hop that rivaled the popularity of West and East Coast styles, subsequent acts have since risen to national prominence such as Nelly, D12, Common, Chief Keef, Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and Chance the Rapper but they share very few similarities. Other notable midwest rappers and producers include: Brother Ali, Lupe Fiasco, Royce Da 5'9, J Dilla, Mac Lethal, Elzhi, Obie Trice, and up and comers Freddie Gibbs and Manny Phesto. It is because these lack of constants between acts from different cities (and sometimes even between artists from the same city) that it can be extremely difficult to define a "typical" Midwest sound. One characteristic of Midwest hip hop is that beat tempos can range from 90 to about 180, while East Coast's beat tempo is 90–120, West Coast is 100–120, and Southern rap is 80–180.
- 1 Michigan
- 2 Illinois
- 3 Ohio
- 4 Indiana
- 5 Topeka
- 6 Milwaukee
- 7 Minneapolis - St. Paul
- 8 Omaha
- 9 Missouri
- 10 References
- 11 External links
- 12 See also
Slum Village emerged from the hip hop scene in Detroit in the mid-1990s. Their first album, Fantastic, Vol. 1 came out in 1996. The producer was J Dilla, who also produced for notable hip-hop acts from around the country, including The Pharcyde, Common, and A Tribe Called Quest. He would later become one of the most sought-after producers in hip-hop, with many of his beats being used posthumously after his death in 2006.
Blade Icewood gained respect as one of Detroit's premier rappers, but was gunned down and murdered in 2005, after his first shooting which left him paralyzed from his chest down. He had a beef for some time with the Eastside Chedda Boyz, a hip hop group from Detroit's east neighborhoods. There was a dispute over the name Chedda Boyz because Blade Icewood claimed that name originated on the west side of the city.
A popular place for rap battles in Detroit is the Hip Hop Shop, located on W 7 Mile.
In the mid-1990s, Eminem gained notoriety in Detroit as a battle rapper, and released an album during the early stages of his underground career. Infinite was sold out of the trunk of his car. It struggled to sell or create a buzz despite his success in the battling scene. Angry but determined, Eminem developed his style and recorded The Slim Shady EP, released in 1997. When Em traveled to Los Angeles to compete in the 1997 Rap Olympics, he placed in 2nd, and his EP got into the hands of Dr. Dre, who immediately wanted to sign him. He signed to Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment, and in 1999 he released his major-label debut album The Slim Shady LP. His second album, The Marshall Mathers LP, became the fastest selling hip hop album in history, breaking Snoop Dogg's record. He has gone on to have significant mainstream success with all his albums and is now one of the best selling and most highly ranked rappers of all time, making him Detroit's most widely recognizable hip-hop star.
MC Breed, from Flint, is most known for his songs "Ain't No Future in Yo Frontin'" and "Gotta Get Mine" featuring Tupac Shakur. He was on life support for two days in September 2008 after he collapsed during a game of pick-up basketball due to kidney failure. It is unclear if prior health complications were the cause of his death later that year. Another rapper from Flint, Jon Connor, is quickly climbing the rap ladder, has been featured in The Source, and has collaborated with many big names in the rap industry. Rapper Proof was also part of the Detroit-founded rap group D12. Despite his success with D12, he also released two solo albums, Searching for Jerry Garcia and I Miss The Hip Hop Shop. On April 11, 2006, he was fatally shot to death in a gunfight at a Detroit nightclub.
Despite Detroit being over 85% African American, many of the most famous white rappers, including Eminem, Insane Clown Posse and Kid Rock, Twiztid are from the Detroit area. D12, standing for Dirty Dozen or Detroit Twelve, made it big after Eminem's solo debut. Besides Eminem, former member Proof, and former member Bugz, the group consists of Bizarre, Kon Artis, Kuniva, Swift, and Fuzz Scoota. Detroit rapper Obie Trice made his major-label debut in Shady Records as he released Cheers followed by Second round's on Me. Royce da 5'9", another Detroit rapper, debuted around the same time D12 did. Before that, Royce was part of the underground rap duo "Bad Meets Evil" with Eminem. Trick Trick is widely known and recognized as an important figure in Detroit's underground hip hop scene.
In 1993, Ira Dorsey and Raheen Peterson met through their younger brothers. The two began writing together, under the names Bootleg and Shoestring, and created their first song, "Dope Dayton Ave." Rapper Matt Hinkle soon joined the duo under the name Backstabba. The group began working with local producer Steve Pitts and formed The Dayton Family, named after Dayton Street, one of the most crime-ridden streets in their hometown of Flint, Michigan. In between studio sessions, they performed at local clubs and quickly gained notoriety within Flint.
The Dayton Family recorded a 12-inch single and soon signed with Atlanta independent record label Po Broke in 1995. That year, the group released their debut album What's on My Mind? and were featured on the No Limits Down South Hustlers: Bouncin' and Swingin' compilation album, which got the trio recognition throughout Southern United States. After the album's release, Hinkle was imprisoned and replaced by Dorsey's younger brother Eric, who performed under the name Ghetto E. Following a year of touring, the group left Po Broke due to legal problems with the label's producer.
In 1996, they released their second album, F.B.I., standing for Fuck Being Indicted, under Relativity Records. The album was later certified gold. The Dayton Family was plagued with various legal problems, including Ira being incarcerated soon after the release of F.B.I., which hindered the amount of work the group released. Both Ira and Peterson released solo albums. Two years later, the group signed with Detroit rapper Esham's Gothom label and released solo albums. The next year, they released Welcome to the Dopehouse under Koch Records.
Big Sean, from Detroit's west side, steadily rose to fame with his mixtapes. In 2007, he was signed to Kanye West's GOOD Music label, and in 2008, Def Jam Recordings. Since then he has had mainstream success. He released Finally Famous in 2011. His mixtape released in September 2012, titled Detroit (mixtape), was called the mixtape of the year. Hall of Fame was released August 27, 2013. In February 2015, he released his third studio album Dark Sky Paradise, becoming his first number 1 album as it debuted atop the Billboard 200.
Nick Speed is another standout in Detroit music, producing for 50 Cent and Danny Brown. In 2013 he released The Beat Down on vinyl and produced A.R.T. the DIA project for legendary Detroit emcee Seven the General, which would be nominated for two Detroit Music Awards with the song "Detroit City Blues" by Seven the General ft. Guilty Simpson and Bizarre going on to become the official promo song for the annual Detroit Design Festival.
Chicago has harbored several locally popular acts since the early 1990s, including Do or Die and Crucial Conflict; the former being a fast-rapping group associated with Twista, and the latter of which was a group with a decidedly down-home, country sound. Chicago soon became known for more than fast rapping with the rising popularity of Common Sense, protege of producer No I.D., who put flippant battle raps over a jazzy backdrop. Other rappers in this vein included Vakill, who also gained some notoriety in Chicago. Da Brat, a female Chicago native, also had a hit in this period with Jermaine Dupri's label So So Def.
In 2004, Chicago producer and rapper Kanye West broke the scene with his multi platinum debut, College Dropout on Roc-A-Fella Records. He became an industry commodity, reworking and repopularizing Wu-Tang producer RZA's style of speeding up Soul instrumental and vocal samples to fit hip hop beats. The style became known as "chipmunk soul". The same year, West produced two hits for Twista, "Slow Jamz" and "Overnight Celebrity"; these led to the rapper's first platinum release, Kamikaze. In 2005, Common (having dropped the "Sense" from his name) signed with Kanye's GOOD Music, West also being a student of No I.D. This led to Be, Common's second gold album. West attempted to push longtime associate Rhymefest, a Chicago battle rapper and ghostwriter; his support helped carve the MC a local niche and some national attention. A guest spot on West's 2006 second album, Late Registration, also solidified the buzz of up-and-coming Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco, whose debut album Food & Liquor was the No. 1 rap album in the country upon its release. His later album The Cool directly references his Chicago roots.
Chicago is currently home to a thriving underground rap-music scene. Blogs such as Fake Shore Drive, SBG (See Beyond Genre), and Midwest Live have become a "vital nerve center" for the local underground rap music scene. A 2009 film, I Am Hip Hop: The Chicago Hip Hop Documentary documented the underground rap-music scene in Chicago from 2004–2009. In 2009, the song "Legendary" was released by Chicago rappers Saurus and Bones, Twista, and AK-47 of Do or Die showcasing the Midwest style of fast lyrics over a dark beat.
Kevin Beacham a.k.a. Formless compiled and wrote "The Chicago Hip Hop Story" which is featured on the website of Chicago-based hip hop record label Galapagos4.
Other Illinois hip hop artists
Champaign, Illinois is the home of Christian hip hop group Hostyle Gospel. The group is best known for contributing an aggressive militant approach to Christian hip hop, called Christian battle music.
K.Flay is a hip hop artist from Wilmette, Illinois. She is best known for her billboard hit Life As A Dog which charted 133 on the Billboard 200, 14 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and number 2 on Nielsen SoundScan Top Heatseekers chart.
In the early 1990s, five drop outs formed the unit Bone Enterpri$e and took a one way bus ticket to Compton. They went searching for Eazy-E, a pioneer of gangsta rap, and signed to his label. They were signed to Ruthless when they got back to Cleveland for a concert, where they performed for Eazy on the spot. They changed their name to Bone Thugs-n-Harmony consisting of Flesh-N-Bone, Layzie Bone, Wish Bone, Krayzie Bone, Bizzy Bone. While in L.A. they visited The Good Life where they bore witness to the creators of their soon to be new style, a rapid-fire flow and melodic mesh of harmonizing vocals, called Chopping, that they called the Flow Motion. They released their LP Creepin on ah Come Up with the smash single "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" and "Foe tha Love of $" featuring Eazy-E. They later had hits like "1st of Tha Month", "Tha Crossroads", Art of War's "Look Into My Eyes", and "If I Could Teach The World" which earned the group their first American Music Awards. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony were the first Midwest rappers to go platinum, which led to a conflict with Chicago rappers as Twista, Do or Die, and Crucial Conflict about stealing their style. They are also the only ones to collaborate with hip hop "Hall of Famers" like The Notorious BIG ("Notorious Thugs"), Tupac Shakur ("Thug Luv"), Big Pun ("When I Die"), and Eazy-E ("Foe tha Love of $") while they were all living, and have sold more than 40 million records only in the U.S. Today they have their own label after contractual difficulties with Ruthless records. Their most recent album, Uni5: The World's Enemy was released in May 2010. They returned as a full group with this album after 10 years of Flesh-n-Bone being in jail, and Bizzy Bone leaving the group twice to build companies 7th Sign Records and IMG Recordings and Distribution, inc.
In 2008, most Northeast Ohio (NEO) Hip-Hop has either a faux-southern sound (usually from inner city Cleveland/Akron), while Youngstown (on the PA Line) preserves a more classic vibe. However, both the Eastern and Western sides of Cleveland itself hold light to a conscious Hip Hop sound coined by artists such as Mos Def and Talib Kweli, while the southern portion of the city holds more to a flashier, more glamorous side of hip hop.
Cleveland was named as xxlmag.com top ten hip hop cities, with Ohio being named among America's most hip-hop states, and having the full support of Cleveland Cavaliers star small forward LeBron James's imprint, DeamLife Ent., Cleveland and the whole Northeast Ohio music scene has shown itself as a force in Midwest as well as mainstream hip-hop.
Cleveland remains on the scene with Kid Cudi, who collaborates with a wide array of musicians, Machine Gun Kelly, who signed with Diddy in August 2011, and other notables, such as Chip Tha Ripper, (also known King Chip) Ray Cash, Tae Miles, Weswill, NicX, Poetic Republic, Paulie Rhyme, Bankie IZ and Al Fatz
Many well-known hip-hop artists hail from the southern Ohio city. One of the first was Jibri the Wise One whose 1991 single "The House the Dog Built" gained national airplay on radio and music video programs. Hi-Tek, [Kenny P],[CincinnatiBoogotti], Mr. Dibbs, Mood, OTR Clique, Five Deez, Boom Bip, Tanya Morgan, Odd Nosdam, Dose One and more of the artists that have gained international prominence. Critics label some of these artists as alternative hip hop while others reflect the typical Cincinnati style of rap which is usually characterized with deep Southern influences as well as its own original contributions.
Scribble Jam was a major annual hip hop event that began in 1996.
Other Ohio hip hop artists
The Gary/Hammond, Indiana rap scene first started taking form in the mid to late 1990s. The Grind Family was a rap group with around eight members (two from Gary, six from Hammond), led by Will Scrilla (who had a relatively successful underground solo career), dubbed "The Midwest Wu-tang", after releasing two underground tapes, the group dissolved after Will Scrilla was incarcerated on murder charges in 1999. Another infamous Gary, Indiana rap trio called CCA released multiple hits that resonated among the streets of Gary, including "Concord Affiliated" and "Street Life", their success was also short lived as all three members were incarcerated for cocaine trafficking and controlling a criminal enterprise. MCGz (Murder Capital Gangsters) another group was one of the first groups from the city of Gary to release physical CD's, the group also dissolved due to gang injunctions. The late 1990s era of Gary rap was highly regarded and talented but often short lived due to the reality of each rapper's street life.
Ric Jilla of Hammond bridged the gap between rap groups like Grind Family and CCA to more modern solo artists, collaborating with the likes of Will Scrilla and Freddie Gibbs, after dropping his hit "Pride of Indiana" he began frequently touring and garnered a large local fan base. Freddie Gibbs began attracting attention in 2008 after his "Live From Gary, Indiana part 2" mixtape, as of today he's the most popular Gary rapper to become mainstream. Despite accusations of falsifying his gangster lifestyle, he has gone on to release multiple albums and EP's, including three tapes with legendary west coast producer Madlib. He was once signed to Young Jeezy's CTE label, but has left due to disagreements.
The Gatekeepers compilation CD was a huge deal in launching the careers of some of Gary's hottest MC's. First Battallion, Father Tyme, Pdot (of Money Baggz Ent), T-Lo G, to name a few.
Topeka, Kansas in the late 1980s brewed the Gucci Crew led by Carlos Steele and Vandon Rios whom had minor success locally doing television commercials that extended into Kansas City creating a buzz for a city that was primarily known for its civil rights. DVS Mindz was a popular local outfit that opened for dozens of superstar acts, and received considerable praise for its 2000 debut Million Dolla Broke Niggaz.
Topeka would later produce a notable rapper, Aulsondro "Novelist" Hamilton Emcee N.I.C.E. who would go on to appear on many recordings as a lead vocalist named Novelist for the group KansasCali and star in an urban family animated cartoon series called Da Jammies. These recordings have appeared on several soundtracks, most notably Crash that won the Oscar for "Best Picture" at the 78th Academy Awards. The music video for the group's song "If I..." would go on to appear in the "Special Features" section of the DVD that sold over 10 million units. That same year, his group also landed on the International Soundtrack of the block buster film Mr. & Mrs. Smith starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The duo was also chosen by Billboard Magazine Executive Tamara Coniff to open and perform at the First Annual Billboard Digital Entertainment Awards. Aulsondro's other soundtrack appearances include, ESPN's Once in a Lifetime, Orlando Bloom's Haven, and Jamie Kennedy's Kickin' It Old Skool. Emcee N.I.C.E. as Novelist would also go on to produce and work with the likes of Tupac and NAS co-producing "Thugz Mansion", Aaron Hall, K-Ci Hailey of K-Ci & JoJo, Ginuwine, Yo-Yo, Darius McCrary, James Avery, Tom Lister, Jr. aka Tiny, Kurtis Blow, Alisa Reyes, Lil' JJ, Kim Whitley, Michael Baisden, Ralph Farquhar, and many more.
Milwaukee hip hop dates back to the early 1980s. Until the end of the 1990s, the Milwaukee scene was largely confined to the city’s North Side. However, as members of the hip hop generation began to attend college in the early 2000s, cultural organizations at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee began to invite acts such as Talib Kweli to perform on the East Side campus. The success of these shows led to local groups with similar followings, such as Black Elephant, Frontline, Dredknox and Rusty P’s being booked for on-campus sets as well. This, in turn, opened the door for the local acts to play off-campus venues on the East Side such as Onopa (now Stonefly) Shank Hall, Up & Under and BBC that had previously been off limits to hip hop (presumably due to the stereotypes associated with such crowds).
Meanwhile, Memphis club music was rapidly finding its way to Milwaukee’s North Side via Southern transplants and North Siders who either had relatives and/or attended college in the area. During this time Coo Coo Cal, who had a more typical Midwestern quick-tongued style (albeit, with a noticeably slower delivery) enjoyed moderate commercial success with his debut single “My Projects” and the follow-up “How Does It Feel” which Manager/artist at the time CEO and FOUNDER OF IMG RECORDINGS RICK ROBINSON pka DOUBLE R from the BIZZY BONE presents DOUBLE R 2002. The result is a more artistically driven scene that is centered on the East Side, and a more commercially driven scene that is centered on the North Side.
The East Side scene is characterized by socially and politically charged lyrics, neo-soul influences and the relatively common use of live instrumentation. Conversely, the North Side scene is characterized by its gritty lyrics, southern club music influences and willingness to follow commercial trends.
Acts such as Rico Love, and Gerald Walker have had (or been featured on) moderately successful singles and mixtapes in recent years. Streetz-n-Young Deuces, 2006 Get 'Em Magazine Award Winners, have gained national support with the release of their mixtapes.
For the past several years, Milwaukee has hosted a local event called The Miltown Beatdown which served as a beat showcase/battle for local area producers. This has been another tool that has helped to join the North and East side styles together. Milwaukee is also the founding city of the largest DJ organization in the world, The Core DJ's (founder, Milwaukee native & DJ, Tony Neal).
Minneapolis - St. Paul
Although strictly underground, there existed a subterranean hip hop culture in the Twin Cities starting as early as 1981. Similar to the development of hip hop in the South Bronx, Twin Cities rap started as humble parties with a DJ and an emcee. A DJ named Travitron was comparable to the DJ Kool Herc of the Twin Cities area. Shows took place at many venues, most notoriously Club Hip Hop on Selby Avenue in St. Paul. Other artists and DJs include Disco T, Verb X, Brother Jules, Delite, and Truth Maze. The first real album to come out of the Twin Cities was called The I.R.M. Crew, released in 1985. Graffiti and b-boy crews were also existent in the city. This is the world that the current movers of Twin Cities Hip Hop were brought up in.
The main movers of Twin Cities Hip Hop came together to form the group Headshots, a precursor to the Rhymesayers Entertainment label. Members of this group included Slug, I Self Devine, Micranots, Musab, Siddiq, and Ant. Slug was one of the main artists to move into the foreground, setting the tone for the style of music to follow in the years to come.
Since the emergence of Rhymesayers Entertainment, the Minneapolis hip hop scene has seen the local hip-hop scene erupt with talent including Brother Ali, Eyedea, Wide Eyes, the Doomtree collective and Heiruspecs.
The Twin Cities Celebration of hip-hop is an annual event hosted by Yo! The Movement, bringing together people from all walks of life to celebrate the power of community through hip-hop culture. Over the past five years nearly 20,000 people from around the world have taken part in the festival and conference. The Festival has been organised by Founder Toki Wright, Larry Lucio Jr, Claire Redmond, FranzDiego DaHinten, Nasimiyu Murumba, Dimitris Kelly, and Alicia Steele.
Another notable annual event is the Soundset music festival, which started its first year on Memorial Day Weekend in May 2008. It features several big name hip hop acts and had over 14,000 in attendance. For 2009, the Soundset music festival was much larger. Some of the notable performing acts include Atmosphere, Pharcyde, Brother Ali, P.O.S, MF Doom, Manny Phesto, Freeway & Jake One, Immortal Technique, Eyedea & Abilities The Cunninlynguists, Sage Francis, El-P, Heiruspecs, Buck 65, Haiku D'Etat, Blue Scholars, I Self Devine, One Be Lo, Unknown Prophets. Other artists who have performed at Soundset include Snoop Dogg, Aesop Rock, Wiz Khalifa, Method Man & Redman, Hieroglyphics, Cage, De La Soul, Big Boi, Slaughterhouse, Mac Miller, Curren$y, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Yelawolf, Face Candy, Fashawn, Murs, Lupe Fiasco, Big K.R.I.T., Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, ASAP Ferg, Kendrick Lamar, Action Bronson, Danny Brown, DJ Premier, Evidence, Schoolboy Q, Joey Badass, Busta Rhymes, Juicy J, Tech N9ne, Guilty Simpson, Dizzy Wright, Sean Price, Open Mike Eagle, R.A. the Rugged Man, Chance The Rapper, 2 Chainz, Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, PROF, Grieves, G-Eazy, Flatbush Zombies, Roc Marciano, Nacho Picasso, Allan Kingdom, Dilated Peoples, The Alchemist, and NAS.
Omaha is also home to a growing underground hip hop scene. For a long period of time, the scene was defined by North High School graduate Houston Alexander, aka Scrib or FAS/ONE. In the 1980s he led a hip hop movement in North Omaha called the Scribble Crew as an alliance of graffiti writers who developed a reputation as the top tag artists in the area. The art stands today at 24th and Binney Streets, to 16th and Corby Streets, and other North Omaha locations, and is still respected by the community. His Midwest Alliance act was active through the 1990s and into the new millennium, and is seen as influential on the Omaha scene. Today Alexander is a DJ on a local radio station in Omaha that hosts an independent music show featuring hip hop, and he facilitates an elementary school program that teaches students about hip hop called the "Culture Shock School Tour". Alexander has also been vocal about Omaha's lack of support for its hip hop artists. There many great upcoming artist such as Midwest Mulisha, with members $krilla, L.T.G and Trajik. There are other upcoming rappers such as Rocky The Rapper, Chiffy aka Da Streetz Daughter, http://www.kptm.com/story/20608291/local-musician-has-a-chance-to-perform-at-grammysTommy Lou, Foolie Auto, Aceo Tha Future, King kliff, Ill Child, B.U., Black Guy, Pocket Pete
OTR Entertainment, a Latin American hip hop collective, has had artists that have collaborated Krazy Race and Armageddon, former member of Fat Joe's Terror Squad and executive producer of Fat Joe's J.O.S.E album. Jerry Wade, aka DJ Kamikaze, was first a member of Omaha's Posse-N-Effect. Their first show was in 1989 in Miller Park in North Omaha. Pigeon John, an increasingly popular Christian rapper, is originally from Omaha. Cerone Thompson, known as Scrybe, has had a number one single on college radio stations across the United States. He has also had several number one hits on the local hip hop station respectively titled, "Lose Control" and "Do What U Do".
Mars Black, perhaps the Omaha rapper with the most national exposure, has released an album on New York City's Team Love Records label. However, in a review of the Mars Black album Folks Music, one reviewer noted that Mars describes the Omaha hip-hop scene as "almost non-existent". Continuing about the album, the reviewer writes, "It's only in such a desolate music environment that his pitiful flow, painfully corny emo-rhymes, and insulting bling-boasts could exist."
Kansas City, Missouri has several blossoming artists such as Kutt Calhoun, Skatterman & Snug Brim, Big Scoob, Krizz Kaliko, and most notably, Tech N9ne. Tech N9ne has sold over 2,000,000 albums independently. Kansas City is home to successful independent record label Strange Music, owned by Travis O'Guin and Tech N9ne, all of which stated above are part of the label. Also, a notable female rapper hailing from Kansas City is Solé. Her first single "4, 5, 6" went Gold, as well as her first featured single "Who Dat" with rapper JT Money, which went Gold as well. She sold over 1,000,000 copies with both singles combined.
Other notable Kansas City rappers include Mac Lethal who is signed to the Rhymesayers Entertainment, Fat-Tone who was murdered in 2005, S.H.A.D.O.W., commonly noted as the city's best freestyle artist, Approach of Datura Records, MaddMont Tha Blacc Capone/SiccRida, Ron Ron and finally, Rich The Factor who has made tracks with Messy Marv, Mac Dre, JT The Bigga Figga and many other notable San Francisco Bay Area rappers.
There is one known rapper that has gained some prominence who hails from the city in Mid-Missouri: Stevie Stone was born in Columbia, Missouri, but is now based in St. Louis. He is a signed artist with Kansas City rapper Tech N9ne's Strange Music Inc.
St. Louis is one of the most popular cities in Midwest hip-hop, with many popular national and international artists such as Nelly and his St. Lunatics, Chingy, Pretty Willie aka P-Dub, Toya (aka Lady Lunatic), Huey, Jibbs, Ebony Eyez, J-Kwon, Unladylike, Sylk Smoov, Ali, and Murphy Lee. The St. Louis ("Blues") Bounce sound was also popularized by hip-hop artists such as Nelly, Pretty Willie (P-Dub), Chingy, J-Kwon, Murphy Lee, etc. and their local producers in the first decade of the 2000s.
Rapper's Delight – The East St. Louis connection
In 1979, WBLS-FM in New York City and WESL-AM in East St. Louis, Illinois (metro St. Louis) were the first two radio stations in the nation to receive copies of the Sugarhill Gang's ground-breaking commercial blockbuster "Rapper's Delight" for airplay consideration from Sylvia Robinson's Sugar Hill Records. WBLS-FM initially chose not to play the song, however, WESL-AM in East St. Louis made the leap.
"What happened that fall in St. Louis typified the march of "Rapper's Delight" into pop music history. After sending the record to Jim Gates, the programmer of WESL in St. Louis, Sylvia followed up with a series of phone calls. After she persuaded him to give the record a try, listener response took care of the rest. Recalling that magical moment, Robinson says, "That night, a local distributor phoned in with an order for thirty thousand records. It was so bizarre that the next day I called retailers in the market, who confirmed that the record was that much in demand." Station manager at WESL reported, "Everybody wanted to know immediately after it was aired where the record could be bought." Like many other stations around the country, WESL could not play the song enough to satisfy demand and soon had to play the fifteen-minute record twice every hour just to keep the phone lines from jamming".
Source: Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement
"When Gates put needle to wax on "Rapper's Delight" and the legendary opening verse — "Hip-hop, a hibbit to the hibbit to the hip hip-hop" — blared across the St. Louis airwaves for the first time, it had a profound impact. Not only did the album eventually sell 14 million copies worldwide, it spawned an entire generation of young St. Louis musicians.
A large man with a close-cropped salt-and-pepper Afro and a pencil-thin gray mustache, Gates remembers being stunned by the immediate and frenzied listener response the song inspired. "The phone lines were jammed for hours," he says. "People were calling and saying, 'Where can I get it? Play it over again so I can tape it!' I made one DJ play it twice an hour for three hours — the whole fifteen minutes."
Riverfront Times was unable to locate Sylvia Robinson to comment for this story, and her husband, Joe, died in 2000. But Gates is acknowledged in The Sugar Hill Records Story, a 66-page booklet published in 1999 along with a CD box set to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of "Rapper's Delight," and the Robinsons have credited him in several published accounts as the man who "broke" the song.
"After I convinced him to play the record just once, [listeners] ended up jamming the phone lines," Joe Robinson told Billboard in 1996. "That night, a local distributor phoned in with an order for 30,000 records. It was so bizarre that the next day I called retailers in the market who confirmed that the record was that much in demand."
Source: St. Louis Riverfront Times
Also read: Vanity Fair's Hip Hop Happens
- Sylk Smoov, who released his self-titled debut album in 1991 that sold 100,000 or more copies. Sylk Smoov was the first rap artist directly out of St. Louis to get national attention. He was the first St. Louis rapper to make music videos, tour, appear in a movie and on the soundtrack, House Party 3, which was produced by DJ Quik, first to make the billboard charts and appeared in numerous worldwide magazines. Sylk Smoov was signed to Total Track Productions/Mercury Records. His hits, "Klientele" and club favorite "Trick Wit a Good Rap" received national attention. His song "Trick wit a Good Rap" has been in weekly rotation in his hometown for over 20 years.
- Nelly and his St. Lunatics collective which went on to a career driven by commercial singles – many of which were produced early on by St Louis production team Basement Beats. Nelly's "Country Grammar" debut album was released on June 27, 2000 and eventually sold over 10 million copies thus becoming one of the highest selling hip-hop albums of all time. On June 25, 2002, Nelly released "Nellyville", which debuted at No. 1 on US Billboard 200 chart. With 714,000 copies in its first-week of sales, it remained in the top spot for four weeks. "Nellyville" was also nominated for "Album of the Year" at the 2003 Grammys.
- In 2001, the St. Lunatics consisting of Nelly, Ali, Murphy Lee, Kyjuan and Slo'Down, and City Spud released their debut album, Free City, with hits such as "Summer in the City" and "Midwest Swing". Ali released his solo album, Heavy Starch, in 2002, and Murphy Lee released his solo album, Murphy's Law, in 2003. Nelly and the St. Lunatics, with their bouncy-beat and melodic raps intertwined with catchy hooks, are often credited with helping to put St. Louis and the Midwest on hip hop and record industry radars.
- Chingy's debut album, Jackpot was certified 3X's platinum. Chingy's first three albums ranked in the top ten on Billboard's Top 100 chart. To date, the artist has sold nearly 5 million albums.
- St. Louis native Ebony Eyez, the first lady of STL rap released her debut album 7 Day Cycle on Capitol Records in 2005 followed by her mixtape projects F*ck How Many Mics I Get and Nice Girlz Finish Last.
- Akon is a native of St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
- St. Louis native J-Kwon, gained popularity at the age of 17 with the hit club-banger single "Tipsy".
- Rapper Huey received recognition with the hit "Pop, Lock & Drop It", from his 2007 album "Notebook Paper" at the age of 18. Under the management of Angela Richardson (Tha Nod Factor Management) they went on to create a successful release of this project.
- Chicago-born, St. Louis-raised Jibbs received his major deal at age 15 gaining popularity with hits such as "Chain Hang Low" and "King Kong", the latter featuring Texas rapper Chamillionaire.
- St. Louis' Prince Ea won a Vibe magazine contest for young stars in 2008 then independently released "The Brain".
- Potzee and his crew Quor 03 (Youvee, Gena(Fresco Kane), Beezy, Don) hit the Billboard Charts with his hit song "Dat Girl" which was released on Asylum/Warner Brother Records in 2006. He also had a few local hits before that including "Good Evening" ft Murphy Lee which was and still is a city favorite.
Christian hip hop
- In 2004, FLAME, also from St. Louis, became the first national Christian hip hop artist from the Midwest. FLAME has been nominated for Dove Awards, Stellar Awards, and a Grammy Award for Best Gospel Rap/Rock Album of the Year.
- In 2010, FLAME, whose birth name is Marcus Gray, launched his own independent Christian music label – Clear Sight Music.
- St. Louis-based J.R. is a Grammy-Award winning producer. The St. Louis native helped make hip hop and gospel history as an integral member of the production team responsible for the first hip-hop album to win "Best Gospel Album" (Lacrae's Gravity) at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.
- Thi'sl, whose birth name is Travis Tyler, was nominated for the Stellar Award's Rap Hip Hop Gospel CD of the Year in 2009 and 2013 (Free From The Trap). Thi'sl's "Beautiful Monster" album dropped on July 26, 2011, released under the label X Hustler Music, it debuted at No. 5 on iTunes' Top Hip Hot/Rap Chart and #27 on the iTunes Top 100 Albums chart. The same album debuted at #2 on Billboard's Gospel album chart, #11 on Billboard's Christian album chart, and #24 on Billboard's Rap album chart. The album eventually climbed to the No. 1 spot on the iTunes Top Hip-Hop/Rap Chart.
DJs and producers
- St. Louis producing teams Basement Beats, The Trak Starz and Trackboyz each have won Grammy Awards or were Grammy-nominated.
- Jon Jon Traxx, a Grammy Award-winning producer (Jay-Z and Beyoncé's, Deja Vu), has produced music for Mary J. Blige, Bobby Valentino and Tamia.
- Producer and DJ B-Money placed songs on Jay-Z's Kingdom Come and 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Trying soundtrack.
- Producer-rapper Black Spade has developed an underground cult following with his nationally distributed OM hip-hop album release To Serve With Love, working with like-minded soul and hip-hop artists such as J*Davey and his group, The Hawthorne Headhunters.
- DJ Kut is one of St. Louis' legendary deejays. Known simply as "KUT", in 2002 he landed a coveted spot on New York's Power 105 alongside hip hop aficionado Ed Lover.
- Jay-E is a DJ and producer largely known for producing music on Nelly's Country Grammar and Nellyville albums.
- DJ Charlie Chan tours internationally as the backing DJ for DMC (from Run-DMC).
- D-Ex is a DJ and producer notable for his extensive catalog of music production work for ESPN as well as being co-founder of Wax Murdaraz DJ crew (which B-Money and Charlie Chan are both members of), who have competed on a USA national level in DJ battles such as the DMC World DJ Championships and Kool Mixx. He also serves as Vice President of A&R for Derrty Ent.
- Metro Boomin, a hugely popular producer who has worked with Future, Drake, Kanye West, and many of Hip-Hop's biggest names, is also from St. Louis.
St. Louis also has a strong presence of battle rappers. Aye Verb Yung Ill and Hitman Holla have consistently ranked amongst the nation's top battle rappers. St. Louis native Big Will is to date the only battle rapper from the Midwest with a string of nine victories on BET's 106 & Park's Freestyle Friday.
Hip hop record labels
- Derrty ENT, an imprint by Nelly
- Strange Music, an imprint by Tech N9NE
- Lady Lion ENT, an imprint by Ebony Eyez
- Notifi Records, a small independent imprint by Ira Dewitt (wife of St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt III). Artist roster includes Ginuwine, Johnny Gill, Aye Verb, Hitman Holla, and Lonny B.
- The Black 300
- Slot-A-Lot, an imprint by Chingy
- "'How Bout It Records"', an imprint by Paul Wayne
- FarFetched, a label started by East St. Louis hip hop duo Scripts & Screws
- Ethno Entertainment (Los Angeles, Dallas, St. Louis), which has signed Bliss, an up-and-coming rapper from St. Louis
- Tha Nod Factor Records (St. Louis, Atlanta, Portland, Africa and the UK) This Indie Label was started by the determined Angela Richardson in 1991. With V.P. A.C. Burgess and Operational Manager Gregory Richardson, this group has a serious team of musicians, producers and sound engineers who provide top quality music for the masses. Their track record includes artists like Huey with the hit "Pop Lock and Drop It" and Kstylis with the hit "Booty ME Down".
- Full Ride Music Group, formerly X Hustler Music, LLC, an imprint by Thi'sl
- Roc Don Hq Ent., an imprint by Turkoglu (Cecil C. Clay)
- Grinderz Incorporated Music, an imprint by artist, songwriter, producer and St. Louis native Larry Byrd
Hip hop wear influence
St. Louis artists have inspired hip hop fashion.
- Air Force 1's or AF1 by Nike
- Apple Bottoms: A successful line of clothing and perfume geared towards women by Nelly
- Make Smart Cool: T-shirts, sweatshirts and caps by Prince Ea
- Reebok Derrty One Low
- Vokal: A popular line of men's clothing, caps, jeans and activewear by Nelly.
Hip hop dance influence
In 2010, The Urban Daily.com named The Chickenhead (aka The Monastery or Nina Pop) and the Flap Your Wings (aka "Get Your Eagle on") – two St. Louis hip-hop dance styles – among the 'Top 10 Best Hip Hop Dances'.
- The (Da) Chickenhead (aka Monastery or Nina Pop) was popularized by Chingy's song, "Right Thurr". The dance resulted in club battles to see who could out-dance the competition.
- Flap Your Wings (aka The Eagle) was popularized by Nelly's song, "Flap Your Wings". It implored participants to "Drop down and get your eagle on", which was flapping (or a widening of the legs while getting low in a stooping position).
- The Pop, Lock and Drop It was popularized by Huey's song, "Pop, Lock and Drop It". It is mostly popular among teenagers and preteens.
- Anthony "Redd" Williams has become one of the most sought-after hip hop dancers in the country. He has danced in videos with Beyoncé ("Get Me Bodied") and Lady Gaga. He has performed with Jennifer Lopez (2011 American Music Awards) and he was sought out by Sean "P Diddy" Combs in his efforts to learn the St. Louis hip-hop dance, the Monastery. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Williams is an emerging talent in the world of hip-hop. In the past five years, he has danced in videos with Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, and performed on stage with Daddy Yankee and Corbin Bleu".
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