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We didn’t hear as much DMV rap music on the airwaves in 2018 as we did in 2017 — an exceptional yesteryear that delivered massive national hits from Logic, GoldLink and Shy Glizzy. But isn’t the radio supposed to be a relic of the past anyway?
Out in digital space, young listeners seemed to be paying very close attention to rappers from the District, Maryland and Virginia in 2018 — and especially to voices from Prince George’s County, where a new style of offbeat rhyming began to congeal around Goonew, a trash talker who likes to step outside of a song’s rhythm as if he’s momentarily walking on air. At first, he sounds all wrong. Then you can’t stop listening to him.
Other DMV rappers worked in entirely different but equally stylish modes, either broadcasting their charisma in song-length bursts or rationing it out across entire albums. And altogether, the motley breadth of these recordings feels far more auspicious for the local rap ecosystem than any hit single or Grammy nod ever could. Instead of worrying about a national audience, the scene finally appears to be listening to itself.
Just listen to this immeasurably inventive teenager huff and puff over a spare three-note piano loop, making his boasts sound like jokes, making his jokes feel like threats, making Prince George’s County sound like the center of the universe, making rap’s horizons feel vast.
Back in June, these two played one the most visceral rap shows I’ve ever witnessed — a pitch-black party thrown in a vacant retail space where the only light came from audience members waving their phones around. Here, they link up for a hallucinogenic singalong that feels just as exciting and strange.
If his stage alias wasn’t enough of a hint, this guy has a thing for paradoxes — and that makes the barely-there rhymes of “Perro Perro” one of his cooler riddles. Is he holding something back? Or barely trying?
The DMV is brimming with all kinds of wild styles, but no one within a 60-mile radius of the Washington Monument sounds as wild or as stylish as Sir E.U does on this way-out collaboration with producer Tony Kill.
Goonew released a series of dizzying albums this year — “Goonwick,” “Big 64,” “Goonrich Urkel” — but here, he has a stabilizing foil in Lil Gray. Both rappers have figured out how to wander off the beat in mesmerizing ways — and without ever bumping into each other.
Frustrated with nonstop gentrification, one of the District’s most thoughtful rappers decided to lace up his shoes and walk it out, composing rhymes for “Uptown Lion Walkin” as he strolled down city streets that seemed to be changing beneath his feet.
Did Shy’s show-stealing verse on GoldLink’s “Crew” actually change his voice, or did it just change the way we hear it? It used to sound sharp and piercing. Across this introspective album, it feels smooth and steadfast.
If you’re trying to figure out how this lovable loudmouth manages to go off without ever veering off the rails, point your ears toward the title track of “Straight Drop Season” where he explains it himself: “I have no manners!” Then he lowers his voice to offer an addendum: “But I have standards.”
Nappy Nappa jump-starts this album by citing Crime Mob’s “Knuck if You Buck,” but a blink later, he’s already long gone, off to join producer Patrick Cain in an alternate dimension of zero-gravity rhymes and brain-scrambling noise. As Model Home, the duo dropped four of these albums in 2018. Start here, buckle up, and count backward.