El Hitta Credit: Mario Kristian

When west-side rapper El Hitta dropped his breakthrough single, “Aww Yea,” in July, he put it out under his original name: El Hitla. “Everybody wanna name theyself off the bad guys,” he told the TRiiBE in December. “Me not knowing what it was, I, you know, end up picking the name Hitler.” After doing more research on the genocidal demagogue and scourge of 20th-century Europe, the rapper changed his stage name to Hitta. That’s not exactly a friendly choice either, but Hitta’s emerging as one of the city’s most promising rappers due to his ability to empathize with those who’ve struggled with violence. On December’s Owe Nobody Nothin (Groovy Gang/DUB Life), his shocking, resonant voice rumbles as if he’s taking big gulps of air while he raps, and his blustery bars lacerate the album’s most bombastic beats. Hitta comes across as tough, but his melodic sensibilities, emotive flow, and lyrical twists bring out affecting performances. Atop the rushed, dramatic piano melody on “Aww Yea,” he delivers the lines “People steady thinkin’ it’s a game / Till they whole life rearranged / Brains on his shirt, he a stain” as if they’re the last words he might ever utter.   v