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Chicago rappers SD and Brian Fresco combine their distinctive styles for the whimsically joyful Muddbruddas

I’m thankful for the first full-length collaboration between Chicago rappers SD and Brian Fresco, the new Muddbruddas (Empire). Its mere existence takes a wrecking ball to the tired cliche that the local scene is split into two camps, “drill” and “alternative hip-hop,” that are isolated from each other’s sound and influence. When Chief Keef kicked […]

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Northwest Indiana rapper Vince Ash samples hip-hop history for a distinctly heavy style

Vince Ash hails from Hammond, Indiana, but at age 23 he already raps like he’s lived lifetimes in some of the country’s most storied hip-hop scenes. On his new EP, Vito (POW Recordings), he braids west-coast G-funk storytelling with humid Memphis instrumentals—the title track coalesces around a stuttering sample of iconic southern crew Three 6 […]

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Englewood’s F.A.B.L.E. brings his charming warmth and vigor to Chicago’s bustling hip-hop ecosystem

Englewood multi-instrumentalist, engineer, and rapper Christopher Horace started releasing solo recordings a little more than two years ago. He released his first mixtape, February 2018’s Exodus, under the name Nephset, but since then he’s been performing and recording as F.A.B.L.E., which stands for Finally a Black Life Explained. For a year or so now, Horace […]

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Saint Louis rapper-singer Smino re-creates the fun of classic hip-hop mixtapes on She Already Decided “Mixtape”

When rapper-singer Smino self-released She Already Decided on April 20, he added “Mixtape” in scare quotes to the title on Soundcloud. In doing so, the Saint Louis native provided a sly history lesson for young listeners who’ve only ever referred to full-lengths as “projects.” A decade ago, hip-hop mixtapes provided a way for rappers to […]

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Danny Brown is back with a record that combines all of his past personas into one

Danny Brown’s sophomore album, 2011’s XXX, put him on the map—its Adderall- and molly-fueled hyperdrive take on hip-hop merged head-rattling Detroit-techno-flavored production with Brown’s larger-than-life, vulgar-as-hell, over-the-top persona. His relentless, almost cartoonlike rapping helped him make his name, but he’s calmed down a bit over his subsequent albums: 2013’s Old showcases introspective lyrics on its […]

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Houston rapper Maxo Kream excavates his past for one of 2019’s best hip-hop releases

Few rappers sound as comfortable with introspection as Houston’s Emekwanem Ogugua Biosah Jr., aka Maxo Kream. Even the title of his recent second album, Brandon Banks (RCA/Big Persona/88 Classic), references his troubled past: his father, Emekwanem Ogugua Biosah Sr., ran scams under that name and spent much of Maxo’s childhood serving time on fraud charges. […]