The Come Up: Twin Cities Rappers to Keep Tabs On

Twin Cities rappers on the rise
Twin Cities rappers to keep tabs on, clockwise from top left: Dem Atlas, Allan Kingdom, Destiny Roberts, Nsikak, J Plaza. (Nate Ryan (Dem Atlas; Allan Kingdom); Alexis J - IG: BecomingPhotography; Destiny Roberts; Bandcamp)

Just a quick word before I commence: This is not my top rappers of Minnesota list (too much talent to even begin to construct one). This is just a list of individuals from the Twin Cities that I enjoy listening to, and who I enjoy watching develop their craft. You may be familiar with some of these artists, as there are a few who have reached local and national recognition for their music; and of course, there are others that are still very underground:

Allan Kingdom


Surely the most recognizable artist on the list, after collaborating with Kanye West on "All Day" in 2015. While Kingdom's national audience has grown tenfold since the single, he is still a Minnesota artist through and through. In April, the St. Paul native released his debut studio album titled Lines. Just recently, he did an in-studio performance and interview with The Current, where he talked about his many journeys and growing up in the Twin Cities. Allan Kingdom combines a popular auto-tuned R&B sound with a heavy trap influence. He's certainly one to watch as he continues to grow into his own. Watch his live performance with The Current here:

Destiny Roberts


It feels like years now since I heard Destiny Roberts for the first time. A friend of mine from college, who attended St. Paul Central High School with her, brought her down to perform at the Cave, a small venue at Carleton College. No lies, she had me hooked from her first line. Destiny just had so much soul and passion in her music, with every vocal and every rhyme evoking a new range of emotion. Six months ago, she released her first EP, Moon Melanin Mami, an 8-track project, where Destiny depicts herself as a comic-book superhero so lost in her music, she's drifted to another planet. Roberts took a slight hiatus to work on her art, photography and other business ventures, but she expects to release some new music in the upcoming months. She just dropped a single on SoundCloud titled "All in the Name." Check it out. In the meantime, here's an oldie, but a goodie:

J Plaza


I first came across J Plaza while watching hip-hop videos on Team Backpack. He was featured on a song that, to this day, I have a hard time localizing. It was a banger, and unfortunately, I didn't write it down then. If you know it, message me! Nevertheless, the moment I heard him spit, I said, "This man got the juice." He's lyrical, with various flows, and he doesn't shy away from attempting new creative pieces. I'd say that out of most Minnesota rappers I've researched, J Plaza probably has some of the best-produced music videos out there. Each video has the Twin Cities somewhere in the background. He has that old-school swagger that meets a new-school vibe. J Plaza performed at Soundset earlier his year, and I'm expecting more from him. Hopefully, he'll be reading this and decide to drop a project soon. For now, enjoy this joint right here:

Dug Hill


Dug Hill is more of mystery man in comparison to some of the more established Twin Cities artists I've already listed, but he is not to be slept on. Dug has been on steady climb since making music with N.L.A. and A.C.U. He's a smooth rapper who relies on sharp wordplay and a hypnotic flow. You'll listen to him one time and you'll understand that his talent is undeniable. Dug is the perfect artist to listen to on a warm summer day or summer cruise. On Aug. 14, Dug released a six-track album, which can only be described as "FUEGO!" Dug doesn't have many videos, but you can check out the album here:

Juice Lord


Juice Lord is a man on a mission. Hailing from the 651, he's been one of the pioneers of conscious rap for his generation in the Cities. His come up cannot be denied, and he'll be the first one to tell you that. A poet at heart, Juice Lord has a cool, East Coast flair as he dissects life as a black youth in the Twin Cities. His music is introspective, looking at his transformation into a man, the dangers he and his brothers faced in the disenfranchised communities of St. Paul, and his personal calling to give back to his community and to the next generation. Take a listen:

Dem Atlas


Since signing to indie heavyweight Rhymesayers Entertainment in late 2013, Dem Atlas has been a hard man to spot in the Cities, as he's been on the road in the States, Canada, and Europe. Originally more of a conscious rapper and voice of the people, Dem has continued to make music for the people while exploring new mediums and experimenting with his delivery. Dem Atlas first caught my attention back in 2015, when he freestyled on Sway in the Morning at Icehouse, ahead of Soundset. His most recent album is "mF Dem," where he gives homage to the legendary MF Doom by rapping over several of Doom's instrumentals. Dem is force of nature, so if you haven't heard of him before, check him out. Here's "In the Mud," a single he released in January:

Nsikak


Self-identified as the rapper with the name you cannot pronounce (say it "in-see-cuh"), Nsikak caught my attention with the music video for his single, "Bodied," which he released in summer of 2016. Nsikak often makes satire of the world around him, in an attempt to highlight the unorthodox nature of listeners who love black music and culture but make no effort to engage and help uplift black people. He's certainly one to keep tabs on. Check out his single, "Bodied," here:

Koffa


Like Dug Hill, whom I mentioned earlier, Koffa is less known than many of the rappers on this list, but I'm convinced that won't be the case for much longer. Koffa has been making music now since his early teen years. A natural-born poet, Koffa turned to rap for enjoyment before beginning to rap for upstart record label, MasterGrind Music. He started to gain more traction for his collaborations with James Franken, Frankie Bash and Dro with EGTC Records. Koffa has been pretty silent as of late, but be on the lookout for his first EP, No More L's, expected to be released by the end of August. As we await the release of Koffa's new album, enjoy his latest single, "Scrappy Doo," feat. R.A.D.



Again, these are artists that I, personally, find pleasure listening to and that I truly believe have amazing talent. If you have any artists that you think I should take a listen to, please comment below or holla at me on Twitter @JefeThaNomad. I could talk music all day, so don't hesitate to reach out. Much love, Jeff!

Jeffrey Bissoy-Mattis is a researcher at APM Reports. He's a Twin Cities native by way of Yaoundé, Cameroon. When he's not in the zone researching, you can find him binge-watching Master of None, perfecting Spanish, or working on his podcast, Maintainin', which debuts this summer. Follow him on Twitter @JefeThaNomad.

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