Although our lakes are already on the verge of freezing, Twin Cities talent continues to flood. Here’s our pick of local rap, hip-hop, experimental and everything in between artists to watch this season.

Photo by Graham Gardner

OKnice

Saint Paul spitter OKnice writes introspective, relatable raps backed with boom-bap and jazz-infused beats. 

OKnice’s recent project i’m here but i’m not is stuffed with rhymes that paint a picture of his daily stream of thoughts, like losing his patience, dealing with the death of friends, asking for forgiveness from his mother, and not caring what others think of him.

Although the subject matter usually runs deep with OKnice, his quirky rhymes make for easy listening. On “Pearly Whites,” the emcee’s cleverness shines. He raps, “They tell me smile, pearly whites ‘til I reach the pearly gates, but my teeth is coffee stained heaven don’t feel worth the wait.”

 

Photo submitted by Six Circle Group

Velvet Negroni 

Speaking of quirk, Minneapolis-based Velvet Negroni’s melodic rap flow and selection of other-worldly beats work together to create a fresh sound in the local scene and beyond.

Velvet Negroni is the king of reinventing himself from retiring names like Spyder Baybie Raw Dog and Pony Bwoy to dipping in and out of genres. On his 2017 album TCOD, the artist exudes soul in the form of soothing falsetto hits on “Hollywood” and gives experimental vibes as he takes listeners “Underwater” with ambience and muffled singing. 

 In his latest release “First Time,” Velvet Negroni taps locally-tied producers Psymun and Tickle Torture for a trippy track about love and other remedies. Not sticking to a cookie-cutter formula when crafting a track combined with truly using his unique, raspy vocal chords as an instrument is what sets Velvet Negroni apart.

 

Photo by SalivasHouse

Breeze Monet

Minneapolis rapper Breeze Monet has been steadily releasing cocky, trap-style tracks on SoundCloud over the past year. In “Look Mean” Breeze talks about having bigger goals than just chasing men, and in “Levels” she rises above the rest by declaring she doesn’t care about opinions and judgments of others.    

Although her straight-to-the-point bars are nothing to mess with, the rapper also has fun with her style. Almost all of Breeze Monet’s cover art includes nostalgic images like Angelica from Rugrats or Barbie, and in “Peaches&Cream,” she embodies Princess Peach. On “Peaches&Cream” Breeze raps lines like “I just stole your Mario” over a vintage video game-inspired beat, proving her confidence and lightheartedness all at once.  

 

Photo by Alex Ellingson

Lubi 

Minnesota-repping singer Lubi has a style that’s as crisp as the cool winds that are already spreading across the state.

His latest track “SAD BOY HOURS” is equal parts funky as it is dark. Within the two-minute song, Lubi dwells over taking a lover for granted and letting a good thing slip away, but the bouncy beat and short length makes the song easy to play on repeat.

Lubi unites elements of hip-hop and pop in his tracks—catchy choruses, slick rhymes and all. His summer single  “ILLUSIONS” is chock-full of contagious lines, like “Be my mirror baby, can you make it clearer baby?” Whether Lubi’s being fed mixed signals or being bogged down by “PRESSURE,” honesty in his lyricism remains constant through his music.

 

Photo by Kiersten Friesen

Aaron Aye 

Soulful Minneapolis singer Aaron Aye has got both rhymes of life lessons and versatility in delivery on lock. No matter what topic Aaron tackles, he’s able to set the appropriate tone as he has mastered the art of switching up his flow from singing to rapping.

Aaron’s summer release Orphan, discusses faith, finding his purpose and losing his mother at a young age. He hits heavenly, high-pitched riffs about giving it up to God even under unfair circumstances in “Care 4 Me.” While, in “Uptown,” the project switches to an uptempo, horn-fused beat as he sings about the excitement that comes along with dating someone new.

In his latest visual for “Cold Winters,” the minimalist vibe of him crooning and dancing through empty space perfectly portrays messages Aaron presents in his track. He sings about putting in hard work and not fixating on money, rather human connection and trust can help bring security and warmth. “If you and I are in the same boat, then maybe I can be your raincoat,” Aaron sings.

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