Top 20 Minnesota Hip Hop Albums of 2015

As the annual calendar toss was underway, we too were taking stock of some of the highlights of a year that further transcended our local scene beyond “best kept secrets.” From Allan Kingdom hypnotizing the world with Kanye to Rhymesayers illuminating the Target Center, 2015 was driven by the continuous stream of releases that added to an already acclaimed year for Hip Hop. In keeping with our goal of helping to highlight the best in our backyard, it is time again to take a moment to reflect on some of the most impressive and innovative local releases that allowed us to take pride in the luminaries within our own communities.

This year we wanted to include more than just our two voices in our top list. We wanted to get more of a sense of what people were really listening in the scene. We’re extremely grateful for their voices. Although it was decided based on a point system ranking, there are many albums that we enjoyed that did not make it to the list and we encourage everyone to check out our year’s worth of suggestions as well. More on how we compiled the top list with a voting system at the bottom of the page.

Meet the contributors

Anthonia Eboreime from the blog The Litestyle Observer.

Miss Brit of Soul Tools Entertainment and Soul Tools Radio on KFAI

Dep Davenport from MADE.

George Goodell from 4SEEN Magazine.

Jon Jon Scott of Sound Verite Records and Sound Verite Radio on KFAI.

DJ Lady Em co-host of Versed Radio on KFAI and DJ.

Rich Garvey is a Twin Cities rapper and producer.

Derek Ehlert and Justus Sanchez of Breaks X Lakes

20. Young Lou Conscious Conversations

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Young Lou aka Maolu dropped this project in the beginning of 2015 and gained recognition after being featured on KMOJ and Soul Tools Radio. The young Apple Valley MC’s video for “Come Alive” made into onto City Pages “Must See Minnesota Music Videos” series. However, most of these conversations revolved around the Loud Posse lyricist’s album Conscious Conversations as he gave us 10 reasons to live more mindful in a world of excess.

“Lou is really good at articulating his words and thoughts, he paints a picture with every song on this project. I was so impressed with it, he is young but he is very mature especially in his musical content. I also like the fact the producers and features are not excessive, it gave Lou the chance to really shine through in every way.” – Anthonia Eboreime

19. Mac Irv Sincerely Mac Irv

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Sincerely, Mac Irv is the MC’s declaration to everyone that he is driven to reach his goals and isn’t afraid to leave anyone behind. Over clean modern production from Willie Wonka, Downtown Music, Wade B, and Jimmy Easy, The North Minneapolis MC also dedicates himself to addressing issues from his own community from the daily experiences of institutional racism to the disconnect within Minnesota Hip Hop.

“Mac Irv’s latest effort, Sincerely, Mac Irv, solidifies his place as one of the most promising MC’s in the state. The former Gopher basketball star is on the forefront of addressing issues within his community and bridging gaps in Minnesota’s Hip Hop scene. Between the social commentaries of “White Man’s World” and “City on Fire’ to the turn up-party anthem “Sick Day” and his letter to the city “No Place Like Home” the Hometown Hero has something for everyone.” – Justus Sanchez

18. PaviElle Fear Not

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Right when it seems that R&B has lost its temperate allure, enter in PaviElle as she returns from her hiatus to present Fear Not. Building off of her band’s breezy compositions, the EduPoetic Enterbrainment singer takes center stage with her soulful performances that prove to be a bridge to the past.

“Very tight musicality, message & soul. strong throughout.” – DJ Lady Em

17. Lizzo Big GRRRL, Small World

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After sharing the spotlight with Har Mar Superstar, Sleater Kinney, David Letterman and Prince, Lizzo brought the PRRRTY back into her world for her latest solo album. Recorded in Justin Vernon’s April Base Studio, the GRRRL PRTY MC pulled in help from Lazerbeak, Bionik, BJ Burton, Sam Speigel, Taskforce and Jake Troth to provide the futuristic flare that further highlights her boundless personality and indomitable spirit.

“Lizzo embraces being a Black Woman and Big GRRRL unapologetically with rhymes that could go toe to toe with any emcee out today. If that’s not bad ass I don’t know what is. It’s clear she’s in love with herself and so are we. Her album Big GRRL Small Word is full of bangers, funky vibes, and self loving ballads that encapsulate the essence of hip hop while telling narratives that don’t really exist in the mainstream or underground scene today. Despite the versatility of each song’s presentation and mood this is an album you can play all the way through.” – Miss Brit

16. Bobby Raps & Corbin Couch Potato

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As Allan Kingdom continued to be embrace the spotlight, his Stand4rd partners Bobby Raps & Corbin (formerly Spooky Black) decided to step into the shadows for their surprise EP. With haunting production from the Audio Perm MC/producer, the duo dive into sullen soundscapes to examine the plight of fame through tracks that are both brooding and booming.

“Ever since I first heard Bobby Raps drop the ominous line “death ain’t shit but a new adventure,” I have been hooked. Complete with poignant insight that defies their age combined with beats that has driven a dagger into my heart, this is music that cries for me. Just another example of prosperous futures ahead of them as Couch Potato is anything but something to sleep on.” – Derek Ehlert

15. Sayth & North House Body Pillow

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The lowkey radicals Sayth & North House transplanted to the Twin Cities from Eau Claire this year and brought with them Body Pillow, an EP of space art rap (for lack of a better term) that defies what the expectations of Hip Hop on many levels. Sayth offers his perspective on love and lust, the creative generation and gay rights over danceable drums and enthralling synths from North House.

“This EP took my by complete surprise, and I couldn’t stop listening. Sayth dropped some of the realest lines that I can think of this year. Including ‘Macklemore made a million off of gay rights, thanks bro this is actually my real life.’ and  ‘No health insurance at the end of this sentence a generation of ‘i’m fucked when I turn 27’.” – Justus Sanchez

14. Muja Messiah Angel Blood Soup

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It has become a busy year for both Muja Messiah and Mike The Martyr as the two poured their blood, sweat and tears into their latest full length offering. What started out as an EP soon stretched into a LP as Muja Messiah flexes his brazen bars and boundless personality over Martyr’s soulful trap production.

“There are a lot of cats nowadays that try to sell based on personality alone, but none of them can stand next to Muja Messiah. Angel Blood Soup embodies the same outspoken nature that has propelled The Godcast to be a success while pairing perfectly with Martyr’s hypnotic beats. With classics like “Things Are Looking Up,” “Silk Road,” “Molly Wit Somalis” and the heavy handed heater “Henry the VIII;” this is something that is sure to appease both Ghostface Killah and Action Bronson fans alike. Plus the guy busted out a casket, how can you top that?!” – Derek Ehlert

13. Homeless & Big Cats The Polar Bear Rug

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After years of collaboration and other high quality separate projects the duo of Homeless & Big Cats have finally put their best hand on the table with The Polar Bear Rug. The duo’s sonic perusals of life between maintenance and and enjoying the search for the solution culminate in this seven song EP. Homeless delves into his melancholic thoughts but continues to push beyond hopelessness on tracks like “Seeing Double” and “Well Wishes.”

“I turn this on when I want to feel good. Even though the whole album isn’t all positivity, I can connect with Homeless and his efforts just to live life without being completely ignorant of that bad shit in life. The crew track “Hawk Spit” featuring P.O.S, Toki Wright, MaLLy, & Eric Mayson is a certified banger.” – Justus Sanchez

12. Ashley Dubose Be You

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Be You is the first major project from Ashley Dubose since recieving national attention on NBC’s The Voice. Her ethereal vocals are in rare form on this collection of inspiring tracks ranging from modern Hip Hop gems to unforgettable pop ballads.

“Well sequenced, great production, fitting features (lexii alijai, rocky diamonds) and Ashley’s amazing vocals. I was fortunate enough to be at the album release show for this album and it was amazing. The city really came out to support and show her all the love. She truly is a star.” – Anthonia Eboreime

11. Kill The Vultures Carnelian

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Six years in the making, Kill The Vultures return with their most grandiose album to date. Crescent Moon calls out blind faith in institutions and speaks on personal turmoil that is reflected in society. DJ Anatomy traded in the dusty and obscure jazz and world samples for live instrumentation that plays out like the score for a noir movie set inside a back alley jazz club.

“One of my most anticipated albums of the year did not disapoint. Kill The Vultures painted their noisy dark world with new colors. Crescent Moon’s commanding vocals perfectly compliment the dark soundscapes from Anatomy. Crescent Moon had a busy year releasing this project, the Mixed Blood Majorirty album, and an EP with Andrew Broder (of Fog).” – Justus Sanchez

10. Ecid Pheromone Heavy

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Building off the pair of Post Euphoria EPs, the Fill in the Breaks CEO struck new ground in his latest LP, Pheromone Heavy. By building upon the coming of age tale of a sarcastic teenager within a world complacent with turmoil, Ecid expands his eclectic production arrangements along with some of his most personal written material to date

“Ecid is heavily underated as a rapper and producer. Ecid manages to highlight a lot of fucked things in this world and then make laugh on the same track. The mix of samples and spastic synth makes for a high energy listen. It feels like this album is the auditory embodiment of Ecid. Anytime that an artist can do that it’s something special. PLUS he wrote a song about his dog!” – Justus Sanchez

9. Villa Rosa Lemuria

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Between demanding solo careers, Muja Messiah and Maria Isa reunited on record to sneak in their second full length before the new year. Produced by EQtheSound and BLXCKonBLXCK, Lemuria showcases their unrestrained chemistry and further resolves the battle of the sexes in the pursuit of sonic progression.

“Great production, features & blend of genres.” – DJ Lady Em

“Just like the artists, Lemuria is an album that plays by its own rules. Both parts affectionate and rebellious, Maria Isa and Muja Messiah find comfort in being the socially conscious Bonnie & Clyde. Factor in “Cosmic” pop sensibilities with the fierous flows of “Royal Rumble,” this is the album that solidifies Villa Rosa as one of the most dynamic groups in the Twin Cities.” Derek Ehlert

8. Eric Mayson Detail

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After producing and playing keys for Crunchy Kids plus touring and contributed to the music of Toki Wright, Caroline Smith, Lizzo, Homeless, and Big Cats, Mayson stepped into the spotlight on his Detail cassette release. The blend of Jazz, Hip Hop, and R&B put together by Mayson feels effortless, yet masterful. The 19 track project sounds best when listened to front to back. Each side of the cassette flows from song to song so pleasantly that you’ll loose yourself in bliss. The singles “Flatspin” and “Capital” (plus “Skyline” and “Corn”) should have been the biggest songs on The Current and Go963.

“Detail is a fun and easy listen, without any of the sacrifices that usually comes with those adjectives. Mayson crafted these really weird songs with so many interesting sounds, and vocal mixes while not making an album that is a challenge to listen to.” – Justus Sanchez

“If anyone had any doubts about Eric Mayson as a solo artist, they were quickly dismissed with Details. By painting an honest portrait of the city “Skyline” and offering his whole heart on “Capital,” he has gone beyond what’s expected by making rock music in the era of Hip Hop, all the while reminding the iPod generation of how a real mixtape used to sounds like.” Derek Ehlert

7. Metasota & TEK Hurry Up & Bye

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While in the process of creating the upcoming #RUMDMT, Metasota and Tek surprised everyone with their four track EP #HurryUpAndBye. Between the empowering turn up on the title track to the modern twist on A Tribe Called Quest’s 1991 classic, #HurryUpAndBye is a rejuvenates the golden era skills for a post lyrical audience.

“This whole album bangs. Both Meta & Tek are incredible artists and they’re chemistry is apparent when you listen. They feed of each other like verbal sparring and you feel the camaraderie. Tek hit the ground running in 2015.” – Rich Garvey

“Anytime that Meta and Tek team up, there is bound to be some classics and #HurryUpAndBye did not disappoint. Although it is only four songs, this will go down as the spark that ignited the rampant wildfire ready to consume the Cities as well as the world over. #FreeTek” Derek Ehlert

“From the hype track “Hurry Up and Bye,” to the Stakes Is High sample on “New Watch,” to the crazy lyricism of “Scenarios” this 4 track EP was more compelling than some artists entire album.” – Miss Brit

6. Finding Novyon & Travis Gorman #TheFoodNetwork

foodnetworkProving to have one hell of a breakout year, The Rotation’s Finding Novyon and Travis Gorman served up something worth savoring with #TheFoodNetwork. Lead by the Cities’ 2015 anthem, Lots with Allan Kingdom, the two left everyone craving for seconds with Novyon’s high energy creativity over Gorman’s sizzling sensations.

“This project has so many good jams. Novy knows how to be lyrical and have fun at the same time. His versatility to talk about many different subjects without losing his sense of self, is what makes him dope. Travis Gorman gave him the perfect backdrop, and he proved to be 2015’s best local rapper.” – Rich Garvey

“After dropping hits like Lots, No Xanx, and a few others throughout the year. Novy finally blessed us with his highly anticipated project ‘The Food Network’. The project was entirely produced by the multitalented DJ and producer Travis Gorman. This project has top notch features, it premiered on Pigs & Planes along with the Lots video and Novy really shined through with his lyrical content, flow, and world play. He did his thing with swag and finesse like only he could do.” – Anthonia Eboreime

5. Freez & Mike Frey Freez’s Frozen French Freys

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As one of the first releases of the year, Freez & Mike Frey’s latest project proves to have some sustaining power. Featuring local favorites such as Metasota, Greg Grease, Muja Messiah, Delko and DJ Just Nine, the Illuminous 3 MC’s quick witted bravado that finds a home with Frey’s wavy and wondered production.

“Freez has word play for days. This long-awaited album did not disappoint. Five, ten years from now we’ll look back and consider this album a Southside classic. Hopefully these two have more songs up their sleeve.” – Justus Sanchez

“Despite the what the title suggests, this isn’t something you’re going to find under a heat lamp. From the engaging storytelling on “The Valley” and “Survival” to the Southside staples “Our World” and “Southside Shit,” Freez proves to be one of the most slept on MCs period.” Derek Ehlert

 

4. Lexii Alijai Joseph’s Coat

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Lexii Alijai show maturity beyond her years on her latest project Joseph’s Coat. Centering the complexities of love the young St. Paul MC spits bars over mellow beats that accentuate her love lorn stories.

“St.Paul teenager with an attitude like Aalyia and flow like Drake, the young spitta is also a well crafted writer, writing of sorrow, wants, men with an all too real vulnerability.” – Jon Jon Scott

“Lexii is one of the youngest emcees on the list but is quietly making some of the biggest waves. In 2015 she proved that being young doesn’t mean immature, inexperienced, or ill prepared. Her newest release Joseph’s Coat is a project you can listen to all the way through without wanting to skip a track, which is a testament to her lyrical and story telling ability. In addition to her album her single releases were out of the park in 2015. Lexii is not the artist you want to sleep on in 2016.” – Miss Brit

3. Why Khaliq The OtherSide: The Six5

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After establishing his own studio, the face behind the Free Living collective had to represent for The Six5 on his full length debut. With features from Greg Grease, Metasota, Lucien Parker, CamOnClouds, Lost in The Wild and Lisa Lonewolf, Why Khaliq unlocks the backseat as he takes you for a ride around Snelling and 94 East for a concept album that is both smart and fun.

“WhyKhaliq will have you walking around questioning everything from the Lion King to what you had for breakfast, but that’s a good thing. Tis is the type of album that makes you proud that it came from your hometown.” – Miss Brit

“This guy is one of the hardest working artists I know. Listening to this project, I knew that it was a labor of love for him. He put in work for this project,  his passion, dedication, and commitment shined through. The production was very well done and features were very befitting for the record. It was nice to hear people like Greg Grease and Metasota on this album and support Khaliq. These people really push Khaliq to deliver quality content and put his best verse forward on every song, feature etc. I saw Khaliq perform many times this year and the more I saw him perform the more i became fond of this this project.” – Anthonia Eboreime

“Why Khaliq has a great delivery and a young/yet wise perspective. I like the raspiness of his voice and how it cuts through these records. You can feel his passion for hip hop and get lost in the stories that he tells. This is a long bus ride kind of project that you can vibe to. I think he’s only gonna get better. favorites are “Bread Crumbs” & “Maintain”” – Rich Garvey

2. Greg Grease Born To Lurk x Forced To Work

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Greg Grease brings his viewpoints of the world together on the incredibly cohesive album. Born To Work, Forced to Work is filled with his meticulous, poetic raps rolled in modern production with an analog warmth production of WalkingShoe, ZULUZULU, Proper T, Ackryte, StarRo, and Grease himself. On top of this stellar album, Greg also released Motiff I and II EPs that came very close to having enough votes to be on the list as well.

“I was invited to the listening party for this album and it was awesome to see the hands involved in the project and to be in the room and vibe to the songs and hear Greg talk a little bit about each song. Greg hadn’t put out a project in a while before this one. He took his time to put together an amazing album.” – Anthonia Eboreime

“This was one of the best produced albums of the year. Lyrically this was one of the most relevant albums of 2015. With anthems like “Seeing Being” (ft Akrite, Alicia Steel, and Tall Paul) and bangers like “Really Tough” this entire album makes you want to think, move, rebel, and repeat.” – Miss Brit

“This album is so far beyond what you’d expect to hear from modern Hip Hop. After Cornbread (and that album being fantastic) I didn’t think the next album would be this much better, but it is in every way. Born To Lurk X Forced To Work is a solid listen from front to back, even the interlude “Wake Up” is phenomenal. I kind of feel like Bob Dylan would have made this album if he did Hip Hop.” – Justus Sanchez

1. I Self Devine & Muja Messiah 9th House

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After building together for close to a decade, two of the most notable MCs in the TC, I Self Devine and Muja Messiah, finally link up to release an innovative LP that proves to be of astrological proportions. Written and produced in just two weeks, the two Sagittarius wordsmiths recruited the all star cast of J-Hard, M¥K, Orko Eloheim, ZULUZULUU’s Proper-T and VANDAAM’s own Lady Midnight to create something that encompasses Jupiter’s energy to highest degree.

“The OG’s of the music scene in Minneapolis. I loved the production and the fact that they rapped over beats I would’ve never thought they would rap on. Very impressed with the versatility. Muja has been working like crazy in the last couple years and he’s definitely shows why he’s one of my favorite emcees in Minneapolis. I Self Devine has the such a dope delivery, because you can feel the emotion in his lyrics, which is pivotal to a good record.” – Rich Garvey

“Even as a Taurus, I love this album. 9th House is the Gods at their best. With tracks that range from punk to funk, this is a project that is both enlightening and exciting while embodying what it means to be a Sagittarius. Free, truthful, vibrant and ever changing. Exactly what I want in an album.” Derek Ehlert

“9th house is for the listener with an elevated ear. With references to the 9th astrological house (the house that encourages us to think big and bold) each song shows how unapologetic the emcees are about their past, present, and future identities.” – Miss Brit

 

 

How this all worked: We asked the contributors for a ranked list of their favorite local hip hop albums of the year. Their lists could include from 5-15 local albums. The final list was tallied using a point system. For example: The top album (on each personal list) received 15 points; second place album got 14; third got 13 and so on. 

No matter how many albums on the list, the top album still got 15 points.

If a list was un-ordered each album got 8 points. Each list could give out 120 points from 1-15. so 120 divided by 15 was 8.

The personal lists were added up to create the final list. The first place album got the most points and down from there. In the case of a tie in points, the tie was decided by Justus and Derek and how the album ranked on their personal lists. Next year we hope to include even more voices from the scene in the best albums of 2016.