When the average person thinks of Louisiana, the first things that come to mind are Mardi Gras, Cajun food and original music with a wide range of varied sounds. The birthplace of jazz, Louisiana has always had a reputation for uniquely local music. From the center of New Orleans to the outskirts, it’s nearly impossible to walk more than a block or two and not stumble into an artist playing some sort of instrument. It is with that history that makes Louisiana’s current hip-hop scene what it is today. The home of Bounce Music, artists such as Gregory D, Sporty T and DJ Baby T and record labels such as No Limit and Cash Money, it’s an undeniable fact that hip-hop has been alive in Louisiana for a long time.
With that being said, I can’t help but notice how many CURRENT artists from the Bayou State are flying under the radar. With their own unique sounds and a will to be heard, the artists below deserve your full attention. Welcome to another edition of the "United States of Underground" series, let's take a deep dive into the South.
Alfred Banks (F.K.A. Lyriqs da Lyraciss)
Raised in New Orleans, Alfred Banks has always been street smart, but his scholarship to Loyola University was the trigger that really sparked his career. Unfortunately, after a few years Alfred had to call it quits at Loyola when economic hardship forced him to live on the streets. Homelessness is an epidemic, especially in America, but some choose to use that negativity to refuel and focus on their true calling. For Alfred, giving it all to music was a no-brainer. He may have been forced to leave school early, but not before connecting with fellow Loyola student and Bay Area superstar G-Eazy for what would become his biggest single yet. With his positive mindset, determination and that first single’s success, Alfred’s career as a musician was solidified. Alfred would soon go on to release a slew of lyrically enhanced projects, even being featured on several popular sites across the web. On top of having a well-rounded street smart and professional mentality, Banks takes his act to the next level once he gets on stage for a live performance. Highly energetic and electric are the best words to describe the power he outputs, eventually proving that stage presence while touring nationally with XXL Freshman Mickey Factz in 2014. From branding to investing to promotions, Alfred knows the business and understands what it takes to be successful. Alfred Banks is the total artistic package, so far, and I’m excited to see where his journey takes him next.
Chase N Cashe
Hailing from the West Bank of New Orleans, Chase N Cashe is a highly talented independent emcee/producer with a steadily growing fan base. Those fans didn’t just appear one morning though; Chase set out with a mission to be heard. After dedicating several years of long days and late nights to his craft, Chase was eventually fortunate enough to work alongside Chauncey "Hit-Boy" Hollis, where the pair would form the renowned production team “Surf Club.” Shortly after, CNC tried a run with Polow Da Don's label Zone 4, giving him a chance to permanently move above-ground, but ultimately decided to take charge of his own career. I have the utmost respect for artists who realize their knowledge base and worth in the industry and see the value of cutting out the middle man. Chase’s boom-bap/punchline rhyme style is right up my alley when it comes to his music. There’s a little something for everyone on each of his projects, giving him all the ideal characteristics of an artist that’s easy to introduce to new ears. Tell a friend to listen. Show your mom a video. Create awareness and let the music speak for itself.
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In all my years of being involved with the music industry, I’ve noticed a general pattern regarding gifted emcees and how they promote themselves. They're either not very skilled but have the promotion skills of a PR God OR they’re very talented with no promotion whatsoever. With that said, I want to introduce you all to MidCity AB, a rapper representing the Mid-City region of New Orleans. MidCity is the ladder-type of artist I was referring to earlier, the type who goes unseen simply because the awareness isn’t there for him. But, if it was, he’d be everyone’s preference. Ok, maybe that’s exaggerated, but hearing a few songs would easily sway most without hesitation. Full of punchlines and witty bars, MidCity is most impressive when it comes to the structure and content of his music. He is knowledgeable and full of intelligence as he rhymes on topics of current issues and real-life scenarios most can relate to. Not only does he rhyme about relevant subjects, but, more importantly, MidCity is passionate about what he’s saying. He’s not just trying to make a quality song and reap the rewards, he’s trying to spread wisdom. No form of promotion can pinpoint how important this factor is for an artist. With all the monotony and copying/pasting that’s going on today, open your mind (and ears) to an emcee you probably haven’t heard of before.
In this journey I’ve taken through Louisiana’s slept-on talent bin, I’ve come across a ton of gifted individuals (no surprise). Chad Charles is absolutely one of them. His music had me smiling the whole way through every song. You know how you get a good feeling and you just smile for no reason, like you don’t even realize you’re smiling until your jaw gets sore? I’m not sure if that euphoria can be chalked up to the lyrics, production, delivery or his songs as a whole, but I’m willing to bet it was Chad's artistic integrity that really hooked me. His consistency is on point and the subject matter is all relatable. If you know me, then you know those two factors determine how I’ll feel about a musician. Similar to MidCity, Chad Charles delivers his lyrics with emotion and draws listeners into his songs with in-depth wordplay and storylines that carry flawlessly. THAT is a gift and Chad Charles is a gifted emcee.
Though he has been the unofficial leader of southern hip-hop for more than a decade, New Orleans staple Truth Universal STILL somehow manages to fly below the ears of the masses. Once I was made aware of his movements and musical catalog, I had to include the OG. Born in Trinidad, Truth Universal has an “international perspective” when it comes to hip-hop culture that he bestows in both his rhyming and interpersonal practices. Truth’s mantra, Invent the Future, is borrowed from Thomas Sankara and aims to “challenge the status quo to make way for innovation.” The listener is invited to creatively explore such themes as domestic violence, food security and justice, youth violence, and industry marginalization. With a keen attention to detail and a deep-rooted passion to induce social change, Truth Universal speaks vividly through his rhymes to convey points that may otherwise be ignored. It’s in this way that the audience he aims to reach can hear him - and it’s been effective. Truth and his music have inspired, and even mentored, some of Louisiana’s top prospects over the years. With a large variety of motivating/encouraging projects, videos and singles to choose from, Truth’s legacy is guaranteed to live long beyond the norm. Get hip now.
Honorable mentions: Wild Yella, Lil Snupe (RIP), 3D Na’Tee, Slangston Hughes, John Deaux, SOL, Paasky, Dee Day, Daniel Heartless, Marcel P. Black, Chels.
[By Matt Whitlock, he does all things hip-hop. This is his Twitter.]