[Editor's Note: This is part of an ongoing series that will tour every state in the U.S. looking for underground hip-hop talent. For previously-featured states, hit the links at the bottom of the feature.]
Being a fan of underground hip-hop and up-and-coming artists is like being a part of a secret club, and only those who are in it would understand the excitement behind it. At times (all the time), it can be very overwhelming to have all this talent, from all over the internet, in front of you and not know where to start. Luckily for me, that special “club” I’m in holds me down with endless amounts of recommendations from artists I may not find on my own, at least not right away. In part four of this ongoing underground artist series, we visit the state of Colorado where I was utterly surprised that hip-hop was flourishing so strongly. There’s a movement brewing there, with Denver leading the herd…
Trev Rich (Denver, CO)
I’ve seen Trev Rich’s name floating in and out of my Twitter timeline for about a year now and have been meaning to check him out. Good thing I finally did (and just in time to make the cut on this article), because he will easily be “blowing up” sooner than later. His mellow, yet pronounced voice really caught my ear, spitting casually and comfortably over some 9th Wonder-esque sounding production on most of his videos. Beat selection? A+.
The track that particularly caught my ear was “They Say,” which was released in mid-2014. In this visual/song (and consistently in others), Trev does a great job of depicting a story and painting a picture to lure in listeners who may be distracted and impressed by the beautiful, melodic production. After taking the time and listening some of Trev Rich’s catalog, it was immediately visible that he is a passionate artist who makes music with a message and with a purpose, unlike a majority of mainstream artists who seem to pump out records for the sake of staying relevant. Trev takes his time on each record and writes from the heart. That may not sound like much to read, but the quality of the resulting music from this action cannot be measured.
Top Flite (Denver, CO)
I am always talking about “groups” in hip-hop, while also questioning why duos, trios and more have been fading out of the picture…and the ones that are still around don’t ever get the attention they deserve. I’d like to blame it, somewhat, on the fact it’s not easy pushing multiple artists at a time, not giving specific attention to one in particular and keeping the “group” format in place. With that being said, it’s safe to assume that if you are in a group and your group is “successful,” you’ve just broken a barrier that most can’t. Your talent levels are all comparably high and the drive of everyone involved is that much stronger, for the sake of the team’s overall success.
Top Flite is one of those trio’s who are, quite simply, killing the scene out in Colorado. Not only are they talented, but they’re a group who has some of the most hype-est beats and altitudes attitudes I’ve ever seen. On top of their sweet concept and producer selections, their wordplay is also on point. There were a few times that while I was listening to “Work,” I had to run it back to catch the full creativity of an individual bar. If you like energetic, rowdy real hip-hop, check out Top Flite. Their music has me regularly testing the suspension on my office chair.
Turner Jackson (Denver, CO)
Turner Jackson, whew. This guy right here is the cross-breed version of a rap T-Pain and Janelle Monae, I swear. His energy immediately pulled me in when I watched his video for “Figure It Out.” His style is modern, but classic at the same time and his singing ability is through the roof…especially when laced over one of his beloved jazz melodies. When you watch or listen to Turner Jackson, you can tell he’s having fun expressing himself and not just making another random record. I think hip-hop seriously lacks artists of this form, ones true to fueling their craft simply by loving it so much. With the exception a few artists, R&B-ish hip-hop has taken a stumble over the past decade and now must be brought back up to the par. Not to say Turner is only a singer, because he is much more. There seems to be a new fad of cranking out unlimited records to suit what the fans want when, in reality, the fans have no clue what they want until they hear it. Sounds crazy, but it’s true.
Not only is he a gifted musician, but Turner is also a committed motivator for his fans, constantly interacting and giving advice. Put Turner Jackson in the limelight and watch the exponential growth he receives from it. Recently moving from CO to the music capital of NY, I know he’ll get there, I’m sure of it. If you like to dance, wild out or just smile ear to ear when listening to music, Jackson is your man. All three of these options together are rare to receive in most songs/albums today.
Kevin Pistol (Denver, CO)
Someone remind me again…what year is it? I could have sworn we just turned the calender to 2015, but this cat Kevin Pistol got me over here excitedly reminiscing on my high school days in the early 2000s. Simply put, his natural flow and the easy-going way he carries himself are the initial factors of what hooked me to keep listening. He is able to leave his modern stamp on classic sounding tracks, leaving the final cut sounding like a lost file from the early days.
At first, I had to do a double take while watching his video “I Do It Right” to make sure I wasn’t actually listening to Bun B - as the CO native bears a striking resemblance. Kevin Pistol’s a confident lyricist with some simple bars, but the way he sets up and presents them is where his special talents are on display. He uses great alliteration (rappers, look this word up) to tie his bars together beautifully and carry into his next set, constantly giving listeners something to pay attention (and look forward) to. Though I’m not an emcee myself, I see Kevin as someone that other rappers can relate to. Given his style and subject matters, he pretty much covers all areas and has a lot more than two cents to share in most cases. Listen to Kevin Pistol and grab some enthusiasm for the culture through his excitement and fun-loving attitude.
Most Recent Project: You Don't Even Know Where Kevin Pistol Is
Rasean Douja (Denver, CO)
Rasean Douja might just be my favorite emcee out of Colorado right now, and I just found out he existed. Crazy how this music stuff works, aye? This kid looked to be…probably, 18…in the video I first caught from him - “Tears Of Joy”. After listening for just a minute or so, I realized if he’s 18 in the physical, he’s got to be at least 35 in the mental because his mindset, vision and lyricism are all full grown. I’m not an old head, I’m 28, but it is hard for me, a Golden Era lover, to embrace and enjoy most of the young artists of today's generation. I hate it, to be honest, but you can’t control what you like and don’t like. I prefer conscious songs over club bangers, tracks with substance over ones simply hyping up nothing.
Thankfully, there’s Rasean Douja, who I’m now a big fan of, and really hope he continues along the same path he’s currently on. His energy is through the roof and his videos are directed with the highest professionalism, really sucking you into the song’s actual content. As long as he keeps this up, Rasean Douja will be a nationally known name - at least, in the underground circuit - very quickly. Cats like Joey Bada$$, Biship Nehru and Raz Fresco are all his age and have similar frames of mind. Now’s the time to capitalize. I have the highest of hopes.
[By Matt Whitlock, he does all things hip-hop. This is his Twitter.]