Paying tribute to where you come from is almost a responsibility in rap. You can’t have one without the other. No matter where you call home, the culture and environment have an undeniable influence on your craft.
For April’s #Under1k, we've collected a group of four MCs whose work is an homage to their city.
Remember, we do the digging so you don’t have to.
Amir Tripp (@amirtripp) - 912 Followers
Amir Tripp hails from Chicago’s West Side, the same neighborhood that has given us Saba, Twista, and Lupe Fiasco. Similar to all three, Tripp is a storyteller, something that’s evidenced throughout his 2018 debut project, Pyro; even as he careens through a diverse sonic palette, it’s clear that he’s absorbed his surroundings.
In addition to the raps, Tripp co-produced Pyro alongside Zay Rock, which helped create the project’s strong, unifying foundation. One of the tape’s toughest cuts is “Hardball,” where, over a trimmed, horn-driven beat, Tripp tucks his narrative in between entrancing, repeated lines: “Young boy I was born taking risk / Poppa worked at a cornerstore / Stereotypical but niggas had to live / Young boy I was born with the whip.”
J’Demul (@jdemulmusic) - 707 Followers
Over the past four years, St. Louis native J’Demul has released two projects: 2014’s Black Poet and 2016’s #STLAVE. For his next act, Demul will release a mixtape entitled Downtown Certified, the first single from which he released in March ("Pair of Dice").
With most of his music, whether it’s overt or not, J’Demul showcases how his hometown laid the foundation for his artistry. He opens “Pair of Dice” by singing, “One thing I was taught / Never forget where you come from,” as the beat’s subdued piano loops again and again.
Like anyone, he’s got money on his mind, but he has dreams, too.
Mother Nature (@mothernaturebarz) - 922 Followers
The thoughtful and reflective spirit of Chicago-based act Mother Nature can be felt just as strongly on wax as in person. While it might appear as though the duo, made up of Klevah Knox and T.R.U.T.H., have only released one self-titled, eight-track LP, their catalog isn’t lacking, with their SoundCloud page boasting 26 loose songs.
The duo’s knack for melody is often interwoven with socio-political and economic themes, which can be particularly enduring hailing from a city like Chicago. While that throughline isn’t immediately obvious on their recently-released cut, “This Yo Year,” the song is an uplifting, braggadocious anthem for women.
“This yo year / Baby, this yo year,” the two emcees sing in unison, further proving that just like the real Mother Nature, the rapping Mother Nature is a vital force.
Niko Blue (@nikotaughtyou) - 933 Followers
Niko Blue was born in Atlanta, but that doesn’t mean he subscribes to a classic Southern rapping style; instead, it’s his city’s new class of idiosyncratic artists with whom he more closely falls in line. Indeed, some of his SoundCloud offerings are tagged as rap and hip-hop, while others are labeled as R&B and soul and pop. He seems to have hit his sweet spot, however, with house.
Two of his 30 tracks are labeled with the electronic sub-genre—“More Or Less” and “Back Then”—and they are arguably his very best. The latter, “Back Then” is Blue's most successful attempt yet, with his manipulated vocals dancing along the synth-infused beat, the indecipherable background vocals and bouncy claps rounding out the track.