Again, just trying to fill in the spaces where the local media misses some things. Here are a few Twin Cities hip hop artists to watch in 2011. I'm also going to include some constructive criticism. Not because I'm a hater, but because as much as ignoring or not knowing about hip hop acts isn't good for the scene, blindly cheerleading for them is also unhealthy.
Sims: Just as 2010 was Dessa's year, Doomtree is setting up Sims to have a monster 2011. The new album is coming out soon, and a few singles have been released already. I like Sims. His last full-length was really strong. As with all Doomtree artists, though, I think he's at his best when he's actually rapping about something, as opposed to just stringing together puns and references. "Osmosis," off his last album, was really good. The new single, "Burn It Down," (video above) is a killer song on paper (hot beat, hot rhymes), but it does nothing for me... mostly because it fits the Doomtree formula so perfectly that it doesn't seem fresh. Still anticipating the album, though.
Audio Perm: A crazy talented producer trio and a full fledged crew, these guys have been building steam all year and should be doing some big things in 2011. The extended crew also includes Yakub, who just produced a Ghostface (!) song, Fresh Squeeze (one of my favorite local groups) and a whole bunch of young and talented hip hop artists. Can they transcend the burgeoning weeknight party scene and release some memorable music? I think so, but we'll see.
Mally: I think Mally will blow up this year, at least in a local sense. He's already riding a wave of good press for his monthly free downloads (a collaboration with producer the Sundance Kid) and he's a good rapper and hard worker. He also has man-about-the-internet Jon Jon Scott on his side, which is always helpful. I think the challenge for Mally (as it is for any of us) will be separating himself from every other "talented, hard-working" MC both locally and beyond.
The Usual Suspects: This group is, and has been, super underrated. I think IBE is one of the best MCs in the Twin Cities, and the whole crew is smart, political and fun. I'm not sure that this is their year to break out or anything like that (there is a mixtape on the horizon, but that's all I know about); I'm moreso including them here because I HOPE it is. This is a good example of a group that might not be super fashionable to write about (you're not going to see them on the cover of Vita.MN anytime soon); but they make some of the best punch-you-in-the-face rap music in the Twin Cities.
And here are a few acts I know personally. So maybe I'm lying. But I think they'll have big years too:
Junkyard Empire: This is a radically political hip hop band that's been around for a little while, but 2011 should be a big year for them. New album, an updated live show and just more experience under their belts. The last time I saw them live they absolutely shut it down.
Heidi Barton Stink: The new album is very cool, featuring production from See More Perspective, and Heidi's live show has also progressed to the point where it's capable of stealing the show from the people she opens for.
The Tribe & Big Cats!: With an album coming out this month that features Ab Rude, Planet Asia, Phil da Agony, Toki Wright and more, the Tribe are poised to have a very big year. They also have a great live show, and have done a lot of networking over the past year. The pieces are in place to have a big album release, and hopefully a ripple effect into the rest of the year.
And as always, there are a million more. The hip hop scene here is huge and talented. I could talk about M.anifest and Culture Cry Wolf and Ill 3 and Kristoff and Maria and No Bird Sing and Des and Mnemosyne and a lot of people who are probably also going to have big years. These were just a few that sprang to mind right away. Google them.