15 RI Rappers To Watch in 2014
(Photo Courtesy: L-R, Cam Bells, Crucial / Instagram, Theo Martins / Andy Scott)
Despite being the smallest state in the country, Rhode Island’s rap scene offers a plethora of dope acts emerging from all cities. From Providence to Pawtucket, or from Cranston to Newport, the Ocean state couldn’t be more exciting or diverse musically – especially when it comes to those who spit.
One of the biggest criticisms I hear is that commercial stations (that play Hip Hop and R&B) in the Providence marketplace, such as 95.5 (WBRU) or Hot 106 (WWKX), don’t support their local talent. As a station that reaches hundreds of thousands of listeners weekly in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, I can tell you that 95.5 cares about who’s next and really wants to get the hottest acts noticed by the label big wigs.
In 2012, before a lot of people even you knew who rapper Macklemore was, I broke and was the first ever to spin his record “Thrift Shop” on commercial radio. As Billboard reports in the picture below (here’s the link if you want to read the article in full), “Days after the video for “Thrift Shop” debuted, radio organically began picking up the track, with WBRU Providence, R.I., serving as the first…to give it a spin on Sept. 2.”
Soon after, record label execs from all across the country were trying to sign Macklemore and his single “Thrift Shop” ended up reaching number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2013, selling more than 2.2 million copies. He’s since garnered hundreds of other accolades and awards making him the star that he is today.
So what’s the moral of the story here? It wasn’t that we broke his record first; it was the fact that he had a hot record that was different from anything that anyone had ever heard before. I personally believe, and know without a doubt that our homegrown talent have these type of records, and can continue to break into the commercial mainstream, not only to share their talent with Rhode Island, but the entire United States, and even the world. Still, it’s competitive and we can’t play everyone even if we tried. Yet, I’m always looking for the Rhode Island artist we should fully support and waiting for the PEOPLE to tell us who that is. In 2010, P Diddy gave me the name “Postal” and I wear that as a badge of honor because I feel as though it’s my role to “deliver” and use our medium to hopefully help Rhode Island artists come “from local, go postal, and eventually go global.” I’m on a mission to show the industry that the smallest state, Rhode Island, has what it takes.
Below I’ve listed rap acts you’ll need to keep your eye on. The artists I’m highlighting have already done a wealth of work over the last few years, and will only take their career to new heights in the coming year. Check out 15 Rhode Island Rappers to Watch in 2014.
When it comes to Providence, Rhode Island and the #SupportRI movement, you can’t help but mention Cam Bells. And in 2014, Rhode Island rappers need to make way for the self-entitled Prince of Rhode Island who’s EP #ProvidenceCold was set to drop fall ’13. He spits with nothing short of honesty and a perspective that makes the moment realer, and he’s one of the few rappers that’ll make a crowd go crazy. Combining raw talent with impeccable lyricism, Cam Bells reminds me of a Lion in the concert jungle. His predator mentality just means this that he’s hungry and ready to kill the competition in 2014.
If you haven’t heard of Cesar Luciano, you need to your homework. Singles like “Let Go”, “We On” and “No Plan B” have made Ceez Luciano unstoppable as he heads into 2014 with incredible momentum. This rhymeslayer often compared to acts like Joe Budden, Maino and J. Cole, is one to watch. But don’t let those comparisons confuse you, Ceez’s content is original, rich, and organic. His Black Thursday III mixtape is a must-cop.
Probably one of my favorite on the list is Crucial aka Cru Alxndr. The 22 year old versatile rapper, singer, and producer is arguably one of the most lyrically-skilled and has the potential to be one of the biggest rapper outs – in New England and beyond. Crucial is confident and his well-established, growing fan base will continue to propel him forward. With a relentless work ethic, Crucial has embraced and capitalized on what’s made him a likable rapper and in doing so has made him stand out from the rest. The fluidity of his storytelling results in everything he touches being a work of art. Cru is technically gifted striking a perfect balance between pride and sensitivity. The strong move quiet, and Cru Alxndr is bound to continue to make the moves that eventually allow him to come out on top.
Each day Zumo Kollie is making his mark on the Rhode Island rap community. Defined by his clever wordplay and slick delivery, Zumo is the epitome of a renaissance. Although he may be one of the most slept on, there is no doubt that he brings a profound revitalization and awakening to the Rhode Island rap scene with The Idiot Savant and The Last Showing. If there’s any one who displays an unprecedented amount of potential in 2014, it’s Zumo Kollie.
This pick is pretty self-explanatory. Theo Martins has been making moves for years now and has worked incessantly to showcase the type of talent that exists here in Rhode Island. His accolades are innumerable and ‘Wonderland’ was nothing less than a hit EP. Fresh out the BET Backroom – where he completely annihilated it – Theo Martins is getting good looks nationally and is on the verge of even greater things in 2014.
Listen To Roger
Roger is arguably one of the hardest working rhyme spitters on this list. But he wants more and that’s also why he’s on this list. Too often we see those who become musically complacent and stagnant but rest assured, that won’t be Roger. If you give him a listen you’ll find that he has a likable, summery and breezy flow that surely has the energy to ascend to omnipresence. His lyrics are relevant and relatable, bringing to light the things that we often fuss about in life – but sometimes are afraid to admit. His honesty has a nice sentiment behind it, and his delivery conveys the type of confidence that make his rhymes feel even more organic and effortless. Caught up in his own thoughts, Roger’s lyrics are usually a potent mix of empathy and emotion, and his style is absolutely contagious. As Drake proved, vulternability is a strength — not a weakness, and Roger’s frank talk let’s it be known that he’s not following the suggestions of the weak. In fact, he’s critically watching the moves of other rappers in the city and showing them what not to do. Still, don’t let his unshowy demeanor confuse you – he’s on a mission to live the lifestyle that people can only dream about and if he keeps it up he’ll reign amongst the New England elite. Just know he’s not stopping, and he’ll simply be emboldened by his future success. Roger is his only competition – expect his fuel to garner greater respect in Rhode Island during 2014.
When it comes to real rap, Dru Barrells knows how to keep it 1000. Barells has East Siders, South Siders, and West Siders with him and if you don’t know Dru, then get to know him because when it comes to rap, he’s Providence’s next big thing – coming to a corner near you. His unapologetic flow and brutally honest storytelling makes his work nothing less than promising, and he has the potential to take over in 2014. The whole M.H.D.G team, including City Boy Jones, came to play for keeps. No one on this list is going to out grind these MileHighMuzik MVPs, and their clique is deep and mobbing with them. A menace on the beats, Dru Barrels sheds his blood, sweat and tears on every track he jumps on and his hustle is lethal. If you’re not eating with him, prepare to share or he’s going to take what’s yours. Honestly, a lot of real Providence rappers feed the streets and embrace nothing but authentic content – whether it be M3, C.O., Hammer Beanz (all who rightfully deserve to be on this list) – it will be good to see who emerges on top this year. Nevertheless, there’s something that all these rappers have in common which Dru Barrells epitomizes; they’re street solders speaking an unprecedented truth, validity and reality. To put that into otherwise simpler terms – they spit no liar bars. In a day in age when it’s hard to separate real from fake musicians, just know that these individuals are as real as they come. If there’s anything Dru’s long dreadlocks tell you about it him, it’s that he’s not prey, he’s a predator. If you’re an endangered species, you need to quickly adapt in 2014 because he came to eat what’s on your plate and he’s hungrier than ever. What’s more frieghtening is Barrel’s salesman capabilites because he truly believes in his product. Listen to Meek Mills’s verse on DJ Drama’s “My Moment” and imagine Dru spitting that, because that will be his 2014 in a nutshell.
What’s this list without the veterans. Chachi is an international and multi-talented performing artist, poet, emcee, and songwriter that has blessed greater New England’s music scene for over a decade. In 2007, VIBE magazine voted him one of the top 50 emcees state by state and in 2008 he was the first ever to win on BET’s 106 & Park Wild Out Wednesdays. His close to home lyrics, soulful and sultry style makes it evident that he has a higher calling in Rhode Island. Born and raised in Pawtucket, where he comes from a long lineage of Cape Verdean musicians, Chachi knows what it means to bring culturally relevant music to communities, and in turn empower them through it. Not only is Chachstadamus a hard-working father and inspirational youth advocate, but he’s also a tireless proponent of spreading music arts, serving as an engaging teacher and innovative entrepreneur. He is the co-owner and founder of Beat Box Studio, where he provides an outlet for children, adolescents and independent music artists alike to express themselves musically. His legacy set through life-long collaborations with J. DePina and DJ Therion is a mainstay here in New England. Look out for what he has in store for 2014 – a game changing and distinctive album that will revolutionarily infuse afro house with hip-hop in Cape Verdean Criole. Effective global musicianship requires a global international mindset and one of the most celebrated hip-hop artists of New England, Chachi, is ready to do it.
The strong move quiet, and that’s exactly what Randyn Julius has been doing these past few months. Maintaining a low-key profile while he continues to perfect his projects in Miami, you’ll be fooled to think he won’t reemerge in Providence to re-establish his position as one of the most commercially viable artists in the region. The 21-year-old rapper will continue to catch the eyes of major record label A&R’s and when the deal is right, you’ll watch him blossom and thrust suddenly onto the national stage. In other words, if you’re not on the Randyn Julius bandwagon, your best bet is to hop on it now or otherwise risk being left behind. Moreover, if you’re an artist aiming to collaborate with him, now is also the time, but it’ll also come with a steep price tag. The reason being is that Randyn’s track record and resume is incredibly long. Google him and find that hundreds of credible blogs have already mentioned him and anxiously anticipate his release. In fact, in August of 2013, The Source Magazine noted that Randyn Julius is going to “break into the music industry with a buzz like no other” and it seems only a matter of time before that actually happens. His new project will feature an overabundance of rap affiliations including DJ Khaled, Chief Keef, and King Los – not to mention his previous collaborations with artists like the Game, Cassidy, Cam’Ron, Jim Jones, Juelz Santana, Jadakiss, Styles P, Ray J, Bobby V, Uncle Murda,Teyana Taylor, Faith Evans, Junior Reed and more. In essence, “Young Ju Supreme” has a lot in the vault and can only get bigger. The pressure he’s experienced over the past few years has only served to humble him and make him a better, more rounded person and artist. Despite his ties and associations with mega superstars, he understands that he’s not there yet, and that he has quite a long ways to go before he reaches that level. However, he knows the only way to go is up, and will continue to do what it takes to get himself where he wants to be. Save the hate or unworthy attempts to stop his grind, because he’s just going to wind up winning anyway. He is a light ready to be fused that has already been primed. Once the wider Internet world catches onto who he is, it will be a domino effect and this marquee act will likely become a staple. For all great rappers, like Randyn Julius, who will create and maintain the aura of triumph, success will inevitably follow – and he’s on track to be a star.
Passionate MC is putting on for the city of Cranston and it’s been a long time coming for the Rhode Islander rapper. Credit his impeccable wordplay, devoted fan base and independent hustle for making practically everything he releases a success. Arguably one of the best underground picks of them all, Passionate’s self-entitled “Lyrical Assassin” alias is undoubtedly an understatement. Not only is he killing records, but he is also torturing them with his tongue-twisting rhymes. Every year Passionate manages to raise the stakes and his coverage of a wide swath of concepts gives him a lane of his own. His artistic arsenal and ability to think outside the box is remarkable and he’s committed to redefining Hip-Hop and transcending the mainstream and underground. With his superhuman powers and outspoken qualities, he has some surefire hits for his niche in 2014.
Hilmatic is taking all the steps in the right direction when it comes to Rhode Island rap. As he continues to soar upwards, Holla proves himself with some monstrous records and a lyrical knack that adds to his formula of success. His music is honest and quality, personal and insightful; showing sings of even more promise in 2014. Holla doesn’t fall short of being deep, conscious, contemplative and introspective but don’t let that fool you into believing that he’s not out for paper-chasing motives. In fact, Holla’s a go-getter who’s going to get it by any means. His versatility and hard-hitting rhymes separate him from the rest of the pack, and his quick and astute ways are hard to ignore. With Hil’s consistency, and gift of delivery one will never be able to dismiss what he brings to the table. Plus, his anchoring posse, which includes Cam Bells, and ultimate Providence music power couple and prominent trendsetters – Saybz and DJ International Nasty of Beautiful Silence Media, it will be fascinating to watch what Hill Holla does in 2014.
2014 and beyond will be massive for Providence rapper, producer, and Founder of the ‘HiYer Learning’ society, Krews. The reason being is that Krews is fearless and brilliant. Every track he releases goes harder than anything on your playlist. Raw and relentless, the Twi$ted Religion rapper is claiming his superiority locally. Krews spits with a vengeance, gives us a peek into his inner life and his lyrical intensity is absolutely unmatched. His slick quoteables and larger narrative of money, power, respect, loyalty and loving the block and crew that made him who he has become is impressive and potent. He has the ability for mass appeal and mass respect, and he’s raising the bar for Rhode Island artists as a whole. Krews’s “Ain’t Gold” record is a MUST listen to – displaying his great, raw and formidable talent. With a volatile mind frame, and opulent flows that share his inner demons and memories, Krews displays a remarkable precision and channels multiple voices. The vivid lyricism, the concepts, and structure come together to prove the fact that Krews holds a more in-depth lane that allows listeners to visualize his story. There shouldn’t be a a single doubt in anyone’s mind that Krews will be a bona fide Providence rap superstar and even has the potential to elevate to national success in the coming years.
If anyone is already making noise on a national level, it’s Euro. Joining the YMCMB crew as a recent signee, Euro is making major moves having teamed up with Lil Wayne, and Birdman for their new single, “We Alright“, which will appear on the upcoming Young Money: Rise Of An Empire compilation. Lil Wayne has also enlisted Euro for his Dedication 5, where he has laced verses on ‘Cream’ and ‘Ain’t Worried.’ Good company for the Providence native who has officially entered into the inner circle – welcome to the light! Being a good friend of Cash Money’s Senior Vice President of Promotions, I got this text and sentiment saying, “He’s good. I didn’t know he was from Providence.” Nonetheless, it’s good to know that the city has an avid representation that’s going to thrust real Providence rap into the national spotlight.
To Be Continued…
There’s a couple spots left and a lot of great talent that has yet to make the list, but leave your comments to let us know who deserves to take the last spots. Right now we’re thinking: Jahpan, Flawless, Lingo, Boco, Benny Freestyles but again, we’re looking for YOU to help us make the final picks below!