The S/T Newsletter, Issue #1: A Genre Guide to Michigan’s Rising Rap Scene Teaser
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Much like the punk and new-wave that broke out of rock music in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the 2010’s saw a massive shift in the sound and feeling of rap music. Just as the twenty-minute prog odysseys of Pink Floyd were replaced by quick, hard-hitting, loosely-playing punk bands, traditional technical skill in hip-hop was pushed aside as the foremost priority in exchange for a focus on energy and outside-the-box thinking.
The shift into less lyrically-focussed rap music also changed the geography of the genre. While New York and Los Angeles had long been considered the capitals of hip-hop, both cities lost that status to Atlanta, mostly due to the South’s willingness to experiment with melody and production in ways that traditional rap never would.
Atlanta isn’t the only place that’s seen it’s artists rise in popularity since rap’s “punk shift” occurred. Both Northern California and Michigan now harbour strong, deep, and consistently improving local scenes. Despite being almost as far away from each other that two states can be, both the Bay Area and Michigan (mostly Flint and Detroit) have decently similar sounds in their artists’ music; while NorCal artists prefer to rap on more minimal, nocturnal instrumentals than their Michigan counterparts, both groups prefer more traditional cadences to the warbling, off-the-ceiling flows of Atlanta artists like Young Thug or Lil Keed. Instead, Michigan and Bay Area rappers focus on putting a new twist on what may be the oldest indicator of a rapper’s skill- punchlines.
Punchlines from rappers in Detroit and Flint are different than their East Coast peers, though; rather than opting for the most clever wordplay or using them to break up a complex rhyme scheme, Michigan artists seem to be in an eternal competition to write the most ridiculous, hilarious, violent, and sometimes straight-up offensive line in history. Therein lies the primary selling point for the New Michigan: the constant excitement that comes from listening to the genre’s best artists, and knowing that you might catch a bar that will make you do this harder than you’ve ever done it before.
For the first issue of the S/T Newsletter, we’ve compiled ten songs and five albums from the New Michigan that we feel tell the genre’s short history best, and encapsulate what makes it so good. If you’re a newcomer, treat this as your map to the world of New Michigan hip-hop.
Payroll Giovanni, “Hustle Muzik 3”
Payroll Giovanni is one half of Doughboyz Cashout, a group that is the closest thing to a predecessor to New Michigan. He is also an incredible rapper, and at the time of “Hustle Muzik 3”, he was arguably one of the best working. While the track was made just before the New Michigan boom, it has all the elements of what makes it great; a soulful, laid-back Helluva beat, plenty of one-liners (“bitches see the coupe and ask me can they come get kidnapped!”) and the goal of inspiring get-up-and-grind motivation in its listeners. Seriously, listening to this song is way more convincing of a call to figure your life out and get money than anything that Gary Vee is trying to make you pay to hear him say.
Bandgang Javar — “How Can I Stop, Part 2”
The Bandgang crew were the first of the New Michigan artists to truly blow up, a six-headed scam-rap monster made up of Javar, Biggs, the late Paid Will, Masoe, Lonnie Bands, and AJ. “How Can I Stop, Part 2” is both the epitome of what made Bandgang the leaders of New Michigan during its inception in the late 2010s, and what may be the best song to come out of their camp. At the time of release, Javar had just returned home from two years of prison on fraud-related charges on parole, and he returned with one of the greatest “First Day Out”-type tracks ever- “i know the feds sick of me / this the fifth case my lawyer got dismissed for me / that lil’ prison bid was worth it if you ask me / I got more money than the bitch investigating me”. “How Can I Stop, Part 2” positions Javar not as a cocky rapper excited to be free, but as a sort of unbeatable comic-book villain with unlimited connections and funds. It’s exhilirating, and exactly the type of evil-genius personality that makes New Michigan rap so much fun.
Read the rest of the S/T Newsletter on Substack here.
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