From Largo's Q Da Fool to Baltimore's Deetranada to The Landover's XanMan, artists from all over "the urrea" have entrenched the DMV rap scene as one to be reckoned with.
Wale released his debut album, Attention Deficit, a decade ago. Hes groused about feeling underappreciated in the past, but here are the bare roses: his rise to mainstream relevance is the undeniable genesis of a DC, southern Maryland, and northern Virginia rap scene that was rarely a national factor before him. Its Wales versatility that made him the perfect pioneer. Labels saw Wales cosmopolitan fashion sense, his ability to hold his own in both ciphers and strip clubs, and wondered what exactly was going on in the DC area.
Many outsiders misinterpret DMV as a catch-all term that refers to anywhere in DC, Maryland or Virginia. But locally, DMV refers to any area reachable on the DC Metro system, which links the DC metropolitan region. For the sake of spreading love to talented artists, however, those restrictions will be loosened on this list of DMV (and Baltimore) hip-hop artists to get familiar with.
Here are 11 DMV rappers you should know about.
IDK (Prince George's County)
Before you even knew who IDK was, he was innovating. As Jay IDK, he coined the term Suburban trap on his standout SubTRAP mixtape. The term refers to a musical approach fusing trap sonics with substantive lyrical content. After switching his name to simply IDK in 2017, he dropped IWASVERYBAD, a cerebral, trap-influenced project he deemed the soundtrack of his life in Prince Georges County, Maryland. The project was matched with a 15-minute visual which chronicled the events leading up to his incarceration for armed robbery at 17. The video, like his growing catalog, was at times grim, chilling and trippy, but suspenseful throughout. Hes set to drop his Is He Real debut album next month.
Q Da Fool (Largo)
Q Da Fool, from Largo, Maryland, is at the top of the heap when it comes to delivering gritty, unadulterated street tales. His matter-of-fact, in-the-trenches storytelling on projects like 100 Round Goon and the recently released Bad Influence with Kenny Beats radiates an evocative authenticity that all the trap greats before him were gifted or cursed with. Q signed to Roc Nation last year, who will likely work hard to get him rhymer a bigger platform for his gritty bangers. Also, if you want to know what the DMV flow sounds like, Q Da Fool employs it smoothly on tracks like For Real and FAX.
Chelly The MC (Washington, D.C.)
Chelly The MC is perhaps most known for Northeast Baby, an ode to her quadrant of DC. But the young rapper is steadily improving her craft, as she displayed on 2018s aptly-titled Halfway There EP. Chellys delivering the grimey, unapologetic music that puts her next to a slew of rappers dishing bold subversive declarations like Never Greens yous a friendly ass nigga and I like my niggas mean. The other half of her equation for stardom is for more people to realize that her catalog isnt just the perfect soundtrack to a hot girl summer. She feeds the streets with an impassioned delivery and well-crafted storytelling like 2013s Set Em Up, a track thats about exactly what the title suggests.
YBN Cordae (Suitland)
Its not often that Dr. Dre has reached out to this young generation of artists to help collaborate on new music (look out for Detox). But YBN Cordae got that weighty stamp last summer. Its likely that Dre, likely many others in the know, are fans of Cordaes thoughtful, palatable lyricism, best displayed on his Old Niggas response to J. Coles 1985. Tracks like his Cole rebuttal, Target, and Bad Idea featuring Chance The Rapper mark the Suitland, Maryland-raised MC as the outlier of the YBN crew, a stable of young artists usually focused on either menacing or turning up. Cordae can do the latter when he wants, but his songwriting ability and thematic versatility is what makes him a name to watch.
Young Moose (Baltimore)
Its somewhat surprising to see that Young Moose is just 25. Perhaps its the legal woes beget by the saga of him vs. former Baltimore Police Department officer Daniel Hersl that frame him as a weathered OG when hes in the same age range as other young upstarts on this list. Moose, locally deemed the Baltimore Boosie, is a cult hero in Baltimore. His acclaim isnt just about his gruff delivery or the pain rap displayed in his Out The Mud mixtape series, but because he called out Baltimore police corruption years before seven officers, including Hersl who he called out on 2014s Tired were convicted of racketeering in 2017. Hersls shameless targeting of Moose derailed his career, but now he has more freedom to reap the benefits of being a pioneer of a scene of hungry, oppressed Baltimore rappers with something to say about a negligent system and its perilous consequences.
XanMan (The Landover)
XanMan is nothing short of a phenom in the DMV, and it seems like a matter of time before the rest of the country is on his wave. The Landover, Maryland artist delivers gun-toting lyrics like many of his generational peers, but his character shines through the nihilism with humorous witticisms and nonsequiturs stacked atop the often booming production on tracks like point, PINK, and otherXanstyles. But the prolific artist is at his most impressive when he lets his melodies shine through in Luther Xandross mode on tracks like Gucci Down and the recently released Midnight, where he harmonizes over dreary guitars. Last year the 18-year-old was the beneficiary of a #FreeXan movement, which led people to flock to his catalog and catapulted him onto a new plateau. Hopefully, from here on out, it will just be the music that helps him ascend.
Abdu Ali (Baltimore)
Baltimore artist Abdu Ali cant be contained. They rap, but they also harmonize and straight-up belt anthemic affirmations throughout a diverse catalog that culls inspiration from hip-hop, punk, jazz and more. Twenty Sixteen's MONGO album was a fiery, cathartic work that voiced the fury and self-reflective reckoning many Black people went through in the wake of the 2015 Baltimore uprising. Their electronic leaning FIYAH!! album is perfectly titled, as they show not only their experimental ambition, but the ability to concisely explore themes of self-love, acceptance, and romance. Abdu has said they aimed to embrace all of the facets of my identity but not let those paradigms build chains around my artistic vision on the 14-track album. Their thoughtful music exemplifies that sometimes resistance isnt merely about vocalizing that youre resisting but having the courage to vocalize in the first place.
Jermaine Dupri recently made some foolish comments about todays top rappers who are women being nothing more than stripper rappers. It would seem like common sense would remind JD that he does a show which features plenty of talented women rappers, but common sense isnt all that common when it comes to thinly veiled misogynoir. Before JD was doing damage control, he was giving talented artists like Deetranada a shot on his The Rap Game show. Since her appearance on Season three, the Baltimore has stayed busy, releasing her AND YES I MEAN EVERYBODY project last year.
Ras Nebyu (Washington, D.C.)
Ras Nebyu and the Slizzards movement is one to be reckoned with in the DMV. The Ethiopian-American rapper is one of the areas most versatile acts, just as adept at turning up with Rico Nasty on Thirsty Packman as he is getting philosophical on the spiritually tinged Proper Livin. Ras latest album is titled Uptown Lion Walkin, a project in which he contextualizes how his lineage affects his day-to-day and delves into social and cultural commentary over a suite of smooth, soulful beats that evoke a variety of moods.
Ciscero (Prince George's County)
The Maryland artist occupies a lane of soulful, incisive raps like few others in the region. Unlike most gifted lyricists with a knack for soul production, he has an intriguing malleability with his approach, as evidenced by tracks like On Track, the bouncy Bite Down with fellow DMV artist Black Fortune who just missed the list and Same Clothes As Yesterday from Goldlinks At What Cost album. He recently tweeted an implication that hes working on a new project, which will help him further entrench himself as one of the artists who define the soul of the DMV.
Odd Mojo (Capitol Heights)
Odd Mojo describes herself on Twitter as a hip-hop artist/emcee/rapper/whateverthefuckIwannacallmyself. One listen to 2017s Channel Yo Mojo album demonstrates that not only is she a talented MC, but that the journey to defining herself wasnt easy. Sticky Notes is a standout song from the nine-track album, and she delivered new relevance for the reflective, affirmatory song with a recent video to commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month in May. The song is indicative of her deeply confessional catalog, as she explores insecurities, anxieties over a jazzy, minimalist production. She hasnt been as prolific as some of her contemporaries in recent times, but shes nonetheless an artist to watch.
Andre Gee is a New York-based freelance writer with work at Uproxx Music, Impose Magazine, and Cypher League. Feel free to follow his obvious Twitter musings that seemed brilliant at the moment @andrejgee.