5 up-and-coming Colorado hip-hop acts you need to know right now
While the best hip-hop artists historically blossomed in cities like L.A. and New York, Denver harbors some great unknown talent. Get to know Denver's finest with Rooster's carefully selected bunch of hip-hop acts to watch.
By Luca DelPiccolo
Trev Rich puts pieces in place for a big career. The Denver native made serious nationwide headlines this year after his latest mixtape, “Heights 3,” landed on the front page of datpiff.com. It’s been downloaded more than 3,000 times since its Jan. 15 release date. Rich worked with Atlantic Records before, but recently partnered with Slaughterhouse’s Joe Budden to work on Budden’s label Mood Muzik Entertainment.
Rich has a knack for the right beat, always finding the perfect complements as he builds his sonic otherworld. He will jump around from topic to topic, never diminishing their importance, but rapping in a confident, rugged tone. Beyond the gratifying wordplay and clever sports references lies an authenticity that Rich’s audience can relate to. “Heights 3” exemplifies the connection between aggressive street rap and conscious lyrical ability. His relationship with Mood Muzik Entertainment will allow him to distribute his music and be heard by fans all over the country, so get to know this local MC before the rest of the country does.
Three MCs, two producers, a bass player and a drummer. That’s what makes up The Foodchain, a band catching the attention of the local audience for the past couple of years with eccentric live shows and impressive standalone projects. The group opened up for Method Man, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah of WuTang Clan on New Year’s Eve and even performed at the Shady Records SXSW set hosted by Sway with performances from 50 Cent and Schoolboy Q.
Even big names like 50 and WuTang don’t seem surprising when you listen to their collective and individual projects. Big releases from 2010 and 2011 (“Corpses” and “Brunch”) give The Foodchain a strong foundation. “The Summer Series,” another project The Foodchain released this past summer, is a perfect illustration of this group’s undeniable skill and compatibility. In September, Foodchain rapper FL released a widely appreciated album, “Limbo,” in which the MC takes a composed approach to his work, weaving in and out of whimsical melodies and lyrical aggressiveness. The group genuinely embodies a movement more than a band with some of its background music. A close listen to its artistic ability exposes The Foodchain as one of the most promising local acts Denver has seen.
In 2008, Air Dubai was nothing more than a local group with two members you’d never heard of. Four years later, the band includes six members, including two vocalists, a guitarist, a keyboard/synth player, a bassist and a drummer. A definite audience expansion followed the band’s growth. In four short years the group released three albums, worked with big-name producers such as Sylvia Massy and had its music featured on MTV more than once. Air Dubai’s enormous commercial appeal took it across the country and spread its music into the cracks of teen intrigue.
While many traditional hiphop heads may turn to flee the scene at “teen intrigue,” Air Dubai captures and persuades its audience with originality, energy and compatibility. Its 2012 album “Be Calm” not only bends the traditional restrictions of hiphop but provides a conscious look at where the group stands in the ranks of hiphop artists. The hooks are catchy, the sound is sound is unique, and the potential for a group like Air Dubai is enormous.
When love and hiphop come together, the outcome is usually beautiful. The ReMINDers, consisting of Big Samir and Aja Black, is a perfect illustration of culture, love and energy. Big Samir (from Brussels, Belguim) and Aja Black (born in Queens, N.Y.), are a married couple and a bright light on the Denver music scene for years. Their grassroots, traditional hiphop style is the perfect blend of insurgence and affection. The bilingual Big Samir slaloms between English and French, diving into significant issues that acknowledge his street credibility and poise. This couples beautifully with Aja Black, an intelligent, smooth, Lauryn Hilllooking female MC that raps as well as she sings. The combination of the two generates an uplifting and relevant sound unlike any other. The duo works out every day, perfecting its live show, and it pays off.
The ReMINDers shared the stage with Snoop Dogg, Nas, Mos Def, KRSOne and many others. Its 2012 “Born Champions” proved the duo has a rare, powerful sound that deserves attention. We’re hoping for a new album from The ReMINDers in 2014 as this power couple spreads its ove and good music all over the state.
It’s only right that Denver, the city built for partying, have a rapper who exemplifies that lifestyle. Pries, a Denver native, built up a fair amount of conversation with his impressive mixtape releases and standout music videos. Pries’ finest work may have come on his 2011 album “Copy, Paste, No Glue,” hosted by the always loud DJ Ill Will. It opened the eyes of many to Pries’ talent, personality and ingenuity as a relatively unknown Colorado rapper. The 24track, free album epitomizes Pries’ sound as he shares his story over hardhitting instrumentals with earworm hooks. Since “Copy, Paste, No Glue” Pries released five projects (culminating in thousands of downloads) including his most recent album “Honey Jack.” Built for the average college student, Pries’ lyrics are saturated with wordplay and a high dose of references to drugs and alcohol. The partyboy spirit balances with quality production and radioready hooks. Pries plans to make his mark this year, with a brand new album, “Revenge of the Nerd” set to drop April 16, lead by a strong single in “Willie Bandana.”