Artist Spotlight

Top 5 Indie MCs

As is often the case, there are far too many artists to mention in a single article, therefore this article lists and gives some background info on some of my favourite and most listened to Indie MCs. I’ve attempted to try and exclude artists I may have mentioned in previous articles or that already have significant recognition, e.g. Blu, CSF & Evidence (Dilated Peoples), but please do go and check them out if you haven’t already. Listed in no particular order:

1. Dillon Cooper

Dillon cooper was one of those artists I came across whilst I was on a chain of good Hip Hop; you find one good track on YouTube and suddenly the next is just as good. Like finding a treasure trove. ‘State of Elevation’ had me instinctively sharing Cooper’s music with the rest of my team, and pretty much seconds afterwards I copped his mixtape ‘Cozmik’ syncing it straight to the Ipod.

Dillon Cooper released ‘Cosmik’ in 2013, which is his first mixtape, with the aid of Amalgam Digital. The project features a dynamic flow and creative style of delivery from the young artist, which he laces over a good selection of beats from classic artists such as Mobb Deep andOutkast. ‘Cozmik’ is one of those mixtapes where you don’t have to/want to skip any tracks, the venture as a whole encompassing a neo 90s vibe, one that has been emerging slowly but surely over the past couple of years.

Coming out of Crown Heights Brooklyn, Dillon Cooper has an interesting past. In a recent interview, he explained how he taught himself guitar whilst his parents tried to put him onto piano. He also spoke about how he ended up going to a ‘bottom of the barrel’ high school, an experience that he ended up using to polish his skills and his identity.

Upon demonstrating his vocal abilities to Wiz Khalifa’s DJ, Cooper received free tickets to a Wiz Khalifa show. Upon experiencing the presence and energy that world renowned rapper commanded from the crowd, Cooper decided that this was a path he was to walk too.

2. Fashawn

Hailing from Fresno California, Fashawn is in my opinion, one of the most greatly underrated MCs. I first discovered Fashawn about 3 years ago when a series of Blu songs led me to ‘Samsonite Man’. I can’t tell you how quickly I moved to listen to his debut album ‘Boy Meets World’; the entire piece of work having been produced by one of the most innovative producers in the industry, Exile. The album to me fits together like a dream. I later learnt that it was this album that landed Fashawn on the cover of XXL’s top 10 freshmen issue in 2010.

Fashawn had a rough childhood, growing up with an incarcerated father and a mother with a drug addiction. At eight years of age, he and his sister were both placed in a group home before their Uncle Roy decided to take them into his custody.

Fashawn comes with the storyteller vibe. ‘Boy Meets World’ has been praised for its capacity to articulate the personal struggles and dreams of a young boy growing up in a less than accommodating environment. All in all, Fashawn’s style, coupled with Exile’s beats, are just a straight up a pleasure to listen to.

Fashawn began writing at eight and by 2000 was completely immersed in the art. In 2006Fashawn released his first mixtape ‘Grizzly City’ which caught the attention of Planet Asia, a fellow Fresno MC who invited him to go on the road with him. Realising the opportunity that had been presented to him, Fashawn dropped out of school and pursued his career. In the space of a year, Fashawn established his presence throughout the central California Hip-Hop scene, working with manager Aren Hekimian and releasing multiple mixtapes including ‘The Phenom’, ‘Grizzly City 2’, ‘The Phenom 2’, ‘Higher Learning’, and ‘One Shot One Kill’, which was put out byOrisue Clothing.‘One Shot One Kill’ was well received by both fans and Hip Hop websites granting him more attention as an upcoming artist. Over his career, Fahsawn has collaborated with other rappers and producers such as J.Cole, Wiz Khalifa, Evidence, Murs, Aloe Blacc, The Alchemist, and 9th Wonder.

This year it was announced that Fashawn had been signed to NasMass Appeal Records and is set to release his sophomore album ‘The Ecology’ on September 30, 2014. Whilst I haven’t made it through all of his mixtapes yet, it is definitely something that I am working through and would strongly encourage other listeners of HipHop to do.

3. XV

Throwing up L7s and reppin’ The Squarian world, XV is probably one of my top 3 Indie MCs but again is seeming underrated when it comes to his hard work and creativity. The first song I heard from XV was ‘If I could draw’ which somebody had made the instrumental on their parkour video about 3 years ago. I couldn’t help but appreciate his style and individuality. At that time I hadn’t come across an artist like him. I felt I could completely relate. XV was just having fun with it: no violence, drugs or gang banging. Instead just a love for Hip Hop, comics, being himself and an ambition to put Wichita, Kansas on the map.

Around the same time I copped ‘Everybody’s Nobody’, his 12th mixtape which was the project that shot him into the spot light and landed him a record deal with Warner Bros. XV has since released numerous mixtapes all in conjuncture with his style and image and I’m yet to fail to listen to a single one; ‘Vizzy Zone’, ‘Zero Heroes’ and ‘Popular Culture’ being some of my favourites.

XV refers to the age at which he started his career, he knew that he wanted to pursue a career involving music, however it was not until a close friend of his passed away that he became serious about the whole thing. Graduating from Wichita Southeast High School in 2003, XVworked with producer Michael “Seven” Summers from 2005 to 2012.

In the Month of March, XV released 4 mixtapes under the umbrella ‘March Madness’ and is set to release his debut Album ‘Kid with the Green Backpack’ in 2014.

4. Phora One

Representing YoursxTruly out of Southern California, Phora One comes with a style to straight up represent Hip Hop; modern yet true to the old school, Phora brings a solid and evolving flow to the game. Phora again, was one of those artists I stumbled across when I was just listening to good Hip Hop. I must’ve been feeling a certain type of way when I found him since the first song I heard was ‘A song for her’; the beat hit hard and the emotion he put into every line had me appreciating his skill and love for Hip Hop.

Of course I moved to collect his mixtapes ‘Reflections of the Truth Vol. 1’, ‘Reflections of the Truth Vol. 2’ ‘Yours Truly’ ‘Therapy’ and discovered that aside from spitting, Phora was also a writer. I was impressed with the way that he combined the two elements together which is something rarely seen these days but is something that should definitely be done more. I feel that his ability to throw up tags and paint pieces enables him to be imaginative and creative when it comes to rhyming and flowing within a beat, which again, is something, that is seen less often today.

Around 2012, Phora linked up with Organised Threat, a group of MCs all with different styles who move to support each other within their endeavours. However, Phora has since split from the group and returned to YoursxTruly.

Phora’s entanglement with the movement Organised Threat has since made him a controversial figure within the underground scene, not only due the makeup of his fanbase but also due to him openly admitting to ‘snitching’ on the assailants of his assault who stabbed him and left him bleeding on the street. An experience that Phora has used as motivation to focus on his music.

5. Gavlyn

Based out of Los Angeles, Gavlyn is a member of The Movement Organized Threat and Broken Complex, which as I said before supports artists on an international scale. I found Gavlyn in 2012 at the same time I found one of my favourite Boom Bap Crews ‘Clear Soul Forces’. Her song ‘What I do’ resonated immediately and was funnily enough the track I wrote my first rhyme to. The rough sound of her voice reminded me of Eternia, the first female MC I had listened to in 2009. I tried putting her on to my team but they couldn’t see past her image.

I think female artists such as Gavlyn should have a greater voice within Hip Hop, whilst I know that there has always been work from certain Hip Hop artists to promote the voice of females within the genre, it is still a male dominated industry. Artists such as Gavlyn who have made a name for themselves within the underground scene should be able to expand out of that scene and be heard by a wider audience without having to switch up their lyrical content or their image, which is something I believe Rapsody is doing well to accomplish. However despite me saying this, Gavlyn has over the past year so been doing shows all over Europe and is succeeding in building up a greater fan base.

Gavlyn has said that her latest album ‘Modest Confidence’ was an effort to challenge herself as she wanted to be able to do anything. It features less boom bap than her fans are used to, despite this I don’t feel like anything has been subtracted from her style, as is often the case with artists when they attempt to experiment. Instead I think Gavlyn has successfully added new skills and abilities to her repertoire.

Gavlyn’s facebook page reads that her music is inspired by Old School, 70s Funk and 60’s music. Yet, despite her devotion to Hip Hop, it`s not her only source of music. She`s also fond of Rock, Drum & Bass ,House Music and Jungle Music, having previously stated about her music, “It`s important for the music to be open-minded and not to limit oneself. “

Words: Kitan Ogunfeibo

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