IGNORE THE EAST AND THE WEST: MICHIGAN IS WHERE IT’S AT

IGNORE THE EAST AND THE WEST: MICHIGAN IS WHERE IT’S AT

“Honestly you just have to have fun with it. Jay-Z is always going to be the greatest of all time, but no one listen to Jay Z right now because he too serious.”

– Rio Da Young OG

FREE RIO

Since the inception of hip-hop, regionality has always played a large part in developing sounds that have propelled certain cities, artists, and music to the top of the game. Just look at the East vs West feud that gripped rap in the 90s or the rise of Atlanta as a mecca of trap music with artists like Young Thug, Future, Migos, Waka Flocka Flame, and Gucci Mane; all of who have reached the mainstream. After a decade dominated by the trap sounds of Atlanta, other regional subgenres of hip-hop have been making waves in the underground. In the last two to three years, drill was in the position to become that new sound; making waves into the mainstream. But with the tragic passing of Pop Smoke, the hype has somewhat died out, at least in the top charts. With this vacuum in the underground right now, one state has been pumping out artists and producers who have been making some of the most enjoyable rap I’ve heard in a long time.

Michigan, Detroit specifically, has had a large rap scene since the 80s and 90s. Several MCs, such as MC Breed and Smiley, have both managed to gain some levels of national success despite the industry overlooking the Michigan sound. This would change in the 90s though with new talents such as Eminem and D12, Royce Da 5’9, and legendary producer J Dilla, who all helped put Detroit and Michigan front and centre on worldwide stages. Even into the late 2000s and early 2010s, Michigan produced Billboard charting artists such as Big Sean, Dej Loaf and Danny Brown. 

However, I’m not here to talk about the history of the music in Michigan, but its future. In the last few years, several artists have popped out and seriously impressed me with wordplay, flows, and especially humour which has separated them from the melodic trap sound that has dominated the charts for the last several years. There have been many artists I would consider next up out of this class of rappers but here are a few that I think can really grow and make the crossover to the mainstream.

The first artist that caught my attention in this new wave is Teejayx6. I first heard about Teejayx6 when he dropped the music video for a song called “Swipe Lesson”; a step-by-step on how to pull a dark web scam. After listening to the two-minute song I was instantly intrigued, even though, “Swipe Lesson”, wasn’t the most entertaining song around.  I found out more about Teejayx6 and the ‘scam rap’ scene through his appearances on No Jumper and The Cave which then led to my obsession with the sound. The fast production combined with this unique flow and wordplay was refreshing after being stuck in a rut to find new music. 

Another group of scam rappers who have really grabbed my attention are the ShittyBoyz made up of Babytron, StanWill and Trdee. They came up rapping over remixed disco, techno,  and RnB cuts such as “Tootsie Roll” by the 69 Boyz, “Freez” by I.O.U, and “Just in Case” by Jaheim. Coupling the odd beat selection with a good sense of humour and some great basketball bars, I was hooked immediately. Alongside their great individual work, Babytron and Trdee’s, Dookie Brothers mixtapes, and the 3-Peat and 4-Peat mixtapes with the whole group show off their chemistry together.

Even outside of the Detroit artists, Michigan’s music scene has been popping off and nowhere more so than Flint. Flint has taken off recently as the centre of the Michigan rap game, with artists like YN Jay and Louie Ray blowing up on TikTok to Lil Yachty putting all the Flint artists on with his Michigan Boat Boy EP. Flint has separated itself from Detroit with its unique style of production. They have kept elements from the Detroit sound such as the fast tempos and bouncy percussion hits but have also emphasized bouncy and beefy 808s to carry the track. This sound was spearheaded by ENRGY Beats, who even had his beats turned down at first for being too distorted and heavy, but ultimately his production style has become a staple in the Flint scene. 

However, the hard-hitting production wasn’t the only reason Lil Yachty flew out to collaborate with all these artists. In my opinion, Rio Da Young OG and RMC Mike have helped create the Flint sound with their braggadocious, dope-boy bars about being in the streets. They have both received cosigns from other rising artists such as Drakeo the Ruler from L.A. and received feature interviews from hip-hop outlets such as No Jumper. Personally, I love “Movie”, feat. Louie Ray, “Legendary,” and the collaboration, “Jackie Moon”, which is a fun posse cut where Mike, Rio and the Shittyboyz spit some classic bars like “Feel like Jackie Moon, I’m in Flint scoring like the Tropics,” or “Caught him in the park that’s a Jurassic kill, that means I turned him to a fossil.”

Another artist that has managed to catch some viral attention out of Flint is BfB Tha Packman, a mailman from Flint who went viral for his collaboration “Free Joe Exotic” with Sada Baby. His rise to the top has to be down to his hilarious bars such as “my bitch cheating, fed her to the animals, Carole Baskin,” and “tell my brother if he catch a body then imma tell mommy.” He continued the hot streak in 2021 with his debut album Fat N****s Need Love Too which helped his stock rise, especially with features from Wiz Khalifa, Zack Fox, Lil Yachty, Coi Leray and Benny the Butcher.

Outside of the fast beats and big bass of the Detroit and Flint sounds there is also Since99 who hops between the fast Detroit beats and slower, wavy-er Plugg type beats. Hailing from Ann Arbor, he has started to make a name for himself through collaborations with other Michigan artists like Babytron on, “Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy,” and has even reached mainstream popularity; dropping “Mutumbo” with super-producer Kenny Beats. 

Even though I didn’t mention them earlier shout out to other artists such as KrispyLife Kidd, YSR Gramz, Sada Baby, 42 Dugg, Babyface Ray, Veeze, Grindhard-E, and even basketball player Miles Bridges a.k.a RTB MB.

The Michigan rap scene has clearly taken the world by storm and makes no signs of slowing down their growth. With sounds from Flint and Detroit, there is only hope that more Michigan rap is able to top the charts and get back into the mainstream crowd; so everyone can enjoy it together.

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