Mike Rubin, prolific writer, and Hip-Hop scholar, described Hip-Hop’s development in Detroit as a ’willing participant at rap's inception’ due to the city’s artist’s ubiquitous use of electronic elements and techno beats, artists like Cybotron [Juan Atkins] and A Number of Names [Paul Lesley and Sterling Jones], creating notable tracks like Clear, released in 1973, and Sharevari, in 1981, the latter called ‘one of the first Techno songs.’ However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that Detroit would enter its ‘Golden Age,’ as described by Rubin, and artists with a taste for the profane, rugged, and ‘hardcore’ started to emerge on the Detroit scene, Esham, later forming the trio Natas with Mastamind and T-N-T, being some of the first artists in Detroit modeling this style. Flash to the present, and because of the efforts of legends such as Big Sean, Eminem, and newly mainstream musician Danny Brown, a new focus on the musical stylings of Detroit has been enacted on a National and International scale.
Saying that, this week’s playlist focuses on the Hip-Hop artists hailing from Detroit, and the tracks I’ve selected range in lyrical tenacity, melodic aesthetic, and genric form. From new releases by seasoned Professionals to new Artists carving out their spot in the demanding world of Hip-Hop, the Artist’s chosen represent some of the flavors of old and New Detroit, although I invite you to go discover more than these five, as there are too many to list here!
J Dilla, Welcome 2 Detroit : Think Twice
Considered the "godfather of lo-fi hip hop,” celebrating the 20th Anniversary of J Dilla’s seminal record ‘J Dilla’s Welcome 2 Detroit,’ a 12x 7" Vinyl Box Set is being released in February of 2021, featuring some unreleased music and outtakes. This track is no. 3 and is truly a soothing, jazz track, perhaps in some way inspired by Detroit’s 1970s Motown history.
Proof - [Prod. by J Dilla]: Life
Released in 1997, the track Life, performed by late rapper Proof, member of 5 Elementz and close friend to Eminem, recounts betrayal on multiple levels, professionally and privately generated. He uses metaphors, pop culture references, and personal analogies, all linked together with the overall message of tragic loss and regret stating, “Where did we go wrong, We were so strong, Unified, but now we no long.”
Phat Kat: Cold Steel
Although among Detroit’s more cult Rappers, Phat Kat, or Ronnie Euro, is a rapper with a fairly large discography to his name, being one of the founding members of the now-defunct group 1st Down. He has created four albums, and this track was part of his 2007 Album, ‘Carte Blanche.’
Cha Cha: New Millenium
The only female on this list, Cha Cha, now known as Parris Franz, stands out, as her credits extend far beyond music, having done Short Film, Television, Radio, along with her musical career. Her first album ‘Dear Diary,’ recorded in 1999, reached global success, and this very track, the lead single on the album, in fact, reached no.28 on the US Billboard Hot Rap Songs.
Black Milk: Laugh Now Cry Later
The youngest on this list, Black Milk, his real name being Curtis Eugene Cross, has proven himself to be a diligent and productive artist, having seven albums already under his belt, along with nine collaborative albums. This track, derived from his most recent album ‘Fever’ which garnished critical acclaim and 4/5 stars from The Guardian, talks about his taut relationship within the Hip-Hop world, mainstream black culture, and US socio-cultural relations in and out of the black community.
Writer: John David Vandevert [Johndavidvandevert.com]