One of miwacar's co-workers asked him for some guidance to smart, independent rappers. Miwacar mentioned that in passing to me, as I was kicking his ass in a game of Winning Eleven.
I don't think I'm being a total homer when I say some a lot of the smartest hip-hop is coming out of the Twin Cities, from either the Doomtree or Rhymesayers. Don't get me wrong, I do love the Coasts (though if I had to pick, I'd go with the East, disregarding Puffy's attempt to wreck hip-hop.) I say that, even as I realize that my Top 5 Rappers are either from Minnesota, California, or Latveria.
5. Brother Ali--Brilliant writer, and apparently just a demon on stage. He's a Twin Cities guy, by way of Wisconsin. If you haven't heard him, and you like hip-hop, you need to. His ode to his albinoism, "Forest Whittaker" is at once a celebration of ego, and rejection of mass media's idea of beauty.
4. P.O.S--Another rapper, who unless you live in the Midwest, you may not have heard of. Angry political screeds, set to a combination of old school samples and live band backing. Having Craig Finn from Lifter Puller/The Hold Steady cameo to sing about the failing of the movie Predator is good fun; rapping the line "I warm my hands by burning the Patriot Act" is fucking ballsy and awesome.
3. Boots Riley, from The Coup. Oakland group, who have been pushing buttons since 1991, at least. Criminally underrated. Smooth flow, radical politics. The closest they came to being famous was when their album cover art featured Boots blowing up the Twin Towers in NYC. The art had been produced before 9/11, and the label yanked the album until they could replace the art. The Coup, with Boots as the leader/writer of the group have crafted angry polemics on top of incredible beats and samples.
2. MF Doom--Perhaps the weirdest rapper out there right now. He's conspired with MadLib, and DangerMouse on albums that celebrate cartoon culture. He grabs samples from 70's cartoons, and wears a Dr. Doom mask when he performs. MMM Food is one the funniest, strangest and yet accessible albums I've ever heard. One of the few rappers who rewards listeners who watched 70's and 80's cartoons.
1. Deltron 3030--I don't fully understand where this album came from. Del the Funkee Homosapien, who got some brief fame as being the light-hearted relative of Dr. Dre back in the day crafted this album with Dan the Automater. Del went from a slack stoner rapper to writing this album, which is essentially a paranoid sci-fi novel in rap record form. I like Del, but I love Deltron, and the difference is a willingness to push sonic boundaries, and yet, stay close enough to the structure of classic rap to be immediately accessible. Deltron 3030 is now almost a decade old, but I still find it revolutionary. I keep waiting for Deltron's next album.
Speaking of Deltron, when you plumb YouTube, you find weird stuff. Here's Deltron 3030 mixed with The Worst Movie Ever Made, "Plan 9 From Outer Space"