Chelly The MC, Halfway ThereSelf-released
The title of Chelly’s recently released EP Halfway There is obviously a reference to her rise from a Northeast D.C. girl, to a DMV star rapper, to her current moment on the verge of nationwide notoriety. And this time around, Chelly isn’t afraid to take a few artistic chances. “I got out of my comfort zone and discovered new and different sounds,” she says of her new EP. Where Chelly’s 2017 breakout hit “Northeast Baby” was bouncy and playful, Halfway There has a more serious tone. Chelly spits her verses aggressively and purposefully, as if each song is delivering a message, whether it’s aimed at ex-boyfriends or disloyal associates, Chelly The MC is letting everyone know that playtime is over.
RIYL: Remy Ma in her prime.
D’Jon, Watermelon SeedzSelf-released
Listening to D’jon’s Watermelon Seedz EP is a spiritually enriching experience. Thematically, D’jon continues down the enlightened path of her previous EP, Vibe With Me. D’Jon is equal parts Erykah Badu and Chuck D—not afraid to embrace her metaphysical and political sides. She ably tackles gentrification on “The District,” and her poignant lyrics makes you empathize with her genuine disappointment in the D.C. political establishment: “Billion dollars spent on that street car and now it’s free.” It’s a spot-on analysis. D’jon says that Watermelon Seedz has more “kick, boom, and samples” than her previous music, and that melodic soundscape—provided mainly by SmackADDamZz—is an effective complement to her soul-stirring poetry.
Fee Dollaz, “Damn”Self-released
Northeast D.C. native Fee Dollaz is generating serious heat with her new bop “Damn,” the lead single from her upcoming EP Set It Off. “Damn” flips gender stereotypes and takes female empowerment to a new level. The video features Fee and her girl squad living their best lives and making it rain ungodly amounts of skrilla. Fee is going all out with the promo run for this song. She scored a coveted slot last month at the famed Howard Homecoming YardFest, and performed a spirited set—entertaining the hard-to-please undergrads and impressing the music industry heavyweights in attendance. Her charismatic delivery and breezy swag leaves you wanting to hear more.
RIYL: Just listen to Fee Dollaz, trust me.
Jet Riley, Life Dreams and What It Seems and Wish You Were HereSelf-released
Jet Riley has probably performed at every hip-hop venue in the D.C. area. And whether he’s on stage at the cavernous Howard Theatre or the more diminutive Pure Lounge, he always leaves a powerful impression on the audience. Riley dropped two EPs recently. The first one, Life Dreams and What It Seems is straight up 2018 hip-hop: crispy auto-tuned rhymes, money talk, and trap beats. No two ways about it: It’s a dope project. The standout tracks are “Light a J,” and “Bag,” which features his frequent collaborator Dblac. But Riley also finds his voice on the second EP Wish You Were Here—a scintillating collection of international pop and reggaeton tunes—featuring “Bad Gyal,” another hook-up with Dblac, and “Lemon Lime,” a caribbean-flavored gem that has the potential to burn up dance floors all over the city.
RIYL: French Montana, Wiz Khalifa
Killa Cal, “BW Parkway”Self-released
Killa Cal and Baltimore rapper King Los have collaborated on a brand new banger entitled “BW Parkway.” This may seem like an odd pairing because Killa Cal is a member of Rare Essence and is best known as a go-go rapper, while Los is a lyrical phenomenon who was signed to Diddy’s Bad Boy Records for much of the last decade. But Cal has the verbal chops to go head-to-head with anyone—and he doesn’t disappoint on this one. After Los drops an expected blazing verse, Cal adeptly holds serve, “Reporting live from 295/ BWI you can tell I’m fly/ B-more and D.C. just got unified.” Look for this song to appear on the upcoming Killa Cal Ripken mixtape.
RIYL: Rick Ross, Ice Cube