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Head Roc, The Black Avenger LPSelf-released

Head Roc not-so-modestly refers to himself as a Black Rock Star Super Hero, but if you check out his résumé (activist, entrepreneur, journalist, political candidate) the veteran lyricist is worthy of the bombastic accolades. And his new album Black Avenger is jam-packed with the conscious verses and punchy beats that we expect from Head Roc. The highlight of the project is the song “DC as Fuck? Nigga What?”—a searing jab at gentrifiers who have prematurely claimed Chocolate City for themselves. Head Roc is clearly an artist with an agenda, but he never comes across as preachy or condescending. His music opens up conversation that can be uncomfortable but needs to be discussed, and Black Avenger is a victory for intelligent rap in a town that really needs a hip-hop superhero.

Killa Kiesha, Killa Gang Vol. 1Self-released

It’s going to be a busy summer for Killa Kiesha. She just dropped a blazing mixtape Killa Gang Vol. 1—a project featuring Kiesha spitting fierce freestyles over popular trap tracks. She barely had time to catch her breath before planning a trip to Miami to shoot a video for her new single “Trap With Me 2.” Kiesha is the true definition of an underground rapper. Her grimy hood stories and sexually empowering lyrics represent a strong and independent feminine mystique. She’s the tough-talking homegirl with just enough sweetness and finesse that you don’t mind bringing her home to meet your mama. Kiesha doesn’t always paint a pretty picture of D.C., but her words provide a necessary window into the reality that many people live every day in the nation’s capital.

D.C. Don Juan, Writer’s Bloque, Vol. 2: Owe It to ‘Em


Don Juan has seen just about everything during his career as a recording artist. He’s been signed to both independent and major label recording deals, he’s worked with legends like Cam’ron and Tony Yayo, and he’s even created content for corporate entities like BET and the NBA. But at the end of the day Don Juan is a rapper—a very good one—and he’s back with a superb new album entitled Writer’s Bloque 2. Many of the songs are autobiographical—testaments to the wins and losses he’s experienced in the music business. Don Juan is an OG in this game and is willing to dispense sage advice to younger rappers, and while doing so he likes to sprinkle in a few humble brags, like on the song “Couple Dollars:” “Since I been a youngin’ I’ve been part of the payroll/ Related to the Hard Knock Life before they played Hov.”

Rae Shine, “Enough”Lucky 7 Music Group

Rae Shine may be the hungriest MC in the city right now, and she’s definitely eating well. Her new single “Enough,” featuring Chris Deshield, is a breezy rap/soca/dancehall mash-up heating up dance floors and radio airwaves around the globe. But don’t let the international flavor of the song fool you—she’s a 100 percent ride-or-die hip-hop head.  Her captivating wordplay on the “Look Alive” freestyle is essential listening. Rae Shine’s musical versatility, relentless ambition, and verbal creativity should put her on the radar of every major label executive looking for the next big thing.