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Early Wednesday morning, XXL magazine unveiled its “2013 Freshman” cover, shining the spotlight on a “new” class of MCs. As usual, it’s become the year’s most talked-about hip-hop magazine cover and a lightning rod of controversy. Some said including ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Joey Bada$$, Action Bronson, Trinidad James, and honorary rookie Chief Keef was atonement for last year’s heavily criticized list. Others were left with questions. Namely, “Who the hell is Logic?”
In 2012, I named Montgomery County rapper Logic a DMV rapper to watch in Complex magazine. Prince George’s County MC Lyriciss says Logic deserved the shine in XXL. Via email, Lyriciss writes that the hard-touring MC “got it off of hard work and really building an organic fanbase.” But he says, “A lot of people in this area don’t quite get it, because he took a route most here didn’t.” He’s referring to Logic’s unconventional ascent outside of the area’s historically black college circuit. “He earned it, though,” Lyriciss writes.
Logic’s place on the cover boosted Lyriciss’ own drive. “Man, it inspires me heavily,” he writes. “I was about to go to sleep, but stayed up another hour to write a couple more songs. Every time I see somebody here win, it reminds me that it’s possible. I always feel close to it then get a little discouraged at times, so it gets my mind right.” Logic is the first local rapper since Wale to grace the coveted cover. —-Julian Kimble
An Amuse Bouche of Fat Trel
If large doses of Fat Trel bum you out, “Duffle Bag (Faded)” distills his outlaw appeal down to a stout haiku-ish chorus: “Bad bitch/robberies/Dirty money/Lawyer fees,” etc. That leaves a lot of room on the track—-a leak from the upcoming We the DMV mixtape by the Product 8129 team—-for Lyriciss and Phil Da Phuture, two MCs who have differing experience levels with contemporary stoned-out sounds. We know L can kill on boom-bap and soul, but here he sounds like he’s tryin’ things on for size. Phil, meanwhile, has done a credible “Peso” freestyle, among other things, so he’s got a firm idea of how the groove can handle a mouthful like, “‘Cause all I heard was gunshots and ice cream trucks/And all my cousins pumped rocks to get them new bikes and stuff.” —-Joe Warminsky
X.O. Behind the Camera
Uptown X.O. can be counted on for a regular stream of D.C.-situated videos—oh hey, here’s another brand new one today, also called “Spread Love”—-and now the camera-embracing MC is directing them for other rappers, too. He’s done at least four for fellow uptowner Priest, including the new “Like Bosses.” Partially shot in the Chevy Chase Maggiano’s (“Wee thugged it out,” X.O. jested on Instagram), it has lots of familiar things, including high-contrast photography, Champagne flutes, a Nationals hat, on-the-beat rhymes (“My watch stuck on grind time/Hustles I got several/Keep that money in-house/That’s internal revenue”) and an emphatic street beat by L.A.’s DJ Scarface. —-JW
We know that Maimouna Youssef can sing. Her 2011 album, The Blooming, was a fluid display of her keen vocal capability, even while she dissed phony rappers or did a little roleplay in Brazil. But most folks aren’t privy to her technical rapping skills: Before she sang with The Roots and crashed Dave Chappelle’s block-party stage, Youssef recorded a full hip-hop album with her MC partner, Cirius B. Youssef recently unearthed a throwback cut, “I Can Get Beside Myself,” on which the two trade furious bars. Atop a dark piano loop, Youssef raps about fake chicks. She’s also a bit more furious than we’re used to hearing: “You got a problem with Luna, then nigga come see me.” —-Marcus J. Moore
Nando’s Love Machine
On Monday, Nike Nando dropped his latest project, SprdLv. (We recently posted a leaked track and one that didn’t make the cut that were both pretty strong.) With help from Tabi Bonney, The Kid Daytona, and Scolla, the 14-track collection offers a refreshing thesis: These tracks are about sharing good vibes, and they chronicle his mission to do so.
SprdLv opens with the title track, where Nando flows over a Drew Beats horn-heavy production. “Months of stressin’ and plannin’ now I bring this to you/Never conformin’, I’m busy, we got some major moves,” he rhymes, establishing the project’s tone. On “Valarie,” one of the mixtape’s best tracks, he talks about the difficulties of interracial relationships; on the Era Hardaway-produced “World Domination,” he lays out his plot to place the world in the palm of his hand. The Clash-sampling “301,” his version of Jay-Z‘s “Where I’m From,” has him venting about having to balance music with a day job he hates. Nando occasionally falls into the familiar “ball so hard” trap, but he maintains a balance with relatable lyrics about daily trials and tribulations—-and a lot of genuine appreciation for his fans. On the introspective closer “Just Do It,” Nando reveals his motivation: He’s “in love with the love.” —-JK
‘Folkz Goes to Hell
Rapper ‘Folkz (formerly known as Whitefolkz) is one of the most carefree rappers in D.C. That always makes his music at least interesting—-even if you’re slightly unnerved by the tunes. He’s himself, and that goes a long way. He turns it up a notch in his recently released video for “Angel Dust.” Just in time for Easter, he plays the devil on the fictional Hell Shopping Network. —MJM