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Keeping tabs on D.C. hip-hop is miserable. You have exciting prospects and well-oiled brands making moves, and then there’s everything else: Twitter thugs, DatPiff trolls, YouTube street fighters. There’s a wealth of kids with enough digital means to routinely indict each other on camera in beef-driven clips (let’s grow up and all get this money, Fat Trel and Shy Glizzy). Still, it’s been a fruitful year for the region. D.C. may lack a signature sound, but it remains a diverse market of learned dudes who love music, which has yielded lots of excellent, subversive stuff.
Here are our favorite DMV hip-hop tracks so far this year: no favors, no politics, and we made it a point to segue the song by Trel’s Slutty Boyz crew into the one by Glizzy. In a first, we’re matching words with bundled files we encourage readers to download and bump during power outages, mayoral coups, and first place runs atop the NL East. Streets is clicking.
1. JP the Truth — “The Arrival”
Here’s one way to stand out in the DMV: Ditch the Luger-lite beats for a minute and get truly economical. (Joe Warminsky)
2. Sluttzy Boyz — “Trick Bag”
“Oompa loompa bounce” is one of those things you can’t expect to ever say but are really happy you can when you do. We should all thank Young Clip. (Carlos Perez)
3. Shy Glizzy — “I Come From Nothing”
Hooks like these (“BITCH I COME FROM NOTHING”) are meant to bellowed out. You gotta feel it in your chest, know what I’m sayin? (Carlos Perez)
4. Young Moe — “Take a Breath”
I can’t think of any other rap song that makes a theremin and schmaltzy hook work like Moe does here, and boy do I listen to a lot of theremin shit. (Carlos Perez)
6. Lyriciss — “Get It & Go”
We all want more money, especially if you’re part of the 99 percent. On this standout, New Carrollton MC Lyriciss glamorizes the rat race over producer Soulful!’s head-nodding mixture. Let the chase begin. (Marcus J. Moore)
7. Smash — “Thank God”
Baltimore’s Smash is actually pretty big in his media market. You would never know, because he hasn’t been able to gain any traction with D.C. radio stations. I’m just now beginning to understand the intricate politics of D.C. vs. Baltimore hip-hop, but I can comfortably recommend dude’s raps. (Ramon Ramirez)
8. Topdolla Sweizy — “Show Money”
Topdolla’s been catching fire with the Solbiato-clad kids up in Northeast for the better part of the year, despite the fact that none of his music has ever been released for sale. And yet still, his bank account’s got bank accounts and his commas they got commas. Show money! (Carlos Perez)
9. Dew Baby — “My Money”
This is kind of a banger. (Joe Colly)
10. Sean Born — “Pluck ‘Em Off”
“OGs still in jail, my man,” Sean Born proclaims at the top of this track. From there, the Queen Anne MC utilizes prominent bass drums and well-timed organ drops to warn against the street’s harsh entrapments. This is “trap rap” for the ’90s soul. (Marcus J. Moore)
11. Garvey the Chosen One — “Roller”
Hide your girl, your daughters, your ma, your sisters, your aunts, your cousins, your grandma, your great-grandma, and maybe your pets, too. (Joe Warminsky)
12. Lightshow — “Still”
Representing for gangstas across the world? That’s some 2001 shit. YBonDaBeat is giving out thumpers like this regularly and he’s just down the block. That’s sustainability, son. (Carlos Perez)
13. Yung Gleesh — “Yesterday”
Street optimism dictates you either a) be grateful at the end of a good but rare day; or b) spend a little early-morning time just celebrating that yesterday is done with. Gleesh chose the latter. Listen to him celebrate. (Carlos Perez)
14. Fatz Da Big Fella featuring Wale — “Spill”
I’ll say this about Wale: If you’re an up-and-comer from the area he’s almost always down to smoke you out. (Ramon Ramirez)
15. Boobe — “Don’t Text Me”
It’s not the first computer-love song nor will it be the last, but it’s definitely one of the grumpiest. (Joe Warminsky)
16. Tabi Bonney — “On Jupiter”
Here, Bonney instills the help of his father, Itadi, with a dusty Afro-funk loop. Combine that with light guitar strings, and you’ve got a breezy ride through D.C., with Tabi at the helm. (Marcus J. Moore)
17. Fat Trel — “Benning Rd.”
I always hang a left off Benning to get on East Capitol SE en route to FedEx Field. I like to picture Fat Trel doing the same thing but in a much nicer car. (Ramon Ramirez)
18. Oddisee — “Ready to Rock”
Oddisee’s avant-garde beats routinely humble competitors because it doesn’t matter if he’s lost in strings or wielding a hammer on the drums, his music is never mistaken for anything other than textbook hip-hop. (Ramon Ramirez)
Special thanks to friends of Arts Desk Tony Perez and Patrick Tedrow for providing album art and the album’s intro.