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2007′s First Local Hip-Hop Highlights

March 30, 2007

Baltimore’s under-the-radar rap scene has never been as bustling and diverse as it is right now. While more new albums and mixtapes drop each week than City Paper could ever dream of covering, and there are still some recent releases we’ve yet to hear–Comp, Skarr Akbar, Musse’ Mus’, and Young Dip come to mind–this is the local hip-hop we were jamming to in the first quarter of 2007.

1) Darkroom ProductionsHamsterdam Vol. 2 – Stash to da Strip
The sequel to Darkroom’s 2005 breakthrough mixtape would be a local music event for no other reason than the half-dozen of its songs that appeared in season 4 of The Wire. But the production is a step up from the Darkroom duo’s previous work, with a topnotch guest list of local MCs including Mullyman, Tyree Colion, NOE, and Golden Seal.

2) OgunBmore Hero
Ogun hit his stride at some point after dropping his second album, 2005′s Real on Purpose, as he distilled his gruff, no-nonsense persona into a flurry of memorable songs spread across various compilations and mixtapes over the past couple years. So while most of the best moments on Bmore Hero won’t be news to anyone who’s been following Ogun’s growth, it’s good to finally have all those tracks in one place.

3) Jade FoxAshes of Another Life
Sometimes it sounds like Baltimore’s got more quality female MCs than male ones, and with her debut album, Jade Fox quietly claims her place among the ladies who run the game. But Ashes–a cohesive 10-song set of lengthy verses over melodic, eclectic production–is unlike just about anything any other rapper in town, male or female, has on the market right now.

4) TestMeTestMe Talk, Vol. 2
“What It Is”–the manic, horn-driven single from 19-year-old TestMe–might be the best local track that 92Q has put into daily rotation in a blue moon. And unlike most of the other teenage rappers 92Q plays incessantly these days, he’s not signed to a label owned by one of the station’s DJs. On his second solo mixtape, TestMe, a member of the group U.A. Mobb, sounds so much like Lil Wayne that it’s occasionally distracting, especially when you start wondering where TetMe got that Southern accent. But fortunately, the kid’s wordplay is sharp enough that he can stand up to the scrutiny of a comparison with arguably the best rapper alive right now.

5) HeightWinterize the Game
Height is more a product of the eccentric local IDM/noise boys that birthed brainiacs like Cex and Dan Deacon than any local rap ciphers. And instead of a ride through the slums of Baltimore, his third solo album is a short, surreal trip through his subconscious, with guest appearances by Grand Buffet and Bow ‘N’ Arrow along the way. And like we said before, it’s got an awesome title.

Check these out for starters, and next week we’ll run down five more notable local hip-hop releases from the first part of the year.