XXL spotlights 10 Baltimore hip-hop acts, making approximately 10 people happy
A Super Bowl victory is the kind of thing that brings attention to the whole city, even the parts of it that have nothing to with football. So this week, the XXL used the Ravens’ big win as an opportunity to post “10 Baltimore rappers that you need to know.” There are some no-brainers in the list, particularly King Los and Mullyman, who were both in the running for XXL’s annual “Freshman 10” issue a year ago (Los is once again nominated this year). C.O.M.P. and Skarr Akbar are cornerstones of the scene, DBoi Da Dome has racked up some radio hits, and Miss Cream is a respectable choice as a representative for both the Kartel crew and the city’s many notable female rappers. But those were the only acts on the list I’d heard of, leaving four more: Em Sea Water, Mooked Out, and the groups StarVation and Off Tha Edge.
The Baltimore hip-hop twittersphere would have thrown a fit no matter who was on the list, but nearly half of it being comprised total unknowns even within the scene certainly fanned the flames. The article even linked Mooked Out’s latest release on the mixtape site DatPiff where, as of this writing, it has 4 downloads and 14 streams (one of which was me). But XXL’s tweets promoting the article referred to the list as “10 new rappers you need to know” (words not used in the piece itself), which also focused some of the criticism on the older MCs on the list. Three of the rappers on XXL’s list have been kicking around long enough that they also appeared on the fun Baltimore Hip-Hop Trading Cards I helped City Paper put together way back in 2006 (and believe me, not everyone was happy about who was or wasn’t picked for that). Mullyman, Skarr Akbar, and C.O.M.P. have remained prolific in recent years, but were perhaps not ideal choices for demonstrating Baltimore’s “next wave.”
The author of the XXL article, Kimberly Brown, is a local who works at Sinclair Broadcast Group and contributes to The Baltimore Times. She clearly knows the scene well enough to have covered some bases pretty well, and simply chose to spotlight some lesser known acts she happened to like to fill out the rest of the list. That the post isn’t ranked and doesn’t make any claims to a definitive “top 10” gives her the right to do that. And the calls on Twitter for a “real list” are predicated on a fantasy that there’d ever be one that everyone would be happy with. Still active veterans of the city’s ‘90s hip-hop scene like K-Mack or Labtekwon could’ve gotten a mention. So could genre-busting dancefloor-friendly MCs like Rye Rye or DDm. There are Baltimore rappers like Test or A$AP Ant, who are affiliated with hot mainstream stars (Future and A$AP Rocky, respectively). 92Q listeners might expect to see local radio darlings Caddy Da Don and Smash. And there’s a whole wave of rappers getting national attention via blogs, like Rickie Jacobs and Kane Mayfield. There, I just
named another 10 rappers, and there are still some guys feeling left out right now.