I’ve never been to Detroit but I grew up in Toronto, with Michigan just across the lake. Between Chicago and Detroit, the Midwest is having a moment right now. The cities are exploding with promising young rappers and overlooked local legends, Bandcamp, Twitter and YouTube providing the crucial arteries to broker homegrown talent to the masses.

Danny Brown has emerged as the breakout star of Michigan’s new class but there’s more that people aren’t picking up on. Certainly Brown’s Bruiser Brigade posse (Dopehead, Chip$, SKYWLKR, Chavis Chandler and TRPLBLK) is fueling much of the buzz. But to only discuss Danny and his affiliates overlooks the earnest reflection of Young Scolla, Willie the Kid’s elaborate similes and Sheefy McFly’s absurdist shit-talking.It’s time you took a ride through the Dirty D and meet 9 members of Michigan’s new class.Aaron Matthews

Boldy James – “Ground Beneath My Feet”

Boldy is the oldest freshman here, having dropped his first tape at 29 last year. Blessed with a dusty Prodigy-esque monotone and a gift for evocative, detail-oriented writing, Boldy offers wise meditations on hustling.

ZIP: Boldy James – Consignment: Favor for a Favor

Dopehead – “Airbags”

Danny Brown’s cousin effortlessly hilarious punchlines with literate, thoughtful reflections on life in the inner city. King of disrespectful similes – your girl’s stomach looks like a flat tire, etc.

Willie The Kid – “Waste Not, Want Not”

Once groomed as DJ Drama’s protégé, Grand Rapids’ native son has established his own voice. A former high school wiz kid, Willie pens vivid, filmic imagery in the vein of Nas and AZ at their prime.

ZIP: Willie the Kid – The Cure 2

Chavis Chandler – “OFTLOA”

The youngest out the Bruiser Brigade, Chavis Chandler’s throaty tone belies his 21 years. He moves gracefully from double-time flows to heartfelt crooning and conveys both braggadocio and sincerity with ease.

ZIP: Chavis Chandler – Breath of Fresh Air II (Left-Click)


Young Scolla – “Reflection”

Mixes confident introspection, thoughtfulness and an impeccable ear for hooks. “Reflection” is two minutes of fierce rapping crumbling into a synth freak-out halfway through.

ZIP: Young Scolla - Built for More (Left-Click)

Dusty McFly – “Ticket”

Detroit’s closest thing to T.I., Dusty is a pint-size pimp with an easy flow and a knack for ingratiatingly distasteful shit talk.

ZIP: Dusty McFly – Buffie’s Benihana’s (Left-Click)

Sheefy McFly – “Eating Sushi Slapping Hoes”

Producer/rapper/keyboardist Sheefy McFly is a frequent collaborator with Brown, Boldy James and Chip$. He combines Danny Brown’s absolute lack of fuck-giving with Lil B swag-rap and braincrushing, ramshackle beats. It’s just fun.

Jon Connor – “Reppin 4 Flint”

Flint, MI rapper mixes a rugged voice with versatile flows, concept-driven lyricism and a sincerity that can’t be faked.

ZIP: Jon Connor & Green Lanter – The Blue Album