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Brandon Callender sold Chuck Brown his first guitar
For the second straight year, the DMV wins my pick for Best Regional Underdog Scene. A statue of a chicken wing dripping in mumbo sauce is being delivered to PG County as we speak, because in 2018, they showed that no other area can make better shit-talking and flex music.
Last year, Goldlink’s “Crew” almost singlehandedly snatched the award for the greater D.C, Maryland and Va. area. Let it be known: if your party/kickback didn’t include Shy Glizzy screaming “YOUNG JEFE HOLMES,” it was probably trash.
In 2018, the youth took over. They set out on a quest to make music that (let me borrow some DMV slang for a sec) “cranked.” In the DMV, the punchline is the key to success. If your reference game isn’t on point, you won’t see any success. They also thrive in high energy situations; all of them race against the beat, some even rapping so far ahead of the beat that only Blueface might be able to catch them.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Glizzy isn’t on here because he’s been famous for a half-decade. Rico Nasty is already a national star. I could write an endless amount of words about every DMV artist that deserves your time. These are just the ones I’ve enjoyed the most.
Every Black Fortune song is an electric attempt to overload the bass capacity of your system. “DMV Anthem” offers a literal tribute to the DMV, where he’s rapping in the middle of a Chinese food restaurant, his accent is audible as he screams that he’s “Murriland-ass nigga who puts Mumbo Sauce on everything.” The music video helps make the song’s hook iconic — a simple reminder that he’s from the DMV and that knows how to beat his feet. You’re pulled into a dance circle where Black Fortune’s at the center. He’s cheered by his boys with an infectious “FUCK ‘EM UP MOE!”
On “Bandana,” he brags about getting missiles from the Middle East and putting lean in his Hi-C juice boxes. They’re obviously unbelievable and yet strong flexes. He brags about copping a bust down G-Shock too, and I can’t even remember the last time I saw someone wear a G-Shock watch (sorry). On another song, he reassures his clientele — saying that if they need gas, he “grows it like a Chia Pet.”
His 2018 release, Osshrock, is 36 straight minutes of him putting his foot on the gas pedal and accelerating into the vanishing point. And in case you need an outside co-sign, Kenny Beats brought him out at a concert in November and lavishly praised his work.
The DMV’s premier whisper rapper makes skin-crawling threats over mysterious beats. His “Hey Auntie” adlib is one of rap’s most sinister and best kept secrets. On paper, it sounds completely harmless; there’s nothing wrong with greeting your aunt, right? But preceding it is always a line where Goonew talks about how his aunt is one of his best customers. You can hear the smirk in his voice whenever he says it.
On Stain’s remix, Duwap Kaine adds his own spin to Goonew’s flow, both of them sliding ahead of the whimsical but brooding beat. It sounds like something ripped from a video game, but Goonew has more bludgeoning intentions: “Homicide, that’s two to the brain / I’m with Duwap and he bustin’ ya brain.” There’s a coldness behind his threats that makes it feel like much more than a boast.
His most recent project, Positive Goon, a collaboration with fellow DMV rapper Lil Gray, rounds the year off on a strong note. He cruelly taunts all his opps — asking them how they feel about watching their OGs die, and then quickly answers that question for them: they “feel like a bitch.”
YungManny is only 15 years old yet but already impossible to ignore. Much like Will Smith, he doesn’t curse in any of his music. Instead of guns, his music videos feature him and the rest of his crew pointing the same drills directly at the camera. All of this stuff is weird, and it helps him stands out. He’s the youngest rapper on this list and already one of the DMV’s best shittalkers.
His biggest song is “Moana,” 2 minutes and 30 seconds full of punchlines and menace. The track is radiating with energy and makes sitting still impossible. After every lyric, Manny pauses to give you ample time to recover from your ‘sheesh,” then hits you with another bar just as good.
Despite not being old enough to drive, he’s dropping some of the most savage music out. He raps over similarly dark piano tones like Goonew, but combines them with even more pounding bass and snare hits. On Mannyx2, featuring Young Manni of Rich Shootas, he throws some more hilarious bars at you, saying that he ran off on the plug “like Sonic & Knuckles.”
If I didn’t tell you he was 15, you’d still be able to tell through his references. He has an unlimited supply of Disney references, claiming that he’ll remix the work like Disney Junior’s DJ Shuffle. He even says he holds guns like he’s trying to play the Wii. We need more rappers to reference obscure Disney Channel shows in 2019.
Q Da Fool
Including Q Da Fool in this list is like using cheat codes in a Rockstar game. You shouldn’t do it, but you do it anyway because it’s the right thing to do. Out of everyone here, his name carries the most weight outside of the DMV. The Roc Nation artist is part of Rich Shootas, a DMV collective consisting of him, OG Dolla, Fat Max, and Young Manni (not to be confused with Young Manny) to name a few.
He’s one of the most compelling storytellers in the region. Take Shy Glizzy’s “Rich Shooters,” where it feels like he’s sitting directly in front of you, spilling his heart out over a stripped down, minimalist and moody beat.
But for Q Da Fool, it’s just another day in the recording booth. See “Fell In Love,” a lead single from No Competition, where he exposes his pain and balances it with an avowed love for gunsmoke, caskets, drama and beef. He smiles right at the camera while pointing finger guns directly at you.
Yet his honesty and vulnerability sets him apart. He’s one of those artists that you have to stick with for his entire career arc. In a Fader interview, he talked about how his Roc Nation deal came at the perfect time, as he now has two sons he’s extremely thankful for. He made sure he was noticed in 2018, by working with CardoGotWings and Zaytoven, but also helped expand on a catalog that figures to make him a legend for years to come.
I first heard Xanman on YungManny’s mixtape, Hey Manny, and all I can remember is him yelling that he keeps 2012 bullets in the clip “like a Mayan.”(He also makes a cameo as the golf cart driver in Manny’s “Bitcoin” video, but that’s a story for another time.)
One of the more melodic rappers in the DMV, Xanman sings about having a customized two-tone glock and that he just copped a new chopper from some “Russian guys.” He brags about attending Yale because he’s trapper of the year, wiping his nose with the barrel of his handgun, saying that his uzi’s gonna blow “like a dandelion.” On “Drug Man,” he dances and laughs in your face saying that “you can’t get a picture ‘cause you cropped out.” It’s a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that you can’t find anywhere else. Except for the moment, you can’t find any new songs from him at all. He was arrested in early November, causing the DMV’s rap scene to rally behind him. #FreeXan
SuckaFreeJuice’s flow on “Dis & Dat” reminds me a lot of those cypher videos from a few years back where every line is followed by an emphatic ‘mmm.’ It takes a lot of confidence to sample “Billie Jean,” but SuckaFreeJuice doesn’t even seem to acknowledge that, racing against the beat, talking down anyone who’s ever wronged him.
He raps “used to be nice to these bitches, a gentleman / then I found out they only like Benjamins.” He doesn’t pause after his punchlines like YungManny, his are all rapidfire. They never stop coming, forcing you to replay the song to catch whatever you missed.
On “Dis & Dat Pt. 2,” he samples Thriller, showing that he’ll rip any Michael Jackson sample apart. He sneaks in a nasty threat — saying that he’ll “do you dirty like Ricky.” He also assures fans that “crank keep comin,” as he dropped several projects in 2018. He’s not lying either — on Instagram he’s already teased one project for 2019.