Regionality in rap, like it was in much of the 90s, is becoming a point of emphasis again as artists in different corners of the country are realizing the power in playing to their core. Vulture's Craig Jenkins recently touched on this when he assessed three new albums from LA rappers Nipsey Hussle, Tyga, and Cozz, and how each felt disinterested in catering to the desires of the masses, especially if that meant they couldn't remain grounded in what was sure to work for them.
This kind of thinking is what helped the DMV's GoldLink have a career year in 2017 with his album At What Cost which exclusively pulled from his experiences growing up in the area. But GoldLink is not an anomaly. Over the past two years, the DC and Maryland region has remained fairly insulated, but that sense of isolation has produced a rap scene that has thrived from an overwhelming majority of local support. In DC, Shy Glizzy remains king. His December mixtape Quiet Storm was his strongest showing in years. In Prince George's County, Maryland—just outside of The District—Q Da Fool, who's just starting to make some national traction, has cemented himself as the DMV's most exciting new artist due to his unorthodox, sing-songy raps and his tireless output. In Baltimore, YBS Skola and Bandhunta Izzy are the most promising.
While those aforementioned artists are ones that many outside of the region are familiar with, there is a hefty amount of locally-adored rappers who haven't broken out to the outside world. Below is some of the best rap to come out of the area in February—some from familiar voices, but mostly unknown on the national stage.
Q Da Fool - "Rat Time"
Q Da Fool's "Rat Time" embodies what makes the Largo, Maryland rapper so effective: delivering life stories through wailing, melodic bars. The song, which has 90,000 views on its video in just ten days, doesn't appear to be tied to any project, though Q just released his No Competition tape at the top of the year. In recent weeks, he's teased a collaborative tape with legendary Atlanta producer Zaytoven called 100 Keys.
Peso Da Mafia - "Winning"
In Baltimore, the rappers who tend to resonate most with the city are ones whose content is primarily made up of hard hitting anthems that deal with life in the streets. But with artists like the Creek Boyz and Lor Choc on the rise, significant space has been given to more soulful takes on that experience. Cheerful trio Peso Da Mafia fits in this new local wave as well. Their most recent single "Winning," is a uptempo celebration of recent success, which is fittingly acted out by fooling around in Miami's palm tree-lined South Beach.
Big Don Bino - "10 Band Brick"
There's very little debate that Shy Glizzy is Southeast DC's biggest musical export, but a new exciting voice from the DC quadrant is Big Don Bino. If you listen close, his tone of voice and DC accent are reminiscent of local standout Yung Gleesh, but Bino is nowhere near as eccentric as the Gleesh walk pioneer. In less than three weeks, Bino's "10 Band Brick" song and video has racked up close to 250,000 views, making it one of the area's hottest songs. The lack of pauses in his flow makes it hard to distinguish his hooks from his verses, but that unwavering energy is one of his strongest attributes. He showed the same ability in his late January release "Rap Niggas," which used some of the genre's biggest stars as clever pawns for his wordplay. It also doesn't hurt that Bino is part of Q Da Fool's Rich Shootas crew, which is surely helping his local buzz.
G Baby - "Bad Habits"
G Baby gained wide recognition on the Baltimore street rap scene in 2016 as an acutely aware 17-year-old with a penchant for storytelling. His delivery is an interesting mesh of influences, which aren't difficult to detect. The 19-year-old East Baltimore native's flow pattern and the way he drags his bars out are both a direct link to New Orleans rappers like C-Murder, who quite-obviously borrowed much of his swag from Death Row-era 2 Pac. Those elements can all be heard in G Baby's most recent single "Bad Habits," a sinister bop about not being able to shake his sometimes-erratic behavior.
Kelow Latesha - "Purge"
Rico Nasty is by far the most visible woman rap star in the DMV right now after releasing her Sugar Trap 2 mixtape in 2017 and appearing on the soundtrack for HBO show Insecure's second season. But just before her, PG County's leading lady was Kelow Latesha, a much more slick and laid-back rapper than Rico. Kelow's style is one of the region's most versatile, as she's rapped on just about every kind of beat imaginable. Still, she specializes in hard-hitters about moving in on her love interests, which she maintains in new song "Purge."
Ciscero - "Function" Feat. GoldLink, April George, and Cheakity
Maryland rapper Ciscero was introduced to national audiences last year when he was a guest on GoldLink's At What Cost album with track "Same Clothes As Yesterday." Like Link, his music plays on the soulful side of rap, having frequent collaborations with R&B artists. At the top of this month, Ciscero released the first single from his debut tape Devil's Pie with "Function." The song is an energetic take on the things people need in their day-to-day lives to get by.
YGG Tay - "War"
If consistency is what separates the good from the great, then West Baltimore rapper YGG Tay is arguably the city's most decorated artist. Since last year, Tay has released three projects, all covering the different aspects of surviving in inner city Baltimore. Though Tay has become more well-rounded with songs opening up about family life and struggles he's faced, he's most known for his seemingly effortless ability to make anthems—mainly due to his gift for crafting catchy hooks. "War" from his February released YGG 3 EP is no exception. The song serves as a creeping public service announcement to anyone who considers crossing him.
Lawrence Burney is a staff writer at Noisey. Follow him on Twitter.