Last week, Maryland artist Goldlink accused Philly artist Lil Uzi Vert of using the “DMV flow” on his vibrant “Free Uzi” record. The flow in question is the melodic avalanche of triplet bars Uzi used as he kicked into the heart of his verses. It was popularized in part by PG County, Maryland artists like Shabazz PBG, Roc Nation signee Q Da Fool, and the currently incarcerated Big Flock. (It’s also worth noting that New Jersey-born rapper Hoodrich Pablo Juan uses a similar cadence on many records.)
It’s likely Uzi was just paying homage to an area he has love for. He did gloat that “when I’m in DC they call me Moe” on 2016’s “Grab The Wheel,” and recently collaborated with Shabazz on last year’s “Shells” record.
While one could debate the merits of flow ownership all day, the true wonder is that young artists in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area popularly known as the “DMV” even have a flow that’s unmistakable to the region. Though the term “DMV” refers to the immediate DC metropolitan area to locals (if you can’t take the DC Metro there, you aren’t in the DMV), the national interpretation of the term factors in Baltimore, which boasts artists like Young Moose who is also making noise for the region.
Just a decade ago, when Wale was an XXL Freshman, and other early 2010s forebearers like Shy Glizzy and Fat Trel hadn’t yet broken through nationally, the DMV’s hip-hop scene was locally confined. But the successes of pioneering artists such as Wale, Glizzy, Trel, and Tabi Bonney, which coincided with the decline of the area’s popular Go-Go sound (due to gentrification and fewer music programs), pushed a generation of DMV’s young millennials into the booth. Now, the scene is full of talented artists, and they’re making waves all over the country.
While younger artists like Logic, Goldlink, and increasingly, Rico Nasty, are becoming household names, there are still a range of other names on the cusp. Here are just a few:
This time next year, Rico probably won’t be on “up and coming” lists anymore. The rambunctious 21-year-old is gaining a cult following with an intriguing visual aesthetic and a truly unapologetic, in-your-face brand of rap that makes her live performances veritable punk shows with flying wigs and spitting-in-mouths — seriously. She first broke through in 2017 with songs like “iCarly” and “Hey Arnold,” before catching more fire with last year’s Nasty mixtape, headlined by “Countin Up” and “Smack A B*tch.” This year, songs like “Tia Tamera” with Doja Cat have her poised for an even higher plateau. More than many young artists, it’s clear that Rico has that unquantifiable something that people want from their stars, and she’s bold enough to give it to them.
Q Da Fool
Rico Nasty’s energetic sound excels with an air of playfulness. Largo rapper Q Da Fool’s, frankly, does not. The 22-year-old Roc Nation artist is at his best delivering menacing narratives of the area’s underbelly over churning trap production. He started out rapping as part of the Pakk Boyz with a slew of other young artists, including Shabazz PBG. After spending various stints in jail, he came out and broke through as a solo artist with 2017’s Hundred Round Goon project, which featured the street-money-flashing “Numbers.” 2018 saw him sign to Roc Nation and release No Competition as well as 100 Keys with Zaytoven. He recently collaborated with another in-demand producer in Kenny Beats on Bad Influence, a stellar six-song EP. He’s set to become one of the DMV’s premier voices of the streets, and he’s on the right team to project his story to the world.
PG County’s IDK is one of the most ambitious artists in any region. His 2015 SubTrap mixtape, released as Jay IDK, was an introduction to a sound he deemed Suburban Trap, or “trap music with substance.” That philosophy has served as the mandate for the rest of his work, including 2017’s IWasVeryBad. The project marked him as one of the most intriguing, creative young artists in the game. First, he collaborated with Adult Swim to visually present the album through their well-respected platform, then he created an extended visual with Noisey which turned his lyrical narrative of life in PG County into the soundtrack of a short film. Last year, he released IDK & Friends, a collaborative EP which featured “Once Upon A Time,” a collaboration with Denzel Curry that has stoked demand for a collab project from the two.
Ras Nebyu’s thoughtful, melodic sound has made his Slizzards movement one of the most visible in the area. The MC/producer has been steadily releasing quality music for years, imbuing audiences with relatable narratives and insightful lyrics inspired by his Slizzatrism movement, which he has said “is the art of finessing good energy to work in your favor by way of meditation, pure intent and acknowledgment of your ancestors.” The Uptown Lion Walkin is clearly in tune, not just spiritually, but with where hip-hop is going, as his melodic, sound fuses the best elements of trap and traditionalist hip-hop aesthetics into a package that’s undeniably fresh.