Here's a question with no right answer: Why hasn't a Baltimore rapper broken through the city confines?
There have been glimmers of hope. Caddy Da Don caught a quick flame last year with "Grindin' On Me," but his momentum slowed. Mullyman once had a video in MTV Jams' rotation, but couldn't repeat it. Los, signed to Diddy's Bad Boy Records, is probably our current best hope for a star, and there's no sign when his major-label debut will hit shelves.
But the truth is, there's something more interesting going on here. A scene is emerging, and it's not chasing a quick payday or a fleeting fad. Artists are developing distinctive voices and perspectives in real time, through visually arresting videos, passionate live performances and, of course, the music itself. Many hip-hop artists in the city are carving out their own lanes, and in the process, cultivating a community with a unique take on one of the world's most influential art forms.
We couldn't include them all here, so consider this a small but notable sampling of the city's most promising rappers. Those waiting impatiently for Baltimore's own version of Wale should call off the search, and instead check out these five rising artists. Ultimately, it won't matter if they make it to top of the Billboard charts or not. They have made -- and will likely continue to make -- great music, and that's what matters most. (Al Great, Dunson, Kane Mayfield and Jay Verze photographed by Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun Scarlett photographed by Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore Sun)
"Can I crash on the couch for the weekend / I broke lease and I get no sleep 'cause I'm in too deep," raps the Columbia native Dunson on his new single, "Broke Ass Dope Ass Rapper." You can watch the video above.
The track — which finds Dunson rapping about the struggles to make it in the music industry — was produced by the MC and his frequent collaborators the Phatboiz. It will be featured on his forthcoming release, "Outlier" (due in September).
I featured Dunson, a former Baltimore financial advisor, in my 2012 feature on city rappers on the rise. Since then, he's been featured on a single by R&B singer Chrisette Michele ("Can the Cool Be Loved?") and earned a production credit on Yo Gotti's album ("Respect That You Earn"). Earlier this month, he freestyled over Drake's "Lord Knows" on Philadelphia's Hot 107.9, which you can watch here.
Read more about Dunson here.
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