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What's up with hip-hop

Over the 12 days leading up to Christmas, formerly Baltimore-based rapper and poet Slick Vic Low unveiled 12 tracks from his new mixtape, It's a Wonderful Life, in which he raps over beats by famed producer 9th Wonder (who made his own name providing new beats to Nas tracks). Five years ago, Slick Vic Low announced his retirement from performing after winning the World War 1 poetry slam at the 5 Seasons. Fortunately for his fans, however, he seems not to have stuck to that resolution.

Another Baltimore artist who both raps and writes poetry, E the poet-emcee, recently published Fear of a Black Poet, a "lyric sheet" in book form. The volume is available for $5 from boombapsyntax.com.

Baltimore rapper StarrZ capped off 2013-a year in which he enjoyed the local hit "Dope Trilla" and had Relumae Records/Sony Records working his crossover single "Dance All Night"-with the release of his long-awaited new album, Live Forever, Die Dope. The music was debuted at a listening party at Club Oxygen in December, and the CD is available for purchase from starrzshop.bigcartel.com.

This year, J. Oliver, the prolific producer of tracks by Baltimore rappers like Los as well as national stars like French Montana and Meek Mill, will gear up his own solo career as a singer and rapper. This week he's releasing the self-produced solo track "695," featuring a plethora of Baltimore stars: rapper 100 Grandman, singer Paula Campbell, and DJ and 92Q personality Jay Claxton.

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