Baton Rouge has maintained a deep hip-hop talent pool for two decades, but the city has not broken through to the mainstream in comparison to New Orleans. The city's first entry towards national recognition came in the late 1990s courtesy of Young Bleed. Bleed's single "How You Do Dat" became a hit, and his album, My Balls and My Word, would be certified gold. That LP introduced the world to the Camp (formerly known as the not-so tasteful Concentration Camp), which housed the first real stars in Baton Rouge.
The Camp was led by C-Loc, who is the godfather of Baton Rouge rap. Many of the city's biggest names can be traced back to C-Loc, including Boosie BadAzz. The Camp also housed Max Minelli, perhaps the finest rapper that Baton Rouge has ever produced. While the Camp are certified legends in South Louisiana, it was their youngest member who became the city's first breakout star.
The aforementioned Boosie BadAzz (then known as Lil Boosie) got to make his debut in 2000 with his Youngest of da Camp album, and quickly rose up in the ranks in his hometown. Just a few years later, Boosie had linked up with Trill Entertainment in what would become the dominant label in Baton Rouge. Boosie's work with Webbie helped them turn into regional stars and later vaulted both men into the national spotlight. Boosie and Webbie became mainstream acts thanks to hits like "Zoom," "Wipe Me Down" and "Independent."
During the height of Trill Entertainment's run, Baton Rouge's jig music scene flourished. But much like bounce music in New Orleans, jig was very insular. Its local popularity did not translate outside very well. Perhaps for that reason, Baton Rouge did not find its next breakthrough star until the recent rise of Kevin Gates.
Kevin Gates opened eyes, showing off a different style from the Trill roster. And there's no denying that his success, such as the outstanding performance of his debut album, Islah, showed that Baton Rouge is a talent market that's worth exploring. YoungBoy Never Broke Again, 17, is the latest beneficiary of this new focus, gaining the recognition of both majors labels and the listening public. While he's currently incarcerated on two counts of attempted first-degree murder, that hasn't stopped him from releasing new music or expanding his fan base.
But YoungBoy is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Baton Rouge's hip-hop scene. With that mind, XXL introduces you to 12 of the city's rising rappers that need to be on your listening radar.
Marcel P. Black
Hometown: Ardmore, Okla. Twitter:@MarcelPBlack Notable Songs: "Stare and Whisper," "Boss" and "Trap Hop" Sounds Like: Killer Mike before Run The Jewels Why You Need to Know Him: Marcel P. Black originally came to Baton Rouge by way of Oklahoma, but has established himself as one of the city’s hip-hop leaders over the past decade. In addition to cultivating the local scene, Black has become an in-demand act on the regional circuit. Black’s rise has been an unlikely one, creating conscious rap in a Baton Rouge scene largely bereft of such content. The rapper found a winning formula in recent years by moving away from boom-bap beats to more traditional southern production. The switch reached its apex last year via Black's excellent Cry Freedom LP.
WNC Whop Bezzy
Hometown: Baton Rouge Twitter:@wncwhopbezzy Notable Songs: "You Know I Ain't Scared," "GYAB" and "Don't Start Me" Sounds Like: An uptempo Waka Flocka Why You Need to Know Him: WNC Whop Bezzy has star written all over him. WNC Da Label made a lot of noise as a unit, but it’s Whop who is the crown jewel of the collective. The young rapper’s raw energy comes through on every song, especially on the local hit “You Know I Ain't Scared.” The record became a sensation in Louisiana and even became a locker room anthem for the LSU and University of Texas at Austin football teams. Whop has proved he’s no fluke on subsequent releases, including his debut mixtape, G.R.E.G.
Hometown: Baton Rouge Twitter:@GoFarAR Notable Songs: "Lit Wavy," "Do You and Good Luck" and "Who Got Shot?" Sounds Like: The successor of Max Minelli Why You Need to Know Him: A.R. was once Baton Rouge’s best kept secret. That all changed in 2016, thanks to his breakthrough single “Lit Wavy.” The “Jiggy City Reppa” cut his teeth in the city’s underground scene and finally got his long deserved break when “Lit Wavy” received local radio play. A.R.’s versatility is his biggest weapon. He can easily rock a show full of hip-hop heads just as easily as he can entertain a club packed full of partygoers. Now that the secret is out, there’s no telling how far A.R. could go.
Hometown: Phenix City, Ala. Twitter:@rmstead_ Notable Songs: “SWRV,” “Lxrd Armstead” and “Tell Me a Lie” Sounds Like: If Kanye West was a more natural lyricist Why You Need to Know Him: If there is a transcendent talent in Baton Rouge, it’s Michael Armstead. Despite being in the relative infancy of his career, Armstead has attracted a diehard following through local events like The Bando. Armstead is an incredible live performer, stealing the show anytime he graces the stage. The MC/producer’s music currently bears a lot of similarities to Kanye West, but Armstead is a more gifted lyricist and natural singer. The young man’s ability to spit bars, hit high notes and craft his own beats have made it clear that it’s a matter of when, not if, he blows up.
Hometown: Baton Rouge Twitter:@scottycorleone Notable Songs: “Yea With the Yea,” “NBA Smoke” and “Believe Me” Sounds Like: An amalgamation of the last 20 years of Baton Rouge gangsta rap Why You Need to Know Him: It’s unfortunate that a wider audience’s introduction to Scotty Cain was his beef with NBA YoungBoy and the subsequent diss track “NBA Smoke." Cain seemed poised to be in the exact position that YoungBoy is now. In late 2014, Cain released a single called “Yea With the Yea” that became the biggest song in Baton Rouge. Its momentum continued throughout 2015, but Cain was not able to capitalize due to his legal woes. Since he got out of jail, Cain has reestablished himself as a player in B.R. with undeniable talent. If a few breaks go his way, there’s potential for him to be the next big name to come out of the city.
Hometown: Baton Rouge Twitter:@_QUAD Notable Songs: “Che Guevara,” “Tropic Blu” and “2 Lbs. of Sad” Sounds Like: A southern member of Pro Era Why You Need to Know Him: Quadry is part of a new class of Baton Rouge rappers whose influences veer towards traditionalist hip-hop. Quadry’s penchant for jazzy production and meticulously crafted bars help him stand out locally and connect with a wider audience online. His 2016 project, America, Me, saw him realizing the potential shown in his earlier work. Quadry is already being managed by Def Jam A&R Brock Korsan and working with the likes of DJ Dahi, so it seems like it’s only a matter of time before his big break comes.
Hometown: Baton Rouge Twitter:@spitta_badnewz Notable Songs: “Pressure,” “Dave Chappelle” and “Get the Business Clear” Sounds Like: Jeezy Why You Need to Know Him: Spitta is a staple of the Baton Rouge rap scene and became quite popular in the city thanks to his work in the duo Badd Nooze. Their single “Mental Home” was a local hit, but things never got much bigger. Instead of falling to the wayside like many, Spitta carved out his own solo career. While some prison stints interrupted things along the way, Spitta has managed to solidify himself as one of the scene’s top artists in recent years. Following a string of popular mixtapes, Spitta scored his biggest solo record to date with “Pressure.” The infectious anthem has since been remixed by none other than Boosie BadAzz.
Jungle Muzik Larry
Hometown: Baton Rouge Twitter:@hamme_up Notable Songs: “Stuck in These Streets,” “40 Glock Baby” and “Mama” Sounds Like: Webbie crossed with Soulja Slim Why You Need to Know Him: A large part of Baton Rouge’s modern hip-hop scene has been cultivated through YouTube. Jungle Muzik Larry is one of the artists who has developed his fan base through the video-sharing website, and it is easy to see why. Larry’s style and content is reminiscent of the late Soulja Slim, particularly his ability to make you feel every last word he says. The threads of classic New Orleans hip-hop are felt throughout Larry’s music, making him an interesting bridge between the two biggest scenes in Louisiana.
T.E.C. and Maine Musik
Hometown: Baton Rouge Twitter:@TeC_dA_CtB and @Lil_Maine_1500 Notable Songs: “Go Crazy,” “Ain’t No Comin Down” and “Fundu” Sound Like: Hot Boys in the form of a duo Why You Need to Know Them: T.E.C. and Maine Musik were one of the many acts to sign to Master P’s current iteration of No Limit Records. But, the duo did not truly gain attention until they left the label. The two found themselves with some unintentional buzz thanks to the guns they flashed on film, but they made the best of the situation. Soon enough, T.E.C. and Maine Musik were racking up millions of views for some of their finest cuts. Their music has a mix of menace and exuberance that has not been heard in South Louisiana since the glory days of the Hot Boys. Their first proper mixtape as a tandem is due out soon, so fans will quickly learn how well the chemistry works for an entire project.
Hometown: New Orleans Twitter:@its_nilly Notable Songs: “Black,” “I Got 5” and “Take It Back” Sounds Like: Kendrick Lamar with shades of J. Cole Why You Need to Know Him: When it comes to bars, Nilly might be the most compelling MC in Baton Rouge today. The New Orleans native was displaced by Hurricane Katrina and found himself near home in B.R. by attending LSU. Ever since, Nilly has stamped out the city of Baton Rouge as his home base and quickly added fans to his Nilly Nation movement. Nilly has an adaptability that allows him to cater to all types of crowd. Whether it’s crafting a fight song for his alma mater or speaking on police brutality, Nilly always manages to deliver compelling rhymes.
Hometown: Baton Rouge Twitter:@TheCalebBrown Notable Songs: “W$GT$,” “Breathe” and “Friends” Sounds Like: Schoolboy Q mixed with Mick Jenkins Why You Need to Know Him: Much like the aforementioned Quadry, Caleb Brown is part of Baton Rouge’s new class creating music that looks to appeal far beyond Louisiana. At just 18 years old, Brown is still growing as an artist. While he's young, the rapper has managed to display an immense amount of talent and capture the ears at a few national outlets. Much of the work in Brown’s infant career has been created alongside fellow B.R. youngster xelA7th. The two have a good dynamic, but Brown has shown brightest in his solo work. Brown does not have a ton of material out there, but “W$GT$” is an example of why you need to pay attention.
Hometown: Baton Rouge Twitter:@DaReal_GeeMoney Notable Songs: “Jack Who,” “Take It There” and “All I Know” Sounds Like: A slight evolution of Trill Entertainment Why You Need to Know Him: Da Real Gee Money started making headway in the game by linking up with some of the city’s top producers. Gee Money began working with DJ B-Real and Q Red on The Track, who have helped him craft a sound that harkens back to Trill Entertainment’s days on top of Baton Rouge. Gee Money may not be breaking any new ground, but he makes up for it with his authenticity and a keen ability to ride a beat.