802 Representing in Grind Mode's Upstate Underground Cypher Series

Back in May, Jarv and Mister Burns made an appearance on the Grind Mode Cypher series -- a first for our humble state, so far as I know. Not only that, Jarv was the featured artist for that installment, an acknowledgement that the young man has juice and is going places. Which is true.

Having Jibba the Gent and BL Spitz join the club so quickly is a damn good sign for the scene as a whole, then. It's also instructive that so many 802 success stories follow the same script in 2018: artists who are carving out their own lane, and working with a close-knit team to do it. 

First up was Jibba, representing the Hustle, Loyalty and Respect team with a flashy & charismatic turn alongside some heavy up and coming New England talent. Jibba's been playing a long game and we can expect to see more big moves from him this summer.

In the very next chapter, Heartless Ent founder BL Spitz is on second to deliver some hard bars. He's currently working on his solo debut, "Mr. Credible" and a mixtape, "HEARTLESS FOREVER Vol. 1.

Justin Boland
The Aztext - "Everyday Sun" ft. Xenia Dunford

Over the years, The Aztext have grown into masters of many styles. If there's one thing they've always excelled at, though, it's BBQ bangers -- catchy & relatable verses over perfect summer soundtrack beats. They have returned with exactly that: "Everyday Sun" is an anthem packed full of in-jokes and life lessons.

The hook comes courtesy of Xenia Dunford, a spooky talented 802 songwriter who just dropped a 2 EP project, Flesh and Bone (& Everything Within). It's very damn good, but I sure didn't expect her next move would "hip hop hook assassin for hire." 2018 is all about surprises, though. She really makes the song here and definitely has The Touch. (She will be at Light Club Lamp Shop on Friday the 13th and at Radio Bean on July 16th, too.)

The beat is another Rico James composition, and that young man is having a strong year. Formerly known mostly for his photography work and production for Self Portrait. Now, though? He is the co-founder of Equal Eyes Records, a new BTV label that's been on a prolific & consistent run since they started earlier this year. 

The AZT family has a lot more coming. First up, GOOD WTHR -- the team of Pro & Kin -- are featured on the latest Soulslicers album. This is a pretty tremendous cosign: Soulslicers are a production team with connections around the world. Their latest LP features Skyzoo, M-Dot, and Edo G. It also features GOOD WTHR on three different tracks. It's a good look on a big platform.

Justin Boland
Stuck in Vermont covers Building Blocks 3

"Stuck In Vermont" is a long-running video series that features New York transplant Eve Sollberger exploring the 802 -- with an emphasis on the arts scene & our many colorful characters. Emphasis on long-running series: she started in 2007. Since then, it's evolved into a weekly feature on WCAX news.

So it's a Pretty Big Deal to get covered on that platform, all in all. The latest installation covers Building Blocks 3, a celebration of hip hop & charity fundraiser at The Swan Dojo on Church Street. That evening was all about The Aztext, yet it's Boomslang who steal the show in this video, nabbing three song placements.

There's also a ton of dance highlights, featuring Rhythm Riderz and the SynRgy Dance Company. There are also a lot of young kids who will clearly be insanely good in five years, so you know ... fair warning, bud. 

Props to everyone involved. Building Blocks has evolved into one of the most important hip hop institutions we've got.

Justin Boland

Brand Nubian legend Sadat X will be rocking the Swan Dojo in Burlington tonight, and that's a fairly huge deal. He's not only one of the all-time greats, he's also been having a strong run of brand new material these past few years. This is gonna be a hot gig

VMB Productions has been having a strong 2018 -- this weekend's run with Sadat X comes on the heels of a spring tour throughout New England alongside another legendary lyricist, Masta Ace. Rapper / entrepreneur / machine Mister Burns has been instrumental in building a real tour circuit of opportunities for 802 artists. While that may be built on the foundation of the Lynguistic Civilians hustle, what he's done since is even more impressive. 

Tonight's celebration has a top notch supporting cast: the mighty Konflik will be in the building alongside S.I.N.siZZle, Es-K, Jarv and of course, Mister Burns himself. 

8:30 PM, $18 at the door, 21+.


Justin Boland
FRESH PRODUCE: The "Keenan and Karma" LP

If there's one thing Vermont has always excelled at, it's exporting talent. There are a lot of talented people up in the guts of the music industry right now who got their start in the 802. We also have a lot talent stashed up in the woods. One such specimen is Keenan Kilgore, a producer and artist who just released an LP of remixes with NYC art rap collective Karma Kids, Keenan and Karma

Karma Kids actually features a Vermonter, too: one of their members, Gruff Lion, hails from these mountains, although he's long since gone native in the city. Other members include Duncecap (Rapping is For Idiots), Lt. Headtrip (Comedy of the Filthbeast), and bulletproof spitter Googie ('Tis What 'Tis). Keenan and Karma is a deep dive into their huge catalog, and Mr. Kilgore does great justice to some real underground gems, here. 

Anyone who likes what they hear would be strongly advised to check out the rest of the Keenan Kilgore catalog. It's impressive as hell, and worthy headphone food. Kilgore manages to balance experimental & ambient elements against instrumental boom bap without doing a disservice to either ingredient. 


Justin Boland
B.O.M.B.S. Across the U.S. Tour Kicks Off Today

This evening at the VFW over in Morrisville, Shadow Spear Music Group is kicking off an ambitious, nearly month-long tour. Along the way, they'll be seeing the coast of California and the plains of Texas. 

For tonight's show, Khaosity, Corty Booth and Stormyweather will be opening up -- and representing their new label / collective, Anomaly Entertainment. Shadow Spear will be represented by Chyse, Boston emcee Zae The Godd, Ricocaine, and Flotilla 13. 

They're rolling down to Brattleboro tomorrow night to rock The Stone Church alongside Eyedos of JynxINC -- who have just released their new LP, Devil May Care Too. It's a serious slab of hardcore hip hop, with guest features including Slaine, C-Rayz Walz and Killah Priest. Copies will be on sale tomorrow night in Brattleboro.

Justin Boland
VIDEO: "Picture Me" - YungStar

YungStar is a Burlington rapper and part of the Bloodpressure Music Group. He's a standout talent, with an agile, crystal clear flow and a strong understanding of how to cut catchy lines. He's also going to be busy as hell this summer, on the run-up to his solo LP, Star Life, which drops on August 20th.

The video was shot by Quebeats, BPM's hardworking CEO. 

Justin Boland
VIDEO: "Sofia Grace" - Yung Breeze

Happy Fathers Day from Street Religion and Bar None The Best. "Sophia Marie" is both heartfelt and dope, a low-key autobiography track -- and the video, courtesy of the always-diversifying Bar None The Best team, is a perfect match. 

Justin Boland
Question The MC & ILLu - "Textbook"

The new BTV indie label Equal Eyes Records has been doing it right so far. They had a slate of projects ready to go after they announced themselves to the 802, and they've been dropping releases at a steady clip ever since. So far, those projects have been instrumental, but on July 6th, true school purist Question The MC will be teaming up with label co-founder ILLu for "Textbook."

So far, all we've got for a preview is the title track, a soul chop banger. The tracklist mentions some impressive features, though: Bless The Child lyricist Humble, HLR's yung phenom Drive, and ... Colby Stiltz. That's an unexpected flavor combination, but hot damn, I'm interested. 

Justin Boland
Big Homie Wes - "Presidential"

STILTZgang affiliate Big Homie Wes "The Best" came through with a strong new project this month, Presidential. His style is sparse, somewhere between Milo and Mach-Hommy, with a preference for low-key beats. On his prior releases, that minimalism sometimes just sounded unfinished, but on Presidential, Wes is sounding more confident both on the mic and as executive producer. This is quality smoking music just in time for summer. 

You can grab a physical copy over on Bandcamp.

Justin Boland
VIDEO: "Complex" - Somba ft. Sam

New visual from the team at 99 Neighbors, this time for a laid-back jam from the team of Somba & Sam., whose South Cove EP kicked this whole wave off about a year back. Like "GHOUL," this is a clever and distinctive video, making the most of a low budget and warping the hell out of found footage.

The young crew will be in full effect for the upcoming Open House event at Arts Riot on Friday, July 27th. Expect a lot more new material on the way there. 

Justin Boland
June 10th - Rhyme & Unreason at Light Club Lamp Shop

First off, this is a truly bad-ass flyer, right here:


With functional art like this, I don't really have to write much. Rhyme & Unreason is a comedy x hip hop showcase with a challenging format twist: the lyricists will tasked with a freestyle "interpretation" of a short set from the comedian on right before them.

Props to Omega Jade for bringing something new to BTV. 8 pm. $3 donation.

Justin Boland
VIDEO: "4ck With Me" - Obi the Voicegod

New video from a new name: say hello to Obi the Voicegod. "4ck With Me" is the closing cut on his Recognition Avenue EP, and features Benji Balla, Ken Lee and Sean Don. The video is quite damn professional, complete with swooping drone shots of the Green Mountain College campus. 

Per Obi's EPK, he specializes in "bare simple lyrics," which is a pretty honest assessment. Fortunately for Obi, bare simple is pretty much the wave right now, and kids can't enough of that shit. Expect to hear more from Obi the Voicegod this summer. 

Justin Boland
EXCLUSIVE: Elder Orange - "All My Friends Believe In Ghosts"

We don't get a lot of exclusives here at Vermont Hip Hop Dot Com, but when we do, it's gonna be a caps-lock affair every time. For the benefit of our brilliant & good-looking readership, we've got the entirety of Elder Orange's debut LP streaming a day early. You can cop this tomorrow -- or, of course, pre-order it today.

Justin Boland
Hitmen For Hire Strike Back

When the Hitmen For Hire LP dropped last year, it was the day after Thanksgiving. I think I bumped it about five times in a row. The recipe is unbeatable: get a bunch of talented & competitive emcees together to try and impress each other. In this case, that's Raw Deff, Yung Breeze and Judge Da Beast -- certified spitters whose styles are complimentary but not similar. That's important.

Since then they've been continuing to make noise as a unit, most recently with a triumphant set at the Waking Windows festival in Winooski. (That whole Hip Hop Showcase was an achievement; huge props to Mister Burns / VMB Productions.) 

We've also started getting new solo material from this crew, too. First up was Raw Deff, who dropped his Uninvited Guest LP back on May 11th. He's a standout talent in any room, and mercilessly consistent. The album is also packed with 802 guests -- Learic, XP and Jibba "The Gent" show up in addition to Judge Da Beast and Yung Breeze.

This joint was rolled in a number of different studios but it hangs together beautifully. Raw Deff has dropped some strong projects before, but this is his best business card to date. Also, that cover art is motherfucking hilarious. 

Next up is Yung Breeze, who hit us off with a sneak attack EP for Memorial Day weekend, Sleep Deprivation. It's a tight six song set, mostly freestyle / remix material, and functions as a reminder he's one of the best doing it. It's also a reminder that this dude is hard at work cooking up something serious, and there's a lot more Street Religion material to come this Summer. (Keep an eye out for Jun Fargo, especially.)

...and as for Judge Da Beast? Nobody who loves rap that much is gonna stay quiet for long. Sure enough, he's been hustling behind the scenes to wrap up his next mixtape, Pre Trial. He's been going through a lot of artistic growth since his 2016 project, Arraignment, and his bars get sharper every week. Expect flames. 


Justin Boland
June 1st: Elder Orange - "All My Friends Believe in Ghosts"

It's been a damn strong year for 802 hip hop across the board -- but the instrumental front has been especially hot. We've seen the launch of a new BTV label, Equal Eyes Records, who have dropped two excellent beat tapes: the ILLu & Rico James collaboration "Tired of Waiting for Rappers" and Teece Luvv's low-key manifesto "Semantics." On top of that, Loupo blessed us with his "Vacations EP," a dazzling dive into EDM territory, and the grandmaster Es-K just released his latest LP, "Koan."

Elder Orange is a new name on the scene, an NEK native now operating out of Southern Vermont. "All My Friends Believe In Ghosts" is his debut, and, as he puts it, a "musical declaration of independence." Elder Orange is a multi-instrumentalist with a decade of experience as a (real, actual) studio engineer, and boy howdy, it shows. It's the result of hundreds of hours of recordings, sessions with guest musicians, and a stunning array of gear, vintage and new. It's dropping on June 1st, but there's a preview track up for now -- check out "Homebody" -- and we'll be doing an exclusive stream next week. Stay tuned.


Justin Boland