1. Maxilla Blue (Des Moines)
The premiere Hip-Hop ensemble in Iowa, Maxilla Blue is fresh off of an overseas tour in Europe. The trio consists of emcee Asphate Woodhavet, producer Aeon Grey, and DJ TouchNice. Together, they have crafted a distinctive style of their own by combining the trifecta’s strengths into something larger than the sum of its parts.
They’ve been one of the most (if not the most) consistent groups in the state, releasing quality project after project. If you find yourself within the tri-state area, the outfit is set to perform July 5th at 80/35 in Des Moines.
Their label, Central Standard, has actually put together a nice starting point for those wanting to jump into Maxilla Blue’s sound.
Bonus: Producer Aeon Grey is a formidable MC in his own right. He’s recently put out his opus, Lead Breakfast, and it’s a must listen.
2. D.O.P.E. Clique (Des Moines)
Hardcore Hip-Hop group D.O.P.E. Clique consists of Gadema, Young Tripp (named Vibe Magazine’s “Best Rapper in Iowa” in 2007), and Chris DSKUS10 with DJ Richie Daggers. Between the three emcee’s, the outfit harkens back to the sound of the streets and its braggadocio mannerisms. This group hits hard and that’s just the way they like it.
Lately, the D.O.P.E. Clique (which stands for Derelicts of Popular Entertainment) has been more the collaboration of Gadema and Young Tripp, but that doesn’t take away from their delivery — right through the ribcage and back around to the back of the head.
Blunt Force Trauma - http://youngtripp.bandcamp.com/album/d-o-p-e-tripp-gadema-blunt-force-trauma
Bonus: Young Tripp - The Kraken - http://youngtripp.bandcamp.com/album/the-kraken-the-mixtape
3. .nuLOVE (Davenport)
Although they are the youngest on this list, they are by no means less talented. If anything, their youth should serve as something to be excited about. With neither member of .nuLOVE past 20 yet, they’re creating some of the most refreshing music in the state.
With Jharee handling production and Boycott providing the vocals, the duo from Davenport blend out-of-world sounds, percussion reminiscent of the golden age of hip-hop, and a keen self-awareness into one cohesive package.
Equinox Vol. 3 - http://www.djbooth.net/index/albums/review/nulove-equinox-vol.-3
Lowlight - http://nulovemusic.bandcamp.com/album/lowlight-2
4. Skool’d (Cedar Falls)
After garnering a lot of attention for their hip-hop remix of Fun’s summer hit “We Are Young” last year (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FI_d6Dfbtk), Skool’d has been slowly building a movement with the college crowd in Iowa. And it’s easy to see why.
The group consists of MC’s Ben Hagarty and Bai Carew, with production from Nate Buck and Markus Frieske. Influenced by a little bit of everything, their upbeat sound lands somewhere near popular acts such as Outasight, Hoodie Allen, and Timeflies (the last two of which they’ve opened for).
Recently, they’ve just finished their video series “Our Way Monday”, where they debuted a new song and video every week for almost four months. The songs are downloadable for free!
Our Way Monday Vol. 1 - https://soundcloud.com/skooldlife/sets/our-way-monday-volume-one-2013
The Departure (free EP) - https://soundcloud.com/skooldlife/sets/the-departure
5. Read & Return (Burlington)
“With a unique blend of Linkin Park-inspired ambience and modern electro meets indie hip-hop (a la Atmosphere), underground outfit Read & Return is out to win a spot on people’s playlists everywhere.”
Underground is right. The trio (Stephen Coleman, Desmond Mallon, and new addition Joule from Believe) is among the more obscure of this list. However, they shouldn’t be. Boasting quite the production team in Coleman and Mallon, Read & Return is what the Rhymesayers camp would sound like if they married a few synthesizers.
This alternative Hip-Hop group definitely serves a different demographic than the others (think Fort Minor and Atmosphere), but it serves them well. Those who like their style will come back wanting more.
They’ve been a little mysterious as of late, but they seem to have leaked a track from “Talksick” on their MTV page. Otherwise, their second LP is a good start.
Life On The Run - http://www.mtv.com/artists/read-return/tracks/147989/
Say What You See LP - http://readandreturn.bandcamp.com/album/say-what-you-see-lp
6. The Other Elements (Cedar Rapids)
Last but not least, The Other Elements consists of Cedar Rapids staples Imperfekt & Colorless. Together, the two keep the city’s hip-hop scene beating with both their label Mic Hand Recordings and their yearly event Super Fresh Culture Fest.
Whether it’s through their funky beats or their sometimes tongue-in-cheek rhyming, they’re one of the few groups out there that keep the old-school beating.
The two of them are local legends in the area. They’ve even got a song about it. http://theotherelements.bandcamp.com/track/local-legends
It’s hard to pick places to start for these two since their media presences are a bit scattered. However, their albums are available on Mic Hand’s website (www.michandrecordings.com)
Imperfekt - My City
Colorless - Jim Duggin
We gave you six of the best hip-hop groups from the middle of the map, but have you heard of any solo hip-hop artists buzzing in Iowa? Sound off in the comments section and we’ll check them out for the next round-up!