During this strange time of quarantines and toilet paper memes, everyone is turning to the arts to bring some joy to their lives and temporarily distract themselves from the catastrophe that is the world right now. Many media outlets are encouraging people to think local, including (safely) shopping at local grocery stores, ordering from local restaurants, and even supporting local artists, but a recent article I read about hip-hop in Birmingham seemed to miss the mark a little bit. As someone is who truly and genuinely passionate about the representation of hip-hop in Birmingham, I feel like it is my duty to set the record straight, so here are seven Birmingham artists you should really be listening to.
1. The Monastery
Carlos Charm and Paco are a full-force duo who can do it all. They can turn up a function with 808-heavy tracks; they can vibe with the best of them on easy-going production; but they shine the brightest when they bar out over soulful instrumentals with hard-hitting percussion. Their live performances are always bursting with infectious energy. As a pair, they’ve remained relatively quiet since their 2019 album Hey Young World, but Carlos Charm just released a concise and emotional solo EP entitled I’m Fine.
Recommended songs: “Camp Lo,” “I Ain’t Comin’ Down” “Priceless” ft. You Gene Write
OZU and Erthling. are a hip-hop match made in Heaven. OZU brings dizzying yet eloquent flows with effortless wordplay to 729, while Erthling. handles the detailed, encapsulating production and occasionally wields a microphone as a weapon. In a live setting, OZU raps with his entire body with Erthling. manning the boards, adding flair to each song they perform. The two had an exciting series of EPs entitled Greetings released monthly in 2018, but after a year off, they released their debut full-length, Proceed with Caution.
Recommended songs: “No More Marching” ft. Joshua Bailey, “Partying Bull,” “Plot’n”
3. Richard Daniel
Richard Daniel is quickly becoming a favorite in the city of Birmingham. Richard seamlessly blends his smooth-as-butter singing with his passionate, punch-packing rapping abilities. He typically brings a light feeling to otherwise dark topics, usually by crooning out an irresistible hook. His live shows easily combine his uncompromising raps with his refined singing for an enticing experience. He recently followed up his emotional 2019 album The Lemon Tree Project with the compact EP, New Leaf.
Recommended songs: “Black Vulcan,” “Homeward Bound,” “Àgape”
4. G.I. Magus
G.I. Magus is a longstanding member of Birmingham’s hip-hop community. G.I. typically delivers his precisely calculated flows over spectacular, theatrical production to explore conscious and personal themes within his music. His live shows always have a thrilling and inspiring element, whether he’s owning the stage solo or backed by instrumentalists. After a long period where he was dropping loose singles, he finally released his album Verses the World earlier this year.
Recommended songs: “The Gold,” “Here Now” ft. Wisdom Bibbs, “Star Pupil”
5. K1NG ELJAY
K1NG ELJAY is a truly unique figure in Birmingham. K1NG ELJAY manages to effectively merge his clever sarcasm with humbling honesty in a way that makes his music incomparable to anyone else’s. Acting as his own producer most of the time allows him to carve out certain intricacies in his albums to delight and surprise the listener. ELJAY’s stage presence is generally relaxed and subdued, which forces the audience to pay attention to his meticulously written lyrics. 2019 saw the release of the mixtape FREEV3RSE and a redux of the 2018 album K1NG., but ELJAY is staying sharp by releasing a song on the last day of every month in 2020.
Recommended songs: “Say Something,” “…pride?,” “Dedication” ft. Richard Daniel
6. K.L.U.B. Monsta
K.L.U.B. Monsta are behemoths in Birmingham’s music community. Matching Joshua Bailey’s booming, soulful voice with Kel Rick’s introspective, elaborate lyrics and J. Dotta’s impeccable, fiery flows creates a perfect combination for the trio. Not only are the group’s songs thought out and the beats crisp, but the visuals that accompany them are extravagant, creating an immersive experience. Their live performances are also a spectacle to behold, bringing a vivacity that invigorates the entire room. K.L.U.B. Monsta’s last release was 2018’s When Gawd Ready, which was named by Soul In Stereo’s as one of best of that year, as well as being one of my personal favorite albums of the entire decade.
Recommended songs: “Satchmo in the Trap Spot” ft. Kevin Carter, “Vacant Thrones,” “Monstrous Beginning”
7. Mel. Crozby
Mel. Crozby is relatively new to Birmingham’s hip-hop scene, but he has earnestly gained the attention of the city. Crozby uses his rapid-fire flows and skillful wordplay to showcase his duality as a person: on one hand, he is a jovial and fun-loving person with a quick wit, but this is juxtaposed with his anxiety and depression. Crozby’s live performances are never the same from one set to another, but he never fails to fill the room with a lovely vibe. Mel. Crozby is gearing up to follow up 2018’s Diplopia. with a new project, which he announced earlier in the year.
Recommended songs: “For the Free,” “Wait for Ya” ft. Look at the Recluse, “Tango” ft. Richard Daniel
Jakob Frazier, aka Phrasure, a rapper who sometimes writes words that don’t rhyme. He’s committed to spreading word about some of the best MCs from Birmingham, Ala. He can be found on Facebook and Instagram.