Milwaukee’s rap scene is too vast and decentralized to be summed up by any single artist or sound. Here at Radio Milwaukee, we try to showcase the variety of styles, voices and perspectives coming out of the local rap scene with our regular Milwaukee Rap Roundup, a spotlight on some of the city’s most noteworthy new tracks, videos, albums and mixtapes.
In this installment, we’ve got Kaylee Crossfire’s first post-“Rhythm and Flow” video, an impressive debut from 17-year-old rapper Big Wan, new directions from Marratedr, Ja Dubb and Lil Axion, an ear worm from Trap Junkie Jet and an overdue Mari Boy Mula Mar EP.
Stream and read about them all below. [These songs contain strong language.]
Kaylee Crossfire – “Young Legend”
Normally I’d never recommend reading the comments, but the comments under Kaylee Crossfire’s YouTube video for “Young Legend” are heartwarming. They’re filled with encouragement from new fans around the world who were introduced to the Milwaukee spitfire through the Netflix rap competition “Rhythm and Flow,” where Kaylee had a solid showing as Wisconsin’s only contestant. She uses her fierce “Young Legend” freestyle to capitalize on her newfound stature while teasing her upcoming single “Baptized.” [UPDATE: You can watch the “Baptized” video below.]
Big Wan – “Fast Lane Lifestyle”
How’s this for a flex? Big Wan is just 17, but on his debut single he’s joined by not one but two of Milwaukee’s biggest producers, RichieWitDaHitz and MeloDroppin30. That’s about as Milwaukee as it gets, and Big Wan’s flow is decidedly Milwaukee, too — a supremely droll slur with shades of the great Solowke. Wan doesn’t oversell his punchlines but he’s got them in spades, and he peppers the track with memorable bars (he even imitates Spanish Rice behind the steering wheel, an in-joke that reaffirms this is Milwaukee rap for listeners who love Milwaukee rap).
Lil Axion – “LifeStyle”
The typical Lil Axion track is fast and reckless, all slap, and paced like a level of “Sonic The Hedgehog.” On his latest single, though, the thrill-seeking Milwaukee rapper tries something a little different, rapping over a soulful bounce of a beat buoyed by some uplifting pianos. It’s a little less hyped-up and more sentimental than we’re used to from Axion, but that beat is pure bliss.
Ja Dubb – “Fell Apart”
As a kid, Ja Dubb taught herself to sing R&B by practicing Alicia Keys and Rihanna songs. Gradually she branched out into rap, making her own beats and writing her own songs, sharing her debut single “Vent” in August. Now she’s back with a single that makes her background in R&B more explicit. She divides her verses between singing and rapping on “Fell Apart,” a wistful song about a relationship running out of steam. Her vulnerable voice sells the remorse.
Marratedr – “R*R*R* World 2”
If you’d asked me a year ago to describe Marratedr’s music in four words, I’d have settled on “not for the masses.” The Milwaukee rapper/producer made some of the city’s most uncompromising rap, playing his groggy voice against dank, disjointed beats. It’s exciting music, but harsh, dizzying music, with little in the way of sweeteners to help make it go down easier. But on his latest project “R*R*R* World 2,” Marr has started to soften his approach a bit, scaling back the clatter, smoothing the creaks out of his voice and playing up his hooks. The oddness remains — the “ONA MAP***” beat is deliciously batty — but his vision is much more approachable. These more commercial sounds flatter him.
Mari Boy Mula Mar – “The Overflow” EP
Mari Boy Mula Mar has been having a remarkable year, churning out one wild single after the next. But like too many of Milwaukee’s top rappers, he’s mostly limited his output to YouTube, with many of his best tracks unavailable on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. So this is welcome news: He’s finally released an official EP. “The Overflow” compiles seven tracks of his weird, magisterial rap, and although most of his big 2019 singles are missing, there are some inspired oddities here, including “No Auto Mar,” where Mula Mar strips away his signature Auto-Tune.
Trap Junkie Jet – “Dangerous”
Let’s end this roundup with an ear worm from an artist I’ve never written before. Trap Junkie Jet brings some go-for-broke enthusiasm to his latest single, hitting notes in the chorus that I can only describe as Akon-esque. I mean that comparison in the most flattering way possible: If you’re going to sing, you might as well really sing, and Trap Junkie Jet goes for it here.