Rap is starting to look a lot like Michigan

Since “Bloxk Party,” up-and-coming national stars like Ray and 42 Dugg have emerged, but for the most part, household names aren’t jostling to tap Michigan rappers for features. It looked like the floodgates could have opened in 2021 with Lil Yachty’s regional love letter Michigan Boat Boy; Far from being the strongest compilation of music in the region, Yachty’s project nevertheless directed a whole new set of ears to a roster of rising stars. Their collective drive was simply irresistible to Yachty and Swae Lee, who put on their best impressions of Rio Da Yung OG and RMC Mike for “Never Did Coke.”

While sometimes the influence of Michigan rap is that explicit, most of the time it just feels like the rappers are fucking with the beats more than anything else. To that end, the Flint Energy Beats producer’s sound has an overwhelming influence on beat selection for artists looking for a bit of Rust Belt toughness. In 2020, he produced Michigan’s Biggest Song of the Year in GlockBoyz TeeJaee and OnFully’s “Wack Jumper,” and rappers from Pittsburgh to Stockton passed the beat like collector’s plate. Enrgy’s breathy 808s and high-pitched snare hit like the concussive blows of a boxer, ringing in your ears long after a song has stopped playing. And in a lot of Michigan rap, pianos and other sound effects work like second drums. Truncated key loops form percussive beats that will throw you off balance and though there are pockets available for melody – because what’s a rap song in 2022 without some vocals? – these beats make rapping the main attraction.

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