Don't Sleep on Detroit, Part 2: K-Fresh Speaks


Kelly “K-Fresh” Frazier is a DJ, blogger, and emissary for Detroit’s vibrant hip-hop scene. His website, Renaissance Soul Detroit, evolved from a tribute to the late, great producer J. Dilla into the city’s online hub for urban music. To celebrate our first Daily Dose contest‘s focus on the Motor City, K offered to take us on a virtual tour of his favorite hometown artists.

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The winner will score a D-town prize pack: a signed copy of Finale’s yet-to-be-released debut album, A Pipe Dream and a Promise; Black Milk’s latest LP, TRONIC, on vinyl; eLZhi’s acclaimed 2008 album, The Preface; and a signed, limited-edition copy of artist Jamar Nicholas’ Interdependent Media coloring book.

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It’s the year 2009, and as another decade approaches, a new chapter in Detroit’s hip-hop legacy is just beginning to be written. As the city’s music scene struggles to rebuild and heal itself after the tragic deaths of J. Dilla and Big Proof, artists such as Royce Da 5’9″, Black Milk, Phat Kat, Guilty Simpson, and Slum Village continue to shape Detroit’s musical future. While no one can ever match the production genius of J. Dilla or the unifying qualities of Big Proof, our current team of up-and-coming artists will help define the next horizon for Detroit’s urban music. We’ve pulled together a list (in no particular order) of the hip-hop innovators who will bring Detroit hip-hop into the next decade with a bang.

DJ House Shoes: As one of Detroit’s biggest DJs (and the coolest kid on the block), House Shoes has held down countless successful residencies since the mid-’90s. Since moving to LA a few years ago, he’s become the world’s ambassador to Detroit hip-hop. He makes beats too, with upcoming projects featuring collaborations with Finale and Danny Brown.

Danny Brown: The breakthrough emcee of 2008 in Detroit. Armed with quick-witted rhymes, the charismatic son of a house-music DJ exhibits extreme crossover potential to reach from the hood to the rave parties. His Nick Speed-produced album Hot Soup was all the rage when it dropped last year, so look out for the his new record, The Hybrid, coming later this year.

Marvwon: As one of the biggest jokesters of our scene, Marvwon (of the World Famous Fat Killahz) has paid his dues and is ready to emerge as a pop icon. Even multi-platinum producer Mr. Porter thinks so – he’ll be executive producing a series of projects for Marvwon in 2009.

Finale: As one of the hardest working emcees in Detroit, Finale will finally see his first proper solo album, A Pipe Dream And A Promise, released in 2009. Working with a who’s who of friends and collaborators whom he respects, it isn’t about the names included in the liner notes – it’s about making good music, period.

Apollo Brown: He is the sleeper on the scene. With his trademark cocky swagger, the producer known as Apollo Brown weaves deep, soulful textures into hard-hitting hip-hop beats. He recently dropped an instrumental album, Make Do, and is currently working on a project with Journalist 103 called The Left.

Hexmurda: As the manager for Black Milk, Guilty Simpson, and Elzhi, this international badass is as important to the Detroit scene as anyone. This is the man who gets shit done, and he’s knocked out fools in many countries to do so. Doesn’t matter what the issue is – expect fear from most and hilarity for all when Hexmurda is around.

DJ Dez: One of the most-skilled DJs in Detroit, DJ Dez has been the tour DJ for the likes of Slum Village, Phat Kat, and Dwele for years now. However, his productions under his dance-music alias, Andres, have kept him jet-setting overseas. Look for the next Andres album out this year via Kenny Dixon Jr.’s Mahogani Music.

Nick Speed: This emcee/producer has made beats for the likes of Snoop Dogg, Lloyd Banks, Talib Kweli, and 50 Cent, but it was his production for last years Hot Soup from Danny Brown that best showcased his creativity. Speed is still working on his own productions, including the upcoming Model 500 album with techno legends “Mad” Mike Banks and Juan Atkins.

Samiyam: As a regular collaborator with Flying Lotus, this Ann Arbor, MI-born/now LA-based producer has risen quickly in the ranks of electronic-based hip-hop producers. With his recent release, Return EP, on the acclaimed dubstep-heavy Hyperdub label, Samiyam has tastemakers across the globe salivating for more.

Street Justice: Quality hip-hop groups are becoming something of a rarity in Detroit these days. Street Justice, comprise of Ketchphraze, Redd, Jypsy Eye, and DJ 4mulaOne, have brought fun, organization, and showmanship back to Detroit hip-hop while continually working on their craft. Artists who appear to constantly improve earn my attention, so I’m looking forward to impressive things from Street Justice in the future.

Chief: This emcee has kept on the grind for years now, continuing to master his craft and blaze his own trail through the scene. Whether he’s drinking like a frat boy or rockin’ mics, it’s always good vibes when Chief is around.

5 Ela: This originally Dilla-produced group, consisting of Mudd, Thyme, and their latest addition, DJ Sicari, at one time also included the late Big Proof. They are still around rippin’ up stages and are the life of any party you’d care to throw. What else would you expect when Dilla and Proof were your mentors?

NameTag: The lyrically inclined cousin of Black Milk has been hustling hard since day one, refusing to ask for any handouts. With his cousin supplying him with some hot beats, it’s his quick word play that helps NameTag stand out among the vast Detroit talent pool.

While the names above in no way summarize everything Detroit has to offer, exploring these stand-out talents is a good place to start. Detroit hip-hop is bred from our city’s working-class attitude. No matter the acclaim, none of us is set for life – so expect new music to drop from everyone you have grown to love or have yet to discover. Detroit is a marvelous place for music… no one else does it like we do.

— Kelly Frazier