Rapping up 2013

From Swann Notty to Sage Francis and much more
By CHRIS CONTI  |  December 18, 2013

There’s a reason why we ran 13 weeks of homegrown hip-hop coverage on this page in 2013. Devoting one-quarter of the ink to locally sourced rap artists was a no-brainer considering the countless must-hear records that hit the streets. It was a banner year for the overall Rhode Island music community, but we are in the midst of a hip-hop renaissance right here and now. So let’s take a look back and salute some of the best, and find out what’s on deck for 2014.

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My proudest moment over the past five years was our cover feature for RI rap supergroup THR33 Piece Suit , featuring DJ/producer J. DePina and veteran lyricists Chachi Carvalho and elusive legend Swann Notty . Their debut, Brand New Vintage, is a timeless beast (recorded at Carvalho’s Beatbox Studios in Pawtucket), and that title track is an instant boom-bap classic. Hands-down my favorite album of the year. Download Brand New Vintage ASAP (free!) at thr33piecesuit.bandcamp.com. And talk about a monumental year for Chachi — he and his International Players band performed in Cape Verde as well as the Kennedy Center. And it was great to see Swann steadily back in action onstage and in the booth; word is he’s cooking up another solo album plus a collaboration with Dirty Ice and Siah Law . He’ll also team with Milez Grimez on a forthcoming EP (look up the first single, “Parisian Gutters”), and the duo will perform together at the next SFR Church of Providence festival (more info below).

Speaking of Milez Grimez, he spent 2013 dropping bars alongside a bunch of underground heavyweights, including Kool G Rap, Heltah Skeltah’s Rock, and Tragedy Khadafi, and continues to work with local pros like FourOhOne and 8th Wundah .

Another frequent Grimez collaborator is Barrington-bred wordsmith Meta P (aka Sean Sbardella), who recently moved back to the area. Sbardella unexpectedly lost his twin sister last year, and a life-affirming perspective has him sounding more mature and confident on the mic than ever before on the new Poison Man debut alongside DJ John Gotem and Boston vet Mayhem . Meta’s next solo album, Evolution, is due in early ’14. Visit metap.bandcamp.com and download his entire catalog free of charge.

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POWER TRIO Poison Man.

2013 also marked the return of Symmetry (straight outta Centredale) behind his stunning album Junky (available at symmetrymusic.bandcamp.com), as well as Classical High alums Reziztanze (reziztanze.com), and tag-team rhyme partners Dirty Ice and Gremlyn, better known as DirtyDurdie . Check out Group Therapyat dirtydurdie.com. Natural born hustler Big Rush may have relocated to Meriden, CT, but he still drops bars here at Beatbox Studios and recently cranked out two mixtapes worth looking up, Swagger Dearly Departed and Hustler’s Creed (at datpiff.com).

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DYNAMIC DUO DirtyDurdie. [Photo by Corey Grayhorse]

A handful of solo artists came out swinging with debut albums in ’13, including Newport’s Kee-Words (kee-words.bandcamp.com), Roger (listentoroger.com), and Nightenders crew member Hayes (nightenders401.bandcamp.com).

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