Milwaukee Hip-Hop Round-Up: Reggie Bonds, Queen Tut, Airo Kwil, Ju Preach, Kane The Rapper

Also: 3099, The Rusty Pelicans, Cardiac Da Pulse and Dirty Rotten Socialists

Aug. 18, 2016
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A quick personal note: I've been out of the country this month, and I can't say how heartbreaking and surreal it was following the Sherman Park news from abroad. It's during times of crisis and turmoil that rap music is needed the most—when words fail us we turn to the pros to piece together those words for us, to make some sense of cold realities that frankly don't make any sense. I can't speak to what draws other people to rap music, but I've always turned to it for two primary purposes: escapism and enlightenment, and in the wake of this week's news I needed both more than ever.

Here are some of the most noteworthy singles, videos and albums I missed while I was out.

Reggie Bonds - "#PrayForMilwaukee"

As Milwaukee continues to wrestle with the events of the last week, and it's a given that local rappers will be weighing in with their own responses. They should be coming fast and furious in the weeks to come, but first out the gate is Reggie Bonds, who puts some perspective on the unrest with his latest track "#PrayForMilwaukee." For everybody who's been asking "how did it come to this," Bonds responds with his usual candor: "The truth is we don't trust the cops," he raps. "We done seen them kill, we don't just forget."

Queen Tut - "To: Black Man From: Moon"

If anger isn't your speed, Queen Tut has responded to this weekend's tragedies with a little hope. A short, rough poem, "To: Black Man From: Moon" offers some cosmic words of encouragement to a "black man with his head held high, defying gravity with every step he takes." She offers some welcome saintly words of consolation: "Never contemplate your godliness, every attack on you is blasphemy." The track is little more than a demo, but it's absolutely beautiful.

Airo Kwil - "Run Away Now"

Last year Milwaukee rapper Airo Kwil released one of the year's most provocative debut albums, Dark Cinema, A Study in Paradox, a kinetic art-rap record that built on Kwil's background as a rock drummer. He's got a new record in the queue called Best Served Cold, and ahead of its release he's shared a tense video for its single "Run Away Now." He's got a couple of shows lined up, too: a gig at Radio Milwaukee tonight, and a rooftop show at the Milwaukee Athletic Club on Friday, Aug. 26.

Cardiac Da Pulse - "Hell2Pay"

Cardiac Da Pulse hails from Milwaukee, but his heart lies in Atlanta, the inspiration for his exuberant, ad-lib heavy club music. He's Milwaukee's answer to Casino, and like Casino's best work, his latest single "Hell2Pay" is wild, rowdy fun.

3099 - "Ostinato" ft. Lex Allen

AUTOMatic emcee APRIME tried on some new looks for his 3099 side project, cutting his usual '90s influences with more modern shades of R&B and electronic music. Earlier this month he shared a video for one of the album's stand out tracks, the Lex Allen feature "Ostinato." It's a low-key black and white affair that captures how beautiful this city can be in the summer.

Ju Preach - "Notice"

We write a lot about IshDARR, and for good reason: He's one of the city's most talented young rappers right now, and his music is resonating well outside the city. He's also building a pretty talented community around him. His CCM collective peers EMAAD, E Coop and BoodahDARR have been dropping some solid singles of their own lately, and now they're joined by a new addition: Ju Preach, a 19-year-old who's putting the touches on his debut project. IshDARR fans will find a lot to like about his new single "Notice" (it's produced by Ish's regular producer Canis Major), but Ju Preach has a delivery that's all his own—his voice hangs low over the beat, speeding up and slowing down as he rides its crests.

The Rusty Pelicans - "We Like (Mammyth Remix)"

It's impossible to write about The Rusty Pelicans without marveling at just how long these guys have been at it, so let me get this out of the way: Holy shit have the Rusty Ps been doing this a long time. But what's really incredible is how they keep finding new avenues to explore. The group's upcoming 20th anniversary album Apartment 7 promises a mix of old (it features their original lineup) and new—and their latest track is definitely new. It's a modern/throwback house hybrid remixed by one of their go-to studio hands, Mammyth, and it builds to a killer drop.

Dirty Rotten Socialists - "YDWT."

A quartet of 19-year-old emcees (Will Static, Sunny Lou, Smoov and McNasty McNu), Milwaukee upstarts Dirty Rotten Socialists put their own skewed spin on swag rap on their latest single "YDWT.," which is all youthful energy and bluster. Let's see if they can sustain that energy on their upcoming EP.

Kane The Rapper - Bright Side of Madness

And finally, here's an artists who makes the 19-year-olds in Dirty Rotten Socialists look old. Kane The Rapper is just 17, but he's running in the right circles. His debut album Bright Side of Madness was produced by Pizzle affiliate Lean Beatz, whose claustrophobic, off-kilter trap tracks complement Kane's frosty, unsentimental flow. "Used to live average, now I live lavish," he brags on opener "Get Up."


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