The masterful tracks for this month deliver meaningful messages through hip hop’s ever-thriving spirit, bringing Boston hip-hop to new levels of artistic achievement. In this latest edition of Listen Local: Hip Hop Edition, our artists stir the souls of Boston listeners with messages of hope, injustice, and confidence told through original beats and bars.

Jog Your Memory” by Caliph

Caliph breathes a message of persuasion and positivity into his newest single, “Jog Your Memory.” Starting with ethereal pianos and synths that build into a rapturous introduction, the sonic momentum continues, mirroring the sign of the times as each layered lyric evolves with its message: “don’t let that shit bring you down, king / just stand strong, brush the hatred off your crown, king / they might see your potential or hold you down, king / but that’s the gesture of justice, they some clowns, king.” Caliph’s almost desperate vocals act as a vocal remedy, delivering hope to the harsh truths that exist in today’s troubled society: “This is for every Black man in America. / When you see a Black man today tell him that you love him / tell him he’s amazing / tell him he’s the greatest / shit, ‘cause he might end up in the latest.” With the Black Lives Matter movement in full force, this is a track that needs to be shared.

– Hannah Lemke


MALiA THE MODEL delivers her signature fast-paced lyrics with ease atop driving beats in “Kate MO$$.” She keeps a steady beat while delivering an unapologetically confident vibe, clearing her throat to announce her arrival at the very beginning of the track. This aura of strength and entitlement carries throughout with lyrics like, “We get what we want / no matter the cost.” The track comes from MALiA THE MODEL’s first full-length album, Made You Look, which brought her into the limelight upon its initial release in 2018. With sponsors like Reebok and Hennessy, MALiA THE MODEL is beginning to dominate the Boston hip-hop scene as a woman of color, and she’s not sorry about it.

– Hannah Lemke

From Bahamas to Atlanta” by Red Shaydez ft. Oompa

This track is, at its core, an old school rap battle, a rhymefest of two skilled lyricists going bar for bar. Over a mellow beat with soulful horns, two of Boston’s finest emcees, Red Shaydez and Oompa, deliver a masterful execution of machine-gun verses that speed up while maintaining clarity as the song progresses. If you listen closely, you’ll hear an industry conversation with local rap titan Oompa welcoming Red Shaydez to the top of the Boston rap game. Shaydez says to Oompa, “Thanks for the wishes / Happy to witness what you have done for all me and my sisters.” Oompa replies, “More life to you Shaydez, you making a way.” This comes as Shaydez reaches a new level in her music career with the release of her latest album, Feel The Aura. Since its thunderous drop in late July, the record has received acclaim from The Globe and WBUR, all the way to UPROXX and UK’s POP Times. It’s been nominated by the Boston Music Awards for Album of the Year, while Shaydez herself was nominated for Hip Hop Artist of the Year, Breakthrough Artist of the Year, and 617Sessions Artist of the year.

-Jared Steinberg

Say My Name: Rekia Boyd” by DJ WhySham ft. Porsha Olayiwola, Dalaun

Packed with lyrics that feel like they were written in blood, this track gives you chills that linger for days. Boston’s DJ Whysham, AKA “Your Community DJ,” dropped her full-length album, Finally, on September 7th and its immediate impact has already earned Whysham a 2020 BMA nomination for DJ of the Year. The album is a welcomed innovation for the Boston hip hop scene, pairing beacons of the Boston artistic community over WhyShams’s own eclectic beats to create emotional resonance. On “Say My Name: Rekia Boyd,” powerful words boom from Boston’s poet laureate, Porsha Olayiwola, over a slow roll beat with a haunting 808 echo and vocals by Oakland-based R&B/Soul singer, Dalaun. The track builds up to an incredible intensity in the second half as Olayiwola a one point yells out, “200 black girls go missing in Nigeria and America puts out a hashtag instead of a search party… and no one is outraged.” This impassioned spoken word poem by Olayiwola embedded within the track discusses American inanition and cultural lethargy on dismantling structural racism and should be heard by as many people as possible, as many times as possible.

-Jared Steinberg

Down for Me” by Sylus Gambino ft. Vanni Allan Poe, Cash Rari, TK Kravitz

A stylish song about heartache, “Down for Me” by Boston-based rapper Sylus Gambino of NNCHVLNT Records also features singer/songwriter Vanni Allan Poe, Cash Rari, and certified platinum artist, TK Kravitz. This sing-songy rap track has a rough, authentic edge carried by an emotional sound with lyrics around trust issues. A haunting harp melody plays over a sped up soul sample and a heavy, hard hitting trap beat that’s meant to be turned up. While Sylus Gambino makes Boston his home, he talks often of his deep connection to his Caribbean roots in All Saints, Antigua, and is outspoken about trying to bring artists from different walks of life together in effort to make hip hop “less standoff-ish.” 
-Jared Steinberg

Graphic by Madison Arrichiello
Photos by:
Jay Hunt @iamjayhunt (insta)
Jen Vesp @jenvesp (insta)
Kristen Higgins @k.higgs_ (insta)

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