Nappy Nappa's "+RAWDOGRAWLOVERAWGOD+ part 1: Ascenshun" Out Now by Maxwell Young

Listen to Nappy Nappa's seven-track EP available on all streaming platforms.


The Southeast, D.C. rapper cemented a momentous and prolific last four months with the release of his new project “+RawDogRawLoveRawGod+ part 1: Ascenshun” on Tuesday.  The EP was dropped following a recent trip to the United Kingdom, an appearance on Adult Swim’s Blood Feast Livestream in Atlanta, 19 original gems on SoundCloud, and an opening act for up-and-coming New York emcee, Wiki, at Songbyrd Music House just last week.

Featuring cover art that is an abstraction of Notorious B.I.G’s classic Ready to Die album cover, Nappa’s project veers towards the sonically abstract, too. Distorted, computer-sounding bleeps and bloops are common elements throughout the RawGod’s production, including songs like “1w” and “Boost Project,” a track that was first heard on In Studio Live.

In “Ascenshun//Intens Anticipation,” Nappa sings a chorus that sounds cathartic for him, blocking the “wickedry” in the world as he puts it.

“I raise my head from my pillow.  That’s when I live my dreams.”

Napito is focused on his music, although it doesn’t always come off that way.  At his show with Wiki, he was turnt all the way up with fellow LADS Auto Lola and Marty Heem Cherry, who also appear on the project. During the Blood Feast Livestream, he and mentor Sir E.U started scrapping on the floor, mid-broadcast because E.U interrupted a moment of silence prompted by Nappa himself.  These instances of chaos, choreographed or not, do not cloud Nappa’s earnestness to deliver a trademark set.  “I was sent to earth on a mission, so like Moses or Martin, I’m not the most perfect person, far from it, and I may not make it to the Promised Land, but we should see to it that as many people/generations/babies [as possible] can make it,” he wrote over email.

Nappy Nappa on set, Blood Feast Livestream

Nappy Nappa on set, Blood Feast Livestream

The project takes a funky turn with “MPH//Bend’n Forc’z,” which is sure to maximize Nappa’s energy on stage.  It’s reminiscent of Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps,” albeit way groovier and synthed out.

From the Kangol hats to the Nike Blazers, it feels like Nappy Nappa is an old head at heart.  He feels it, too, writing “#oldcity” in his SoundCloud bio in reference to the District as a once “Chocolate City,” and he signs off his tape with the bars “Southeast, South, Southeast” in an ode to Boogie Down Productions’ 1987 classic, “South Bronx.”

“I’m blessed to be from D.C.,” he says.  “I feel as though my energy/spirit to be aware, selfless and active comes from [D.C.], but it’s bigger than me and where I’m from.”

You can listen to Nappy Nappa’s “+RawDogRawLoveRawGod+ part 1: Ascenshun” on all streaming platforms now.

Look out for Nappy Nappa in volume two of the ‘Sounds of D.C.’ playlist coming soon.


Ta Ta For Now, Ahsé by Alex Young

Local Pittsburgh Rapper Michael Ahsé Moltz Moves to Los Angeles

Matt LeBlanc, Roach, Ahsé, Rio, James Perry | Photograph by Alex Young

Like most kids, Ahsé (Awe•Say) walks around in a T-Shirt, jeans, and Jordan brand sneakers. Though as he sits for interview, the 19-year-old dons a white, fur trench coat and platinum grills on his teeth.

His Hollywood, and classic rapper aesthetic prelude the rapper's forthcoming move to Los Angeles where he will pursue a job with Universal Studios.

Before he departs, Ahsé shares memories in the studio he's recorded past songs and with his friends who've experienced life with him. Matt LeBlanc, a producer who tasted viral success with the track "Damn Daniel," sits in front of the desktop Mac. Shakkur Thomas, a.k.a. Roach, one of Ahsé's best friends, sits on the floor with his knees to his chest. "I can feel 2Pac's emotions," he says. James Perry matched Roach on the opposite side of the room. Both Roach and Perry join Ahsé in the Lokal Foreners rap crew along with Hippy Swizzy and Que Dafoe.

Matt plays a song he made with Ahsé called "Fanny Pack." "Recording this shit was fun as hell. This is my favorite verse you did here," Matt says.

Suddenly, "bring that cypher," Matt says. "James you tryna get in that freestyle," Ahsé asks. James agrees to rap.

"How shallow is you? Step out of your body for a little," James says. "Open those eyes and let you walk with me," Ahsé adds.

The room is pleasant, kids having fun listening to music. "What I saw was the energy [from Ahsé]," Matt says.

If Ahsé isn't rapping, he's on his skateboard. "I definitely skated before I rapped," he says. He remembers walking from his home in Penn Hills to the Duff Skate Park and then walking to the Timebomb streetwear shop in East Liberty where he met the owner, Brick. "We got paid to skate and slap stickers around. Brick sets up the opportunities."

Additionally, Ahsé rode for the Daily Bread lifestyle label. They gave Ahsé and his We're Not Free skate crew free clothes.

Growing up, "the only way I could express my emotions was through art," Ahsé says. He started making music when he was 15-years-old. Ahsé's family put him onto good music. His mom gave him vinyl records by Prince, Anita Baker, Tina Turner, and Al Green. His brother, Nick Moltz, played him Kid Cudi's "Man on the Moon" for the first time.

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"My older siblings are my guidance to somethings," Ahsé says as six of nine Moltz children. He values his friends too. He carries on the life of his friend Todd Dye, who was killed by police brutality in Colorado Springs, Colo. in 2015. The phrase "If you don't have a target, you'll always miss" is something Todd told Ahsé and it's a tattoo on his arm now. "If not for We're Not Free and Todd, everything would be different," he says.

While Todd's life drives Ahsé, the rapper has yet to release a mixtape. He has solid collaborations with Lokal Forener mate Hippy Swizzy and another local rapper named Bossy. Currently, Ahsé wants to "build up" for the release of his debut project, "Age of Aquarius." The tape's title plays on Ahsé's spirituality, sense of self, and zodiac sign. He calls himself a buddhist. "The higher power has been in yourself the whole time," he says.

If you don’t have a target, you’ll always miss.
— Todd Dye

As Ahsé gets ready to board his plane to L.A. and start life in a new place, he says he'll be back in the 'Burgh soon, and to his friends, "stay golden," as Todd would say.

ROUGH SAMPLE by Alex Young

We've been busy archiving plenty of music for 'Rough', InTheRough's debut event at Uptown Art House.  On October 27, D.C. will be the scene for a mixed media music and art show celebrating youth and its creative communities.  Tracks receiving national attention like Brockhampton's "Swamp" and the posse-cut "Walk on Water" from A$AP Mob, are just a swab of the sounds guests will hear at 'Rough.'  Favorite songs from the night's live performances including District-artists Sir E.U, Tedy Brewski, and Rob Smokes feature in the playlist.

intherough flyer 2.jpg

Get right and we'll see you at the party.


October 27th @ 7pm

Uptown Art House

3412 Connecticut Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20008

Linwood and Sierra Sellers Deliver Mood Music by Alex Young

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Some artists consistently execute moods, like a tranquil hit sensitive enough to talk about love and experience over raw beats.

Musicians Linwood Randolph and Sierra Sellers represent that balance here. Their dynamic created a beautiful collaboration in the song "She Tried" produced by Zach Healy and observed by Connor Duddy. Linwood's on a roll since his "Let's Not Wait Til Summer" E.P.

Plus, Sellers premiered a tender new song of her own called "Gimme." To attain love, commit.

Enjoy the mood set by a local Pittsburgh cast.

The Tedy Brewski Interview by Maxwell Young

Words from rap's underground veteran.

Tedy Brewski photograph by Maxwell Young

Tedy Brewski photograph by Maxwell Young

Tedy Brewski didn't appear in InTheRough's VibeRotation playlist until late 2015 when the DMV-based rapper featured prominently on a few tracks of D.C. family lineformation M.I.L.F's tape, Ten Beers Deep.  His song "Global Guts" was an instant favorite as his rhythmic chanting evoked infectious head-nods.  Brewski has since released four solo projects, his most recent the Platinum Beach EP, and a number of singles through SoundCloud.

He moves with ease over boom bap beats and adds his twist to the generation of 'mumble rap' on songs like "My First Time" and "Blue Dream" found in The Tedy Brewski Playlist.  But it's also not rare to hear him align his tone to emo grooves and rage.  Originally from Chicago, Tedy Brewski is an internet rapper in the sense that his songs cover a variety of sounds, but also because his ears are tuned to the developments in hip hop.

"Man I listen to everything," he says.  "I'm influenced by everything...some shit is influenced by me and some shit influences me.  I will listen to everything that's coming out: Rich the Kid, Lil' Pump, Famous Dex, you know?  And a lot of my new songs are inspired by that kind of shit.  In some ways I wanna keep up, but in some ways that shit is hot.  I wanna make what's hot, man."

Brewski started rapping at age 13 due to influences including A Tribe Called Quest, Talib Kweli, and Kanye West's "The College Dropout" album.  "I just remember being like, 'Oh, word.  I don't have to be gangster to be a rapper,'" he said reflecting on his formative years.

Now at 27-years-old, Tedy laments that he's a bit old in terms of "rapper years."  He broke down this sentiment further saying, "The people who get the deals and stuff or the people who are chosen are like 18, 16, 18...19 [years old]."

Perhaps more of a commentary on the music industry than his own progress as a rapper, Brewski doesn't seem to take anything too seriously.  In fact, it is this unfiltered, nonchalance that adds to the intrigue of Team Brew.

The thing about me, I’m not necessarily forcing anything.  When you force this shit it gets fucked up.

Before publishing the "Platinum Beach" E.P. in August, Brewski was relatively quiet on streaming platforms--ten months he went without new music.  Instead, he proliferated his Twitter and Instagram accounts with entertaining and personable content.  Catch him manning the grill in a custom 'Chef Brewski' apron or posting a series of "sexy sultry" photos of a "local pussy cat."  Anything goes for the skinny swag emcee.

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Brewski's comedic quirkiness translates through his tone and lyrics, too.  His voice is liable to go from high-pitched to 'hefty-bro' in a matter of bars.  And much like Eminem layered tracks on "The Slim Shady LP" with multiple characters, Brewski also integrates different characters into his songs such as "Woke Boi Freestyle."

"I probably got the quirkiness from West Hartford, Connecticut," he says.  "I lived in West Hartford for the majority of my life--from ten to 18.  Just being a fucking suburban-guy, like being a city kid who goes to a suburban school that's mostly white people.  You end up with like a whole mixture of all this bullshit."


ITR: Can you walk me through your "Woke Boi Freestyle"?

TB: Oh yea, man.  "Woke Boi" was originally called "Broke Boi Freestyle," but then my internet friend, Kemet Dank, I don't know if you've ever heard of Kemet Dank.  He's like another Based God disciple, but he was like 'Yo, this is woke.  This is a woke boi,' and then I had to change the name.  When I was in D.C. there was a Playboi Carti show at 9:30 [Club] it wasn't 9:30 it was one that got closed, but I forget what it was called.  That shit was mad fun.  I was just jumping around and shit, just like 'Damn, I gotta evolve my style to do some other shit.'  But that sound is influenced by André 3000.  When I came to college at UMD, Lil' Wayne was the shit.  He had 'Da Drought', 'The Carter', the 'Dedication' tapes...But with ["Woke Boi"] I wanted to freestyle, you know, ball all the way.

ITR: Is [mumble rap] hip hop music to you?

TB: Definitely, man.  I think at the end of the day that stuff was influenced by 'snap rap' and 'snap rap' was influenced by 'gangsta rap' and 'gangsta rap' was influenced by 'boom bap' I would say.  It's like a long heritage of shit that I try to keep up with.  Like Lil' B's new tape, he really went all the way back to the 80's that was funny.

ITR: That was awesome.  I knew about Lil' B, but I wasn't really listening to him whenever he put out his last tape.  So ['Black Ken'] is my understanding of Lil' B.  it was kind of like a synthesis of decades.

TB: Yea, it's great because he produced the whole thing.  I've got whole tapes I produced, too.  'Typical Black Punks,' I don't know if you've heard that...that shit is crazy.  I try and jump between sounds because I wanna cover everything that is affecting me in my life.

ITR: What kind of relationship do you have with M.I.L.F?

TB: I moved out to D.C. in 2015, chilling with M.I.L.F--good friends.  We've been through our bullshit, but I've known them since 2009.  M.I.L.F was created by M.I.L.F Mitch and Phlegm.  They went to Howard together.  One of my boys who I went to high school with, Noah, he went to Howard for a couple years and met those guys.  We linked through that because I went to UMD.  But M.I.L.F is their creation, and M.F.K--Marcy Mane is working with Goth Money in Los Angeles and shit--he was a big part of M.I.L.F back in the day.  I just wanna preserve their legacy, you know?

TB: I put up the M.I.L.F Mansion documentary on my YouTube last week.  The footage is from a year and a half ago.  I was on U Street two weeks ago, just chilling, and nobody knows what we were doing at that time.

ITR: I noticed you put out videos that were filmed years ago.  Is that on purpose?

TB: It's not on purpose.  Going into them it was like, 'I got to do this right now,' but things come up: there's personal conflict and my own struggles, so maybe I'm not fully comfortable putting out a crazy-ass video at this point.  It's not about figuring it out.  It's just when it works it works, you know?

ITR: That makes your fans want more.

TB: I'm working with my boy who lives in Brooklyn.  I met him when I was in film school maybe like 4 or 5 years ago, his name is Aaron.  We've got a cool video.

ITR: What's next?

TB: I got the thing called Team Brew, you might have seen the logo.

ITR: The merch is fire.

TB: I'm gonna bring back some of the merch, like 'Typical Black Punks' merch and 'Space Cowboy' merch.  I'm also gonna make the Team Brew shirts.  I feel like once it all comes together it'll make sense.  I just got started with Photoshop.  That's what I've been doing recently.  I've been making memes and stuff, just because memes rule the world...the meme war is coming soon, man, be ready.

You Need to Know Saani Mac - BLK 1.0 by Alex Young

Cover art by Sakony

Cover art by Sakony

Saani Mac, also known as Macroderma Giga which means ghost bat, is a hip-hop artist who deserves your support and to be in your music library.

Mac's new album, "BLK 1.0," carries a bustle and grim that he relates to his hometown Pittsburgh.

The first thing ears pick up is the spunk injected into each beat. Producers Axiom, Babyt33th, DJ Jaybee (another one of Mac's aliases), Linwood, and Yung Mulatto all contribute to the digital dash Mac presents.

Additionally, the 'Burgh theme appears in numerous ways starting with the cast of aforementioned local producers. Boastful pride synonymous with yinzers plays heavy too. In "UDN2K," the song starts off with a chant, "Pittsburgh, if you know that black n' gold," then turns hype and details traits of the city while naming neighborhoods like Springhill and Brookline. "My city is a big, small town 'cause everything you do and say gets around," Mac raps. Though there's plenty of Pittsburgh name drops, the praise doesn't sound cheesy. These tracks on "BLK 1.0" are turnt. Listen to "type shit." Get buck.

The Tedy Brewski Playlist by Alex Young

Tedy Brewski photographed by Maxwell Young

Tedy Brewski photographed by Maxwell Young

Following his 2016 project Space Cowboy, Tedy Brewski has released a new EP--Platinum Beach.  It must have been the DMV native's hyper-patience that kept him from releasing music in over ten months because we know he's been grinding.  "Staying up 'til six in the morn' making songs," the underground rap veteran says in "Blue Blockers," a song that makes you want to get in your car and drive.

Dubbed the 'best backpack rapper,' Brewski is back on the creative wave.  While dropping the six-track project at the end of August, he also published a series of what he tagged as '#Alternative Rock' songs on SoundCloud.  "In My Dutchie" and "Blue Dream"--a track Tedy Brew released just four days ago--both capture that new wave bop that's reminiscent of sounds by bourgeoning producer Pi'erre Bourne or mainstream hits like "Please Shut Up" in Cozy Tapes Vol. 2.

"I listen to everything and I'm influenced by everything.  Some shit is influenced by me and some shit influences me," he says over a blunt. 

Enjoy the 'Tedy Brew Playlist and Groove' below, and stay tuned for his upcoming interview.

Slicky Williams Gives Acapella Freestyle and a Message to Lost Youth by Alex Young

Slicky Williams photograph by Alex Young

Slicky Williams photograph by Alex Young

Slicky Williams stands on pride rock speaking to InTheRough. This thing is huge, the rock sits in Pittsburgh's Highland Park. Walk down a path next to the picnic pavilions and hope to find it under a canopy of trees. Slick tucks away from his native Homewood neighborhood to smoke blunts back here. "It's a nice way to start the day," he says.

The blunt passes back and forth, and the 22-year-old R&B talent named Sh'mi White describes his music. "My music is just me. It's how I'm feeling. It's soulful. The only way I can describe it is like Bryson's shit, Trap Soul."

Which means sensitive and raw qualities of 'trap soul' present in Slicky's newest song, "Fake Moves" produced by WavinLane.

Further, balance is the key element to Slicky's music. Past tracks like "My Wrist" smash with stories of riding around in a Mitsubishi Lancer with rap friend Pk Delay. Though the tales of mobbin' around the city are fun, Slick shows compassion too. He touches on a romance with his songs "Fiend For You" or "Me You Us." Sincerely, Slicky tries "to talk about how I survive the situations that could damn near break people," he says.

Hardships in the city leave people stuck choosing between "the good and bad shit," Slick says. Right now he's pondering buying a gun 'cause "too many niggas out here dying I can't be another one," he raps acapella for ITR.

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I paint the picture for the troubled kids, the kids in the mix between good and bad who everyday have to figure out which way to go.

Purposefully, he speaks for lost youth, and Slicky also champions the 'Burgh's hip-hop community. "The scene in Pittsburgh is coming around. Artists need to support each other," he says.

In 2015, Slicky's mate in The Company Only rap collective, Joel Kellem (Pet Zebra), won The King of The 'Burgh rap competition. That title gave notoriety to everyone in The Company Only like Deem, Fat Corey, Pk Delay, and Seas. "Things started poppin' off" after the collective got their first headline called the "Hotbox" show in Downtown Slicky remembers.

Since then the trap-soul artist finds his sound. Great tracks like "Ain't Nothing" will appear on the Slicky Williams SoundCloud account and disappear months later if he's not satisfied. The substance is important to his messages. "I live life in between the music. This is a lifestyle," he says.

Altogether, Slicky wants his fans to know that regardless of the circumstance, "you're not alone."



Slicky Williams - Fiend For You by Alex Young

"In your ocean, I just want to swim... She make me want to have a junior."

Slicky Williams photograph by Alex Young

Slicky Williams photograph by Alex Young

Primarily, R&B artist Slicky Williams separates himself from the pack because his music confidently explores intimacy, love, and relationships. He isn't "stuck in the stigma of being a hood nigga" making trap music he said in a forthcoming interview with InTheRough. The Homewood, Pittsburgh native has bangers and soul with some funk in between.

Enjoy Slick's new song "Fiend For You" below, and look out for an acapella freestyle along with the Slicky Williams profile soon here.

NVSV - Villain by Alex Young

Producer and rapper NVSV [NASA] sustains himself in Pittsburgh's music community. He spends long hours at Library Collaborative, a full-service recording studio and independent record label located between the Dormont-Whitehall boroughs.

The 'Burgh has welcomed NVSV with open arms since he moved to the city from Baltimore in 2011. In the hip-hop scene, he's brushed shoulders with trap-stars like Stevie B, the infamous producer who crafted Jimmy Wopo's "Elm Street," and Reese Youngn's engineer.

At Library Collaborative, NVSV meshes well with a crew of talented artists who produce in the hip-hop and rock genres. Their space is interesting, racks of vinyl line the walls, purple hallways feature sensational art, there's a full-environment green screen, plenty of recording studios, and much more. Library is a diamond in the rough that is Pittsburgh.

Now, NVSV dedicates himself to his music and all the resources that Library provides him. Off the cusp of enjoying "Like Me" on VibeRotation 27, NVSV releases a new song and video called "Villain."

Listen to the new track and understand his perspective when he says, "I'm in a dream I gotta leave 'cause the real world never wait." ITR readers can have a thorough review of NVSV's processes, life experience, and the Library Collaborative soon here.

Choo Jackson - Make Me Laugh by Alex Young

Known for the Stillers and the bridges, you might be surprised to find Pittsburgh is also known for its parades. Whether that is relevant to rapper Choo Jackson's new "Parade" album executive produced by I.D. Labs studio is to be determined.

Before "Parade" releases, Choo wants us to simply "enjoy" his new song, "Make Me Laugh." So listen and #MakeChooLaugh. Watch this here, Chooie Lennon.

Aïcha- Finding Her Voice by Maxwell Young

Last September, we introduced you to a woman who was just beginning her musical journey, writing and ‘developing her sound’ as she calls it, in Paris and LA with artists and producers.

We began to hear the actualization of Aïcha's time spent abroad on recent SoundCloud playlist, Elle The Diary. She sings in french on “Entry 2”, a remix of Drake’s “Bria’s Interlude” and Bryson Tiller’s “Sorry Not Sorry."  For "Entry 1," over the instrumental of Common's "Go!" she recognizes the poignancy of being a young woman in the music industry.

“Entry 1 I actually performed live on the radio in Paris like in March, it was so dope. I was so nervous though, it was definitely a learning experience,” she says of her joining French R&B artist Skreally Boy on OKLM Radio’s Rap/Hip-Hop show La Sauce (track 2).

Aïcha’s recent spoken word poems “ELLE” and “Abbas and Iman Pt.1” showcase her dense lyricism. In "ELLE" she aligns her flow with the delayed bass kicks produced by Duce, she says "Is it because I am woman she wonders/ That I could mend my words with many truths and execute With injury/ a pretty melody to match my frame/ Would still have more appeal?"

To provide a little more insight on current inspirations, we asked Aïcha for a taste of the music she's been listening to. "The Gap Year" is a 22-track playlist featuring songs from influences like Kendrick Lamar, PARTYNEXTDOOR, and Wizkid but it also has an international flair indicative of her time abroad. An iteration of French trap by Damso gives context to the adaptation of hip-hop across foreign countries.

“He isn’t on SoundCloud but I’ve been listening to a lot of afro-trap from this kid MHD and it just made me want to try and work over similar beats... it’s been interesting. But I’ve been listening to a lot more music from West Africa. These are my roots so it’s dope to have all my languages come into play and blend into my music.”

Today, she combines SZA’s “Normal Girl” and “Go Gina” on a smooth instrumental for what has become our new favorite vibe.

“I have some singles coming up that I’m really excited about. Right now I’m just finding my voice and enjoying the process of doing so”.

Stay tuned and follow Aïcha on Instagram & Twitter.

VibeRotation 27 by Alex Young

We've been sitting on a lot of good music, tracks for the pregame, the club, the ride home, and the morning after. Listen to the new VibeRotation playlist from start to finish or pick around our selections. Find a roundup of some songs by Pittsburgh artists like rappers Linwood and Mikey P, as well as songstress Sierra Sellers. Trap-star Reese Youngn has a heater in "Microwave." The hometown hero Wiz Khalifa teamed up with Ugly God for a " No Lies" track thats gains national attention. Be turnt to "Bodak Yellow," "Plain Jane," and "Jugg," a trio of songs that provide the most energy.

Enjoy three hours of new music for the three colorways of ITR T-shirts we are soon to release.

Pet Zebra - Ferris Wheel by Alex Young

Today is history for Pet Zebra, a fun rapper from Pittsburgh, as he celebrates his birthday and the release of his new album.

Zebra spent the weekend hyping his "Ferris Wheel" project with his fellow rap friends The Company Only, Fat Corey, Pk Delay, Seas, and Slicky Williams. They engaged a loyal audience for the album's listening party at the Social Status streetwear boutique on Saturday, August 5. Notable hip-hop artists showed up in support, like Jiggy and Heem of The Knuccleheadz and producer Bill$up. Pet Zebra stood on the sneaker display case and performed "Ferris Wheel." When he played his new song "Plexico," people in the shop gave the stank face. The beat bops and Zebra's lyrics hit on comedic nostalgia, "Bring them straps to New York like I'm Plexico," he says in the hook.

After the listening party, Pet Zebra and his mates brought glitz to Pop Style, a party at The Brillobox for contemporary hip-hop run by Cody Baker and DJs Pete Butta and Preslav. The crowd was jumpin' when "Plexico" came on. Pet Zebra rocked his brief set, and his presence placed attention on the new album. Before he left he played a cool jam in "Dads Benz."

Officially, "Ferris Wheel" is out now, August 6. People can stream the album on iTunes here and keep up with Pet Zebra on his SoundCloud. Wish him a happy birthday on Twitter if you're real.


DJ Motormane - The Novice Tape by Alex Young

DJ Motormane photograph by Xavier Thomas of Art Like Us

DJ Motormane photograph by Xavier Thomas of Art Like Us

In Pittsburgh, the music is rockin'. Rising stars like Jimmy Wopo find their footing and the underground hip-hop scene grows every day in front of lit audiences.

DJ Motormane, a legend in the 'Burgh thanks to Taylor Gang company and most recently his Burgh Boyz podcast with DJ Spillz, gives local music talent the shine it deserves. The DJ compiled a seven-track mixtape of hits. "The Novice Tape" introduces the city to artists worth listening to and keeping up with. Enjoy new hip-hop such as "For Nothin," a Choo Jackson and Pk Delay (congratulate dad on signing a deal) track, and "Westbrook," fresh Jimmy Wopo. Other notable musicians working in Pittsburgh and beyond feature on the project. Hear Sledgren beats and Cleveland native Shawn K lyrics. Atlanta rapper Carby has a banger in "All If I Wanna." Altogether, thank Motormane for his executive production on "The Novice Tape."

P.S. "Do The Same" smacks.

Reviving Real's Mix for the 'Burgh by Alex Young

Illustrations by Yung Mulatto

Illustrations by Yung Mulatto

In an effort to connect the artistic communities of Pittsburgh's "big city small town," Reviving Real, a local clothing brand and collaborative platform, releases a music mix to showcase the city's thriving musical talent. The tape features unreleased music from underground champions who are bound to get the recognition they deserve. Reviving Real gives the artists on the mix momentum and exposure to grow the artists' audiences in the 'burgh and beyond. Also, "VOL 1" by R.R. diversifies the clothing label's content.

Additionally, music producer, cartoonist, and visual artist Yung Mulatto designed the cover art for Reviving Real's mix. To date, Mulatto is responsible for the artwork for several different projects. Most recently he helped young local rapper Blackboi with an interstellar doodle for his "ASTRO O2" album, a record about love and an end to Earth.  "Cover art is the visual connection with music. [You] can't see sound," Yung Mulatto says. His drawing, a style that takes cues from Danny Phantom and anime, provides creative direction for much of Pittsburgh's hip-hop scene. He says to look out for work with Benji, a rapper with a great live presence and band. Listeners can hear both Blackboi and Benji on the mix.

Moving forward, pay attention to the effort Reviving Real put forth as they support the music community in the Steel City. Watch for your ears because the mix they put together is entertaining thanks to the aforementioned characters and more like Mars Jackson, Isaiah Small, and James Perry. Peep the tracklist and do your research on the musicians.

Sounds of D.C. Playlist by Maxwell Young

The music scene in Washington, D.C. as well as its surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia, is diverse with different grooves and experimental sounds blurring genre lines.  Over the last several months, these sounds have been on display at numerous events and venues around the District.  InTheRough has documented some of these experiences, like Frankliin's set at D.C. Funk Parade in early May or performances by Alex Vaughn and Meche Krorrect for the Glow End Theory Program at Black Cat.  There are shows three and four days out of the week put on by art and music collectives within the creative community.  Scroll through the Instagram feeds of Medium Rare, Bombay Knox, CMPVTR CLVB, and DCDIT to find show posters from 2014.

From Go-go and jazz to punk rock and indie-dance, the genres of the District have always been "amazing unto themselves," said Marcus Dowling, chronicler of capital culture for publications including the Washington City Paper, Vice and Complex.  The Sounds of D.C. playlist captures a number of the contemporary sounds and artists that are influenced by the rich, musical heritage of Washington, D.C. Listeners will understand the collaborative element to much of the music that is produced in the DMV through tracks like "Devil's Red Dress"--a true rock ballad assembled by Dreamcast and Fat Kneel.  

GoldLink and Fat Trel are DMV artists who have found commercial success.  They continue to promote the budding talent and sounds with their respective tracks "Rough Soul," which features April George of April & Vista, and a Trel track, "IN MY BAG," that's anchored by forefather Wale.  Of course the lineformation family is present in this playlist, especially Tedy Brewski who's purportedly working on new music.  But pay attention to rappers Nappy Nappa and Sir E.U who are headed to London for the first time.

Listen to the playlist above and if you like what you hear, be sure to keep exploring new music by clicking on the artists' profiles.

Rob Smokes Funk Disaster- love was made for these times by Maxwell Young

"It 100% comes down to the collaborative effort.  That's the status quo here."

Rob Smokes Funk Disaster: (left to right: Joe Wilson, Sam Catherman, Rob Stokes, and Jack Delamater)

Rob Smokes Funk Disaster: (left to right: Joe Wilson, Sam Catherman, Rob Stokes, and Jack Delamater)

On May 6, Rob Smokes Funk Disaster released their album love was made for these times.  Rob Stokes, one of the band's members, took to his mediumrare.dc Instagram account to thank artists like Cautious Clay, Milf Mitch, Sir E.U., St. Clair Castro, Nappy Nappa, and Jamal Gray, for without them he "probably would've quit altogether." 

Originally from Uniontown, Pa., about 45 miles away from Pittsburgh, Stokes has been a contributor to the creative community of the District of Columbia for the last six years. What initially started as house shows at his fraternity at George Washington University so that he and his friends could jam, has evolved into helping to cultivate a sustainable community of musicians in D.C.

"My journey in the District started slow," Stokes said.  "I was putting on house shows and meeting people that way.  At the end of the day, it's a lot of listening--like boots on the ground, going to shows, and meeting artists."

The musician, producer, and curator is a member of the CMPVTR CLVB collective and owner of Dead Art, LLC, which is now referred to as Medium Rare.  Both entities are responsible for throwing events highlighting the District's cultural influencers such as the Nike Boy Secret Shows, Phunk.Gif, Ski Club, and the more current Glow End Theory and CTRL Space CMD programs.  It is these outlets that allowed Stokes to foster relationships and collaborate with other DC artists.  InTheRough readers know of his audio production on songs with rappers MILF Mitch and the rest of the lineformation and Goth Money Records crew, but he's also worked with friends Sir E.U and Cautious Clay.

"I've just been putting out beat tapes, so I don't really have a following, honestly.  It was just like, 'I'm gonna try hip hop now or I'm gonna try making music via electronic instruments and stuff.'  So, I haven't put out much in the past four years," he said.

A jazz drummer in high school, Stokes is a percussionist at heart.  His hiatus from playing live instruments ended when he moved to his current home in Ledroit Park.

"Maybe five or six months ago I really started recording live stuff.  I moved from Virginia, which was not an environment conducive to recording drums.  Now, I have a big space where I can record a lot of drums and that's been the most fun; just being able to play to a click and then put the headphones on, go to the drums, lay down the drum track, and lay down the bass track...I definitely wanna see more jamming.  That's really what I'm feeling," he said.

ITR: Is that what we can expect on love was made for these times?

RS: Yea, all instrumental stuff.  There's a lot of Steely Dan, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Bobby Caldwell, and Curtis Mayfield influences.  I didn't try to croon or anything, but the grooves are just classic--like the chord progressions and how things work in terms of composition.  I tried to put my own flip on them in the 21st century, but more specifically 2017 in D.C. being in love in this time and what that's like.

An aspect of eccentricity is evident from the deep-red cover of the album to some of the synthesizer sounds in "old friends" and "lush greens."  According to the multi-hyphenate artist, this was intentional.  A big fan of David Lynch and the '90s cult classic series Twin Peaks, Stokes wanted to incorporate leitmotif, which is a recurrent theme throughout musical composition associated with a particular person, idea, or situation.  The show's composer, Angelo Badalamenti, was particularly adept at this technique because his sounds drew from emotional associations that heightened the drama.

"I'm not trying to rip his style, but I'm trying to make something that is exactly the same representation of the record in terms of the lyrical content," he said. 

Rob Smokes Funk Disaster is comprised of Joe Wilson on keys, Sam Catherman on bass, Jack Delamater on guitar, and Stokes both singing and playing the drum kit.  During their set at Night 1 of Ctrl Space CMD, Delamater flexed his saxophone skills too, in the band's rendition of Bobby Caldwell's "What You Won't Do For Love."  The seven-track album is abundant with psychedelic tones, while Stokes' Bob Dylan-like inflections can be heard on "old friends" and "love."  The former is a song Stokes had worked on with one of his best friends Themba Searles since they were 17.

love was made for these times is available for purchase and download on Bandcamp here.

VibeRotation 25 by Alex Young

Here is a playlist dedicated to InTheRough staff's experiences that we've had and the songs that we've heard over the last few weeks. The kids' energy has been crazy at parties like Bounce 4 at Spirit Lodge in Pittsburgh or the 4.20 theme banger we threw in D.C. The time we've spent with young rappers like Blackboi and Zolo of the 'Burgh's Sanguine team put us in touch with new music. The communities' consistent creative outputs inspires us to find new artists to enjoy.

In VibeRotation 25, the music reflects ITR's D.C., Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh locations. The scene in D.C. is diverse with different moods that still hit on contemporary hip-hop. The genre-bending nature of the city influences the music. Pay attention to rappers SIR E.U in his song "Navy Blue coupe," as well as lineformation (M.I.L.F.). Across the coast, kids in L.A. and elsewhere listen to Chicago native WARHOL.SS who gains national attention as a parallel to Chief Keef. JR also wants people to be aware of guitarist Steve Lacy who has credits on Kendrick Lamar's new "DAMN." album. Pittsburgh remains relevant with the help of rapper Slicky Williams and his pleasant tune "Me You Us." Slick always comes through with something catchy. Also, become familiar with more Sanguine members, like Ant Windu.

Listen to the playlist below and click on the artists' SoundCloud profiles. Explore new music more.

Know the Wave: Blackboi, Zolo, and Sanguine Team by Alex Young

Zolo and Blackboi - photograph by Alex Young

Zolo and Blackboi - photograph by Alex Young

Blackboi owned the steps in front of the Andy Warhol Museum. His navy colored dreads matched his navy sweatshirt, and his ensemble was complete and casual as Vans covered his feet. Zolo sat on the Warhol steps. He wrote lyrics in a wire bound notebook.

The two 17-year-old hip-hop artists were the attraction and not the museum as they gain attention for their rise through Pittsburgh’s underground hip-hop scene.

Walking past the Artists Image Resource and Boom Concepts Activist Print street-art installation on a building next to the Warhol, Blackboi and Zolo stopped in front of two composite photographs. In one, a seated, theater crowd wore 3D glasses, engaged with what they watched. In the other, a young black girl highlighted in yellow stood on stage looking back at them. The boys looked at the artwork, they too the object of people’s attention.

Ahead of his forthcoming “Astro O2” album, Blackboi has released a mixtape and a handful of single tracks in the promotion of his album which carries the premise that the world ends without creativity. His six-song tape called "some shit i made in my room" isn't the most recent thing he's dropped. Newly minted "tsukyomi flow," featuring rapper Ant Windu, hit Blackboi’s SoundCloud account over the weekend.

"I want to be the most versatile rapper to ever do it," Blackboi said. Production credits from producers abroad, like eestbound of Toronto, genre experimentation, and using his friends as inspiration play into his artistry.

Zolo sat in the back of a car with a notebook on his lap. Now, his earbuds were in. Writing to the beat “helps me find my flow,” Zolo said. Blackboi, officially Byron Stevens, and Zolo, Alonzo Cotton, rode around the North Side. Blackboi lives there and Zolo is a Garfield native. The rappers handled the aux chord. They listened to new music by St. Louis, Mo. crooner Smino and District of Columbia rapper GoldLink.

Blackboi and Zolo are friends, and they make music as members of the Sanguine team. Sanguine is comprised of 20 young musicians and artists. All of them are talented. They met through schools like Perry and Allderdice, as well as KRUNK Movement, a micro-enterprise located in Hazelwood that supports youth and hip-hop through media production.

KRUNK made their musical acts “refined. We couldn’t cuss,” Blackboi said. The organization guided the artists in the studio, and they received platforms to perform. Blackboi, Zolo, and other Sanguine members debuted their “fist in the Air like the ‘60s” song, a message about activism, last summer. The track featured as part of the Center of Life non-profit’s Rap4Reform project.

Creating in the city with talented friends, like “Keith,” the founder of Sanguine, or designer of D.R.I.P.P. and rapper Aaron Owens, encourages Blackboi to “reach my goals.” He’s “never felt like an outsider. I love Pittsburgh,” he said.

Blackboi, Zolo, and the numerous members of Sanguine expand the ‘Burgh’s hip-hop community. Their music pushes collaboration because they use each other as inspiration. “In Sanguine, my girl, Bird, influences me the most,” Owens said as they are often pictured together wearing coordinated D.R.I.P.P. outfits.  “These other cities know how to help each other out,” Zolo said. “I’m trying to get people to look at Pittsburgh like they look at Atlanta,” Blackboi continued. The way to do that is by supporting each other in any way the group can. Sanguine teammates feature on each other’s songs and in their music videos. Their Instagram pictures highlight everyday moments with each other and their creative processes.

Cool moments in Blackboi’s music attract listeners. He often references popular cultural heroes like actor Jet Li. Authenticity features in his songs about love. “This girl is the underlying topic to a lot of my songs,” he said.

Though Blackboi steadily adds to his music catalog, Zolo writes and records to perfect his work until it is ready for public ears. He will release his first ever single called “10” on April 21. “I’m real nervous,” Zolo said. “Nervous about how people will react and vibe to the song,” which he calls his last love song “for a while.”

Whatever happens, Blackboi explains that Sanguine will have “positive attitudes in bad situations” as they pursue notable music careers.

If there is a star in Pittsburgh’s hip-hop scene, “Keith believes in me,” Blackboi said, and Blackboi believes in Sanguine.