Hip hop alive and well in region, despite struggles
Hip hop artists say Southern Maryland isn’t a rapper’s paradise just yet
Musical talent is hard to find, but having a good ear and an extraordinary sound can land new artists a record deal, fame, fortune and a loyal fan base.
An up-and-coming artist can only dream of the many possibilities. In 2016, the rappers in the limelight are Jay-Z, Drake, Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy. In a music industry that is so diverse, where do the rappers from Southern Maryland fit in?
The Southern Maryland region is known for producing some highly reputable, award-winning, chart-topping musicians such as Chuck Brown, Good Charlotte and Christina Milian, among others. However, when it comes to the hip-hop genre, the region’s rappers are often overlooked and underestimated.
For many locals, the stereotypical music preferences are bluegrass, light rock and country. Although Southern Maryland is increasing in diversity, one would ask, “Where is the hip-hop? Where are the entertaining rappers who spit words like fire and lead their generation with powerful words and lyrical stories that form a historic movement?”
Southern Maryland artists such as Relentlezz, Munch-Dog, Tito Starr and Yung Boi are working hard at their musical craft to continue making the region’s hip-hop stand out to not just the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, but to the entire nation.
Relentlezz, a Waldorf rapper who has been performing for almost two decades, said the Southern Maryland hip-hop scene is expanding, but it’s just a bad market. Having worked with legendary artists such as Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Relentlezz is regarded as one of the most experienced hip-hop artists in the region, in addition to Waldorf rapper Tito Starr.
“We don’t have people coming to the area to scout new talent and most people kind of brush you off locally,” Relentlezz said. “People tend to judge your career off of radio play, but they don’t realize that there are a lot of artists without radio play who are touring the world. Hopefully one day the Southern Maryland hip-hop scene will get noticed and receive recognition for their artistry. There are good artists out here but most people would have to dig to find out about them.”
St. Mary’s County rapper MunchDog said this region will soon be a place the industry looks to for the next big sound.
“It’s like we’re influenced from both the south side and the north side of the nation since we are smack dab in between,” Munch-Dog said. “I think we come up with some very good music. It’s like a blend from both sides coming into this one area and I like it. We have people like Tito Starr constantly showcasing the talent in Southern Maryland with thousands of views on YouTube and one of his songs having been in rotation on WPGC 95.5. That was a big deal for all of the rappers here in Southern Maryland.”
Munch-Dog, who has been performing for 15 years, said this is one of the best places to scout for talented rappers because it has a bit of everything. He said that when he started rapping, there wasn’t even a Southern Maryland hip-hop scene and described the region as “a secluded area that is hard for many people to find.” Because of that, the current rap artists need to venture out to get their music heard.
Samir Spooner, also known as Tito Starr, agreed that the local scene is growing — but disagrees with how promoters pitch an artist’s music. He said promoters have been ineffective at planning events that can help create opportunities for local artists.
“Local promoters need to start promoting real talent and not just being about the money,” Tito Starr said. “The talented artists also need to link up and squeeze the wannabes off the scene, because they are making us look bad wearing all this fake jewelry, rapping about lies, and bringing down the value of what so many Southern Maryland artists have worked hard for.”
Tito Starr said the Southern Maryland hip-hop scene has changed over time, to the point where local rappers are finally being put on the map. He has had exposure himself on radio shows like “DMV Spotlight” on WPGC 95.5 and the “EZ Street” show on WKYS 93.9. He also promotes his own group, Down Da Road Boyz, that is full of diverse rap talent from around the region.
“There is a lot of garbage out there, a lot of haters, and a lot of folks just wanting to rap because it seems like the thing to do to get girls or something,” Tito Starr said.
He said there are too many “fake it ‘til you make it” rappers, and not enough quality music.
“Being a Southern Maryland artist is hard because we have to not only be real with what we do, but we need to have real talent because we are looked at as ‘country’ or slow, so we have a little more of a hurdle to climb than other artists from ‘hoods known for musicians and artists,” Tito Starr said. “Me and a couple of others have worked hard to gain the respect of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan artists. I do think we are continuing to gain exposure, but it’s crazy how your own don’t support you as much as others as far as D.C. or Baltimore.”
Calvert County rapper Yung Boi had lived in Lusby and Prince Frederick all his life, but recently moved to Waldorf just to take his rap career to new levels. Waldorf has become the central area for all Southern Maryland artists to record, perform and promote their music. He said he felt squeezed out of his home county in order to make his music.
“You can’t perform a lot of hip-hop in Calvert County because there’s no platform for us to show our art,” he said. “There’s no Spice Lounge or Howard Theater where we can go do an event and perform. ... If you aren’t doing country music and rock ‘n’ roll then they won’t play your music or welcome your type of music in Calvert County. I understand that a lot of artists and a lot of rap music or hiphop brings a lot of negative attention media-wise — but not all hip-hop is bad.”
Each rapper agreed that the only way they were able to succeed was by building their own buzz, performing in Washington and out of state.
Crank Lucas, a local producer, rapper and YouTube sensation in Prince George’s County, knows all about building buzz in the metro area. He produces for many Southern Maryland musicians and credits artists like Tito Starr and Relentlezz for keeping hip-hop alive in the region. Lucas said every artist in Southern Maryland knows each other — and only a handful truly stand out.
“The Southern Maryland artists need to travel to promote their sound because they don’t have their own platform like a radio station, television station or internet platforms that focus on artists down there,” Lucas said.
He added that many people barely know about the DMV hip-hop scene, but noted he was smart enough to utilize the internet to help get his brand out there.
“Southern Maryland artists are going to need to be more creative in their market, how they market their brand and the type of music they make, because a lot of artists don’t really stand out enough to draw attention to Southern Maryland,” he said. “Back in the day, hip-hop stood out in Southern Maryland, and with more hard work and creativity the Southern Maryland rappers can make that the case again.”
Southern Maryland rappers represent a valuable piece of the world’s hip-hop culture as they use powerful lyrics to discuss crime, personal experiences and common issues within their hometowns. They understand that in order to impact the national and international hip hop music fan base, they must remain united and support one another.
“We as artists need to stick together, keep the movement strong, keep doing what we’re doing and then Southern Maryland hip hop can be the next best thing in the music industry,” Yung Boi said. “It all comes down to the Southern Maryland hip-hop community working together.”
Tito Starr, a Waldorf rapper, records verses for his new track, “Turn Up,” at Nightsky Studios in Waldorf.
St. Mary’s County rapper Munch-Dog performs last month during a studio session at Firedrop Production Studios. He has been on the Southern Maryland hip hop scene for 15 years and sees this as the next area that the music industry looks to for talented rappers.
Waldorf rapper Relentlezz, left, St. Mary’s rapper Munch-Dog and producer Don Dixon work during a recording session last month at Firedrop Production Studios.
Waldorf rapper Tito Starr records last week the rest of his new track, “Turn Up,” at Nightsky Studios, one of the most popular studios in Southern Maryland.
Calvert County rapper Yung Boi holds a studio session recently at TLOM ENT, performing a track called “Not Signed Yet” from his new mix tape.