In honor of Independence Day, we turn our attention to the nation’s oldest cities, where a new wave of indie artists has emerged. In no way is this list meant to rank the best independent artists in each city, but rather shine the spotlight on some dope emcees we haven’t discussed in the past. Breathing life into historic streets. Let’s explore some of the unseen, promising homegrown wordsmiths in the cities that define a nation.
Najee Janey’s music is rich with the textures of his childhood and is as challenging to box in. Growing up, the indie Roxbury, MA singer, rapper, and poet watched his father perform an eclectic variety of music, and it stuck, with many elements converging on Janey’s sound.
No matter the genre he is currently channeling, Najee Janey is a poet first. His songwriting has immense depth, defined by captivating storytelling and specific imagery. The elements of jazz, funk, and soul found throughout his discography serve as conduits to push his profound lyrics forward. Najee has been awarded several nominations at The Boston Music Awards, and was recently selected to perform at Boston’s largest music festival, Boston Calling.
Favorite Songs: Freedom To The World, This Ain’t The Way
Originally from San Antonio, indie artist Ivory Keys moved to Summerville, SC (about 30 minutes from Charleston) at the age of three. Key’s music has such nice aesthetics, leaning into elements of R&B and hip-hop. He uses great layering, strong lyrical instincts, and unique intonation to create easygoing and approachable music.
2021 EP Ain’t Much To Do is a great place to dive into Ivory Key’s discography. It is a cohesive, well-crafted project, that shows Keys versatility and range. It’s been a quiet year from the SC rapper, but we’re hoping for new music in 2023 from this burgeoning talent.
Favorite songs: Another Saturday in The Ville, Independent
Philly emcee lojii consistently defies the norms of contemporary rap with a refreshingly honest, laid-back, and introspective style. At this point, he’s a veteran, and for years has been pushing unpredictable lyricism and distinctive vocal qualities to the masses.
lojii defies the conventional mold of the rapper, leaning into exceptional indie talent and artistry while bucking the flashy trends we’ve turned to as a culture. With a keen sense of rhythm, captivating writing and a nuanced flow, he skillfully carves out his own niche, blending lo-fi leaning instrumentation and jazz-infused production into a rich musical tapestry.
Favorite songs: iiidk, each day (i pray for)
Few rappers embrace the boom-bap roots of Brooklyn more closely than indie Lord Kayso. Mirrored by jazz-influenced instrumentation, Kayso’s rich storytelling is a guiding light, sharing intimate stories of the grittier sides of life. From generational trauma, to drug use, to robbery, Kayso is never afraid to broach difficult topics. And he does so with patient, precise storytelling.
Sonically, his laid-back vocals and clever wordplay are incredibly approachable, infusing potent wordplay, and a knack for crafting catch hooks. Beat selection is superb throughout his discography, and hits all the right notes that scream this is Brooklyn.
Favorite songs: Slim Poppa, Uncle Mark