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The hip-hop horizon: Iowa rappers’ fall releases explore drug culture, punk and ‘ascension music’



Emma Gray/Little Village

This fall will see a wide range of releases from Iowan artists spanning the diverse rap and hip-hop spectrum. While this is far from a comprehensive list of what’s on tap for the next several months, here’s a cross-section looking at five releases from young, up-and-coming artists who have new projects on the way.

Up first in early September is the debut album from XMajin, titled Hate Me. XMajin self-produced roughly half of the tracks, and the release will be rounded out by several features including the likes of DRXCULV (whose own album, Antiporn, is also being readied for release). Thematically, Hate Me looks to serve as an outlet for the 20-year-old rapper and producer to challenge the glorification of drug-culture within music, following his own challenges with substance abuse.

“I just want to look at it in a negative way so people stop glorifying it,” he told Little Village.

Later in September, Shaky Shawn999 will issue an expanded deluxe edition of his Before I Die EP. Born in Chicago, the 21-year-old framed his intention behind his music as influenced by an aesthetic rather than specific style.

“Punk is just anything opposite of a square,” he told Little Village. “That’s exactly what it is.”

Blending beats, vocals and raps, the upcoming album will also feature work from teenage producer TB.

“The shit that he does at his age is mind-blowing,” Shawn said.

Bridging September and October are a pair of releases from Quan Draper, titled Viice and Viirtue. Piggybacking off his original Virtue (2018) and Vice (2019) EPs, the rapper and vocalist said the music will find him trying out new sounds and experimenting with songwriting conventions.

“[2021 full-length] Snowfall was very introspective and expressive,” Draper said, whereas “you’ll get two sides of me with these next EPs: the fun, light side” with Viirtue, and the “harsh, competitive side” with Viice.

Expanding on Shaky Shawn999’s conceptual bridge between rap and punk will be the new EP from Antiluv, titled Anti-Pop Rockstar, which more literally connects the two genres. It will see a stylistic split, with one half bearing a vocal and beat-propelled sound and the other leaning into instrumentally driven pop-punk. The tracks were recorded at Carousel Studios in Des Moines, where Antiluv also serves as an audio engineer, and individual songs will see a staggered release before the full collection drops as a unit sometime around Halloween.

Out of Iowa City, TheZeffsterr will be returning this November with a new release combining a series of new recordings with several re-mastered and re-released songs. With production from Lugi Beats, the still-to-be titled EP is being recorded and released through Hit Island Studios in Chicago. Calling his brand of sound “ascension music,” TheZeffsterr told Little Village his focus with the upcoming collection is to help promote progression in himself and his listeners.

“I make music that puts you in high spirits,” he said.


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