This comes from the Pigeons & Planes’ spread in the April/May issue of Complex Magazine. Buy the issue here.
Thanks to condensed populations, their own unique cultures, and access to things like mass media platforms, live venues, and top-notch recording studios, it’s always America’s biggest cities—NYC, L.A., Atlanta, Miami, Chicago—that have been our country’s hotspots for hip-hop.
Less so, lately. Thanks to the last decade’s advances in technology, you don’t need to be in a major city in order to make high-quality music (and get a high-quality buzz). The artists of Virginia are taking full advantage of this new reality, and the talent coming out of there is as massive as it is diverse.
Hampton Roads resident and rising rapper/singer D.R.A.M. explains: “Out here, it’s like a free-for-all. It’s a true melting pot of influences from the North and Southeast coast. The 757 has its own culture that sets it apart from the DMV area of VA that takes to the ways of D.C. It’s kinda dope, because you can never quite put your finger on it.”
The buzz all started with one song: “Cha Cha.” It’s a clumsy, perfectly sloppy earworm driven by a Super Mario Bros. sample and one of the catchiest choruses of 2014. It sounds like a drunken sing-along at a dive bar, and it was a great introduction. Digging a little deeper into D.R.A.M.’s #1EPICSUMMER mixtape, it becomes clear that while “Cha Cha” is certainly a standout, it’s not a fluke. D.R.A.M. can sing, rap, and produce, and he’s got the rare talent of effortlessly flipping one hot line into an unforgettable hook. He’s also got a vibrant, fun-loving energy that turns any stage into a party, one his home state already loves. Watch the rest of the country show up soon enough.
DP’s raw gangster tales and gritty, modern production make comparisons to fellow Virginia Beach natives Clipse inevitable. While the 21-year-old rapper still has plenty to prove, the promise of his breakout tracks “Jabar,” “Glass Casket,” and “Glitch” is undeniable. DP’s got a hyper-tuned ear for menacing, uncluttered, bass-heavy beats, and his effortlessly aggressive voice is nothing less than the perfect match for them. Rather than rushing out new music after “Jabar” dropped in April 2014, DP’s been taking his time, spacing his releases out as he builds to a full-length project. With Lyor Cohen’s 300 label behind him, and a commanding stage presence that belies his inexperience, DP has all the tools to be the next Virginia Beach success story.
Production trio VERYRVRE are slowly but surely building a name for themselves, working with artists as diverse as A$AP Mob and Lil Bibby. From their bare-bones studio in a storage unit, TA$H, BASHAM, and WASH provided the thunderous bass and hazy, washed-out melodies of A$AP Ferg’s “Hood Pope” and A$AP Rocky’s “Purple Kisses.” Combining the 808s and crisp hi-hats common in current Atlanta trap production, with a slowed soundscape that nods to Houston and chopped and screwed beats, their sound manages to be both versatile and very, very current. Working with fellow Virginia talents like DP, D.R.A.M., and Mass, they’ve clearly got their ear to the streets, and a couple more big placements could see them become go-to producers for a new wave of rappers.
Every new rapper wants to sound like the next new thing, but most of them end up pushing the same lukewarm trends. But GoldLink is carving out his own lane, blending retro R&B grooves with electronic thump and nimble raps. His charisma on the mic has already caught the attention of Rick Rubin, and the first project he ever released, The God Complex, already has him slated as one of hip-hop’s most buzzed about. The future, after all, is what you make of it, and it’s looking very bright for this young VA spitter.