Richmond Music 2022, Part I: Hip Hop

by | Dec 27, 2022 | MUSIC

Richmond’s always a hotbed of musical activity within all genres, but one of the busiest year after year has got to be the RVA hip hop scene. 2022 was no exception, with all sorts of projects going on, both from scene veterans and rising stars on the come-up.

Gritty City Records majordomo Johnny Ciggs had an active year, collaborating with a few different local producers to create multiple projects, all of them excellent. Noah-O dropped a manifesto of a release with his latest full-length, Trillipino. Michael Millions collaborated with Butcher Brown on the absolute tour de force of a single, “Black Man,” while his AGM compatriot Radio B teamed up with producer Don Dubious for his latest album, Stop Looking For Noise.

Meanwhile, while BlackLiq, one of RVA hip hop’s preeminent statesmen, focused his main efforts on his new hardcore band (more on that in a future installment), a variety of new voices rose up to impress us all within the medium of hip hop. Even if Skinnyy Hendrixx’s Smooth League Villain hit your ears in 2021 (reports conflict on the release date of this one), tracks like “D’Angelo” hit hard enough to make an impact two years in a row. In a scene that’s often intensely serious, Lunch $pecial let us all know that it’s OK to have fun while you’re rapping. And of course, if the year in RVA hip hop belonged to anyone, it was Kidz At Play, who went from being a rumor around the younger cliques in the scene to one of the hottest, most buzzworthy acts of any genre to be found within the river city.

Enough talk — let’s listen to some of these tracks, shall we? I won’t say this playlist consists of every great hip hop track to hit the RVA airwaves in 2022. I work hard to keep up with what’s happening on the local music scene, but it’s inevitable that things are gonna get by me, and sometimes they’re gonna be really good things. If you think I forgot anything essential from 2022 in RVA hip hop, drop me a line at drew@gayrva.com. But first, listen to every last one of these jams — all of them have a lot to offer.

PT Vell, “Sun Don’t Shine Pt. 2”
Aviation: The Return
PT Vell released two flight-themed albums this year. The latter of the duo included this update — and improvement, in my humble opinion — on a track from his 2018 EP, Thank You.

Skinnyy Hendrixx, “D’Angelo (feat. PT Vell)”
The Smooth League Villain
Make sure you spell his name right — two Y’s, two X’s (otherwise you’ll get some guy from Cali). This song is braggodocio to the max, but Skinnyy’s got the flow and the skills to back up every boast.

Noah-O, “Trillipino”
Trillipino
Noah-O always brings the fire, but this track hits especially hard, letting us know exactly how hard he’s had to work, and how much he’s had to survive, just to be here making music. It wouldn’t mean nearly as much if the man wasn’t still, over a decade after “I Got It,” one of the best MCs this city has to offer. If you’re still sleeping on Noah-O, it’s way past time you fix that.

Johnny Ciggs & Ant the Symbol, “Shine”
The Great White Hype
Not the only time Johnny Ciggs will show up on this list, but this track is a personal favorite — and not just because the incredibly talented Ant The Symbol is behind the boards (though I admit it, that’s a big part of it). As a girl who’s always hungry, I really relate to the intro on this one. The rest of it just slaps (oh, is that all?). Dig in.

Ty Sorrell, “Like Diamonds”
HomeGrown
Ty Sorrell’s got some connections to the Richmond indie scene, but if that leads you to expect something that isn’t quite real hip hop, well, you’re way off base. The beats, the rhymes, the intense flow… this track hits hard.

Kidz At Play, “COOLOFF”
Cooloff single
The Kidz got up to a lot this year, and their first full-length album, Mike Tyson Jab, is a huge 2022 release that deserves its flowers (stay tuned). BUT I can’t deny how many repeat plays this track got from me this year — even when I wasn’t enjoying the compulsively watchable party-turned-trainwreck that is the music video.

Chandler, Fellaair, and Lunch $pecial, “Paste”
Paste single
Lunch $pecial was the reason I checked out this track, but Fellaair’s smooth production and Chandler’s laid-back, drawling flow ended up being just as important to its overall appeal as Lunch’s brilliantly goofy scenery-chewing.

Big B, “Higher”
Clock On The Wall
I’m sure I’m late to the party on an MC who’s been plying his trade in Richmond for several years now, but 2022’s gotta go down as the year I first gave Big B’s music a serious listen. Once I heard Clock On The Wall, I knew I had a lot of lost time to make up for. This song is a guaranteed pick-me-up; one listen and you’ll know deep in your soul that you can take on the world.

Butcher Brown & Michael Millions, “Black Man”
Black Man single
MC plus producer is always a winning combination in hip hop, but it’s always great to hear a rapper pick up the mic at the front of a live band. When that live band is formidable Richmond soul-jazz quintet Butcher Brown (featuring DJ Harrison, a talented producer in his own right), you know you’ve got lightning in a bottle. And if the rapper picking up the mic is Michael Millions, you know there’s hardly anyone out there with more lyrical talent. Once you factor in this song’s subject matter, it’s a recipe for one of the most important tracks in any genre to come out of this city so far this decade.

Kidz At Play, “The Sexualization Of Pharrell Williams is the title, but it used to be called ‘Big Cunt'”
Mike Tyson Jab
Here’s a great example of just how much raw, irreverent fun Kidz At Play can be on any given track. From the lampshaded playfulness of the lyrics to the musical schizophrenia of a track that veers back and forth between multiple unrelated modes to the title (which is either brilliant, insane, or both, but is definitely not forgettable), this one is a total blast.

Radio B, “Doing The Dishes (feat. Don Dubious & Nickelus F)”
Stop Looking For Noise
Count on Radio B for extremely solid, high quality music, year after year at a steady pace that you can set your watch by. Stop Looking For Noise is his latest in a long line of excellent projects, and of course it’s always nice to hear Nickelus F drop an outstanding feature verse.

Johnny Ciggs & Sik Sense, “Heavyweights”
Heavyweights cassette maxi single
Johnny Ciggs’ latest collab is transatlantic in nature — on the two-song Heavyweights cassette single, he’s working with UK rapper Sik Sense, whose accent will remind you of Slick Rick even as Ciggs reminds you that he consistently delivers top-quality rhymes.

Skweeky Watahfawls, “Hades Babies (feat. Fan Ran)”
Pure Hell
Ciggs wasn’t the only Gritty City artist doing work in 2022; Skweeky Watahfawls might be hard to track down online, but his moody rhymes and foreboding beats are showcased well on this track from his latest EP, featuring a verse from Fan Ran and a ringing phone laced throughout the backing track. It works, too — listen for yourself if you don’t believe me.

DuctTape Jesus, “Plastic”
Plastic single
From the most spaced-out corner of Richmond’s hip hop scene, DuctTape Jesus deals in the psychedelic, acid-damaged beats and obscure lyrics that probably about anything all that wholesome or responsible. But isn’t that why we all love it?

NDEFRU, “Systems (feat. Ohbliv)”
Signals single
Let’s wrap it up with a multilayered slice of moody hip hop that finds NDEFRU laying down his signature powerful rhymes overtop of crate-digging genius Ohbliv’s thick, hypnotic beats. Smooth and deadly.

Top illustration made in Midjourney

Marilyn Drew Necci

Marilyn Drew Necci

Former GayRVA editor-in-chief, RVA Magazine editor for print and web. Anxiety expert, proud trans woman, happily married.




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