Vienna Teng at The Power Center


August 22, 2011

Ann Arbor, Ypsi and Detroit’s Booming Hip-Hop Scene I

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Written by: David Nassar
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Artists You Should Know


While reppin’ your hometown may be rather typical in hip-hop, few do it on the level of Detroit-native Andrae Townsel, aka DraeTown. With the recent release of the video for “City of Gold,” his latest single featuring fellow Detroit emcee, Lawson, he hopes to show the Motor City in a light rarely seen these days. Those who grew up near The D can appreciate the way in which the song and the video show the rich beauty and history of the city. DraeTown does not see his city as many outsiders do—as a crumbling, past-its-prime metropolis. He’d rather focus attention on everything great this great city has to offer, from the beautiful Fox Theater to our favorite homegrown soda, Faygo.

Considering the unique position and unmatched drive of DraeTown, it’s no surprise that he has greater aspirations than simply making a name for himself as an emcee or producer. Townsel has earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, and is currently attending Howard University in pursuit of his doctorate in Educational Administration and Policy. He plans to return to Detroit after completing school so that he can help bring positive changes to the city and school district he was raised in. Having attended DPS, he knows firsthand the challenges that lay ahead. But Townsel is focused on bringing the community together to bring back this too often dismissed city and help return Detroit to its glory days.


Photo credit: Kenza Chaouai

Ypsilanti native and EMU alumnus Kendall Tucker, better known as 14KT, started his career in hip-hop alongside Mayer Hawthorne at a young age as part of the group, Athletic Mic League (AML). But soon after joining the group as an emcee, he began developing his skills as a producer and beat-maker. Now, 14KT has earned a reputation as one of the areas most skillful and sought after producers, working with many acts around Ann Arbor and Detroit.

While he often returns to the musical influences he grew up with—such as gospel, soul and jazz—he has built his reputation as one of the area’s most creative producers because of his willingness to look outside the box, drawing inspiration from everything from techno and electronica to new age music.

After winning Red Bull’s Big Tune-Austin producer beat battle at SXSW in 2010, he became the national beat battle champion. And, while his last solo release was 2009’s “Nowalataz,” 14KT has kept busy producing for other acts and performing to packed crowds all over the country.  His latest project found him producing for the 16 yr old Ann Arbor-based emcee prodigy, Gameboi, and he plans to release another solo album later in 2011.

Tree City

First coming together in 2005, the Ann Arbor-based group, Tree City, has gone through many changes over the years but has never stopped producing some of the most unique hip hop the area has ever seen.  Their first official release, 2007’s “The TreE.P.” was met with acclaim from fans and critics alike.  They followed it up with 2008’s “Black Trees” mixtape which cemented them as one of Ann Arbor’s most celebrated hip hop groups.  Relentless touring—including opening for acts such as

Phat Kat, My Dear Disco, The Macpodz and OneBeLo—have allowed them to develop a strong local following and a fan base that reaches well beyond the traditional hip hop scene.

Although Tree City began with eight emcees and a DJ in 2005, there has been an evolving lineup over the years. But, by 2009, the group had streamlined itself down to five members: G.P., Man In Charge, DJ Cataclysmic, Clavius Crates and Cheeks. In June 2010, Tree City released “Thus Far,” a retrospective album that was nearly four years in the making and included numerous collaborations with artists such as 14KT, Doc Illingsworth, Blaze One and Nickie P.

Trick Trick 

Christian Mathis, better known as Trick Trick, is a Detroit native and veteran of the local hip hop scene.  As part of the group Goon Sqwad, he has worked with many big-name artists including Eminem, Dr. Dre, Kid Rock and Ice Cube.  His love for music started with his mother, who used to sing backup for jazz legend Alberta Adams.  Later in his life, he started playing percussion and a variety of other instruments in church.

Initially getting his start by signing with the label Click Boom in 1992, Mathis quickly found himself in trouble with the law. But after a short stint behind bars, he refocused his efforts on music and eventually signed to his first major label, Motown. He released his debut solo album, “The People Vs.” in 2005 and joined Eminem on his Anger Management Tour. He also collaborated with Eminem on the album’s first single, “Welcome to Detroit.” His second album, “The Villain,” was released in 2008 on Koch Records.

Magestik Legend

Although Magestik Lengend’s debut album, “The Great Escape,” was just released last year, he has been solidifying himself as a marquee player in the Detroit hip hop scene for years. An emcee, lyricist and producer, he has worked and performed with the likes of Wu-tang, Ludacris, Rakim and Redman, among many others.

Born and raised in Detroit, Magestik’s earliest influences were from his parents, who turned him on to jazz, soul and Motown.  Growing up in the 80’s, he was also inspired by the burgeoning hip hop scene and began entering talent showcases and emcee battles at an early age. While he has dabbled in recording and production, his years on the road working out his live performance chops has resulted in one of the most exciting stage shows around.  And with many projects on the horizon, Magestik’s legend is sure to grow in the coming years. “Music outlives most artists that make it,” says Legend, “So when all is said and done and I pass on, my music will still be here speaking for me.  That story will be my ‘majestic’ legend.”

About the Author

David Nassar
David is our resident beer snob and foodie. With a background in brewing, writing and most things awesome, David continues to grow as a professional writer. From covering events to interviewing some of the areas biggest names, David can handle it all. Reach out and say hello.

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