Freejacob, "This Time Last Year"
This District native’s crisp, uncluttered rhymes tend to obey the laws of gravity, but his ambition leans toward something more cosmic. “My heart cold as the moon,” Freejacob raps over a high-hat that ticks like clockwork. “My future bright as the sun.” Later on his new EP, he asks, “If I’m a star, shouldn’t I be in orbit?” Check back this time next year.
Gordo Brega, "#Gshxt"
Whether he’s rapping in English or Spanish, this DMV mainstay knows how to bend words at the bottom of his throat. During a particularly flexible run on his new album, Gordo rhymes “Jeter” with “cheaters” with “two-seater” with “Aquafina” with “Shakira” with “disappear.” He makes it sound so easy. Maybe it is. When others “talk crazy,” he raps, “I just sit back and I chuckle.”
Matt McGhee, "Everything Starts From Now"
In a world of motormouths, McGhee raps like a luxury sports car, constantly shifting gears without letting you feel the difference. Take a few laps around his latest album and you’ll barely notice big deviations in speed, cadence, timbre and melody. Or, to get all of those subtle kicks in the space of a single song, cue up “Fasho” and listen to his trash-talk accelerate with immaculate smoothness.
MartyHeemCherry, "Refreshingly Original"
When I first crossed MartyHeemCherry’s path in the nightlife, he introduced himself as the best rapper in D.C. That got my attention. I asked for his Twitter handle. “@BESTRAPPERINDC,” he said. Excellent. I’ve followed his music ever since — and he’s never sounded more confident than on this expansive new EP (only three songs, but seven-plus minutes each), rapping with an elastic equanimity that runs parallel to the grandeur of OutKast, the delirium of go-go music and the weird wend of time itself.
Nice Breeze, "Abysm"
Rock songs about drugs that try to sound profound are usually dumb. On the other hand, rock songs about drugs that try to sound dumb are occasionally profound. Nice Breeze checks the second box with “Just Becuz,” an end-of-the-world shrug of a tune that seems to descend from the Velvet Underground. “There’s a lot of free time and a lot of drugs,” vocalist Andy Fox yips into the void while drummer Martha Hamilton and guitarist John Howard bash around the edges. “Sometimes I break down just because.”
Nicole Saphos Band, "Takoma Sessions"
The jazz singer-slash-bassist’s lovelorn lyrics sound different in quarantine. “Thought that I needed different air to breathe,” Saphos sings on her new live album, recorded before the pandemic and out on Friday. “With all this empty space, no, it doesn’t look so good on me.” In song, she fills that empty space with chirpy vocal melodies and zigzaggy bass lines, keeping busy, but still leaving her bandmates at least six feet of breathing room.