What Sacramento hip-hop sounds like in 2014

Meet Sacramento’s freshest crop of hip-hop artists

Singer-songwriter Jasmine Nichol’s take on rap and R&B has spawned its own movement: “hippie turn up.”

Singer-songwriter Jasmine Nichol’s take on rap and R&B has spawned its own movement: “hippie turn up.”

photo by bobby mull

There’s a new energy in Sacramento’s hip-hop scene with emerging voices that echo the genre’s changing tone as a whole over the last few years. Indeed, there is a rebellious vibrancy and creativity that unifies the city’s up-and-coming emcees. The current generation’s simultaneous ability to pay homage to hip-hop’s golden era as well as a willingness to step outside the boom-bap box offers a fresh perspective. Here are six new voices to check out in the coming year.

J.Sirus: The party rock and the personal

Reminiscent of a young Eyedea, J.Sirus combines the party rock and the personal with a passion that transcends both his recordings and performances. There is a vulnerable, almost journal-entry honesty to his verses—and yet they don’t come across as overly emo or Drake-esque. Rather, this is an emcee listeners can feel like they are actually getting to know—whether he’s onstage or on record.

J.Sirus’ latest project Smallville, is a soulful effort that shows the leaps and bounds he’s made over the past year sharing stages with the likes of Ab-Soul, Chance the Rapper and Schoolboy Q. With the trajectory he’s currently on, J.Sirus’ upcoming project may quickly become one of local hip-hop’s most-anticipated projects.

Sacramento rap veteran Soosh-E, who says he became an instant fan after meeting the artist, calls J.Sirus one to watch for the way he approaches his art.

“He continues to grow because he uses everything as a learning experience, even when he’s already made himself the star of the show through his performance.” http://officialjsirus.bandcamp.com.

Jasmine Nichol: Putting the ‘hippie’ in hip-hop

Jasmine Nichol’s music is part hip-hop, part sultry rhythm and blues, and part tie-dyed hippie. With influences as varied as Aretha Franklin and Tupac Shakur, Nichol is both a talented singer and lyricist. If Sacramento has a Lauryn Hill, she is it.

In 2013, Nichol released #NoE, a smooth yet raw look at the world today’s youth face—all laced with a positive, peace-loving message. The whole vibe even has even coined its own movement, “hippie turn up,” taken from Nichol’s song by the same name.

This year, the 22-year-old artist is set to release additional singles from #NoE, as well as a series of accompanying videos. There are also plans for a follow-up album.

“My goal is to show the masses that I am an artist they need to be acquainted with because of how different my music is,” Nichol says. www.jasminenichol.com.

JustKristofer: A call to arms

When it come to conscious rap, JustKristofer’s Love Over Judgment mixtape is one of the best projects to come out of Sacramento in the past few years. JustKristofer, completely unknown on the local scene until a few months ago, got his start singing in church and performing spoken word before making the leap into rap.

Love Over Judgment plays more like a generation’s call to arms than a mixtape and showcases the artist’s lyrical prowess as well as an incredible singing voice. There is an uncompromising urgency that imbues Love Over Judgment even as the music remains contagiously danceable—and even worthy of pop radio at points.

Takticz inherited mad skills from his dad, the Cuf rapper N8 the Gr8.

photo by bobby mull

“My main focus is to enlighten my generation with lyrics that will penetrate their hearts without judgment or being corny,” the 21-year-old emcee says. “One thing hip-hop lacks is fun without ignorance, or fun that doesn’t devalue an individual. That’s part of my goal for my next mixtape: to bring that creativity and that hype without nonsense.” http://soundcloud.com/justkristofer.

Luke Tailor: An honest rapper

You know how when Yeezus was released, and all you heard was how people wanted The College Dropout Kanye back? That’s not happening anytime soon, but in the meantime, there’s Luke Tailor and Textbook Money, which will drop later this month.

“Lyrically innovative,” “satirical,” “militant” and “fun” aren’t terms often used to describe the same emcee, but there’s no better way to describe the 20-year-old spoken-word poet-turned-rapper.

“I consider myself an honest rapper. I’m not conscious or gangster,” Tailor explains. “Being a college kid, I feel that balance between academics and college, street life and real hood problems.”

Tailor has already shared stages with Curren$y’s Jet Life crew and Casey Veggies, and the tracks off Textbook Money chronicle a raw, introspective and thought-provoking journey that will rattle your trunk the whole way. http://soundcloud.com/luke-tailor.

Takticz: Raised by hip-hop

If Takticz, 20, looks familiar, it is because he is the son of Sacramento hip-hop veteran N8 the Gr8 from the Cuf. Takticz’s rhymes (with the help of some of Dad’s beats) have already gained him recognition in the hip-hop blogosphere. Though lyricism runs in his blood, this isn’t a Russell and Diggy Simmons situation. Takticz is actually nice on a microphone, and his fearless experimentation with style and flow is a breath of fresh air. It’s obvious he was raised by hip-hop in a very literal sense.

“Since before I could even speak, I was running around trying to freestyle battle all my dad’s homies, messing with all his production equipment like they were toys, and rocking the stage,” he says.

Takticz’s music and stage performance still reflect that positive and playful side. Never too serious but talented in a serious way, he’s got the potential to not only follow in his father’s footsteps, but perhaps show the old man a few tricks of his own. http://soundcloud.com/n8thegr8cuf.

Swain Turay: New Age disco

With high-energy lyricism and a work ethic to match, Swain Turay is the one of the newest (and youngest) members of the Usual Suspects rap crew. Following the lead of his TUS mentors Chuuwee, Abstract Ninjaa and J.Good, Turay has already released several projects. His latest, Magnum Opus, has an experimental, ’70s soul feel to it that he’s dubbed “New Age disco.”

“I took it back to its roots with this project and created a popular soul-influenced sound that gets you on your feet,” says Turay, 19.

Despite his relative youth, Turay’s live set has already earned him fans for his ability to reach across genres and unify audiences.

Sacramento rapper Chuuwee says he recognized that quality early on.

“His strength as a performer is the ability to rock any and every crowd,” Chuuwee says. “I’ve seen Swain do shows with different crowd demographics or vibes, and he kills it every time. He is forever on-point at every single show, and his stage presence is the best I’ve seen from a young emcee.”www.swainturay.bandcamp.com.