As can be imagined, someone from California now living in Virginia probably wouldn’t know too much about Virginia rappers off-the-bat unless the artists were mainstream. Underground rap aside, Virginia’s rap scene seems small on the outside, but some of the people involved have been in the rap game for a long time, whether they were noticed or not. And while these artists remain staples in certain areas of mainstream rap music, collectively they continue to contribute to rap music as a whole while individually representing their home state. So what’s VA got cookin’?
Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, also known as the lead members of the groups N.E.R.D. and The Neptunes, hail from Virginia Beach. Having produced and participated in a number of songs with a number of famous artists such as Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, and Kanye West, they are now famous themselves. Their versatility of being a rock band to Pharrell being R&B singer and rapper, they helped put Virginia on the map.
Often times artists will claim where they’re from in their songs as a way of striking territorial borders with other rap artists. However, because of that whole East Coast West Coast thing back in the ‘90s, now it just seems customary to throw in some sort of geographical place… Why not start with home? ‘Cause that’s where the heart is, right? Or so they say…
Fam-Lay, who was featured on The Neptunes’ first album, is from Norfolk, VA. He’s signed with The Neptunes’ Star Trak label and appeared on their debut album entitled The Neptunes Present Clones. He was also featured in Clipse’s Lord Willin album in ’02. Though Fam-Lay’s rapping style is a bit slower compared to that of Busta Rhymes and Twista, he has quality lyrics that have sometimes painful yet real undertones. In the song “Rock N Roll” that he did on the debut Neptunes album, he talked about being a candy man of sorts, comparing drugs to sweets. While drugs have had a significant impact in many parts of the country for a number of years, it’s always interesting to see how musicians will describe just how bad the conditions are in their music.
Famous producer and rapper Timbaland, who was often seen and heard with fellow Virginia native Missy Elliot, has been known to make people get up and dance since he began. He’s worked with a number of artists over the years, including Aaliyah, Ginuwine, and Justin Timberlake to name a few. A number of his songs have been featured in movies and on television. The hit dance film “Step Up 2 The Streets” featured a few of his songs, such as “Bounce” and “Shake Your Pom Pom” with Missy Elliot. His creativity speaks for itself while he continues to do what he does best: make music, make people dance, and make his hometown proud.
From Portsmouth comes Missy ‘Misdemeanor’ Elliot, who in the past has participated in some amazing dances in her videos. Her lyrics are often fast and require her to speak in an interested and sometimes elevated tone of voice. However, that doesn’t stop her from bustin’ a move on the dance floor with amazing costumes and background. One of the best videos she made, “Lose Control”, had some of the most unique yet some of the best choreography ever witnessed in any of her videos thus far. In fact, it’s hard to recall any other artist who has put forth so much effort to make a video look so dazzling that it makes people want to sign up for hip-hop dance classes. Currently, Missy is working on a few new things with her partner-in-crime, Timbaland. Missy’s not done dancing yet…
Another Virginia Beach crew called Clipse was discovered by The Neptunes. Clipse was also featured on The Neptunes Present Clones and went on to make their own albums, one of which was entitled Lord Willin’. In it, the twin rap duo (consisting of Malice and Pusha-T) created a song called “Grindin’” which still to this day has a distinct beat that hasn’t left the ears of those who appreciated its value. In the latest news, Pusha-T recently released a mixtape and announced last year that he got signed onto Kanye West’s record label, GOOD Music. The twin brothers plan to release solo albums.
An oldie but goody, Das-EFX reigned supreme in the late ‘80s and throughout the ‘90s with their one of a kind stream of consciousness rap style. Coming from Petersburg, VA, the rap duo placed their footprints in rap history along with EPMD early on before most rappers seen in the mainstream today were discovered. The Das-EFX crew inspired many rappers to be more intuitive with their rap styles and to mix things up a bit rather than keeping on with the same talk over a rhythm-type thing.