X000 YunG (Tyler Bond and Stephen Jones)
Style: Jones and Bond, collectively known as X000 YunG, explore the dark hip-hop sub-genre of horror core, fusing sinister melodic sounds with 808 drum-machine beats. As producers, the two have made music for years, Bond in the punk-rock world and Jones in the hip-hop scene. Their shared interest in 1980s slasher films and musicians like Three 6 Mafia and the Cocteau Twins helped create the duo's eerie lo-fi sound.
Latest releases: In a time when beats from different mainstream artists sound remarkably similar and lyricism is limited to repetitive catchy hooks, X000 YunG offers a much-needed change in pace. Previous releases "The Hideaway EP" and "Seven Princes of Hell" display a preferred ambient trap sound with tracks such as "Mammon: Greed" and "Vultures" being exemplars. But their latest project, the 11-song LP "Fxxx How You Feel," breaks from the signature dark sound, like on the song "Burgundy" with the lyrics "the devil shit is played so switchin' deals and for the hater mother fuck how you feel," poking fun at their previous work while showing creative range.
Where to hear: X000 YunG has performed at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and home venue Crystal Palace as well as various pop-up events around the city. News of any live dates can be found on its Bandcamp page.
Style: Aaron Brown, aka Alfred, calls this genre dark gospel, defined as a soundscape of vocals, screaming, whispers and close and distant chatter that immerses audiences into an intense listening experience. Brown uses the term to acknowledge Baptist religious influences and situate the music within hip-hop while carving space to exist comfortably as a self-identified "queer rap scallion." Traditional fans would say the music is not hip-hop, but tradition makes it hard to define the music in the same way it makes it hard for people to be themselves.
Latest releases: Fresh off tour with Citrus City records for the album "So Sensitive" featuring producer Yung Pocket$, Alfred's newest EP "Like You" challenges traditional stereotyping. The EP features a song titled "Tales of a Queer Rap-Scallion" speaking directly to Brown's experience in hip-hop. The project casually addresses homophobia and speaks to people Brown cares about. Similar to the So Sensitive project, the project stays empathetic to outsiders. But it feels connected to people, for better or worse, and the intensity of these emotions comes through in the songs.
Where to hear: Strange Matter is one of Alfred's favorite venues. You can check out the music on Souncloud.
Style: In angel numerology, the number 333 is a sign from divine beings that you are protected, loved and on the correct path. Rapper and producer Dial.333 embraces and manifests this celestial message with euphonic sync-wave tones and gentle beats. This is more experimental hip-hop, a genre that breaks traditional rules of quantized or precise beats with rhythms that are free to break, switch and mix at will.
Latest releases: Dial.333's music is a seamless blend of emotive lyrics and smooth yet unpredictable beats. His song "Don't You Need Me" shows his skills for storytelling and weird instrumentals. For 333 the beat comes usually from a melody or sample that eventually becomes a full song. The tone of the beats evokes an emotion or memory and the words follow if the songs call for it. Tracks such as "U Can Be" featuring Richmond producers VonnBoyd exist without lyrics, but they're no less emotive or sensual. His next project, "Planet 333," is his first complete album.
Where to hear: The artist's album is still in the works so there are no upcoming shows, but he frequents Strange Matter and pop-up performances around the city and along the East Coast. His social media pages will feature more information about shows once the album is completed.
Style: Mutant Academy is a homegrown hip-hop collective that represents Richmond's diverse sound. One of the founding members, rapper Henny L.O., says Mutant Academy's work follows Bruce Lee's law of harmony: "Never do anything that isn't natural or spontaneous." Instead of following trends, the group is more focused on making its own space and trying new sounds.
Latest Work: Each member of Mutant Academy has individual projects. Members are recording, collaborating with other members and other local artists like Michael Millions, Radio B., Nickelus F. and Ohbliv. Collectively, the group is producing "Emergency Raps," a multivolume series of tracks created spontaneously in a matter of days. Producer Tuamie came up with the idea of creating a beat and instantly creating a song without planning the session. The first volume of "Emergency Raps" by artist Big Kahuna Og can be heard on Apple Music.
Where to hear: Mutant Academy frequents Richmond's Lyricist Lounge at Strange Matter and actively participates in Southpaw's Battle Coalition.