In January 2012, the annual St. Louis Underground Music Festival, (SLUM Fest) will recognize artists, albums and mixtapes voted on by fans. Several SLUM Fest nominees have made the following list, which is in no particular order, as well as other notable talent in the area's vibrant underground scene.
Rockwell Knuckles - "You're Fucking Out I'm Fucking In"
Everything about this latest Rockwell Knuckles project means business. Of course there's the in-your-face title (an "Eastbound and Down" reference) and the cover art (that gives you the finger). But the music is what really gets the blood flowing. Knuckles' tough swagger gives tracks such as "Unstoppable," and the rocked-out "Natural Born Leader," featuring Theresa Payne, the edge it needs to stand out among the rest. Also note the entrancing "Play Catch."
Black Spade - "The Sweetest Revenge"
Those who picked up a copy of Black Spade's latest album at the Gramophone release party got both a great deal on the LP and a phenomenal show. It's a triumphant record that brings together local favorites including Rockwell Knuckles, who graces the cool yet menacing "The Force." Hi-Filde and Jia Davis accompany cruising synths in the hazy "I'm Not Him," one of many chill tracks to have at the ready.
Tef Poe - "Power Over Everything"
With Trackstar the DJ backing him up, Tef Poe body-checks into this year's mixtape with "Fuck Everybody," and he doesn't make any apologies after that. He does, however, include an ode to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony with "Crossroads" and brings on rappers T-Prince and L-Gifted, as well as singer Theresa Payne, for a high-energy ride.
Family Affair - "Before the Return"
The twins from the North side who make up Family Affair have a polished sound sought after by fans looking for a stellar St. Louis act. They credit Bone Thugs as an influence, and indeed, their similarly unrelenting style lends to fantastic vocals. Standout tracks from "Before The Return" include the club-busting "We Came To Get."
Nite Owl - "Local Celebrity"
A fast seller at Vintage Vinyl, Nite Owl's "Celebrity" is a spirited romp with earnest rhymes and smooth instrumentals. Highlights on the album include the marching-band-backed "Intense" and a James Brown-inspired in "Back Pay."
A-Game - "Hottest in tha City 2"
The "College Boi" returns with a second mixtape as fresh as his first. A-Game offers surprising new tracks including one that samples from The Office theme song called "Tha Munchie Song." It's ridiculous, and you can't stop listening. The St. Louis native showcases creativity and flow in his second release and stakes a high spot on the list of top St. Louis talent.
DJ Mahf - "Homemade Junk 3"
At the heart of Indyground Entertainment is DJ Mahf, nominated for "Best DJ" in the upcoming SLUM Fest. In Homemade Junk 3, Mahf crams in a plethora of clever mashups and remixes using familiar tracks and top-shelf turntable skills. In "Steddy Persistence Ain't Classy," Kansas City rappers Steddy P and the group Ces Cru lend their voices over heavy synths to the pumped-up track. In "Turbo Shut 'Em Down," Mahf adds a dubstep flair to a classic Public Enemy with admirable taste. A very entertaining collection made by a St. Louis favorite. Listen to a recent Live at KDHX session with DJ Mahf.
Farout - "Farlow"
Another Indyground member, Farout is St. Louis-raised and currently resides in Columbia, Mo. Younger than many of his peers, Farout has nevertheless developed both a smart and unique rapping style that he brings it in his sophomore album along with killer beats to match. High points include "Skipping" and "Dance Party."
L Gifted - "Subtract Negativity"
Based in O'Fallon, Ill., L Gifted is the kind of artist who can enlist rappers such as Tef Poe as well a lineup of talented producers to create a massively entertaining album. This hard-hitting release will appeal to all kinds of sensibilities, from the track "Wild 'n' Out" featuring the Chalkboyz to "For The Taking" featuring Shadow B and Whiteout.
RT FaQ and WhiteOut - "The RT FaQ and Whiteout Show"
Rappers WhiteOut and RT FaQ hold it down for the East Boogie and bring together a diverse set of artists and producers in their explosive mixtape up for a SLUM Fest award. Look up the old-school aesthetic of "On And On" for a high point in homegrown hip hop.