2015 could have been the biggest year for Cleveland’s hip-hop scene in over a decade. This may seem like a bold claim, but this article will go in depth on explaining why we would make such a statement. There were multiple songs including “Biggie,” “Kyrie Irving,” “iPhone,” and “Til I Die” that easily made their way out of the city and were being played across the U.S. Aside from the obvious heavy weight’s like Machine Gun Kelly (who played sold out shows in Europe while performing Cleveland anthems), other artists made career changing moves. These range from Malcupnext signing to Big Boi’s label to Ezzy spitting one of the best freestyles Sway in the Morning has ever seen. We want Cleveland and the rest of the world to know which artists are putting on for the city and advancing their careers to the next level. Continue reading below and find out why each artist on this list was chosen for our 2015 recap of Cleveland’s hip-hop scene.
This article goes hand-in-hand with the Best Of The Land mixtape. Each artist is represented with a song, and some others who are not in the article were added to the tape if they had a song that deserved recognition. Hit the break to start reading about the artists who made the most moves last year in The Land. Please keep in mind there is no particular order to this list. We have also provided a list of the best projects and videos from 2015.
Machine Gun Kelly – When you start off the year with one of the best anthems about the city, it’s hard not to make it on this list. The video for “Til I Die” has about 18 million views, and an even higher honor, Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony hopped on the remix which is the ultimate Cleveland cosign. Along with that, Kells sophomore album General Admission climbed the Billboard hip-hop charts until it sat at #1. Whether you’re a MGK fan or not, its hard to say that he didn’t have a successful year. Aside from his music career, MGK also made an appearance on episodes of MTV’s Catfish and Ridiculousness.
Ray Jr. – Following up his midwest hit “Sloppy”, (along with “Same Crew” and others) Ray Jr. was able to capture the nation’s attention with his smash hit “Biggie” in 2015. This track was regularly played on Shade45 XM radio, as well as hip-hop stations and of course nightclubs across the nation. As a veteran of the Cleveland rap scene, getting national recognition for a song that is an ode to a rap legend is quite impressive.If you hadn’t heard of Ray before, you and most hip-hop heads across the nation are now fully aware of who he is and what he’s capable of doing. Ray also received impressive features on the “Same Crew” remix which included Dej Loaf, Young Dolph, Troy Ave, and MGK.
Malcupnext – Talk about a QUICK come up. Malcupnext went viral on Twitter and Instagram by uploading covers of songs by popular artists. Before anyone knew it, this Cleveland singer was signed to Big Boi’s label Camp Purple. After belonging to a label, Malcolm’s first move was to release a successful single and video “This Feeling.” Malcolm was also invited to a Cleveland Gladiator’s game to sing the national anthem. The most recent song he released features T.I.‘s son Domani.
Ezzy – It’s hard to determine which one of Ezzy’s accomplishments in 2015 was his biggest. Although he didn’t drop a project this year, he did not fail to generate buzz around his name. His freestyle on Sway in the Morning is currently sitting over 1.6 million views. Ezzy covered an issue of SCENE magazine and had a large article that profiled the young artist.
Ripp Flamez – 2015 was the year that Ripp Flamez broke out of the underground hip-hop scene and started getting recognition on a national level. The Ohio Hip-Hop Awards named Ripp as “Best New Artist” this year. If you take a look at his Soundcloud page you will see that all of his songs consistently do big numbers. He generated a great deal of buzz within the city after continuously dropping hit after hit. His new project WaveForever was recently released. Although time still has to determine the success of this EP, we aren’t doubting that it will do his career justice transitioning into the new year.
Lil Cray – Lil Cray’s song “Kyrie Irving” took off after a Vine featuring his song went viral. That’s all that was needed for the country to find out who Lil Cray was. Machine Gun Kelly even co-signed the track by providing a verse for the official remix of the song. It’s crazy to think that just one song can create such a buzz for an artist, but that’s exactly what happened for Lil Cray in 2015. His project Turnt Like Reese lived up to expectations that people held from hearing his smash hit about the Cleveland Cavalier’s point guard.
Kid Cudi – Where do we begin? Kid Cudi represents Cleveland on a level that definitely goes beyond music. During the past year he was the co-host of IFC’s Comedy Bang Bang. He also had a role in the movie James White. Aside from acting, Cudi also delivered an inspiring TED Talk at his alma mater Shaker Heights High School where he talked about his life journey. Now let’s get to the music. Kanye West brought out Kid Cudi in L.A. during his 808’s & Heartbreak show. Cudi released Speeding Bullet To Heaven, an album that he says fell into a genre closer to alternative rock / punk rock rather than hip-hop. Despite somewhat disappointing sales and some harsh criticism of the album, I personally loved the project. It’s always refreshing when an artist stays true to himself and delivers music from the heart. Don’t forget that this album was narrated by Beavis and Butthead! That in itself should be noted as an accomplishment.
Lost Tribe – Lost Tribe, a duo rap group, made their debut with their single “iPhone.” The song was released as an exclusive off #TheCosign3. From there, “iPhone” was quickly put into regular rotation on Z107.9 due to the fact that so many people were requesting it. Aside from being played in Cleveland, Lost Tribe’s smash hit also got airplay on radio stations across the U.S.
Kipp Stone – Kipp Stone also had a break-out year lead by his “30 FTALL” video. One of the biggest feats to Kipp’s success this year is his recent signing to Closed Sessions, which is one of Chicago’s premier independent labels. National outlets are regularly featuring Kipp Stone at this point in his career. In 2015 Complex exclusively released one of his music videos and he was also interviewed by XXL.
King Chip – Although technically in December of 2014, King Chip was one of the artists included in a RAW cypher among Chevy Woods and Asher Roth. We felt it was worth noting. Early in 2015 he dropped a video for “By My Lonely,” a song that would eventually show up on CleveLAfornia. A standout track in 2015 that I feel got overlooked was “Protect Us,” featuring the legendary Bun B. Back to the album that his fans were waiting to drop for years. CleveLAfornia was a 14 track album that has features from Hopsin, Fredo Santana, Asher Roth, Curren$y, Big Sean, Chuck Inglish, and more. Just like any other full-length King Chip project from the past, you don’t want to miss out on listening to it.
EST: Machine Gun Kelly & EST held an outrageous block party at The Agora, located in downtown Cleveland. This all-day party entertained a packed venue and gave local artists such as Ezzy, Zou Cru, Ripp Flamez, Nahzzy, and more the opportunity to perform their music in front of a large crowd.
What EST has been able to accomplish as a team is nothing short of impressive. Dub-O was on a full U.S. tour throughout the year. He also wrote “Make It Happen,” a song on MGK’s #1 billboard album.
Tezo released a 6-track project called Swampland that did well on Soundcloud. He also toured around the nation alongside other EST artists.
It’s often times easy to overlook such important key players when it comes to the creation of an album. Slim contributed to General Admission by means of production, engineering, and mixing. He also toured the world hosting for MGK and he DJ’d his own club gigs on his off nights and for after parties.
E-V released his single “I’m From CLVLND” which was played on national TV during the Cavs’ Finals games. He played in clubs all over North America in 2015 including L.A., Cleveland, Park City Utah, Canada, and more.
Alex Angelo – Alex Angelo produces and hosts his own weekly radio show on Radio Disney called the Saturday Night Party, making him the youngest nationally syndicated radio host. During the past year Alex was on two national tours with Jake Miller and Megan Nicole. The video for his song “Move Like This” is approaching 900,000 views. The potential for the youngest artist on our list is endless. We recommend paying attention to what Alex has in store for the future.
Earl St. Clair – Formerly known as JP Did This 1, Earl St. Clair had a phenomenal year. He has contributed to both of MGK’s projects Fuck It and General Admission. Even more impressive was his feature on “Pure Grinding,” a track from Avicii’s 2015 album. Finally, Earl also contributed production on “Very Best,” a song from Rick Ross’ Black Market album. The song also featured Mary J. Blige.
Lorine Chia – Hailing from Cameroon, this Cleveland/Atlanta based singer has been making major strides for years. In 2015 Lorine co-wrote Jeezy’s single off his album called Sweet Life and she also had the opportunity to perform it live on the Late Night Show. Among some of her releases this year, her project with Slade Da Monsta titled ONO.MATO.POEIC was a stand-out tape and definitely worth checking out.
Billard – Billard didn’t release much music in 2015. His break-out year in the industry really happened in 2014 when I Am Billard came out. However, he was able to capitalize on his popularity by delivering a strong single in “Amen” which was released by Complex. Aside from some guest features during the year, he did release a project Billard Season that was well-received by fans.
Pooh Gutta – Cleveland OG’s know that Pooh Gutta has been around since the Royalty Camp days. That hasn’t stopped Pooh from being a determined artist who put enough work within the last year to make our list. His song “On Mommy” performed very well in Cleveland. It was a standout track from his mixtape St. East Cleveough which was full of hard-hitting tracks. Pooh also received impressive features from Ray Jr. and Machine Gun Kelly on his song “Party In The 6.”
Cal Scruby – Originally hailing from Cincinnati, Cal Scruby based himself out of Columbus while attending Ohio State University. Although this artist isn’t technically from Cleveland, he has garnered enough attention in the past to be considered among the most popular in Ohio. With that being said 2015 was Cal’s biggest year by far. His #HouseInTheHillsEP performed well and included features from Sevyn Streeter to Trevor Jackson. His song “Ain’t Shit Changed,” containing the most impressive feature of Chris Brown, was the most streamed track on Spotify in the entire Columbus area during its release. Their new video together has reached over 2 million views.