Born Elgin Cintron, ?nowledge is a member of the group Indigenous Ways, a soulful, jazzy, experimental group whose organic sound provides a perfect canvas for his silky, languid flow. In 2012 he released his debut solo album, ?nowledge Is Infinite, which he described as "conscious, organic hip-hop music." And he's also the man behind Tampa's annual Hip Hop Against Hunger concert, which brings together members of the local scene to benefit Feeding America Tampa Bay and Metropolitan Ministries. facebook.com/KnowledgeIsKing.
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Akiese's deep rasp has been compared to DMX, Ja Rule and Xzibit, and while plenty of his songs do have a distinct funk-rap flavor (This Life is a total slice of Tupac) he's also got a knack for catchy pop hooks. The synthy You Got It All wouldn't sound out of place at a Flo Rida concert, and his ragga-tinged single Hands On Ya Knees could deserve airplay in any number of top Ybor City clubs. And Go Hard, a rock-rap collaboration with DrewBee Arthur and Famous Kid Brick, has a dark club-metal flavor that could pass for Linkin Park. akeise.com.
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Curtis Hunt Jr., a.k.a. Black Zeppa, has been called "one of the few underground gems of St. Pete," thanks to his original style of beatboxing and freestyling. The Georgia-born artist is into a myriad of styles and genres, from hip-hop and soul to jazz and rock (he's collaborated with local band Fall On Purpose), and he's into skateboarding. reverbnation.com/blackzeppa.
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After just a couple of mixtapes, St. Pete rapper Russ "Dangeruss" Curry scored one of the biggest, and most improbable, breaks of any local artist in the past year. Actor James Franco and director Harmony Korine credit Dangeruss as the inspiration for the character Alien in Spring Breakers. His reward? A duet with Franco, Hangin' With da Dopeboys, that appeared on the film's soundtrack. Franco himself directed the video. facebook.com/dangerussmusicgroup.
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In 2009, we named hip-hop outfit The Basiqs one of tbt*'s Ultimate Local Artists. Now that duo is making music - and art - under the moniker Death Starsky. MC/producers Gage and Sin recently released a self-titled album that is ambitious not only sonically - it's an experimental mix of hip-hop, synth-pop, house and rock that ranges from acid to industrial - but visually. The group recruited artists around the world to produce artwork for a 40-page limited-edition book that accompanies the album. deathstarsky.com
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Fla All Day
An easy comparison for Tarpon Springs hip-hop outfit Fla All Day might be Yelawolf, but they're adamant about trying to sound like no one else. The group uses clever lyricism and offbeat production (Runnin Man calls to mind Check Your Head-era Beastie Boys) to produce singles like Rise. Last summer they performed with Brooklyn rapper Action Bronson at the Local 662 in St. Petersburg. facebook.com/FlaAllDayHipHop.
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Teenage rapper Gitt Swift (a.k.a. Sayquon Devonte King) has made a name for himself thanks to a pair of mixtapes, History in the Making Volumes 1 and 2, which feature jams like Tighten Up and Money Dance. And yes, in case you're wondering, there IS an actual "money dance": Reach with your right hand, pull it in; left hand, pull it in; pull in both hands, then "watch me do the money dance." YouTube it. gittswift.com.
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St. Pete rapper Mighty Jai's deliberate, forceful cadence is Kanye-like, and his flair for the soulful and experimental is reminiscent of Outkast. On his Soundcloud page, the classic-sounding Truth Be Told and I'm Here Now and the chillwavey To Whom It May Concern are all worth listens. soundcloud.com/mightyjai.
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Pedro el Poeta
St. Petersburg rapper Pedro el Poeta is a longtime member of the local spoken-word scene, and his rhymes - think Tupac, Atmosphere and Saul Williams - have earned him gigs as opening for George Clinton, performing for Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam and speaking at TEDx Tampa Bay. His style veers from elegant and uplifting (Drowning, El Adios) to downright emphatic (Act Now, EmCee Genocide). pedroelpoeta.com.
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Last summer, Temp dropped Empty Stages, a forceful, 17-song mixtape featuring collaborations with producer Doo Wop and fellow east Hillsborough rapper Eyeznpowa. It's a funky collection that gives plenty of love to Tampa as Temp raps about life, lessons and his lyrical skill: "I talk sick/I spit this s---/they holdin' telethons for me," he raps on the mixtape's intro. He's already released the first single, The Conversation, from his as-yet-untitled next project. facebook.com/TampaTemp.
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Formerly of the stylish, alt-hip-hop duo the White Kids, Vinny Virgo (nee Edwards) has embarked on a solo career with Me, Myself & High: The Intro, a mixtape that features the dreamy bedroom jam Wanting You. It led to an appearance on MTV's RapFix Live, where he chatted with Sway and Talib Kweli, who said of Wanting You: "I liked it, it was snapping, it was knocking, I liked the rhyme, I liked the hook." vinnyvirgo.worldcomeup.com.
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In 2012, Vito Banga left his group the Nappy Roots and relocated to Tampa Bay, where he put his big, booming basso profundo to use on his first solo project, a seven-song album titled 2 Real 2 Be Hard. The album contains plenty of the experimentation that made Nappy Roots - see the voodoo-bayou thump of Girls and the half-growled sex-'em-up ballad Live As Hell - with a harder edge. vitobanga.com.