Iowa City Hip Hop on the RISE


Rahlan Kay selling his merchandise at Concert

Insight on Iowa City HIP HOP

When you go out to the bars in Iowa City you mostly hear, classic rock, top 40 pop, commercial rap, or pop infused rap mixes.   Most of the shows at the Iowa City performance venues like Blue Moose, Gabes’, and Yacht Club mostly have local electronic dub step Djs or alternative rock acts, if not a big name underground act is  in town. Within the past two years, the Iowa City Hip Hop scene has emerged.  Five years ago there were only a few local hip hop acts that had shows and a following, for example Mike Page and Zeaphy. However, since those two artists have moved away from Iowa City and occasionally visit to do a show, a new list of Iowa City hip-hop artists have been emerging.

Hip Hop acts like V.O marley, Bam Musik, Shakes, EmDuBai, WDGAF Music, Marq Divine, J Bizzle, and the list goes on.  All these artists have been releasing mixtapes, videos on YouTube, doing their own shows and opening for big rap acts like Big Sean, Big Krit, Kid Ink, DJ Unk, Twista, Wiz Khalifa, Machine Gun Kelly, and more.  Most of these are solo rappers who collaborate on tracks and embrace that it is a new hip hop scene in Iowa City.  When artists Shakes was asked how do he stand out from other artists in the city, he said, “ It’s 9 billion people in the world right? If everyone be themselves, they’ll be unique…that’s what I do be myself”.  “Even though there are a list of artists in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, each act literally has it own sound, and brand behind it,” said James the Barber, founder of Chop Shop Music.

Bam working at ESD studios

The Hip Hop scene in Iowa City has got so big that music producer and promoter Tyrell Thornton opened up Elite Sound and Design Studios (ESD studios) downtown Iowa city in the heart of the pedmall.  According the Thornton, He saw it as a good opportunity to also attract local artists and big name acts on the road to come get great quality studio sessions while traveling or touring through Midwest.  Thornton and partner Andre Wright, owner of Tailgate Bar, opened the studio about three months ago and have been thriving with artists studio sessions everyday starting at $25 a hour. Wright is over the design part, which design and sell clothes, hats cards, websites, flyers, and more.

Promoter Brandon Miller w/ Shakes

Another person behind the scenes involved with Iowa City Hip Hop is concert promoter Brandon Miller. Miller brought big names like Dj Unk, and Kid Ink, and managed acts like Bam, Zeaphy, and Mike Page who led them to open for Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, Machine Gun Kelly, and more.  Recently, he had a through the 1st Annual Iowa City Talent show, which had a list of performers and a huge freestyle cypher.  “Its unreal like 5 years ago it wasn’t 20 rappers in the whole state, today its like 20 rappers in one show…” which he’s referring to the Talent showcase at Gabes in Iowa City.   Miller who also partners with (ESD studios) stated that’s he working on bringing Twista in the spring and plan to start having Wasted Wednesdays’ at Gabes starting in January to allow more hip-hop and R&B to heard and seen in Iowa City.  Its not just the new list of artists that adds to the hip hop scene, other contributors like DJ Pat and DJ Commando keep the state of Iowa fusing with good Hip Hop and & R&B in the club, Parties, concerts, mixtapes, and radio.

Today Iowa City can be taken seriously when it comes down to hip-hop, also becoming an official stop for several mainstream artists to visit. According to Miller ‘I can’t wait to see what happens next” For more info on the Iowa City Hip hop scene check out artists videos and music at and get a recording session started today at

[View the story "Iowa City Hip Hop on the RISE" on Storify]

Iowa City Hip Hop on the RISE

Behind the scene look at the Iowa City Hip Hop Movement

Storified by DJ Pat Mr. Xklusive · Tue, Dec 11 2012 18:05:57


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