Iowa may not be the first state that comes to mind when one thinks of hip-hop, but it has a thriving hip-hop scene with a rich history. From the early beginnings of rap music in Iowa to the present day, we’ll explore the notable figures, events, and movements that have contributed to the state’s hip-hop culture in this article.
The history of hip-hop in Iowa
Hip-hop music and culture found its way to Iowa in the 1980s, thanks to the influence of artists such as Run-DMC and Beastie Boys. Early hip-hop enthusiasts in Iowa can recall the impact of these artists on their formative years.
As the genre began to gain momentum across the United States, Iowa was not left behind. In fact, the state quickly became a hub for hip-hop culture in the Midwest.
Early beginnings and influences
Early rap performances in Iowa were often few and far between, but when they did happen, they drew dedicated crowds. In 1985, the Des Moines-based band Positive Force became the first group in the state to incorporate rap elements into their music, eventually becoming the first Iowa group to release a rap album.
As the popularity of hip-hop grew in Iowa, so did the number of artists and groups that began to emerge. The state’s unique blend of rural and urban culture gave rise to a variety of sounds and styles.
By the late 80s, hip-hop had started to gain momentum with breakdancing competitions and rapping battles becoming more common. These events drew large crowds and helped to establish a sense of community among Iowa’s hip-hop enthusiasts.
The rise of local talent
As the 90s rolled around, an increasing number of rappers emerged from Iowa’s cities and towns, each with their unique take on hip-hop. One early success story was the Iowa City group, Funky Behavior, whose music was regularly played on local radio stations.
Other notable artists from Iowa include the rapper B. Well, who gained national attention with his hit single “Everyday” in 2007, and the rapper L.A. Banks, who has released several successful albums and collaborated with a variety of artists over the years.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, rap from Iowa gained additional exposure with Eminem signing local rapper Marksman to his label. This helped to further establish Iowa’s hip-hop scene as a force to be reckoned with.
Notable moments in Iowa hip-hop history
In 2002, the first Iowa Hip-Hop Awards was held, with L.L. of the Des Moines rap duo Small Town Heroes winning the coveted Album of the Year award. The annual event, which honors the best in Iowa hip-hop, has been held every year since then.
Another milestone in Iowa hip-hop history was the creation of the 515 Alive Music Festival in 2005. Iowa became the first state to host an annual hip-hop festival, with the event taking place in Des Moines every summer since then.
Overall, Iowa’s hip-hop scene has come a long way since its early beginnings. The state has produced a variety of talented artists over the years, and continues to be a hub for hip-hop culture in the Midwest and beyond.
Prominent Iowa rappers
The Iowa hip-hop scene may not be as well-known as those in other parts of the country, but it is home to a number of talented and innovative artists. Here are just a few of the most prominent rappers from the Hawkeye State:
B. Well is a Des Moines-based rapper and producer who has been making music for over a decade. He is often praised for his introspective lyrics and dense rhymes, which touch on everything from personal struggles to social issues. B. Well’s music is a reflection of his life experiences, and he uses his platform to shed light on the realities of growing up and living in Iowa.
MarKaus is an Iowa City-based rapper and activist who has been making waves in the hip-hop community for years. His music often deals with social justice issues and his experiences growing up in the Midwest. MarKaus is known for his powerful delivery and insightful lyrics, which have earned him recognition from major media outlets like MTV and BET. He is a passionate advocate for change and uses his music to inspire his listeners to take action.
Coolzey is a rapper and producer from Cedar Falls who has been making music for over a decade. With over a dozen releases to his name, he has collaborated with artists like Murs and The Hood Internet. Coolzey is known for his wit and humor, as well as his ear for catchy beats. He has a unique style that blends elements of hip-hop, rock, and electronic music, making him a standout in the Iowa music scene.
Gadema is a rapper from Des Moines whose music often addresses issues of mental health and self-improvement. With two full-length albums and several EPs, he has gained a loyal following throughout the state. Gadema’s music is deeply personal and reflective, and he uses his platform to encourage his listeners to take care of their mental health and work towards their goals.
Based out of Cedar Rapids, Dizzy Dot is known for his energetic live shows and fearless delivery. With a versatile flow and witty lyrics, he has won over audiences at festivals and shows throughout the state. Dizzy Dot’s music is a reflection of his personality – he is confident, charismatic, and unapologetically himself. He uses his music to express his creativity and connect with his fans, and his infectious energy has made him one of the most exciting rappers to come out of Iowa in recent years.
Influential hip-hop groups and collectives
Hip-hop has been an influential genre of music for decades, and has given rise to countless talented artists and groups. In Iowa, there are several notable hip-hop groups and collectives that have made a significant impact on the local music scene. Here are just a few of the most influential:
The Dojo is a collective of rappers and producers based in Des Moines. With over a dozen members, they have created a vibrant community of artists who collaborate, produce shows, and release music together. The group was founded in 2012 by rapper and producer Maxilla Blue, and has since grown to include some of the most talented hip-hop artists in the state.
What sets The Dojo apart from other hip-hop groups is their commitment to community building. They frequently host events and workshops to help aspiring artists hone their craft, and are known for their inclusive and supportive approach to collaboration. Their music is a reflection of this ethos, with lyrics that touch on themes of unity, empowerment, and social justice.
Central Standard is a rap group from Ames. Consisting of MCs Hooligan and Kamakauzzy, as well as DJ Johnny on the mix, they are known for their high-energy live shows and socially conscious lyrics. They have released two full-length albums, with a third on the way.
One of the things that makes Central Standard stand out is their commitment to using their music as a platform for social change. Their lyrics often touch on issues like police brutality, systemic racism, and economic inequality, and they have been vocal advocates for causes like Black Lives Matter and immigrant rights. Despite the weighty subject matter of their music, they manage to infuse their songs with a sense of hope and resilience that resonates with audiences of all ages.
The Yungins is a group of young rappers from Waterloo. Known for their catchy hooks and playful lyrics, they have built a large following in their hometown and beyond. The group consists of rappers Lil Ace, Young J, and Lil T, and they have been making music together since 2016.
One of the things that makes The Yungins so appealing is their infectious energy and youthful enthusiasm. Their music is unapologetically fun, with lyrics that touch on everything from partying and romance to the challenges of growing up in a small town. Despite their relative youth, they have already made a significant impact on the Iowa hip-hop scene, and are poised for even greater success in the years to come.
The FlyLife Movement
The FlyLife Movement is a collective of artists from Cedar Rapids. With a diverse range of musical styles, they have created a unique sound that has attracted attention throughout the state and beyond. The group was founded in 2013 by rapper and producer FlyLife, and has since grown to include several other talented artists.
What sets The FlyLife Movement apart is their willingness to experiment with different genres and sounds. Their music draws on influences from jazz, funk, and soul, as well as more traditional hip-hop styles. This eclectic approach has helped them to stand out in a crowded field, and has earned them a dedicated following of fans who appreciate their boundary-pushing approach to music.
These are just a few of the most influential hip-hop groups and collectives in Iowa. With a thriving local scene and a growing national profile, it’s clear that Iowa has become a hotbed of hip-hop talent in recent years. Whether you’re a lifelong fan of the genre or a newcomer looking to discover something new, there’s no shortage of great music to be found in the Hawkeye State.
Iowa hip-hop events and festivals
When it comes to hip-hop events and festivals, Iowa has a lot to offer. From big-name acts to up-and-coming artists, there’s something for everyone. Here are some of the top events and festivals that every Iowa hip-hop fan should know about:
515 Alive Music Festival
The 515 Alive Music Festival is Iowa’s largest hip-hop festival and one of the most highly anticipated events of the year. Held in Des Moines every August, it attracts thousands of people from all over the state and beyond. The festival features multiple stages, food vendors, and other activities, making it a full-blown experience for attendees. But what really sets it apart is the lineup of performers. From nationally recognized acts to local stars, the 515 Alive Music Festival always delivers an impressive roster of talent.
Fresh Fest is a touring hip-hop festival that makes its way through Iowa every summer. What makes this festival unique is its emphasis on up-and-coming artists. While you might not recognize all of the names on the lineup, Fresh Fest provides a platform for new talent to showcase their skills and gain exposure. Whether you’re a die-hard hip-hop fan or just looking to discover some new music, Fresh Fest is definitely worth checking out.
Hip-Hop Hump Day
If you’re looking for a more low-key hip-hop experience, check out Hip-Hop Hump Day at the Yacht Club in Iowa City. This weekly event features local and regional talent, providing a space for performers to test out new material and connect with fans. The atmosphere is relaxed and intimate, making it a great spot for a mid-week night out.
Iowa Hip-Hop Awards
The Iowa Hip-Hop Awards is the premier event for Iowa’s rap community. Held annually, it celebrates the best in Iowa hip-hop, with categories ranging from Album of the Year to Up-and-Coming Artist. The event brings together artists, producers, and fans from all over the state to recognize and honor the talent that Iowa has to offer. Whether you’re a nominee or just a spectator, the Iowa Hip-Hop Awards is a must-attend event for anyone who loves hip-hop in Iowa.
These are just a few of the many hip-hop events and festivals that Iowa has to offer. Whether you’re a lifelong fan or just discovering the genre, there’s no shortage of opportunities to experience the best in Iowa hip-hop.
The future of Iowa hip-hop
When it comes to the future of Iowa hip-hop, there is a lot to be excited about. While the scene may not be as well-known as some of the larger cities, there is no shortage of talented artists making waves throughout the state.
Up-and-coming artists to watch
In addition to TaeDye and Kid X, there are a number of other up-and-coming artists to keep an eye on. One such artist is LAV.ISH, a rapper and producer from Des Moines who has been gaining a following with his unique sound and energetic live performances. Another artist to watch is Kipp Stone, a Cedar Rapids native whose introspective lyrics and smooth flow have earned him comparisons to some of the biggest names in the game.
The role of social media and streaming platforms
As with any genre of music, social media and streaming platforms have become essential tools for Iowa hip-hop artists looking to build their fanbase and promote their music. Platforms like SoundCloud and YouTube have allowed artists to share their music with a global audience, while social media sites like Twitter and Instagram have made it easier than ever for fans to connect with their favorite artists.
One artist who has leveraged social media to great effect is Iowa City’s own LyricalGenes. With over 100,000 followers on Instagram, the rapper has used the platform to share snippets of his music, behind-the-scenes glimpses of his life, and inspirational messages for his fans.
The impact of Iowa hip-hop on the national scene
While Iowa may not have the same level of national recognition as some other cities, the state’s hip-hop scene has certainly made an impact on the broader rap world. In addition to the aforementioned B. Well and MarKaus, Iowa has produced a number of other artists who have gained recognition outside of the state.
One such artist is Will Keeps, a rapper and motivational speaker from Cedar Rapids who has performed at events across the country, including the BET Experience in Los Angeles. Another is King Kahali, a Des Moines native whose music has been featured on popular hip-hop blogs like HipHopDX and The Source.
With so many talented artists making their mark on the scene, there’s no doubt that Iowa hip-hop has a bright future ahead.
From the early days of breakdancing and rapping battles to the vibrant scene of today, hip-hop has played an important role in Iowa culture. With notable artists and events, the future looks bright for Iowa’s rap community. As the influence of hip-hop continues to spread, Iowa’s artists will undoubtedly be at the forefront of the movement.