Not long ago, Milwaukee hip-hop was in dire straits. Local rappers were either overlooked altogether or found marginal area attention with regional redressing of artists from other, more established hip-hop markets that found mainstream success. However, the state of Milwaukee hip-hop has taken a stark and inarguable turn for the better lately, as rappers are forging a distinct an inviting sound that’s getting attention throughout the city and nationally, producers on the whole have displayed drastic growth and innovation, and artists are jumping genre boundaries to incorporate unique new elements. Yes, Milwaukee hip-hop is currently in a very good and encouraging place, and Pharaoh Mac & DMT should be counted among those acts advancing the reputation of local rap at an astonishing clip.
Rapper/producer Jamahl “Pharaoh Mac” Turner and Isaac “DMT” Chevako have been releasing music since 2009 debut record, Dream Driven. Despite managing two full-lengths, sporadic singles, and some local radio play since their origin, the duo’s forthcoming record, SYMBOLS, can easily be considered the long-running project’s creative high watermark to this point. Between the harmony-laden, self described “folk-rap” of “Drift” (featuring Greatest Lakes) and the orchestral backing of SistaStrings on “Same Time,” the album—which comes out Tuesday—can already be considered a summer standout. Now, with the pre-release liberation of three more songs from the 14-track record, SYMBOLS is vying for high standing on some year-end lists.
“Go Do” is a warm opener with uplifting, motivational bars Pharaoh Mac lays atop rich DMT production that features a piano and a hint of cowbell along with scratching by Moses. Riverwest singer/rapper D’Amato’s pipes and passionate spitfire verses are a welcomed addition to “Taking Action.” The Vanessa Plant-featuring “Nights Alone” is a smooth, airy summer jam that should be (will be?) getting national radio airplay. In fact, the potential for vast audience appeal could be said about almost every song on SYMBOLS. The world will have to wait until at least Tuesday to hear it in full, but you can listen to three tracks from Pharaoh Mac & DMT’s latest and greatest record now, only at Milwaukee Record.