NPR

City Scenes: How Milwaukee Rap Finally Came Into Its Own

Meet some of the artists who've helped Milwaukee rap break out of a lengthy rut.
Milwaukee rapper Mari Boy Mula Mar. Source: Courtesy of the artist

For nearly two decades, Milwaukee rap was defined by a one-hit wonder. With its store-brand-soda spin on the Southern rap of the day, Coo Coo Cal's "My Projects" sprinted up the charts in 2001, delivering Milwaukee its first and only No. 1 rap single. Cal's 15 minutes were even shorter than most, however, and his success had no halo effect. While Chicago's rap scene — just 90 miles to the south — continued to spawn new stars and new innovations, Milwaukee rap languished in obscurity, searching for both an audience and an identity.

These days, it finally has both. It turns out that all Milwaukee rap needed to pull itself out of its rut was to control its , and they're reaching a ravenous audience. Street rap is now the most-streamed music coming out of the city, with even the scene's second-tier acts regularly logging hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. Its biggest stars do millions — numbers that would have seemed downright fantastical even four years ago.

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