Sean Price was an integral member of the underground hip-hop collective Boot Camp Clik, alongside Black Moon’s Buckshot, Smif-N-Wessun members Tek and Steele, and the trio O.G.C. Performing under the Alias Ruckus (often shortened to Ruck), the Brownsville, Brooklyn-bred emcee joined forces with fellow Boot Camp affiliate, Rock (Jahmal Bush) to form the duo Heltah Skeltah. Together, the pair went on to release three studio albums via Duck Down Records, with their debut Nocturnal selling over 250,000 records in 1996 (armed with the classic “Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka”) and helping secure their rightful place as respected heavyweight emcees in the rap game. Almost a decade following his debut with Heltah Skeltah, Price went on to release his first solo album, Monkey Barz in 2005, utilizing his government name as his moniker. The album was met with critical acclaim, with naming the project the Independent Album of the Year.

In 2011, Price linked with producer Black Milk and Guilty Simpson to form the supergroup Random Axe, releasing a self-titled project later that year. Price continued his winning streak the following year, unleashing his third solo effort, Mic Tyson, which was again met with favorable reviews. Known as much for his masterful lyricism and dazzling wit as he was for his larger-than-life personality and sense of humor, Price died in his Sleep at his home in Brooklyn in 2015 at the age of 43. With the posthumous release of Songs in the Key of Price doubling as his final sendoff to a community that gave him so much, Sean Price today remains one of the most respected underground rappers in hip-hop history.

It would be a grave disservice to associate Detroit hip-hop without mentioning word of Slum Village. The pioneering rap group, composed of Baatin (1974-2009), T3, and J. Dilla (1974-2006), rose to prominence in the underground rap scene in the early 90’s after the founding members met in high school. With a strong spirit of constant evolution at the group’s core, Slum Village became reputed for their distinctive artistry, with J. Dilla’s cutting-edge and soulfully minimalist production becoming a fitting foundation for the gloriously simple rhyming style of T3 and Baatin. The trio built up a growing following with their 1997 unreleased demo, Fantastic Volume 1, a project that led A Tribe Called Quest to offer Slum Village the opportunity to accompany their farewell tour. Following sharing the stage with the legendary group, Slum Village officially released their own critically acclaimed debut in 2000, Fantastic Volume 2, a project that featured high-profile guests, such as Pete Rock, Busta Rhymes, and Q-Tip. While the original line-up disbanded following their official debut with J. Dilla amicably going on to establish his solo career and the late Baatin suffering from health ailments and drug addiction the group did take on several forms over the years. Elzhi was next to join the movement, followed briefly by J. Dilla’s brother Illa J. With a current active line-up of T3 and Young RJ, Slum Village has long been praised for releasing a meaty body of work, authentically putting the Motor City on the map in a groundbreaking way.

Paul “Sage” Francis is a rapper and spoken word poet from Providence, Rhode Island. In addition to a solo career, Sage Francis was also a member of the duo Non-Prophets with producer Joe Beats, and the founder of Strange Famous Records.

At the age of eight, Francis began writing lyrics, eventually participating in local rap battles as early as 12-years-old. By 20, the rapper/writer decided to form his own imprint as a way to release his music. Thus, Strange Famous Records was created, and his first official demo was released through the label.

Two years later, Francis earned a radio show at local station WRIU, which allowed him access to computers that helped him change his music releases from dubbed tapes to CD-Rs. The initial sales of the burned CDs helped raise the money to eventually begin having them pressed at a manufacturing plant.

Throughout this period, Francis was winning many battles, including the Superbowl MC Battle and Scribble Jam. He also toured with the Providence Poetry Slam team, and served as the DJ for the NYC-Urbana poetry slam.

In 2001, Francis received recognition for his critique of the media during the 9/11 attacks in his song “Makeshift Patriot,” which paved the way for the release of his 2002 debut album, Personal Journals. To date, Francis has released six studio albums, two live albums, and eight mixtapes. He also released one album with Joe Beats as Non-Prophets.

Strange Famous Records has since grown to an extensive roster of indie artists. Their website began selling merchandise and projects in the mid ‘00s, and continues to be a successful form of revenue for the label.

Statik Selektah (born Patrick Baril) is a producer, DJ, and radio personality from Boston, Massachusetts, and one half of the duo 1982 (alongside rapper Termanology).

After being introduced to music at a young age, Statik was able to practice DJing with equipment that his parents had around the house, including an eight-track machine, cassette recorders and a turntable. Gaining experience as a DJ at his school events, this eventually paved the way for the Boston native to later begin doing radio at Phillips Exeter Academy’s WPEA, while also DJing some of their parties. Eventually, his buzz grew throughout the greater New England area, and he soon became one of the biggest DJs on the coast.

While in college in the early ‘00s, Statik began his own mixtape series as a means to spotlight the upcoming acts he consistently championed, including rapper Termanology, and in 2003 began his own PR/marketing firm Showoff. He worked with major brands and labels out of the gate, and three years later, turned the firm into an official record label. Simultaneously, Statik’s presence as a radio personality grew, and he was also placing beats with many big name acts.

Termanology’s Out the Gate LP was Showoff ‘s first release, and in 2007, Statik released his debut album, Spell My Name Right. To date, he has released eight solo albums, and over a dozen collaborative albums. His production credits include the likes of KRS One, Nas, Joey Bada$$, Foxy Brown, Bun B, Styles P, Freddie Gibbs, Curren$y, Talib Kweli and more.

A proud and integral part of the Brooklyn supergroup Boot Camp Clik, Smif-N-Wessun (also known as Cocoa Brovaz) is a celebrated hip-hop duo consisting of heavyweight emcees Tek (Tekomin Williams) and Steele (Darrell Yaters). The pair first made their presence known on wax in 1993, appearing on the collaborative tracks “U Da Man” and “Blac Smif-N-Wessun”—both of which were featured on Black Moon’s classic debut album, Enta da Stage. The following year, Dru Ha and Boot Camp Clik member Buckshot founded Duck Down, recruiting Smif-N-Wessun as their first act and securing the group a deal with Nervous Records. In early 1994, Smif-N-Wessun landed their first underground smash, “Bucktown,” with the single catapulting the group to every hip-hop fan’s radar and creating a healthy momentum prior to their formal debut. Their first studio full-length, Dah Shinin, was released in January 1995, going on to sell over 300,000 copies and appearing in the top 5 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The Beatminerz-produced album has since been heralded as one of the most influential hardcore rap records to come out of New York City in the mid-1990s, with their harsh, spitfire rhymes and dark-but-melodic approach helping spark an important renaissance period for hip-hop.

Soon after the group’s debut, Smif-N-Wessun was hit with a cease and desist order over their name from firearms company Smith & Wesson. As a way to avoid the lawsuit, the group changed their alias to the Cocoa Brovaz, with their new moniker as a nod to their West Indian heritage. The pair went on to collaborate with Tupac on the unreleased album, One Nation, as well as joined Buckshot, Heltah Skeltah and O.G.C. in 1997 for Boot Camp Clik’s debut album, For the People. The next year, Tek and Steele released The Rude Awakening, their second album together (and their first as Cocoa Brovaz). Together under their new name, the duo were featured on a variety of compilation albums, including Soundbombing II (1999), Lyricist Lounge Volume 2 (2000), and Sound Bombing III (2002), as well as collaborated with Gangstarr Foundation member Afu-Ra (“D&D Sound Clash”), Talib Kweli (“Gunn Music”), Tony Touch (“Spanish Harlem 2”) and also had a cameo in the “I Miss You” tribute video for Aaliyah. Additionally in 2000, Tek and Steele rejoined the Boot Camp Clik on their sophomore record, The Chosen Few. In 2003, Tek and Steele founded their own label, Bucktown USA Entertainment. Through their imprint, Tek and Steele have released a full-length compilation, Glory, as well as several solo projects including Tek’s AmeriKKKa’s Nightmare (2004), I Got This (2006) and Steele’s First Famlee (2004). The group scored a legal victory in 2005, earning the rights to reclaim the Smif-N-Wessun name. To celebrate their rightful return, they released their third album Smif-N-Wessun: Reloaded that same year. In 2006, the Boot Camp Clik released their third group project, The Last Stand, with the next year seeing Smif-N-Wessun’s fourth album, Smif-N-Wessun: The Album. Four years later, in 2011, the group released Monumental with legendary producer Pete Rock (who produced a majority of the project). In 2013, the duo released a reggae-inspired EP, Born and Raised, and today remains active on the live performance and guest appearance fronts.

Snowgoons is a production team hailing all the way from Germany, comprised of Det and DJ Illegal. The two were hip-hop fans who were heavily influenced by the genre and came together to make beats. They’ve worked with Wu-Tang Clan, AOTP, Boot Camp Clik, Onyx and La Coka Nostra.

DJ Illegal credits Grandmaster Flash and Run D.M.C. for kick starting his love for the genre. He would eventually become a DJ, B-Boy, and graffiti artist. The group would together cite DJ Premier, Alchemist, and RZA as their influences. They also pull from various sources of inspiration. The name Snowgoons was inspired by the comic books that Det used to read when he was a kid.

Their first major release was “Clip Full of Ammo,” which featured rappers Doujah Raze, Mitchell Hennesy, J Sands, and Breez Evahflowin and was released via Hot Shit Records/Sony Germany. The duo would eventually sign to Babygrande Records in 2007 and release their debut album German Lugers that year. It would be the beginning of many records that include Black Snow, A Fist in the Thought, The Trojan Horse, Kraftwerk, The Iron Fist, and Your Favorite MC.

The production duo is heavily influenced by the boom bap sound. Their latest album, Goon Bap, is a dedication to the boom bap era of ‘90s hip-hop.