Plenty of Detroit artists have put Michigan rap on the map over the years. The Motor City is home to one of the highest-selling rappers of all time, it’s raised breakout stars from Danny Brown to Dej Loaf as well as the likes of Big Sean, Tee Grizzley, Sada Baby, 42 Dugg and Teejayx6. And in recent years, a smaller regional scene within the Great Lakes State has been simmering.
Flint’s take on street rap – similar to the Detroit scene it’s connected to – is fuelled by rugged production, often featuring thudding basslines and foreboding piano loops, and a darkly humorous, devil-may-care attitude to lyricism. These Flint-raised artists are churning out bangers that could appropriately soundtrack a high-speed car chase.
This wave of Flint rappers didn’t begin to gain traction within Michigan until Rio Da Yung Og first appeared on the scene. One of Rio’s tracks found its way to established Detroit rapper Peezy in 2018, who quickly took the budding talent under his wing, taught him the rap game, and made a handful of songs with him. The relationship grew into something symbiotic: Rio – and the Flint scene at large – could take advantage of Detroit’s platform and resources, which had been expanded by the recent international success of artists like Tee Grizzley and Sada Baby, while Detroit itself could both hone and harness an influx of new talent.
Rio and Peezy’s partnership was well-timed, as more Michigan rappers began seeing upticks in attention by the time the 2010s came to a close. Producers like Enrgy and RJ Lamont helped bring the speedy melodies Michigan street rap was already known for to Flint, which is located 68 miles north of Detroit. Detroit and Flint’s scenes dovetailed seamlessly, as videos and TikTok posts featuring them began racking up millions of views.
Atlanta rapper Lil Yachty, who had already made an effort to cement his presence in Detroit as early as 2017, has taken a shine to Flint. Yachty recently dropped the track Royal Rumble featuring a cast of Michigan artists, and last year he teased a project entitled Michigan Boy Boat.
Flint, MI is currently enjoying its first wave of rap stardom. Here are a handful of the city’s standout players.
Rio Da Yung Og
It’s impossible to talk about Flint rap without mentioning Rio Da Yung Og. A rap fan from a young age, Rio used to record songs on a karaoke machine as a child. As he grew older and became entrenched in street life, the 26-year-old continued to sharpen his pen and strengthened the balance of menacing and humorous raps. A video like Legendary shows Rio in his element: rapping about how he wishes snitches would stay in jail while goofing around in a gas station parking lot with his friends.
For all the attention he’s received over the last two years, Rio’s career has hit a major roadblock. On March 31st, Rio began a five year prison sentence for charges relating to gun possession and drug distribution. He released the song Last Day Out the same day, a somber inverse of “first day out” songs released by rappers who make it out of prison. Last Day Out provides a look into his psyche and the things he’s leaving behind as he serves his time: “Three years and eight months, I’ll be right back,” he says with a smirk. His music and commitment to the grind will keep him in fan’s minds for years to come.
Bfb da Packman
On first listen, Bfb da Packman sounds like he could be a parody character written for Atlanta. His voice jumps between octaves on a dime and he’s claimed that Drake refused to sign him because he’s “too damn fat and too damn childish”. Part of the appeal of Bfb’s songs comes from wanting to hear what ridiculous bar he’ll drop next; part of it is following his wildly prolific output, which is particularly impressive considering he’s also a full-time post-office worker.
Bfb’s outrageous energy has also sparked its fair share of controversy. STD jokes are a recurring theme, and he has an affinity for wearing clothes with phrases like “STILL HIV POSITIVE” on them, which has raised questions about his intentions. Bfb currently lives in Houston, Texas but continues to rep his home city of Flint, where he first solidified his brash and off-the-wall style.
None of the entrants on this list are as silly as YN Jay. His breathy delivery and surreal punchlines make him sound as playful and aggressive as a sugar-high infant in a ball pit. His career began shortly after the passing of his older brother, who inspired him to embrace his talent for rapping. In 2019, YN Jay dropped his debut project MVP, but it wouldn’t be until 2020 that he’d catch his first big hit: the song Coochie with fellow Flint rapper Louie Ray. In his trademark downward inflection, on the breakthrough track Jay drops lines about sleepwalking while drunk and seeing women asleep with their coochies out at the strip club.
He’s an undeniably horny and vulgar rapper, but the quality of the music speaks for itself. His album Coochie Land kept the motif going, churning out hilarious songs and viral TikTok hits – like the ubiquitous Coochie Man – left and right. On his latest album Ninja Warrior, he experiments with new adlibs while keeping his lyrics potent and wild. Even after his breakout moment, YN Jay remains a ball of energy that shows no sign of stopping.
A Louie Ray performance is one you’re not likely to forget. As he was coming up, Ray made his presence felt in every club and venue possible; he performed in Michigan, all across the midwestern United States and released 10 projects between 2014 and 2019. His mid-register voice and knack for straightforward wordplay is on full display on songs like Movie with Rio Da Yung Og (“Let me cut my arms off before I ball, I’ll be fair”) and Coochie with frequent collaborator YN Jay (“I don’t feel like lettin’ nobody over, cut the lane off”).
While Ray has found a perfect foil in YN Jay’s high-pitched breathy raps (their 2020 collaborative project The Scouts is a wild ride), his voice cuts through the music just fine on its own. He brings a steely-eyed realness that stands in contrast to the more boisterous personalities that have come out of Flint in the last few years. Songs like Motivator and Hard to Match mark Louie Ray as one of the scene’s most grounded, but no less crucial artists.
Krispylife Kidd isn’t afraid to rip a track to shreds if he needs to. His voice is a powerful tool, blasting through the chaotic beats he favours while sounding like a pastor who moves weight out of the church basement. He first began to take music seriously when he released the GOAT Vibez mixtape while on house arrest. He linked with producer Enrgy – who also happened to be his neighbour – shortly after and dropped five more projects in 2020, marking himself as one of the most prolific artists in a city with no shortage of rap music.
Most Krispylife bars are quotables: his gun has a clip as long as the word “Mississippi” and he boasts rivalries in the same vein as Buddy Love and Sherman Klump from The Nutty Professor movies. His ridiculous raps have gained the attention of everyone from Rio and YN Jay to honorary Michigan rap aficionado Lil Yachty, who collaborated with him on the riotous track Krispy Boat last year.
More than any other rapper in the Flint scene, RMC Mike is a team player. The husky-voiced rapper has two solo projects to his name – 2019’s Rookie Season and 2020’s Sophomore Season – but has made more of an impression with his collab projects with Rio (the Dum and Dumber series) and Krispylife (Judgement Day). No matter who he’s working with, RMC Mike’s deep voice gives his words a distinct heft.
On Feb. 18 from Sophomore Season, Mike flows between beat switches and stories of shootings, dealings, and rolling weed with friends with ease. RMC Mike’s music is as dizzying and straightforward as Flint rap gets.
YSR Gramz is as foundational to the Flint rap scene as any other artist mentioned on this list. Gramz co-founded the group Krispylife, which included Krispylife Kidd and YN Jay, among others, in the mid-late 2010s and eventually added YSR – an acronym for Young Sak Runner – to his name. As a rapper, Gramz’s voice has the tone of a military officer rallying the troops. Hearing a line like “I can make a nigga disappear but it ain’t magic” from the single 90 Month Grind is chilling and thrilling in equal measure.
Though Gramz is a figure with deep ties to his local scene who hasn’t landed a big hit, that doesn’t seem to bother him. Songs like Proud of Me and ENRGY are authentic to Gramz’s personality and attract those who are ready to hear what he has to offer. It’s on the rest of the world to hop on the wave.
Bonus: Miles Bridges
Yeah, I’m not kidding. The Flint native and small forward for the Charlotte Hornets basketball team can really spit. His foray into rap started with 1st Quarter, a collaboration with YN Jay that proved he could hold his own on the mic. He quickly followed it with a mixtape, last year’s Up the Score, under the name RTB MB. The tape has it all: Enrgy and RJ Lamont beats, a hectic atmosphere, and enough wild gun and sex puns to make league owners blush.
What makes Bridges so unique within the Flint scene is his nonchalance as a rapper. Where rappers like YN Jay and Krispylife rely on their booming voices, Bridges talks about having “hoes like a festival” and urges his son to never leave home without a Glock 9 pistol, with what sounds like his inside voice. He’s stoic and well-balanced, an intriguing addition to Flint’s rap legacy.