“Motivated hippie, shooting til dem clips empty/ Peace and love, you see pieces of, these remaining scrubs/ Imma prince, you can see the doves, cry don’t tempt me/ What’s a road to the green without the envy.” – Preauxx “Malcolm 2XX’s”

Every so often, us music heads get drained from commercial rap songs blazing on repeat over the local radio stations, and take our talents to the sounds of something much more fresh, thought-provoking, and experimental. We saw it when music lovers moved toward Common, Mos Def, and Outkast in the 90’s, then Lupe Fiasco, Kid Cudi, and Kendrick Lamar in the 2000’s. 

Now that we’ve gotten drained from the mumble and trap rap of the last half of 2010’s, the question becomes: who do we turn to for a breath of fresh air? The alternative rap scene has always been an open door, outside the mainstream spectrum, for listeners to walk through. In the city of Memphis – where the dope boy monologues thrive – independent storytellers that fuse mental health, anime, social reform, and heartbreak so effortlessly give listeners a space to breathe again. And that’s word to Toni Braxton. 

Here are 5 artists in the 901 who are making waves in the alternative branches of the rap game.

Daz Rinko

If there was one artist with both the energy of Chiddy Bang AND the soulfulness of Kidz in the Hall, it would be Daz Rinko. The rapper-singer makes music with that Southern twang, making topics like love, religion and being a young Black man in America easily digestible to the fans of trap rap. With the release of his 2016 mixtape “LIFTED”, Daz became the topic of conversation. Now he’s the M-Town’s source of positive vibes. His music has been featured on outlets such as Pigeons & Planes, Noisey, NPR, EARMILK, DJBooth, Mass Appeal, RESPECT Mag, The Hundreds, All Def Digital, and a number of others.

The Poet, Havi

How many rappers do you know attend Southern Ivy’s? Not many. But then again, this is what makes The Poet, Havi something special. After leaving Vandy after two years, Havi decided to pursue his music. From his dangerously outspoken videos to his mystical lyrics, Havi aims to inspire generations and bring the poet out of us all. “A seed does nothing and slowly, it’s environment turns it into a flower. I do nothing, and my environment turned me into a musician, a poet. This is my fate and I embrace it. I am The Poet.”

Don Lifted

Honestly, Don Lifted is “that guy.” That’s it. Thank you for my Ted Talk. No, but seriously, Don Lifted is a multi-disciplined fixture in the Memphis art scene. While predominantly working in music, visual arts and film, he pushes the envelope of what listeners should expect, feel, and even think. His style incorporates Hip-Hop, alternative rock and electronic music, resulting in emotionally vulnerable storytelling and eclectic production. If you like his music, you’ll be blown away by his performances. Hell, Kanye and Basquiat would be proud. 


“Give the city LoVe, feel like Curtis Givens.”

I don’t know if Huey Newton and Pimp C listen to new music in Heaven, but if so, they’re probably together bumping North Memphis rapper Cochi$e. Cochi$e elevate the stories of Memphis culture, heartache, and hustlers. With experiences from the Vollentine Evergreen neighborhood and education from Rhodes College, his music inspires Ph.D students to put a grill in their mouths, and forces the hardest gangsters to open up about their romantic trials and tribulations. His debut album “DRMST8” – pronounced Dreamstate – hit streaming sites in 2019, and he’s been a force to reckon with ever since.


One of the most talked about and highlighted alternative artists in Memphis is none other than PreauXX (pronounced “pro”). PreauXX aka The LuXXurious Steve Austin, is a native New Orleanian but has repped the 901 since the age of ten. “I incorporate both cities’ influence by the different styles of rap I display. I am a big fan of Memphis’ Project Pat and the fast cadences of New Orleans’ bounce music artist,” he says. PreauXX cites Kanye West as his initial inspiration, with Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper as new influences. With lyrics highlighting “society, love, the hustle and social issues in modern time,” and a buzz that has spread far beyond Tennessee, PreauXX is up next to become one of Memphis’ greats.

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