Jefferson Street, not Broadway. Out East, not East Nashville. Prince’s Hot Chicken, not Hattie B’s. 

Just like the tourism that courses through Nashville weekly, there’s a vast disparity in covering the authentic sights and sounds of Nashville’s music scene. The systemic gentrification of the city isn’t just the “tall and skinnies” [apartment buildings] that are rapidly snaking through historic Nashville neighborhoods, it’s also the inability to acknowledge the true roots of Nashville music culture. Even most Nashville natives are astonished to learn it was HBCU Fisk University’s jubilee singers that birthed Nashville’s “music city” name.

“Condos just keep coming up and generations going down - look around your hood might be next.” - Brian Brown

It would be easy to presume that a lot of budding rappers wouldn’t want to compete in a market that doesn’t appreciate their contributions. While some might migrate towards more hip-hop friendly cities, most of Nashville’s top talents aren’t going anywhere. Local rappers once inspired by native (yet distanced) stars like Young Buck have shifted towards new leadership: leadership that is actively listening to sounds of the city. One of the galvanizing individuals changing the landscape of the scene is producer, engineer, and composer Ron Gilmore. The experienced artist, who’s performed with Lauryn Hill and notably produced multiple Gold and Platinum records in J. Cole and Dreamville’s catalog, is frequently back in the city bringing resources and sharing studio sessions with droves of local talent.

With ten toes entrenched in the mud, the unrelenting hustle that powers these Nashville artists is now reaching far beyond the city limits. Meet some of the key figures in the vibrant present and future of Nashville rap.

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