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60 EAST PRESENTS

THE HAPPINESS OF PURSUIT BLOG

Today we have brought you a select list of artists to look out for in 2021. Based on their actions/record releases in 2020 we have high hopes and even higher expectations for these performers to blow us out of the water. Make sure to get familiar...


First up to bat we have Jersey City's own Ransom. As an OG in the game for more than 20 years, Ransom has made what is to be considered one of the strongest comebacks in all of hiphop. Last year he released a large catalog of music which shows his time away was not spent relaxing. Formally known for his beef with fellow New Jersey native Joe Budden, Ransom rises from the conflict with knowledge to spare. You may be familiar with Ransom by his high quality bars and lyrics, you may know him as “the best MC of the year" as Throw Up Magazine would call him. However you know Ransom, one thing is clear, he’s here to stay and we certainly haven’t heard the last of him.


Rj Payne, the notoriously quick-witted MC has held our attention for more than a decade. Originally known as Reign Man, he was featured on the early days of BET’s freestyle battles dominating the field with his fiery delivery and witty disses. As whispers stirred in the scene about a new artist called RJ Payne, Reign Man’s fanbase began to turn an ear to the undeniable energetic voice of RJ Payne. He has even grabbed the ears of Eminem and Lil Wayne who credit him as a great rapper. After changing his name to RJ Payne and started releasing tons of music he got noticed by Griselda Records and pumped out a mountain of music in 2020. The sixth installment of If Cocaine Could Talk offers some heavy bars and provides the star quality production of PA Dre, Ski Beatz, Don D, Veltrax, Asethic and Tru Mentillz. We can’t wait to hear more of him.



Che Noir is THE voice of Buffalo New York. She started making a name for herself in the underground appearing on some notable records; soon after she released the 38 Spesh produced Juno, the Apollo Brown-produced As God Intended and ended her 2020 with her self-produced After 12 EP. She shares compelling lyrics on her album with fellow artists Ransom and 38 Spesh. She opens a dialogue with Sa-Roc on one of her tracks discussing the injustices that 2020 served in excess. She has shook the industry to its core with her individualism and solidified her name in the game. This is only the beginning for Che Noir and we are highly anticipating her next drop.


Rome Steetz is what we call a traditional loyal to the soil hiphop artist with his old-soul boom-bap tracks and a leading man flow. Our founder 60East shared with us a personal anecdote on how he came to know of the New York native— “I first caught word of Rome Streetz after a show in Boston when Hip Hop legend Elzhi played me a freestyle he had done after our show in our AirBnb. I started listening to his Noise Kandy series and was blown away. His output of music has been great, and he is a great lyricist.” Based on Rome Streetz’ consistent output of music we can estimate it won’t be long before we hear from him again. In fact, rumor has it that he may have an album coming out with DJ Mugs this year, stay tuned for updates!



Syracuse’s own Stove God Cooks has had a better year than most. This past year he was listed in the top 50 of Complex’s Best Albums of 2020. Some artists he beat out for the coveted spot of No. 42 include Nas, Big Sean and Ty Dolla $ign. He’s been a coveted feature to have, working with tons of artists and most notably cooking up with Griselda. Last March he showcased his major label debut, Reasonable Drought, produced by Roc Marciano, on Busta Rhymes’ The Conglomerate Entertainment. His style is chameleon-like, an abled MC who can focus on old school flows yet remain distinctive and original. We firmly believe in Stove God Cooks and wait patiently for his newest concoction of perfection.

Lyric Jones has toured and performed all over the globe for nearly 10 years. Our founder shares some experiences he encountered with her— “I remember running into her at shows and festivals all over the world and we even performed together at the A3C Festival in Atlanta in 2015”. She had an epic breakout year in 2020 releasing an album executive produced by the Little Brother Legend Phonte, which received critical acclaim and appeared on several best album of the year lists. This album Closer Than They Appear battles with heavy subject matters such as survivors guilt. Lyric Jones reminisces on the lives of Breonna Taylor and Sandra Bland and comes to grips with what it means to be a black woman in America. She bears her soul on Closer Than They Appear which is why there is no coincidence that this has been her biggest project to date. She’s also got a head start on 2021 releasing her single “Rock On”. Her ambitious outlook is setting the tone for this next year.



Boldy James, the Detroit rapper working independently for almost 10 years has released a slew of albums this past year. He’s been staying busy and recently, officially linked with Griselda Records. The Price of Tea in China has been called one of the best albums of the year and was produced completely by the infamous Alchemist. But that’s not the only heavy hitter he’s cooked with. His albums Manger on McNicholsand The Versace Tape were produced by the legendary Harry Fraud. He’s characterized by his detached, deadpan outlook on the world around him. He raps as if he doesn’t want to be there, yet storytells in extreme detail.



And last but certainly not least is the hard grinding Rochester rapper ETO. If you haven’t heard of ETO you may be familiar with his former alias he rapped under as Lil E or Lil ETO. He has been under the radar of Griselda and has captured the attention of NPR, The Washington Post and Complex. He wears a weighty crown being dawned one of the “heroes of a new era of hardcore hip-hop”. That’s a title not to glance over. His dark, slow measured beats create the persona of a mindful MC. With five projects released last year and many notable features, ETO lives on the horizon of opportunity.

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Updated: Feb 22


We at THOPFest take pride in the artists we put on our stage. We are fans of the music first and foremost. We love finding an artist early and giving them the opportunity to shine on our stage in front of our audience. We also love to see where artists take their careers after performing on our stage. Since we couldn’t throw our festival in 2020, we decided to do something special for the artist and fans. We compiled a list of our favorite projects that dropped in 2020 by artists that have performed at our festival. We want to not only continue to support these artists, but also keep our fans engaged with them and the music we are currently listening to. In case you missed one of these albums when it dropped, we are here to remind you to go check them out now!


Sa-Roc - The Sharecroppers Daughter


Since performing at #THOPFest April 2019, this goddess MC. has continued to make her mark on hip hop with several music and social media videos showcasing her amazing skills. In 2020, just before the pandemic hit, she was invited to co-headline a national tour with Grammy nominated Roc Nation artist Rapsody on A Black Woman Created this Tour. Soon after, Sa-roc released “The Sharecroppers Daughter”. This rhymesayer’s debut album features Black Thought and Styles P, both critically acclaimed. The album has been featured on many “Album of the Year lists” all over the county and has solidified Sa-Roc as one of best lyricists in the game. In case you missed it, be sure to stream it now


Our favorite songs: Forever, Deliverance, 40 And A Mule

Album Link: https://sa-roc.bandcamp.com/album/the-sharecroppers-daughter


Elzhi - Seven Times Down, Eight Times Up


Since headlining our first #THOPFest in 2017 and coming back as a special guest on the 60 East and Friends set in April 2019, the syllable sensai Elzhi has been extremely busy. In 2018, after working on unreleased music for a total of four years after his release of Lead Poison, Elzhi released the Jericho Jackson album with producer Khrysis and Jamla Records (9th Wonder’s Label). The album has been very well received and the music video/single for the project “Self Made” is still in daily rotation. Two years later, the Motown MC returns with the JR Swiftz Produced Seven Times Down Eight Times Up album. The album shows the elite lyricism of Elzhi, along with his creative concepts and storytelling. This album is a master class in why El is regarded as one of the best lyricists of all time. In case you missed it, be sure to check it out.


Our favorite songs: Light One, Write One, Potential, Jason

Album Link: https://fbdistribution.bandcamp.com/album/seven-times-down-eight-times-up


Vel The Wonder - Trophy Wife


You may have been introduced to her at our very first #THOPFest in 2017, or in 2019 when she made a return to the THOP stage. Vel The Wonder’s album Trophy Wife, provides the gold standard of "female rap" with its versatility and direct concepts. Vel proves that though her beauty earns her the title of a “trophy wife”, encased in this woman is power and intelligence that defies hollow glorifications of a woman on display. Vel The Wonder has character, true ingenuity, she is more than a pretty face, she is a woman of the people who gadges her environment with astute observations and criticisms. Trophy Wife plays off of the complex paradoxical idea that she is a symbol of being more than a symbol, and for that we applaud her.


Our favorite songs: Trophy Wife, Mariposa

Album Link: https://www.velthewonder.com/shop-1/trophywifephysical


Benny The Butcher - Burden of Proof


The Butcher is back serving up a feast of facts and foresight based on his hard fought experience in the game. The Burden of Proof can be compared to the aphorism “the proof is in the pudding” meaning: his greatness comes from surviving for years in the game. However, Benny The Butcher is doing more than surviving. His maturity has harvested wisdom to his whereabouts and directed his insightful moves compared to his competitors. The burden of his proof is being a living testament to the harsh reality of the hustle, the weighty responsibility of success. Benny (and Conway) have come a long way from their 2019 appearance at #THOPFest.


Our favorite songs: Burden of Proof, One Way Flight

Album Link: https://www.amazon.com/Burden-Proof-Explicit-Benny-Butcher/dp/B08L4C5TDX


Conway - From King to a GOD


In Conway’s From King to a GOD, we see a glistening roster of star-studded producers such as DJ Premier, Daringer, the Alchemist and plenty more. This album contains an arsenal of quotable verses, exquisite mastery and notable features. The Method Man delivers a 16 bar round into the song LEMON that cuts deep into the heart of any hip hop fan. Conway is a lyrical machine, firing off at full capacity on this 14 track album. Although this album exceeded all expectations, we can expect to see more of the Buffalo native this coming year. Since performing at #THOPFest, the machine has worked with everyone from Eminem to Kanye West.


Our favorite songs: Jesus Khrysis, Nothin Less

Album Link: https://www.amazon.com/King-GOD-Explicit-Conway-Machine/dp/B08HPQH2S2


Blu and Exile - Miles


We are so happy to see Blu & Exile back after a few years with a full length album! This album is dedicated to Miles Elijah Barnes presumed to be Blu’s son. This album deals with personal and external themes past and present. He comes into himself recollecting on the moves that have molded him into his present self. In the song “Bright as Stars” he tells the story of his youth as a wide-eyed kid, hungry for glory. He bounces back and forth between lessons and blessings, the state of the world and the state within himself. Miles is a melodic album with horns and soothing piano chords drizzled throughout. It is an album that will stay in rotation for years to come. Blu first made his #THOPFest debut performing on the 60 East and Friends set in 2018, along with Exile who was DJ'ing for Fashawn. The duo then officially performed their Classic album "Below the Heavens" in its entirety at THOP 2019.


Our favorite songs: True & Livin, Blue As I Can Be

Album Link: https://bluandexile.bandcamp.com/album/miles


R.A The Rugged Man - All My Heroes are Dead


All My Heroes are Dead is hands down one of the best albums to come out this year. This will be R.A.’s third studio album dropping to date. All My Heroes are Dead is the aftermath of his previous album Legends Never Die. He calls upon his fellow New York natives Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, Kool G Rap and others to illuminate his tale giving his audience a powerful gut punch of raw unapologetic rap. We are most impressed by his skill, rapping at bullet speed and his intense subject matter. This album has been critically acclaimed receiving praise from major blogs such as HipHop Golden Age and HipHopDx. This album has ZERO skips leaving you awestruck and jovial. Since his appearance at #THOPFest 2019, fans and staff both regard his performance as one of the most memorable in Festival history.


Our favorite songs: All My Heroes Are Dead (The Introduction), First Born

Album Link: https://ratheruggedman.net/products/all-my-heroes-are-dead-cd


Kxng Crooked & Joell Ortiz - H.A.R.D

Another joint album we love is Kxng Crooked & Joell Ortiz H.A.R.D. This 8 track album from the former Slaughterhouse members comes with the fiery production of the Heatmakerz. They are back and stronger than ever, rapping over grimy beats, brazen and shamelessly. Their message is clear, to be hard is to rise above the challenges of life. Lyrical-rap has never sounded so fresh and timeless. H.A.R.D is an album for the old heads and the new school. It is a marriage of the east and west proving no one stands in the way of Joell and Crooked’s mission to the top.


Our favorite songs: H.A.R.D, Catchin Bodies

Album Link: https://www.mellomusicgroup.com/products/joell-ortiz-kxng-crooked-h-a-r-d-cd


Skyzoo - Milestones


Skyzoo’s album Milestones is one of the more vibrant and colorful albums to come out this year. It’s fun and fatherhood focused. Skyzoo boasts about his father and the benefits of familial stability. He measures his own fatherliness, trying to steep out of the shadows of his own. Milestones is refreshingly original. The importance of fatherhood is not a common trope in hip hop. It goes against the grain in all the right ways.


Our favorite songs: Memory Serves Me, Duly Noted

Album Link: https://www.mellomusicgroup.com/products/skyzoo-milestones-lp?variant=31878852739161


60 East & Curtiss King Beats - The Freeway Series 3


60 East is back with the third installment to his series with the six track EP entitled The Freeway Series Vol. 3. With Curtiss King’s palliative production and East’s idiomatic tone, each song travels through themes of trial/error, peace and pursuit. He relates the expanse of life’s teachings and its slow approach to that of the long, yet necessary drive of the So-Cal freeways. Though he is an artist by name, he considers himself more of a nomad as he mentions in “Tuesday”, “this is life on the road”. In a lane of his own 60 cruises through existentialism and melancholy effortlessly, or more poignantly, without any speed bumps.


Our favorite songs: Sleep Talk, Streets of Gold

Album Link: https://60east.bandcamp.com/album/the-freeway-series-vol-3-traffic-jam


Noa James - Dirty Gospel


You can’t spell oracle without an orca and that’s exactly what Noa James is on Dirty Gospel. This album exists in a place between the heavily cosmos and earth below. Every song is a proverb and every feature is a prophet of reason. The love monster has collected artists of all different backgrounds and professions adding to his continuing message of benevolence and unity. His garish jarring tone juxtaposes his lyrics of spreading hope and goodness. He's a preacher of light and love. A pastor of prosperity and perseverance.


Our favorite songs: Made The Devil Say Church, Bridges and Bowls

Album Link: https://noajames.bandcamp.com/album/dirty-gospel


Murs - Love and Rockets 2


Murs is back with the 12 track 32 minute album Love and Rockets 2. It’s an allegorical piece, offering teachings and instruction on how to live a better life. It's a warning to society, a critique on south-central LA and a love letter all in one. As Murs climbs higher and higher, he releases pieces of knowledge in his ascent. The tone is optimistic, the lyrics informative. He leaves his grievances on the ground and propels towards gratitude and greatness. The album is light and relatable, it’s encouraging and leaves the listener wanting more. We know Murs is a project dropping machine and can’t wait to hear more from him this year.


Our favorite songs: The D.O.C, Murs in Retrograde Album Link: https://www.amazon.com/Love-Rockets-Vol-Declaration-Explicit/dp/B08Q7DSCP6



Written by Drea Godsey & THOPFest Staff.

@drea.godd @thopfest #thopfest


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