From rap to dreamy pop, D.C. musicians create a sound all their own

The District is a great place for music. And no, I’m not talking about the big names like Galantis, Tinashe, Kid Cudi or even Justin Bieber (coming April 29), as exciting as they are.

It’s not even about the grade-A music venues, even though the 9:30 Club, Black Cat and U Street Music Hall are some of the most sought-after stages on the East Coast.

What makes D.C. a uniquely music-friendly city are the emerging artists that call the District home. With their sights set on breakout successes like Chaz French, this city is teeming with practitioners of rap, electro, pop, trance and everything in between.

Here are three D.C. stars hitting nearby venues in the coming month:

Futuristic funk: Nag Champa
Rock & Roll Hotel, Feb. 5, 9 p.m.

The DMV music scene is no stranger to renegade styles that flirt with existing genres rather than establishing themselves firmly within one. But even within the open-minded community, Nag Champa is one of the stranger experiments that have popped up over time – so much so, that its music almost defies description.

The pet project of Jamal Gray, Nag Champa toys with “jazz, soul, African rhythms, go-go and house music, so the emphasis is on feeling and movement,” according to Capital Fringe. Gray and an alternating cast of disc jockeys use electronics to remix the deep and soulful roots of R&B and jazz to create psychedelic instrumentals.

Imagine a wacky dream translated into music. That’s Nag Champa.

Rap: Shy Glizzy

The Fillmore Silver Spring, Feb. 7, 8 p.m.

An elusive success story in the flesh, Shy Glizzy is one of those emerging (or in this case, emergent) artists that make it to be one of the biggest names on the scene. He was chosen as one of XXL Magazine’s 2015 Freshman Class.

Marquis Amonte King has earned the title “Streets’ Hottest Youngin” (Shy, for short) Glizzy with his casual, almost effortless rapping style that belies his insightful and, at times, inspired rhymes. His signature high-pitched flow weaves seamlessly around a bouncy beat, with some synth thrown in for good measure.

The 23-year-old has the story to back up his heartfelt lines. He grew up in a troubled part of Southeast D.C., and earned his GED while in jail at the age of 19 – a past he touches on in “I Wish” and “Tru Story.”

In Glizzy’s own words: “At 13 years old, I was doing grown-man things, so I know who I am, and I’m telling people who I am,” according to The Washington Post.


Dream pop: The Walking Sticks

W Washington Hotel, Feb. 10, 7 p.m.

Layer soulful vocals and soulful blues undertones with pop, synth and syncopated guitar and what do you get?

The Walking Sticks, a trio that’s rising through the D.C. music scene with their unique brand of “dream pop.” With songs like “You Got What You Wanted” and “The News,” lead vocalist Chelsea Lee and brothers Max (keys, bass) and Spencer (guitar, keys) Ernst have made a name for themselves in the District since their inception in 2012.

Originally a folk band of two brothers, the addition of Chelsea Lee helped The Walking Sticks adopt its current experimental astral sound. The group has recently been named one of three local acts that have made it into the final round for the Deli’s – a blog dedicated to fringe indie music – annual reader poll for Best of D.C. Area for Emerging Artists.

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