In the first three editions of this series we have covered the local Americana, indie rock, and metal scenes in some detail but have only begun to scratch the surface of what the Upstate has to offer. This brings me to one genre that I admittedly do not know enough about, at least on the local level (I will drone on about every New York rapper from Rakim to the Wu-Tang Clan if you let me, though). For the authoritative voice on the local hip-hop scene, I reached out to Pauley Francisco, also known as $hiva when he has the mic in his hands.
I first learned of Pauley when the Upstate Music Awards were announced and I saw his name on the list of UMA committee members. When he is going by Pauley, he is the promoter and co-founder of the entertainment collective GR8FUL which I had seen promoting events around town in the past but had not yet had the opportunity to attend. When he is going by $hiva, he is one the best young hip-hop artists on the local scene today. Most importantly, to me anyway, is that when I met him in person the night of the UMA’s, I found him to be one of the nicest and most humble artists that I have ever met which put him at the top of the list of people I wanted to talk to about local hip-hop.
When I reached out to Pauley about this piece, I expected to pitch it as something that he would hopefully be interested in contributing to,with a week or so to consider his list, and get back to me. Instead, Pauley started listing off names faster than I could grab a pen and write them down. That passion and devotion to the scene and his favorite artists in it is something I cannot even begin to capture in this space so, instead, let us just dive into Pauley’s list…
Keep My Secrets
Pauley was literally at the home of Keep My Secrets (KMS)
when I called him so, perhaps, that is why he was the first artist that came to mind. More likely, however, it is because KMS has so much going on that he should be on the tip of everyone’s tongue when it comes to the local hip-hop scene. KMS, who Pauley describes as “sad boy R&B”, recently released the single “Goth Chick” which is almost at 17,000 listens on Spotify and also has a new video for the track “Lifeline” dropping on May 2. “Lifeline” features $hiva and Foreign but we will get to them shortly. For now, check out KMS on Spotify…
Pauley named Max Good$ as another friend of his and noted the track “Hot Sauce” as one of his favorites. I started there and could immediately see why Max Good$ was on this list – big bass beats and raw, hard lyrics club you over the head in all the right ways. Good stuff right here…
Follow on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/maxxgoods/
When Pauley told me about trap artist Foreign, he cited the track “Busy” as one of his favorite songs. Naturally, I started there and listened to it three times in a row before I could get any further into his catalog. Dark and intelligent songwriting had me going back for more and it got better with every listen. Also, I have to give additional bonus points for the Clerks sample at the end of S.M.O.K.E….
Follow on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/htxforeign/
Rikki Tan is the standout “how did I not know about this guy?” artist on the list. I bounced around his Soundcloud page for a minute before I found his 2018 album Rik@Nite. The opening track “2L2Q” with Honey B! grabbed me right out of the gates and would not let go. “Coming to America” might be my favorite track on the album but I am going to listen to it a few more times beginning to end just to make sure.
Follow on Instagram: @rikkitan.ss
2019 was a big year for FERNVNDO as he released the LP About Time and, along with $hiva, played to a packed house when they opened for Brooklyn’s Kota the Friend at The Radio Room (you know, back when live shows were still a thing). Follow his SoundCloud page as he releases new music every Thursday as he weaves traditional hip-hop beats with a bit of electronic for good measure. His latest release “One UP” is as good a track as you can find anywhere but, for FERNVNDO, it is just another Thursday release…
Follow on Instagram at @fernvndo864
TmacWitDaHat is coming off of two 2019 releases – the full length album Bear and the EP We’re All Wrong At Some Point which is a collaboration with local producer OkayHozay. I have listened to both and I honestly cannot decide which I like better. Additionally, his new project Goons on the Moon drops on SoundCloud on April 30 just to further complicate matters which, as they say, is a good problem to have.
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One from me…
I can’t have this list out in the world without linking to Pauley/$hiva himself. His most recent single “Dracarys” is on fire and needs to be added to your Spotify playlists immediately. Huge thanks to Pauley for contributing to this week’s piece and for all he does for the Upstate music scene both as an artist, promoter, and all around supporter.
Follow on Instgram at: @888shiva