The Best Hip-Hop Release to Come Out of Saint Louis This Year

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Editor: Tef Poe is an artist from St. Louis City. Through powerful imagery and complicated honesty, he has earned a reputation as one of the best rappers telling the story of St. Louis, which is about much more than one place. Poe has been featured in music publications such as XXL and Urb Magazine. His newest project War Machine 2 was released on June 5th and will be followed up by a full-length with DJ Burn One entitled Cheer For The Villain. Follow him on twitter @tefpoe. Get War Machine 2 here.ollow him on twitter @tefpoe. Get War Machine 2 here.

I believe the honor of Best Hip-Hop Release to Come Out of Saint Louis This Year belongs to none other than Rockwell Knuckles for the tireless effort he put in on his latest work, Take Me To Your Leader. I don't intend on turning this blog into a music review or a step-by-step critical breakdown; I simply want to put into perspective the endless amount of vision embedded in this project.

It's no secret that Rocky is a friend of mine, but it's also no secret that I am brutally honest when it comes to my public opinion about music. My personal credibility is everything to me. Hip-hop doesn't always get a fair break in our town; the media doesn't always know how to cover it and sometimes folks just don't actually know where to find the good stuff. I try sincerely to redirect traffic with my RFT Music column and to point everyone in what I think is the right direction.

I think TMTYL was Rocky's attempt to do the same exact thing, within the framework of a timeless body of music. RFT Award-winning vocalist Theresa Payne pops in and out of TMTYL to assist Rockwell whenever her soulful presence is needed. The record has strong features from Kanye West's affiliates GLC (a frequent collaborator and artist on West's label) and Tony Williams (Kanye's blood cousin and background singer) as well.

Knuckles currently resides in New York City, but he recorded most of this project prior to his departure from his hometown. I had the privilege of being present for most of the studio sessions -- the day he recorded "Blur" I almost scrapped my entire mixtape. I believe I witnessed Rocky record nearly three entire albums' worth of music prior to leaving Missouri, and I felt like I was witnessing something special every day. Certain people enjoy the recording process more than others; some are capable of navigating the studio as if it were a battleship roaming the seven seas. Sessions with Rocky are intense in this way, and pinpointed in a very precise manner. To watch him work is to feel as if the entire project is already recorded in his head, just waiting to pour out of his brain and onto the tape.

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