There aren’t many people left on campus who remember Wale’s 2008 performance in a cramped corner of Dewberry Hall on a cold February night, and only a few who remember the way the bells in Wale’s then-lone hit “Nike Boots” echoed around a room struggling to fill a fifth of its capacity. Fast forward three years and Wale can be found at the center of two of the area’s largest venues — the Verizon Center and Merriweather Post Pavilion — within a span of only four months alongside some of today’s most recognizable rap figures. And while he’s still yet to follow through on his promise of bringing a Grammy to the District, even Wale doesn’t deny the fact that he likely isn’t the best artist living in the metropolitan area. Here are few local rappers that would probably make a night in Dewberry Hall a lot more memorable.

1. Fat Trel
From: E St., NE D.C.
For fans of: Waka Flocka; Freeway; Wooh da Kid
This 21-year-old gangsta rapper out of D.C. was previously attached to Wale’s Board of Administration label prior to being unceremoniously dropped a day before his latest mixtape released. It’s been a while since the District has seen a young rapper so quickly garner such an invested grassroots fan base within city limits. “April Foolz,” Trel’s recent Luger-infused project, turned a few more heads well outside Metro limits, as did his latest leak produced by Big K.R.I.T., “Bitchez Started Klokkin.” Another called “Rolling” is a pop-rap song that calls back to the days when street-hard rappers weren’t afraid to tackle radio-pop territory. More than happy to fill the role of D.C.’s anti-hero (He’s a Cowboys fan! The horror!), his “Nightmare on E St.” mixtape is slated for an early November release.

2. Phil Ade
From: Silver Spring, MD
For fans of: Mac Miller; weedless Wiz Khalifa; the idea that Drake used to be a “real backpacker”
Young, full of pop-friendly hooks and memorable punch lines — when not painfully corny — and signed to Raheem DeVaughn’s local boutique label 368 Music Group, Phil Ade has quickly risen to one of the DMV’s most visible rappers, a notable marketing feat given the area’s high rapper-per-capita ratio. His first two mixtapes — “Starting on JV”; “The Letterman” — were a lot more heavy on the Tribe-era boom-bap nostalgia tip, while his latest — “A Different World” — strayed into slighty more southern aesthetics. There’s at least one song in his catalog that someone would love to use as a Facebook status.

3.Uptown X.O.
From: Georgia Ave., Uptown D.C.
For fans of: “Revolutionary but Gangsta”; “Fear of a Black Planet”
“Had idle hands/ now I got ‘em on my rifle and/ I’m ready to smite a cops for lockin’ up my mans,” spits X.O., channelling all the ethos and cadence of the archetypal black preacher. It sounds even better paired with ABthePro’s lavish 60’s and 70’s era soul and jazz sample-heavy instrumentals, a dynamic the two fully appreciate. Early in Wale’s career there was a lot of handwringing over his self-anointment as “Ambassador of Rap for the Capital” — his words, not mine — since he’s technically from Maryland. And while general consensus has arrived at a lukewarm shoulder-shrug when it comes to Wale’s exact hometown, it adds an extra layer of authenticity to X.O., a lifelong resident of the District, when he raps, “Uncle Sam taught me how to rob/ Not 50 Cent.”
4.RatedR the Mac
From: Largo, MD
For fans of: Mannie Fresh; Young Jeezy; trapping in Cadillacs
There’s only one official mixtape release to his name, but it’s not about quantity, right? “Welcome 2 Da Morgue,” dropped under the growing Midieast Studio, is a loud, 808-heavy record drenched in enough southern bounce to remind anyone who listens exactly on which side of the Mason-Dixon Line D.C., Maryland and Virginia fall. Rated R seems like a man who knows what he likes: women, tattoos and Chevrolets. At its most basic, this is music that sounds best with a set of subwoofers the size of two over-fed 4-year-olds at your back and a woodgrain grip in your hands. The lower the ride, the better.

5.Slutty Boyz (Dew Baby, PWild, Boosa da Shoota, Meatchi, Oochi, Killa)
From: E St., NE D.C.
For fans of: cooking; swag; the idea of a Bricksquad-backed Travis Porter
This is the group of D.C. kids having the most fun with music not involved in go-go. Let’s hope they keep sound-tracking the area’s vibrant, youthful hedonists with songs like “Coming off My Fingers” and “We Be Fresh,” or the entire “Chu Don’t Dew” mixtape, for that matter. Due to the group’s name, they’ve actually lost opportunities for live shows. There’s something there to be said about sexuality being taboo, but more importantly is that this kind of irresponsible energy is a good thing for music, especially in a scene that’s still trying to find its legs.

To download and listen to these local artists, visit local-specific websites like, and