Hip Hop in Cambridge: A Look into the Thriving Local Scene

Benny Ross and Stephen Gwon


Hip hop: a staple of the music industry. Big names dominate the platform, but lesser known gems are everywhere. We sat down with local rappers to learn about their music, and the Cambridge hip hop scene.

DJ Kari

“The lyrics are things I hear around me, those are the things I write and record about.”  DJ Kari is a student, artist, and storyteller. He is new to music; his first album, New Era, came out last year. He describes it as “pretty bad,” but things have certainly changed. DJ Kari is taking a more serious approach to his music for his upcoming release, saying that there’s “no more messing around.” DJ Kari specializes in drill music, a style known for its dark, ominous beats, and often aggressive content. His inspirations include Juice WRLD, Polo G, and Pop Smoke; he is not limited by genre though, as DJ Kari also loves melodic hip hop, which he will bring to his new EP, while still delivering “the hard drums and beats” of drill. DJ Kari has big plans for the next year, stating, “I’m gonna slowly but surely transition into the stuff I really wanna do.” He adds that he will cut down on swearing, because “people swear just to fill the space.” 

When asked if his neighborhood, the Port, has the best artists, DJ Kari stressed that, although, “I’m from here and you’re from there, at the end of the day, it’s all about the music.” Looking at all of Cambridge, he feels that the sound is “definitely more melodic,” with dope emcees in other sub-genres too. He is sure that this will be his first serious album out of many to come, promising that “starting fresh next year, you’ll see a brand new [DJ Kari].”


Wally Sparks

“I’ve got[ten] to meet a lot of great people … I got to perform alongside them and I got to interview them, you know. I mean like, I couldn’t really ask for more of a reward.” Wally Sparks is a veteran to the Cambridge scene, having over 16 years of experience under his belt. His versatile style is influenced by fellow local artists The Product and Natural Born Spinners. His most important contribution to the hip hop scene is his show, Heir 2 Tha Streetz, centered around interviewing influential rappers such as Das EFX, De la Soul, and Cam’ron. Heir 2 Tha Streetz won an award in the New England Urban Music Awards in 2009, while Sparks was awarded “Best Male Rap Artist” the same year. 

With such a pedigree, Wally is more than qualified to speak on the topic of Cambridge’s local rap scene. He characterized Cambridge as “underrated” due to its size, yet “powerful” and bustling with activity. Every artist he has crossed paths with has been persistent, “grinding,” and uneager to “jump on the train” of popularity, as Sparks says.



“I love the idea of being able to build myself, for myself, by myself … I love selling albums and I love selling clothes, but at the same time, I love helping the kids with their math packets.” Lizzle4 is an artist, activist, coach, teacher, and entrepreneur. Since he started recording five years ago, Lizzle4 has been a “force for good” in the community. Lizzle4, born Elon Fyfield, is a 3rd grade teacher, director of Quall’s Academy, assistant coach of the MIT Men’s Volleyball program, and CEO of Black Matters, an apparel brand that focuses on supporting the Black community. Elon is an activist too, “fighting for issues … at school committee meetings” and even unfurling the Juneteenth flag at City Hall. 

 On top of this, Lizzle4’s music spans genres—he describes it as “a mix of R&B, hip-hop, and jazz.” He likes to give listeners a varied experience by “dropping bodies of work where people can press play from the top, and as [they’re] going through it, it sounds like a put together, shuffled playlist.” Elon used to draw inspiration for his music from big artists like Lil Wayne and Drake, and is now finding inspiration from his own life. When asked about his target audience, Lizzle4 rejected pushing his music into pre-existing boxes, but instead defined his music as “CUT: Clean, Universal, and Timeless.” Young adults are, however, a target of his music, with the aim to motivate, and show “that there’s an artist who walked through those hallways of Rindge, that lived the lives that you live.” Lizzle4 has an EP dropping at the end of 2020.


Ju$t Jill

“I wanted to have some fun with it. I want the people listening to my music to have fun with it as well.” A CRLS graduate, Ju$t Jill has recently released her first album with her friend, N-Fuego. The duo go by the name “B&B” and, unlike the other artists we interviewed, Jill categorizes their music as “parody rap.” 

Ju$t Jill is not new to the scene, having been putting out music for over seven years. Her music does not always have a comedic intention—she describes it as “conversational” because she wants listeners to take away a message. Jill also noted the gradual change in her rap. She used to emulate the “hip hop gangster vibe” because of her fondness towards the soul and R&B origins of the old school, but now tries to be more positive and swear less. 

Her experience has also led her to discover one of the Cambridge hip hop scene’s best traits: its community. Jill finds the ciphers to be very positively unique to Cambridge. In her words, “It was really amazing to witness and be part of something that was in your hometown and you see everybody as a collective and getting together.”