Style of music, in 10 words or less: "Hip-hop with an old-school soul feel"
Three artists he owes everything to: Gil Scott-Heron, Quincy Jones, Rakim
Debut performance: 2009 (with the group Elevated Etiquette)
Recordings: Sleeping While You're Awake (2012), 4Play (with Bullhead*ded, 2013)
Why he matters: "I wouldn't say I matter over anyone else," figures Toney Wren. "But I make music ... and the music matters." The emcee, better known by his stage name Che Bong, grabbed the local scene's attention as a solo artist with his 2012 album Sleeping While You're Awake. Its first single, "Okay," was accompanied by a Hussain Sola-directed music video that's easily among the best to come out of this town. The song forgoes the boasting typical of even the most underground hip-hop for a more considered critique of silent acquiescence. ("You think by saying yes, you'll get respect, yes-man? OK, all right, you'll lose every step.") In the months ahead, he'll be releasing a second solo album, playing shows as Hiatus with fellow emcee iBe Hustles, and recording tracks with his partners in crime, Bullhead*ded, for a follow-up to last year's 4Play EP.
1st place: Che Bong and Stoney Bertz (tie)
3rd place: Black P