Artist: Niq Song: "City Behind Me"

Today's act is Niq, a new voice in the local rap scene. The MC, born Will Swanson, goes to great lengths in his bio to explain how different his life has been from the standard "crack-to-riches rap story." Dude is only 23, but he says he left a job as a mortgage salesman to focus on rap. (Also, bizarrely, no photos of him exist on his MySpace page; only the logo you see above.) Frankly, though, his back story is irrelevant. What matters is his skills, and in that department he delivers.

Neither his subject matter or lyrics blow my mind, but I'm impressed with Niq's presence on the mic. He takes control of every track, bringing the kind of swagger that great rappers are made of. Plus he selects some seriously sick beats to spit on, a variety platter of sounds that shows he isn't blocking himself into some stylistic ghetto.

"City Behind Me" is my favorite so far. The beat comes hard, the chopped-and-screwed hook is heavy, and Niq raps with authority, name-checking Columbus spots like Major Woody's as he professes that he can't lose because "the whole city behind me!" Might not be true yet. May be true soon enough.