After being one of the lesser-known faces of XXL‘s 2012 Freshmen Class, Seattle native Macklemore and his partner Ryan Lewis have had the best year ever. The duo has smashed charts with catchy and provocative singles like “Thrift Shop,” “Same Love” and “Can’t Hold Us,” as their independently released debut album, The Heist, continues to inch toward platinum status. This is a huge moment for independent hip-hop, but it’s an even bigger moment for Mack’s proud hometown of Seattle, locally known as The Town.
A disclaimer: Seattle’s hip-hop scene is a weird place. While some of its most well-known vets (Common Market and Blue Scholars) are alternative acts who embraced a melodic boom bap sound, the scene today is really a hodgepodge of ideas and influences, more unified by a mutual love and respect than by any one sonic identity. Some have said it’s that lack of identity that’s been the reason for Seattle consistently getting overshadowed by movements—marked by one specific sound or production style—out of Atlanta, Houston and the Bay Area. Knowing this, Seattle rhymers have still continued to experiment and explore different sounds, so even with a Macklemore-approved spotlight on them, chances are The Town’s rhymers aren’t going to change now.
With the New New, XXL tries to spotlight burgeoning acts who we feel haven’t gotten the shine they deserve, but what makes this edition special is that we feel the entire city of Seattle hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. Speaking on the talent coming out of his city, Seattle mainstay producer Jake One had this to say: “As an elder statesman, a.k.a. old head, of the Seattle rap scene, I’m extremely happy to see the spotlight finally coming to our city. We have an extremely diverse group of artists that are primed for national exposure.”
With that said, it’s Seattle’s time to shine, so click through our staff-compiled guide to the Town’s up-and-coming rappers you need to know. This is The New New.