The New New: 14 U.K. Rappers You Should Know
The U.K. rap scene is flourishing like never before. Whilst once upon a time rap music in the UK was underrated and commercially associated with only a few individuals, today new talent is popping up on the scene regularly and there's room for everyone.
The U.K. rap scene is multi-faceted, full of vigor and difficult to characterize. These MCs have come to stand on their own, becoming appreciated for their authentic talent rather than forcing their image and sound to please perceived expectations. Their sounds are meshed with multiple genres, from trap to soul, drill, grime and Afrobeat. With such a unique agenda, it is no wonder that rappers such as Giggs and Stefflon Don have paved their own lanes in an American market. With Drake helping to shine a bright spotlight on U.K. music, you might start to realize that maybe he was onto something.
D-Block Europe takes its name from the legendary Lox crew, after receiving a cosign from the Yonkers group in 2014. IAMDDB has a jazzy trap hip-hop sound that collides many disparate worlds, while Trillary Banks also reps for the ladies with her patois-powered flow. And Octavian spits polished rap with major pop potential, which is probably why his music has made a fan of Drake.
XXL takes a look at 14 new talents coming out of the U.K. rap scene, creating a buzz at home and set to make an impact much further beyond.
Hometown: Stratford, London
Notable Songs: “Jumper,” “Won Stop,” “Alcatel / Likkle Bit”
Sounds Like: A rhythmic rapper with intelligent bars.
Why you need to know him: Berna has been quietly making a name for himself with his witty lyrics. He decided to opt for a career in rap after the death of his older brother, who remains a driving force for his music. Although he is very much at the start of his rap career, tracks like “Won’t Stop” show off Berna’s crazy wordplay. To get a real taste of his best work, his Blackbox freestyle is a must-see.
Hometown: South London
Notable Songs: “Favourite Girl,” “The Shard,” and “Gucci Mane”
Sounds Like: Two artists making club bangers with a trap flair.
Why you need to know them: D-Block Europe consists of rappers Young Adz and Dirtbike LB. The duo—which was cosigned by The Lox in 2014 after Adz toured with Jadakiss—gained a reputation for churning out hits fit for the club. “The Shard” was one of their first tracks to gain recognition. Since, they've been creating more bangers and jumping onto tracks with other U.K. artists. In July, they released a 10-track project with Yxng Bane, titled Any Minute Now.
Hometown: Croydon, London
Notable Songs: “Rapper,” “Best Life” featuring One Acen, “Super Soaker," “Unsigned” featuring One Acen
Sounds Like: A playful, less-serious Skepta.
Why you need to know him: Hardy Caprio’s success has moved at a fast pace over the last few years. His music meshes together genres like Afrobeat and hip-hop. Caprio began his career with the release of two 2017 EPs, Hardy Season and The Hollywood EP, but the noise about the rapper really begun when he released “Unsigned” and “Super Soaker.” Since then, Hardy Caprio has continued to provide tracks that have clocked millions in views on YouTube. Not just music-minded, the rapper recently graduated from London's Brunel University with a degree in business accounting.
Hometown: Tottenham, London
Notable Songs: “Broni,” “Know Better,” “Banter On Me”
Sounds Like: A fierce rapper with an unwavering sound rapping about drugs and ops.
Why you need to know him: Headie One has a significant profile in the U.K. drill scene. A member of the group OFB, he’s become trusted for always providing no-nonsense tracks. He turned to music after serving time in prison, breaking onto the scene back in 2010 with tracks like “Wood Green Diss.” But it’s over the last few years that he’s solidified his position in the U.K. rap scene, with his debut mixtape, The One. Headie One also has a well-established ad-lib “shh shh” that you’ll often hear in his music.
Hometown: Manchester, England
Notable Songs: “Shade,” “Drippy,” “More”
Sounds Like: A jazzy lady of trap with the soul vibes of Jorja Smith.
Why you need to know her: IAMDDB’s “Shade” had U.K. fans singing “Uber uber everywhere.” With an eclectic mix of genres she fits into her music including jazz, hip-hop and trap, her music is difficult to put into a box (unless that box is labelled "dope"). This has all been influenced by the heritage of her Portuguese mother and Angolan father. Although still on the rise, IAMDDB has had no shortage of music, releasing a number of EPs and projects including her debut Waeveybby, Vol. 1 in 2016 and more recently Flightmode Vol. 4.
Hometown: Lambeth, London
Notable Songs: “Watching,” “David Blaine,” “A to B”
Sounds Like: A drill rapper with heavy bars and effortless hits.
Why you need to know him: Concealing his identity with a balaclava has not prevented K-Trap from making a name for himself. He’s been a part of the U.K.’s thriving drill scene, having emerged with his track “Paper Plans.” This was followed by the release of The Last Whip mixtape, which delves deeper into K-Trap's life. Having recently dropped The Re-Up, K-Trap is slowly gaining a reputation for his reliably impressive music.
Hometown: Brent, London
Notable Songs: “Elevation,” “Come Up,” “Take Away The Pain”
Sounds Like: A story-telling rapper with stories via a Future flow.
Why you need to know him: Describing his music as trap-wave, 2017 was a big year for M Huncho with a number of tracks clocking up several millions of views. This hard work has led to Huncho securing a number of festival dates and his own tour this year. His 48 Hours EP has also impressed many for being full of depth and lyricism. Huncho is an interesting character who like a number of rappers from the scene chooses to where a mask. For the North London artist, it seems this is to maintain a quiet life during his rise in music.
Hometown: Born in Lille, France; raised in Camberwell, London
Notable Songs: “Party Here,” “Hands,” “Little”
Sounds Like: An artist influenced by many genres, with a Goldlink vibe.
Why you need to know him: Born in France, Octavian moved to London at a young age and gained a strong sense of ambition from attending the famous Brit School, where the late Amy Winehouse also once studied. Octavian released his mixtape 22 in 2016 and his Essie World EP the following year. Things really took off with the release of his track “Party Here”; Drake sung along to the track in an Instagram video.
Hometown: Croydon, London
Notable Songs: “Tropical, “Gentleman,” “Genes”
Sounds Like: An MC with a wavy, laidback flow.
Why you need to know him: With a steady stream of underground hits, SL started to gain a stronger following with “Tropical” late last year. The young rapper seems to have also gained the backing on his fellow peers. Recently he stepped his game up with his recent track “Genes,” which includes rapper Chip.
Hometown: Northampton, England
Notable Songs: “Polaroid,” “T N Biscuits,” “North Nights”
Sounds Like: The flow of Dizzee Rascal mixed with the zaniness of Eminem.
Why you need to know him: Northampton hasn't traditionally been known as an epicenter of music culture in England, but with its connection to hosting local grime events, there was plenty of musical inspiration for Slowthai growing up. The young rapper has gone onto impress U.K. fans with his aggressive but passionate bars, first making an impact with “T N Biscuits” from his debut project Slowitdownn. Slowthai shows an intelligent complexity in his music, which has multiple layers exhibiting something very different coming from the U.K. scene.
Hometown: Walworth, London
Notable Songs: “Say It With Your Chest,” “FBG,” “Rage"
Sounds Like: A punchy MC with the spirit of Giggs.
Why you need to know him: Suspect OTB rose through the ranks of the underground scene in 2011 and 2012, making an impact with the raw attitude he brings to his lyrics. His 2017 mixtape Loading garnered plenty of attention, helping the South London rapper create his own lane due to his unique approach to rapping: full of expression, slickness and uninhibited animation. Suspect recently released a new mixtape (Still Loading) and though he's been on the festival run in the U.K., he squeezed in a new collaboration with rapper Shailan and the mighty Skepta titled "Stay With It."
Hometown: Leicester, England
Notable Songs: “Come Over Mi Yard,” “Pepper and Spice,” “Doin’ It”
Sounds Like: A Caribbean-influenced rapper with the swag of Foxy Brown.
Why you need to know her: Trillary Banks is a rapper with incredible versatility. On some of her tracks, she channels a trap sound whilst on others she turns up the attitude with her patois bars. Quite consistently though, it’s clear that Banks’, Jamaican roots play an important role in her music. It's a winning combination. Showing how female rappers of yesteryear have inspired her, Banks’ latest track “Big Momma Thang” is a nod to Lil Kim.
Hometown: Herne Hill, London
Notable Songs: “Bestie,” “Take My Number,” “Punk”
Sounds Like: A lyrically creative MC with the versatility to collaborate with all genres.
Why you need to know him: Like many of today’s MCs, Yungen built his career on YouTube, initially releasing numerous tracks in 2010 and gathering a following. It was in 2014 that he put out an impressive project titled Project Black and Red, which recruited many established U.K. rappers including Wretch 32 and rap duo Krept and Konan. Yungen solidified his presence on the U.K. scene with the release of “Bestie” with Yung Bxne. But this wasn’t before he engaged in a feud with Chip, going back and forth with a series of diss tracks which showed off some of Yungen’s wit and more cutting side.