Wherever you are in the world, you can’t deny that the spotlight has fallen on the U.K.’s rappers and MCs, who are proving that their creativity shows no boundaries.
We’re already familiar with the likes of Skepta, Giggs and Stormzy, who have been running the grime scene. But it’s no understatement to say that the U.K. is harboring a hotbed of talented MCs and rappers who are taking influence from a variety of genres whether its grime, hip-hop, reggae, Afrobeat or dancehall.
For many of these artists, they’ve carved their own way, taking an independent route, which has helped them capture the attention of labels, rather than looking to them immediately to support their careers. Just last week, Stefflon Don signed her label, V-IV London, over to Universal Records.
With many U.S. artists taking an interest in the U.K. market, just check out our best hip-hop and grime collaborations here, and Drake’s work with Giggs on his More Life playlist, we thought we’d do you a favor and lay out 10 rising U.K. rappers set to be huge in 2017. On the cusp of massive success, these artists are already buzzing in the U.K. and are gunning to make their mark internationally.
Hometown: Croydon, London
Notable Songs: “D.F.W.T,” “Skwod” and “Station”
Sounds Like: A frank MC creating music with ultra attitude.
Why you need to know her: Nadia Rose has pretty much been destined for success since she started rapping. Not only is she an alumnus of London’s famous art school, BRIT School, which has produced some mammoth stars such as Adele and the late Amy Winehouse, but Rose displays an unwavering confidence, letting you know that she’ll take nothing less than domination in her career. Rose has already begun to earn awards, winning Best Video at the 2016 MOBO Awards for her track “Skwod,” which was filmed in one take. Capitalizing on the impact her songs have made, the Relentless Records signee released her debut EP, Highly Flammable, earlier this year.
Hometown: Erdington, Birmingham
Notable Songs: “Ain’t the Same,” “Karlas Back”
Sounds like: An MC with swagger and slick bars to match.
Why you need to know him: Birmingham’s grime scene has become a major competitor to London in the last few years. If there’s one man who has helped put the city on the map, it’s been Mist. His frequent freestyles on platform P110 helped him to garner attention to his bluntly honest bars. His storytelling provides a glimpse into his rough upbringing. His EP, M I S To The T EP, has also helped him to gather a strong fan base. Having his tracks played on radio stations such as BBC 1Xtra, Mist is walking head first toward success.
Hometown: Lambeth, London
Notable Songs: “NO CD,” “The Isle of Arran” and “Florence”
Sounds Like: A promising U.K. talent echoing sounds of alternative hip-hop.
Why you need to know him: Loyle Carner’s emergence onto the U.K. scene has been a much welcome breath of fresh air. His name has become one easily spotted when looking at those tipped for success this year. Creating music that conveys effortless simplicity, Carner is known for his introspective bars riddled with personal stories close to his heart. Another BRIT School alumnus, the rapper’s song “Florence” was popularized through an Apple commercial. Carner has previously supported Nas and Joey Bada$$ on their tour dates in the U.K.
Hometown: Camberwell, London
Notable Songs: “The Get Back,” “Hallelujah” and “Get Loose”
Sounds Like: A rapper who can deliver fun, deep, flirty, and turnt up bars all on one menu.
Why you need to know her: Ms Banks has slowly but steadily been on the rise for a few years now and is due to blow up in 2017. She’s undoubtedly proven her ability to rap, which is more than evident in her first BBC 1Xtra Fire in the Booth session and her freestyle for SBTV. Ms Banks has an impressive versatility in her approach. Whether she’s spitting about taking pride in being on fleek, or getting deep about her upbringing, the young rapper keeps you engaged from the get-go.
Hometown: Tottenham, London
Notable Songs: “Energy,” “Long Time Coming” and “FYO”
Sounds Like: A hard-hitting rapper with groove, who always have something deep to say.
Why you need to know him: Avelino has been on his grind for quite some time. The wait for him to get the recognition that he deserves seems to finally be over this year. He released his Underdog Music mixtape back in 2013, but only started to gain prominence off his second project, Iconic Ambition, a year later. Avelino provides a truly unique sound and delivery, which makes him one of the most promising rappers in the U.K. He’s collaborated with, and gained the support of some of the biggest MCs from his hometown Tottenham, which includes Wretch 32 and Skepta, the latter of which is featured on his recent track “Energy.”
Hometown: Newham, London
Notable Songs: “Lean and Bop,” “Dem Boy Paigon” and “Friendly”
Sounds Like: An artist meshing together afrobeats, reggae and grime all into one sound.
Why you need to know him: It’s fair to say that anything that J Hus has touched musically has been exploding in a big way. After grafting with some tracks that have steadily clocked up millions of views on YouTube, he certified his mark with “Friendly” in the U.K., which has become a big club anthem. J Hus is no normal MC heard in his rapping style and sound. Despite his bangers, J Hus can also get serious, as seen on The 15th Day Mixtape with tracks such as “Guns and Butter.”
Hometown: Hoxton, London
Notable Songs: “Kwame Nkrumah,” “Footsteps” and “Gallons”
Sounds Like: A rapper that roars his spoken word.
Why you need to know him: The glorious thing about Kojey Radical is that there are so many layers to unpack with his music. A poet, he doesn’t exactly sound like your conventional rapper. For Kojey Radical, it’s clear that spitting comes secondary to his music as the poetic form of his bars is evident. The London native has gained attention for his visually creative music videos, and his deeply introspective lyrics which often seem to be his own soapbox with tracks such as “Footsteps.”
Hometown: Born in Birmingham, residing in London
Notable Songs: “Real Ting,” “16 Shots”
Sounds Like: An MC who can bring bars for days.
Why you need to know her: Stefflon Don has blown up massively in the last year by bringing something very raw to the U.K. rap scene. The MC was born in Birmingham but moved to Holland as a child and then came back to the U.K., settling in London. She made a strong impression with “Lock Arff (Remix),” collaborating with Inch of Section Boyz. Stefflon Don’s effortless way of showcasing her Jamaican vibes as well as ruthless aggression and a colorful, sexy style has set her apart in a big way. Though early in her career she’s already worked with Giggs and Lethal Bizzle, she’s also begun to get noticed by the U.S., collaborating with Jeremih.
Hometown: Tottenham, London
Notable Songs: “Blackbox Freestyle,” “Robbery (Remix)”
Sounds Like: A hard-hitting MC who adds star value on every track.
Why you need to know him: 2016 has been a big year for the Ounto Nation collective, especially their MC Abra Cadabra. He’s been dropping a number of tracks with other artists to keep his name in the hip-hop conversation. Abra Cadabra started to get some traction as a result of his freestyle on Blackbox. But the MC really gained popularity with his song “Robbery,” which Krept and Konan jumped onto for the remix. The track even earned him Best Song at the MOBO Awards last year. Abra Cadabra’s flow is full of sheer aggression whilst using Jamaican patois in his bars.
Hometown: Newham, East London
Notable Songs: “Robbery,” “Dun Talkin’” and “My 9ine”
Sounds Like: An MC armed with a flair of dancehall and afrobeats.
Why you need to know him: With Kojo Funds, you never quite know what you’re going to get except quality. He describes his sound as “Afroswing” suggesting that there’s always an afrobeats vibe to his music but it can swing between RnB, grime and reggae. Giving himself extreme versatility, much of Kojo Funds’ music has hidden, darker meanings which show us the grit of where he grew up, masked by an upbeat sound. “Dun Talkin,’” which was recorded in his friend’s back garden, has become the catchy song that has made UK fans take notice of Kojo Funds.