Rappers to Keep an Eye On, Vol. 1
Full of diverse talents, the hip hop underground has never been more exciting. With many MCs reinventing the New York grime that Griselda pioneered, and others crafting their own unique brands of jazz rap, the underground is thriving with creativity. In this brief list, I’ll detail five incredible rappers who you should keep an eye on.
First on the list is Unruly, an incredible MC with a youthful, fiery energy that makes every verse exude so much power. Along with his ferocious delivery, he’s a strong lyricist with a pen that grows sharper with every verse. His debut album, Black Graffiti, was one of the finest hip hop records of 2022, showcasing an impressive level of consistency and versatility for a newcomer to the game. His impassioned style of rapping fits perfectly on hardcore bangers like “I Smell Fire”, but his maturity as a lyricist shines most on soulful cuts such as “War Mongers”. His next album, DON’T GO OUTSIDE, is a collaboration with gritty producer Klwn Cat. With under a week until its release, there’s no better time to become an Unruly fan.
WEX! the Master
If you’re a fan of jazz rap, you must listen to WEX! the Master. Doubling as a saxophonist as well as an MC, he can quickly switch from tearing up the mic to performing an extravagant solo on the sax. His multitalented ability makes his style of jazz rap incredibly unique, moving his own voice with the flexibility of a horn, making for some of the most dynamic and energetic flows you’ll hear in the underground. His latest EP, FLAME PEN, is a collaboration with producer 90Culture – it’s a quickfire barrage of jazz rap bangers which showcase WEX’s wild ability at its finest. “WEX’S PRAYER” may be his strongest track to date, bending his voice to follow the movement of the saxophone, combining both his talents to create such a satisfying sound.
Big Noah Genesis
With a swaggering mic presence and witty pen, Noah Genesis has already proven himself a force to be reckoned with in today’s underground. Part of the duo 2nd Cousin along with producer Act Won, they’ve released The Cookout, an eclectic project which makes up for its brevity in its diverse range of styles. From frigid, grimy deep cuts like “Orthadox” to melancholic jazz rap tracks like “Nov. 18th”, Noah’s raspy, dominating voice can adapt well to any sound. What makes his music most appealing is his sense of lyricism – he’s no stranger to a witty one-liner, but his material is also full of vulnerable stories, dealing with his own life and internal struggles. 2nd Cousin are only just getting started, so get a start on their catalogue before you fall behind.
Each Thought Provokah verse is a platter of internal rhymes and clever wordplay. He raps in such a tight, precise manner, delivering each word in an articulate tone that emphasises all the intricacies of his lyrics. He doesn’t offer the most bombastic or animated performance, but he doesn’t need it, with a sharp pen and brilliant ear for beats that make each track a highlight. He’s a master of concepts, with 2022’s I’M GOOD I’M GOOD being a brilliant example. The whole record is structured like a documentary, following the mundane life of the fictional character he raps through. More recently, I Let My Tape Rock Til My Tape Pop has added to his consistent catalogue. The lengthy project has a diverse array of beats to match the range of the MC’s artistic influences he explores in his lyrics. Reviving the punchy sound of ‘90s hip hop with a unique sense of lyricism, Thought Provokah has so much to offer.
From the first moment I first heard Twogeebs, I was hooked on his sound. He’s an MC full of charisma, spitting each verse with limitless bravado. His sound is often gritty and hard-hitting, but his actual rapping is slick and comedic, making even the most outlandish track seem accessible with his smooth rhymes. He can seamlessly switch between laidback verses to a more ferocious performance, thriving on grimy boom bap beats as well as more surreal, abstract production like on his latest record, Tha Skip Tape. Dropping multiple projects a year, the quantity of his output never takes away from the quality of his work. Flexing an effortless flow with dozens of quotables to catch, Twogeebs is a natural entertainer.