Rappers to Keep an Eye On, Vol. 2
The hip hop landscape is more diverse and exciting than ever. While ‘90s legends like Black Thought and Nas continue to thrive, a new wave of mainstream talent is taking over, but the underground shouldn’t be forgotten. Hidden under the flood of mainstream hits and best-selling albums, the hip hop underground is home to some of the finest MCs rapping today. Here are just five rappers from the underground who you should keep an eye on.
Shottie is one of those rappers where, no matter what he says, it will sound incredible, because he’s got the suave mic presence to make anything sound like verse of the year. But that’s not to imply that Shottie is a poor lyricist, because he’s quite the opposite – full of witty one-liners and intricate wordplay, he knows exactly how to balance hard-hitting flows with substantive bars. Last year’s GOAT FARM is an excellent starting point into his catalogue, where the MC flows effortlessly over an array of grimy beats supplied by Tev95. More recently, Shottie dropped Stigmatic, and it might be his sharpest work to date. Produced by the slick beatmaker Digitale, Shottie’s vicious style adapts well to the more soulful sound of cuts like “Puff Coats”, but he still provides some of his signature bloodthirsty verses on bangers like “Funkorama 305”, one of the best rap songs of 2023. With an effortless flow and a nonchalant delivery that makes it sound like he doesn’t even have to try, Shottie has proven himself one of the best rappers of the year.
You won’t find many MCs who sound like Dot-Com Intelligence. He has this distinctly deep, heavy voice which adds a weight to every bar he spits, giving each verse so much impact. His flows can be ferociously quick or slow and patient, but it always sounds natural, like his thoughts are spilling into the mic as soon as they come to his head. 2022’s Precipice is a fantastic record of his, produced by underground legend August Fanon. Dot’s husky delivery fits perfectly over the ominous sound of Fanon’s beats, with “Caveat” serving as an excellent example. His venomous lyrics, delivered with this savage tone, are made even more sinister by the spiralling piano notes and crashing drums. When he raps, you can hear every breath he draws, showing off how relentless he is on the mic as he spits bars until his lungs are empty. With an ear for hard-hitting beats and a bass voice that makes every lyric stand out, Dot-Com Intelligence never fails to engage the listener. His latest record, The Path of the Obsidian Way Vol. 1, does not disappoint.
With his new project OffTop 3 set for release at the end of April, there’s no better time to get into BlaQ Chidori’s music. The MC is a master when it comes to wordplay, turning every verse into a rhyming challenge with no shortage of clever punchlines and devastating disses against the competition. There’s no mistaking him for another MC when he’s on the mic, rapping with these high-pitched vocal inflections and switching up his flow to give his bars an added power. Whether it be the grimy sound of White Melodies or the distorted jazz of BlaQ Osteology, Chidori can handle any style of production, unable to be boxed into a single sound as he’s constantly working with new producers and tackling new sounds. From his razor-sharp pen game to his diverse catalogue, BlaQ Chidori already has so much to offer, and he's only getting warmed up.
Tomorrow People (Xhef & Brent Bronze)
Although the Tomorrow People are a duo, it felt wrong to separate Xhef and Brent Bronze, because the two complement each other so well. Both rappers are part of the Feel-Lo collective, a group of rappers and producers working together to build one of the strongest catalogues in today’s underground. From Brent’s latest project Mount Olympus to Xhef’s last album Extension of the Hand, the Tomorrow People have proven themselves formidable MCs, with an infectious energy that almost comes off as cartoonish with how animated they can be. Brent has an arsenal of flows at his disposal, flexing his ability on Mount Olympus where his quickfire rhymes on “Hephaestus” sound like a totally different MC to the deep-voiced flow he provides on “Telemachus”. Add the fact he has an impeccable singing voice, and Brent Bronze is easily one of the most versatile talents in the underground. Xhef is another fantastic MC, whose more animated, almost drunken delivery heightens the emotion in every bar. His lyricism ranges from quick-witted comedy to deep introspection, spilling out all his troubles on the emotional ride that is Extension of the Hand. As well as having great solo projects, the Tomorrow People teamed up for More Music Please, where the duo show off their incredible chemistry.