top of page
doombox logo.jpg

Doombox Music

  • Writer's pictureEvan

The Most Underrated Hip Hop of 2023, Pt. 3

Without the underground, hip hop is incomplete. While the mainstream is rife with ambitious experiments and big-budget crowd-pleasers, it is in the depths of the underground where the most creative, raw, and original material can be found. 2023 has been yet another phenomenal year for hip hop, and in this list, I will shed light on 20 incredible rap projects which might have slipped under your radar.


Furious Stylez & Numbz – Trifecta


Few duos in the underground pair as nicely as Furious Stylez and Numbz. With Stylez on the boards and Numbz on the mic, Trifecta is a cinematic showcase of the duo’s chemistry, with explosive production, swaggering verses, and a handful of showstopping features. Going back and forth from personal tales to braggadocious stanzas, Numbz shows off his versatility as a lyricist, levitating over the roaring electric guitar of “Just Me” and the entrancing vocal chops of “Numbz and James”. Trifecta captures the grit of the underground, but with Stylez on production, everything sounds slick and polished.


Emcee Millz – Worth the Wait


She may only have a few EPs to her name, but with Worth the Wait, Millz has already proven herself to be one of the sharpest MCs in the game. This project is packed with dense rhyme schemes and witty one-liners, with Millz juggling all sorts of wordplay to assert her mastery of the mic. Fully produced by Skip the Kid, the EP has a distinctly raw, hard-hitting aesthetic, perfect for the rapper to unleash her untamed abilities. Although Skip is known for his grimy sound, Worth the Wait sounds polished from front to back, built on a foundation of crisp drum patterns and finely-chopped piano samples. Only 20 minutes long, this is an EP so good it’s difficult not to spend an hour playing tracks on loop.


Shaw Calhoune – Four Piece


Quick and to-the-point, Four Piece is just as its title suggests: a four-track lyrical exercise where Shaw Calhoune flexes his natural talent on the mic. The production consists of soulful samples with a dark twist, forming a grimy backdrop perfect for Shaw to list off all his strengths. Four Piece may not be as bold and colourful as Fly Langston earlier this year, but it serves as a perfect display of the MC’s ability, spitting countless quotables with the focussed, confident delivery to give each line a heavy impact. For those who simply want to hear the raw talent of a rapper, don’t miss out on Four Piece.


Blaq Chidori – OffTop 4


A stark departure from the hard-hitting grime of his projects last year, OffTop 4 sees rapper Blaq Chidori diving into the trap scene. From the magnetic 808s to the mesmerising autotune, the MC goes all-out with the aesthetic, crafting a quickfire, six-track EP with nothing but highlights to hear. Standout song “7:50” sums up all the strengths of OffTop4 – head-bopping production, irresistible flows, and carefully curated guests who build on Chidori’s style. Clocking in at 21 minutes, the project flies by as if it’s only five minutes long. Having dropped OffTop3 and the excellent At Ya Neck as well in 2023, OffTop4 is just one record in a streak of successes from the rapper.


A1phaB3nch – Low Magnetics


Combine the Benchwarmers Clique and A1phaNum3r1cs, and the result is A1phaB3nch. A hard-hitting collaboration between two of the grittiest duos in the underground, Low Magnetics is a relentless onslaught of hard-hitting verses, performed over a range of explosive beats. From the soul chops of “How Many” to the hypnotic bass of “Welcome to the Sewers”, the album covers a variety of styles, but every track is weaved into the next thanks to the effortless performances from each MC. Full of slick samples, blasting drums, and swaggering flows, few modern hip hop records can match the energy and enthusiasm of Low Magnetics.


Twogeebs – Tha Geeb Tape 4


Two years after the series began, New Jersey rapper Twogeebs is back with the fourth instalment in Tha Geeb Tape series. For those who enjoy that classic, gritty sound of the underground, few albums encapsulate it better than this one. Spitting an endless supply of quotables with a witty sense of humour and a smooth confidence on the mic, Twogeebs is a natural performer, making every verse a delight. There are flickers of a more soulful sound here and there, but those brighter moments are sandwiched between stretches of grimy glory where the MC tears apart every sample-laden beat.


Rize-Again – grimylovechild.


A 31-track epic, grimylovechild. is an ambient odyssey into jazz and soul. Though the tracklist is lengthy, the record runs for just under an hour, with instrumental transitions, lengthy posse cuts, and one-verse intermissions all mixed in together. On the mic, Rize-Again is cool and focussed, putting his all into his pen game while a swirl of triumphant horns and soulful vocals spin around his voice. This is not the kind of album to take a few songs away from, but rather, grimylovechild. works best when played in full, building an immersive, jazz-infused atmosphere.


Da Cleaver & Numbz – Numb To It All


Da Cleaver doesn’t drop music often, but whenever he does, he makes certain it’s quality. Numb To It All is another hard-hitting entry in his catalogue, showcasing his skills at their most intense and personal. Fully produced by Numbz, the beatmaker covers a vast range of sounds in just seven tracks, hopping from East Coast griminess to soulful theatrics to piano balladry. The rapper masters every one, spitting some of his most vulnerable verses yet with meticulous flows and a heavy, impassioned delivery. One of the underground’s most underrated talents, don’t miss out on his latest gem.


Kheyzine – Hell On Heart Sides C & D


Finishing off the Hell On Heart series, the last two sides are just as impactful as the first two. Sinister piano loops and dusty drum patterns are the foundation of Kheyzine’s production style, bringing on a different MC for every track to bask in the sheer grime of his beats. A highlight reel of some of the underground’s finest talents, there isn’t a bad verse to be found on Sides C & D. From D.R.E. Colombian Raw’s unhinged delivery on “My Part of Town” to Lunar’s dominating presence on “Pablo Sandoval”, every artist delivers. All four sides of Hell On Heart combine into one of the most ambitious and eclectic releases of the year.


Dome Lettuce – The Mud Is a Rainbow


Perhaps the most personal effort from Dome Lettuce, on The Mud Is a Rainbow, he dissects his own psyche, exploring his troubled past while also dedicating songs to his bright future. Striking a balance between dry wit and deep introspection, the MC is an undeniably strong lyricist, pairing his layered narratives with complex rhyme schemes and a vivid vocabulary. In terms of production, the album is slow and jazzy, complementing the rapper’s relaxed presence on the mic. Though his heavy subject matter and conversational tone may not please everyone, his effortless talent to build an atmosphere with samples is something any hip hop fan could appreciate.


Klwn Cat & Nonazz – GREYMATTER


Perhaps the most impactful producer in the modern underground, Klwn Cat has mastered a dark, twisted style unlike any other in his field. Cooking up instrumentals with haunting vocals, sizzling bass, and distorted drum-work, GREYMATTER is among his most abrasive works yet. On the mic is Nonazz, whose bleak, poetic rhymes add a layer of lyrical poignancy to the LP. A gifted storyteller and a natural rhymer, his icy, understated flows make any performance seem effortless. Looking at the album cover alone, you know everything about this project – dense, textured, and uncompromisingly harsh.


Jules Clay & Owlkast – O.W.L.S.


Both some of the most underrated talents in the modern underground, O.W.L.S. is the soulful collaboration between rapper Jules Clay and producer Owlkast. Owl’s production is smooth and lush, blending together orchestral and choral samples to form a gorgeous soundscape. Jules conquers every elegant instrumental, injecting every track with slick flows, vivid stories, and an inviting sense of humour. A couple of lyrical titans pitch in with some standout verses, with Knowitall and Emcee Millz rivalling Clay for the best performance.


Backwood Sweetie – Ancestral Aspect


Rapping with a collected, nonchalant presence, Sweetie’s lyrics sound more like stanzas of a poem than verses of a song. Her poetic pen game is elite, touching on topics of racial inequality and black pride with the complexity and nuance of an author. The production on Ancestral Aspect is soft and soulful, with the Curtis Mayfield flip on “Couldn’t Cee” standing out as the finest moment. The lush soundscape works perfectly behind the profound lyrics from Sweetie, adding depth and colour to every bar. Though only four tracks long, Ancestral Aspect has enough standout lyrics and catchy beats to put it up there with the year’s strongest albums.


Mansdem & Filip Neuf – Duck Soup


Only a few months after Mansdem dropped his 50-track blockbuster FIFTY. 50., the rapper is back with a full-fledged crossover with master producer Filip Neuf. Duck Soup is the perfect collaboration: a record where either artist encourages the other to do better, making for some of their strongest material yet. In terms of rapping ability, this is Mans’s most impressive release. The MC’s vast vocabulary and knack for witty wordplay are amplified in the jazzy atmosphere forged by Neuf, with dozens of standout verses. On the production side, Duck Soup is a testament to Filip’s versatility as a beatmaker. There are explosive jazz bangers like “Union Paid”, but also hints of electronica on highlights like “Cock Jockeys”, and vintage piano loops on “Muff Mates”.


Proven Knowledge – Forms of Escapism


Although Forms of Escapism isn’t strictly a hip hop record, the majority of its runtime is taken up by rappers, so it only feels right to place it here. Bringing together the Proven Knowledge posse, this LP is a wild blend of classic hip hop and modern pop, with instrumental interludes and spoken word passages sprinkled throughout. Opening up with a poem and closing with an ambient track, sandwiched between are a series of colourful rap songs, with skilled lyricists and effortless vocalists passing around the mic. Considering the sheer number of creatives involved, the variety of sounds on Forms of Escapism means you are guaranteed to love at least one song.


Patty Honcho – The Blaxploitation


If you want a break from the traditional, hard-hitting sound of the underground, look no further than The Blaxploitation. This is a bold, vibrant experiment from Patty Honcho, dipping his toes into funk with an album built on groove, jazz, and soul. His writing is incredible, matching the speed of his quick-witted bars to the flow of the bass and blare of the horns. Beyond the verses, Honcho’s hooks bring The Blaxploitation to life. Every song has its own mesmerising chorus, guaranteed to loop in your head for hours on end. Embracing a colourful aesthetic unlike anything he has done before, you won’t find many albums better in 2023.


Dot-Com Intelligence – Shift Paradigm


A complete collaboration between rapper Dot-Com Intelligence and producer Sycho Sid, Shift Paradigm is a raw, abrasive, and deeply emotional effort from the duo. With a sinister backdrop of disjointed piano and haunting vocal chops, Sid’s foreboding style adds power to every poignant bar from the MC. Diving into a range of topics from racial inequality to troubled family tales, this is Dot-Com at his most expressive, never holding back on the personal details as he rants into the mic. Spitting every verse with a strong, aggressive presence, the rapper demands you listen closely to every word.


Thought Provokah – Poetry In Motion / Life’s a Blur / S0uLE-LoW


One of the most talented rhymers in the game today, you don’t want to miss out on Thought Provokah. Like a modern day Guru, the MC puts his pen over everything else, offering dense rhyme schemes and tongue-twisting similes with a laidback delivery to every smooth verse. This year, he’s dropped a handful of smaller EPs, each with its own distinct style. S0uLE-LoW has more of a languid sound, perfect for the MC to recite some introspective rhymes. Life’s a Blur takes a more danceable direction, with thudding drums and driving grooves to add some punch to the rapper’s bars. Most recently, Poetry In Motion is Provokah’s most explosive release this year, flowing over a mix of pulsing basslines and cinematic string-work.


2nd Cousin – Sunday Dinner


The union of producer Act Won and rapper Big Noah Genesis, Sunday Dinner is the debut album from the Floridian duo. From abstract cuts like “Same O’ Same” to summery jazz rap tracks like “Sun Ray Days”, Act hops from genre to genre, sewing together samples with tight drum patterns and throbbing basslines. The MC brings an unstoppable energy, shouting his hooks and exclaiming every verse with unrivalled passion. His enthusiastic style works especially well on vulnerable songs like the closer “Rise”, perfectly capturing the feelings of hope and melancholy necessary for the emotional anthem.


Knowitall & Zilly900 – 777


An unstoppable force in the New York underground, Knowitall has been leading the scene with some of the smoothest flows, wittiest bars, and hardest-hitting songs in modern hip hop. 777 is like his victory lap – a five-track consolidation of his status as an underground heavyweight. Unlike previous projects like Hand Painted Realities and Soul Surgery which embodied more of a soulful sound, 777 is as grimy as could be. Whether it is the drumless swirl of samples on “TRAIN STATION”, the wailing vocal chops on “UGLY NY”, or the sizzle of static in the background of “CHALLENGE IN THE CITY”, Zilly crafts a rough soundscape perfect for the MC to unleash his lyrical skills.

Related Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page