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  • Writer's pictureEvan

The Most Underrated Hip Hop of 2024

The hip hop underground has been flourishing this decade, and 2024 is as strong a year as any other. In just four months, we have been blessed with countless stellar projects from all over the alternative scene, whether it be from the streets of New York or the heart of Toronto. In this article, I’ll list 10 essential underground projects that are guaranteed to make your year-end lists.

 

Brando Bambino – Nocturne

 

Two years after his last album Bandito, Puerto Rican MC Brando Bambino is back with a cinematic voyage into the world of mafioso rap. Over a foundation of chilling string samples and icy piano chords, Bambino crafts the underground equivalent to Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, bringing together a host of talents to build on the ominous soundscape of Nocturne. The project is aptly titled because every moment of Nocturne is dark and foreboding. The MC has a distinctly relaxed presence on the mic, making for a nice contrast against the orchestral swell of sounds beneath his voice. Some might misconstrue his nonchalance as being monotone, but it’s quite the opposite; spitting clever bars and tongue-twisting rhyme schemes, Bambino makes it sound effortless, as if he doesn’t even break a sweat producing such hard-hitting hip hop. From Pyramid Tapes to Action Figure, no producer misses the mark, collaborating to forge a dramatic backdrop that wouldn’t sound out of place in a classic mobster drama. Stars like Estee Nack and Daniel Son offer brilliant guest verses, but it’s Bambino himself who steals the show, making that two-year wait well worth it.

 




Midnight Samurai – Banquet of the Underground

 

If you are clueless about where to start in the underground scene, Banquet of the Underground is the perfect beginner’s guide. Acting as the host, producer Midnight Samurai brings together a party of rappers to share the spotlight on this LP, most of whom stay for a single verse before passing the mic to the next guest. From Rome Mallory to Dero to Patty Honcho, every artist involved is worth checking out, making the record more than just a cohesive LP, but a highlight reel of what the underground has to offer. Samurai serves his guests a platter of soulful beats, capturing a distinctly Midwestern sound thanks to his jazzy sample chops and chipmunk soul vocals. Few rap albums this year sound quite as polished and pristine as this one. A celebration of the modern rap landscape, Banquet of the Underground is essential for anyone who claims to be a hip hop fan.





xhef & pty – XHEFFREY

 

One of the most formidable rappers in the game right now, New Jersey MC xhef has outdone himself on XHEFFREY. A full collaboration with producer pty, every song packs a brutal punch, with earthquaking drum patterns laced into every sample-laden track. xhef matches the abrasive production with a range of energetic verses, taking a step back from the introspection of his last few projects to hone in the violent and braggadocious themes of the EP. “XHEFFREY” and “GUTPUNCH” rival the ear-shattering highlights of something like billy woods’s Hiding Places, whereas “BAM BAM” takes things in a more abstract direction, with xhef levitating over the meandering sample. Only 15 minutes long, XHEFFREY is a bitesize taste of xhef and pty’s respective styles, acting as a great introduction to their work as well as a testament to their natural collaborative spirit.

 




NODUO & Tomorrow People – NOTMRW

 

A crossover between two of the finest duos in the underground, NOTMRW is a lyrical masterclass where four remarkable MCs battle it out for the best verse. Starring NODUO’s Nonazz and no god., as well as the Tomorrow People’s Brent Bronze and xhef, the quartet bounce off one another effortlessly. The chemistry on display is infectious, with the rappers trading rhymes, transitioning into each other’s verses, and working together to build the wild and energetic sound of the EP. In just five songs, NOTMRW covers an eclectic range of sounds, from the funky groove of “HITIDES” to the finely-chopped jazz of the title track. No MC is ever outshined because the four operate as a collective unit, working together to paint vivid pictures and decipher complex themes with four different minds to tackle the project’s ideas in countless unique and inventive ways. Often, collaborations between groups sound awkward because the creative dynamics of each respective group simply don’t mesh, but NOTMRW is a stunning exception.

 




Āthmaan – The Vital Breath

 

Revered for his seamless blend of Eastern and Western sounds, The Vital Breath is the latest in a run of colourful fusion records from producer Āthmaan. The producer takes the fiery punch of the East Coast rap scene and blends it with the vibrant grooves of an Indian anthem, exclusively sampling Bollywood songs for his debut album. Beyond his skills as a producer, Āthmaan flexes his ability as a curator, bringing in a diverse range of talents to gift his instrumentals. Fans of soul might appreciate the fluffy vocal chops on “Raatein”, whereas “Khushi” leans more into pop rap. Despite limiting himself to one genre to sample, there are such an array of sounds to admire on The Vital Breath, offering a dynamic set of tracks where every guest feels comfortable and confident.

 




The Outdoorsmen – The Great Outdoors

 

For fans of a more carefree, upbeat style of hip hop, The Great Outdoors is an essential listen. Consisting of rapper Sneaky Preacher and rapper/producer B1g Z, the duo work together perfectly, trading punchlines and constantly one-upping each other to create this set of light-hearted bangers. Although they don’t always take themselves seriously in terms of subject matter, the MCs could not be more formidable as lyricists, packing intricate rhyme schemes and unforgettable play on words into every verse. The bright, soul-driven production works in tandem with the rappers’ performances, bringing their lyrics to life as they deliver lines over bombastic horns and funky basslines. Highlights like “Say Goodbye” and “Success” take a more mature approach – complemented by their icy instrumentals – but even they are a joy to hear thanks to the pair’s enthralling dynamic.

 




Shottie & Farmabeats – Nothing Changed Except Everything

 

With every album Shottie drops, he strengthens his title as one of the best rappers this decade. His latest effort is a grimy collaboration with producer Farmabeats, whose blend of elegant strings and dusty drum patterns make for a perfectly gritty backdrop for the MC’s cold bars. Whether he’s looking into his past or taking another shot at the competition, Nothing Changed Except Everything stands as one of Shottie’s best written releases yet, striking a fine balance between introspection, humour, and straightforward rhyming ability to impress on every last track. Known for his work with the likes of Conway and Mach-Hommy, it’s no surprise that Farma’s hard-hitting production brings out a newfound fierceness in Shottie, working at his highest ability with some of the most dynamic flows and memorable bars of his career.

 




Thought Provokah – Journaling My Thoughts

 

For those unfamiliar, Thought Provokah is one of the most innovative poets in New York, and his latest release is proof of that. The album takes the form of a diary, with each song inspired by whatever thoughts the MC noted down in his journal. As a result, Journaling My Thoughts is free-flowing and directionless at times, taking the rapper’s stream of consciousness and converting it into hip hop form. Random anecdotes and sudden ideas are seamlessly woven together by Provokah’s innate writing ability, using detailed rhyme schemes to link one thought into the next. All of this is performed over a range of ornate and soulful instrumentals which complement the rapper’s ever-evolving style. Although the concept sounds inaccessible on paper, the music itself is something any hip hop fan could enjoy, with all the technical splendour and instrumental nuance of a fantastic rap album.

 




Backwood Sweetie – Burn One

 

Despite being only five tracks, Backwood Sweetie savours every second of Burn One, cramming the EP with hard bars, slick flows, and stellar features. Floating over a swirling jazz beat from Filip Neuf, the project starts off with the hypnotic “Burn One”, slowly shifting into Southern rap territory with the head-bopping “Tf Is U On - Remix”, then transitioning back into soul with the soothing vocal loops of “Kaleidoscope”. Matching the eclectic instrumentals, Sweetie is dynamic on the mic, cutting up every beat with an array of fast-paced and smooth flows. She brings ferocity and precision to each tune, competing with guests like MARCO PLUS and BLAX to deliver the sharpest verse. Only 18 minutes in length, you don’t need long to recognise the skills of Backwood Sweetie.

 




Action Figure 973 & Wulverine – Luchador’s Going Diamond Was Destined to Come

 

The second in a run of collaborations between rapper Action Figure and producer Wulverine, Diamond is like a victory lap where the duo celebrate their underground success. Action carries a fierce, in-your-face bravado, making every verse that much more captivating thanks to his limitless charisma and smooth flows on the mic. Wulverine matches his energy with an array of triumphant beats, dicing up soul samples and mixing them together with some thundering bass and meandering string sections. The instrumentals are dense but never feel messy; Action cuts through every storm of samples with his smooth rhymes, creating a compelling dichotomy between the steadiness of his bars and the meandering chaos of the producer’s beats. In just a little over 12 minutes, Diamond encapsulates the chemistry that makes the duo so special. From the braggadocious one-liners of “Snowbeach” to the aspirational heights of “Sweet In Lo”, every song is a highlight.




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