2017 is coming to a close and #StartingXX is back.
This is your guide to the up-and-coming acts in UK rap, drill, grime and Afroswing who’ll be owning the festival circuit, radio waves and UK charts in the year to come. Last year’s roundup foretold the domination of Hardy Caprio, Mist and Kojo Funds, now, here’s who you can put your money on for 2018.
Hailing from Hackney, 23 Unofficial has clocked up about 5 million views on YouTube this year alone. The up-and-comer’s work rate has been consistent, putting out a collaboration with notable breakthrough artist Not3s (excuse the corny wordplay) as well as singles Torn, Can’t Tell Me and the nonchalantly braggadocious Ain’t Bothered which is a real earworm. Undoubtedly, 23’s own career projection is set to mirror the success that other Afroswingers like Kojo Funds, J Hus and the aforementioned Not3s have experienced in 2017.
Raised on the grittier side of Camden – Queens Crescent to be specific – Ambush has been active on the underground for a number of years (those that are in the know will know). The North West Londoner has put out a few impressive freestyles like Sauce and Voice of the Streets cut for Kenny Allstar over the past 12 months, seemingly gearing up for the next step in his musical career.
Coming straight from the 7th, CB is somewhat of an enigma. Choosing to adopt the ‘no face no case’ mantra that’s proven popular amongst the UK’s drill scene, we don’t actually know what he looks like but we do know that he’s from Forest Gate, rolls in the same unit as East London rapper and J Hus collaborator Baseman and makes cruddy, hardcore drill tunes. CB also features on the Most Wanted compilation with tracks from Harlem Spartans, K Trap and 67.
D Block Europe
South London duo Young Adz and Dirtbike LB might have been introduced to the game through being signed by The Lox veteran Jadakiss himself, but the pair have been cutting out a place for themselves all on their own. Also, with over 100,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, the pair currently outnumber the original D Block. Young Adz has been present on the scene since his early teens, but things have really taken off in the past year, and with rumours of D Block catching Diddy’s eye for potential deals, it looks like things are about to get bigger.
RV and Headie One
Starish Entertainment rappers Headie One and RV are another duo to keep an eye on. Coming from Tottenham, North London, the two underground drillers go back-to-back on tunes telling tales of the trap and roadside. Their mixtape Drillers x Trappers hosted by Kenny Allstar was one of the hottest of 2017 and features verses from Reeko Squeeze, Abra Cadabra and 86. Headie One’s solo forays like Losses & Winnings or Golden Boot are worth taking note of, too.
Birmingham’s very own K2 is amongst the wave of MCs representing the city’s rap and grime scene. Having come through via Midlands based platforms like P110, his name has been buzzing up in Brum for a while now. He’s also worked with longtime Mist collaborator Shadow On The Beat and is currently preparing for his first ever headline show at Birmingham’s O2 Institute which is due to sell out.
MC Keedz provides a refreshing female presence on the grittier side of the scene, switching things up from grime to UK drill and road rap. The newcomer learnt from the very best having come through Skepta’s music mentoring project in association with Levi’s, so we can expect good things from the South Londoner. Keedz aims for head tops on Drill Like Them Man with Jane Doe and held her own with a feature on Link Up TV’s 8 Bar Link Up along with underground heavyweights Reeko Squeeze, Trizzy Trapz, Poundz and more.
2017 saw South London rapper K Trap emerge from underground obscurity – ski mask and all. One of his highlights is of course selling out his first headline show at London’s O2 Academy Islington as well as dropping his 15 track tape The Last Whip with guest appearances from fellow drillers from 67, Blade Brown and Potter Payper. Young Trapo has built up a loyal following on the underground circuit via street hits on GRM Daily and Link Up TV, but his track Diamonds with 2017 breakthrough Yxng Bane has gotten a fair amount of love from the mainstream.
Birmingham brothers Ash and Lucas aka the Lotto Boyzz are another set coming to the end of a momentous year. If you haven’t heard their ever-present banger No Don by now, you’re probably lying. The duo’s brand of Afroswing, or Afrobbean, which is how they self-defined their sound on their debut EP, has been welcomed by mainstream ears and also earned them a MOBO nomination in the Best Song category. While these two have already had an incredible past 12 months, a newly minted deal from Columbia Records means things are just getting started.
Ramz is a new name on everyone’s radar after his debut song Barking caught on instantly, gaining just under 6 million views on GRM Daily seemingly overnight. It’s an infectiously melodic Afroswing tune with chart potential, much like Not3s Addison Lee, Hardy Caprio and One Acen’s Unsigned or even Yungen and Yxng Bane’s Bestie. Labels weren’t slow to clock on to the youngster’s potential with the official single being released by Polydor Records at the start of December.
Sam Wise of London hip-hop crew House Of Pharaohs mixes and blends drill flows, chill rap, sick wordplay and trap influences to create something unique. His Soundcloud page is buzzing with Rack Up, Do or Die and Lizzie all being stand out tracks with the numbers to prove it. Plus his collective caught a ton of attention after Frank Ocean played their cut RWM on his Beats 1 show Blonded Radio.
North West London’s Skrapz has been building up a cult following for years on the underground. As a member of Ice City Boyz along with XL Recordings signee Nines, Skrapz is a hood hero who is staying true to road rap and his roots. While Skrapz may not have made his musical career a priority in the past, he finally released a debut album Different Cloth this year after tons of mixtapes. The biggest hint yet that he’s moving on to bigger things.
SL is another enigmatic driller who made his name off the ruthless road anthem Gentleman. The track, which has racked up over 13 million views on YouTube, also got him a gold Mixtape Madness plaque and Rated Awards nomination for Best Track – not bad for a debut. The young rapper from Valley Park, Croydon is apparently just 15 and received a cosign from fellow Croydon natives Section Boyz who invited him on stage at this year’s Wireless Festival.
Birmingham talent Young Smokes is making a name for himself through his own form of boasty and melodic trap rap, flashy videos and penchant for expensive things. 2018 is going to be a good year for the rapper who seems to be readying himself to follow in the footsteps of other breakout talents from Brum like Jaykae, who Smokes will be joining on tour later this month with Dapz On The Map.
The music video for Suspect’s FBG is yet to notch a million views on YouTube, still, it’s become a mainstay in the clubs over the past year and has earned countless gig and club bookings. It’s also worth mentioning his track Wonder What with Giggs, plus his supporting slot for Hollowman on his countrywide Landlord tour. Suspect’s tape Loading… was one for the streets but it also earned him a nomination from the Rated Awards for Best Mixtape.
Jamaica born and West London raised, rapper/songwriter TE dness started out doing music in his teens, growing through relentless efforts. The 26-year-old trap hero paints pictures with words to create detailed and introspective street tales, all true to life. Noteworthy projects include his Trap Nominated album and 2017’s Trapicana EP – both offer a balance of deep, lyrical rap, wavy trap and Afroswing vibes and a dash of sauce.
Trillary Banks’ lyrics are flirty, confident and often on the raunchy side, but that’s not to dismiss the Leicester-based rapper’s lyrical ability and grasp of melodies. Calling on her Caribbean roots, she’s recently been switching things up from her previous trap influenced tunes and has started to lean towards a bashment sound. Case in point, her catchy Pepper & Spice featuring Inch of Section Boyz.
Coming from Croydon, the same neck of the woods as Section Boyz, Krept & Konan and Stormzy – the latter of whom he’s already worked with – Yung Fume has quite the reputation to live up to. His brand of trap music has been described as wavy as well as Future and Young Thug-esque. The South London lad has also collaborated with Abra Cadabra and AJ Tracey, so it’s safe to say he’s in good company.
17-year-old grime artist Yizzy has been tipped for big things. The Lewisham MC was listed on NME‘s 100 Essential Artists and is also one of the first ever acts to receive a grant from BBC Music Introducing’s new scheme celebrating 10 years of Introducing. As if that wasn’t already big enough, he’s set to support hypebeast wunderkind Ski Mask The Slump God on tour across the UK and Europe.
Zone 2 are another collective who’ve been blowing up off the rise of UK drill south of the Thames. Having bagged a cosign from rap veteran Tim Westwood, they also delivered a pretty cold freestyle for the DJ’s flagship Crib Session show. The Peckham unit is made up of five members – Narsty, P.S, Kwengface, Skully and Trizzac – and have produced drill fan staples including Zone2 Step, No Hook and Whos Badder Than We.
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