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RAP RADAR: 10 UK RAPPERS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT…

Updated: 23/08/17          Written by: Natalya Davies

Since the breakthrough of Grime into the UK mainstream’s consciousness around 2016, the nation’s rap scene has flourished into something very exciting for music lovers. This breakthrough made way for an appreciation of the drill, dancehall and afrobeat fusions of artists like J Hus, Yxng Bane and IAMDDB, making UK music a serious contender globally.

As a homage to this recent success, I wanted to spend some time putting together a collective of my favourite UK rap talents across a number of different genres, however, I wanted to use my platform to do this differently.

We all know that the AJ Traceys and Giggs’ are HOT on the music scene, so picking artists like this would make for a completely predictable listing; despite their worthiness to be entitled the hottest UK rappers of the modern day. No, for this piece, I wanted to challenge myself to feature only artists with under 100k monthly listens on Spotify* so that I could truly showcase the underground kings and queens that you may be missing out on!

So, without further ado, here are the top 10 rappers you need to know about…

 

10. NOVELIST

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Monthly Listens: 28,000*

For Fans of: Asco, Ambush Buzzworl, Youngs Teflon

First in the list, but last in my ranking is Novelist, a 19 year old MC and producer who has certainly put his stamp on Grime culture in London. Through features with the likes of Skepta, Kanye West and Tom Misch, he is rapidly proving his versatility and potential despite being such a young artist.

“So, if Novelist has worked with the greats, why is he so under-the-radar?” – you may ask. Well, this is likely the result of his devotion to the underground rap scene, assuring that a traditional route (not dominated by social media strategies and D2C marketing) is the way he wants to keep things. Who can blame him?

Recommended track: 10/10

9. JAM BAXTER

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Monthly Listens: 46,000*

For Fans of: Fliptrix, Verb T, Dabbla

If you’re looking for something truly underrated, Jam Baxter’s poetically cryptic and mysterious lyrics versed with atmospheric Hip Hop beats and dark imagery makes for a very interesting mixture – indeed.

“Excellent Donut” featuring Ed Scissor was the track that originally brought my attention to the rapper, its alluring layers yet minimal structure are bound to instantly hold you captive.

Recommended track: For A Limited Time Only

 

8. BARNEY ARTIST

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Monthly Listens: 80,000*

For Fans of: Loyle Carner, Alfa Mist, Chris McClenney

Barney Artist, from East London, is different to anything else featured on this list – a very special addition, in fact. If you are a fan of  Hip Hop, chill vibes and relaxing soul beats, then look no more, Barney is exactly what you have been looking for.

After numerous collaborations with Neo-Soul royalty Tom Misch, Jordan Rakei and Alfa Mist, Barney is quickly becoming one to know within this scene.

Recommended track: I’m Going to Tell You

 

7. NADIA ROSE

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Monthly Listens: 98,000*

For Fans of: Stefflon Don, Lady Leshurr, Yungen

One thing that is apparent in the behaviour of young rappers is the need to be daring  and harness a confidence that is indestructible, however, with Nadia Rose, this captivating swagger is so convincingly natural. Rose, who also happens to be the cousin of Stormzy, has a striking dexterity in the rap game, similar to the likes of Lady Leshurr.

If you want a taste of this addictive prowess, simply head over to her video for “Stations” where you can see her rapping on train tracks – without permission!

Recommended track: Skwod

 

6. MAXSTA

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Monthly Listens: 48,000*

For Fans of: Ghetts, P Money, D Double E

Despite being a rather underground artist, Maxsta is a well renowned and experienced name in the Grime scene – however, his position says nothing about his talent; simply that he is unwilling to compromise his sound to appeal to a larger audience.

His music perfectly encompasses the brutal essence of Grime, in a way that is extremely authentic. For anyone that is even merely interested in UK rap, Maxsta is a must-listen.

Recommended track: Guns and Roses

5. REEKO SQUEEZE

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Monthly Listens: 39,000*

For Fans of: Recky, SL, Harlem Spartans

Originally a member of popular Drill crew ‘Section Boyz’, Reeko Squeeze is a UK rapper that is proving to be one to watch over the next year. Despite finessing the ego and hard edge that is essential in the rapper aesthetic, Reeko possesses a likeability and drive that is likely to win you over, even if the music is not for you.

This infectious drive is sprinkled throughout Reeko’s tracks, mixed with a boyish cockiness, making for an unforgettable combination.

Recommended track: Diablo

 

4. REEKZ MB

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Monthly Listens: 48,000*

For Fans of: AJ Tracey, Abra Cadabra, MoStack

Reekz MB is another truly underground artist, his music often shedding light on the harsh reality of growing up as a young black male in the nation’s capital – without filter. There is an undeniable aggression to Reekz’ style accompanied atop hypnotic drill beats, making him a great listen for those that are big fans of the underground rap scene.

With Drill groups like Harlem Spartans and 67 dominating London’s South-side, it is likely that this is not the last that you will hear of rappers like Reekz.

Recommended track: Blueprint

3. SUSPECT

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Monthly Listens: 86,000*

For Fans of: Avelino, Fredo, Skepta

Labelled an “underground king” by many,  Suspect isn’t your average UK rapper. Not one interested in the fame and fortune that haunts so many younger rappers, Suspect is truly here to establish himself as a serious artist – making music worthy of respect and high regard.

You don’t need to do your research to learn this, however, a quick listen to his albums “Loading” (2017) and “Still Loading” (2018) will tell you this about the rapper. There is an evident natural aggression yet certainty to his sound, similar to the likes of Skepta, projecting the “no messing” attitude which has captured the attention of American audiences.

Recommended track: One Way

 

2. DOUBLE S

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Monthly Listens: 33,000*

For Fans of: Ghetts, JME, Black the Ripper

Double S is another one of these incredible talents that successfully manages to slip under the radar – making him more stylishly distant than underrated. However, despite being somewhat isolated from the public eye, the London MC’s monthly listen count reflects nothing on the gems that are waiting to be discovered in debut album “Double Vision” (2017).

With collaborations from Grime heavyweights JME and Wiley, “Double Vision” is a release fueled with the fastest lyrical flows and an infectious bravado, making this a release which should be on the radar of all grime fans.

Recommended track: Secret

 

1. KNUCKS

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Monthly Listens: 95,000*

For Fans of: Big Tobz, KwolleM, Yung Fume

For an avid music fan, I appreciate nothing more than an artist striving to infuse their own unique flavour into their work, and this much can be said for North-West London rapper Knucks. If his witty yet staggeringly suave nature isn’t enough to have you hooked, then his self-produced soul infused beats should surely do the trick.

Despite releasing a rather typical ‘Afrobeat’-inspired track “Hooper” featuring Not3s, Knucks is one of very few UK rappers that can not be defined – quite similar to rap’s lovable rogue, Dave. Knucks does not limit himself to certain styles and beats, instead, his experimental nature makes for some of the most interesting sounds currently circulating the London scene.

Recommended track: Vows

 

 

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INSTAGRAM… THE MUSIC INDUSTRY’S FRIEND OR FOE?

Updated: 26th July 2018         Written by: Natalya Davies

“It is justifiable to suggest that Instagram is Facebook’s second chance at reaching out to social media users effectively; and music is the answer”

 

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With explosive, new releases from Ariana Grande and Twenty One Pilots, Drake dominating the charts and Cardi B’s baby making an appearance, it must be said that July has already been a busy month for music news. It comes without surprise, then, that other stories have seemingly slipped through the cracks, somewhat unnoticed.

On July 9th, self-proclaimed life guru, Jaden Smith played a role in creating what could be a new potential route for the modern artist; an Instagram exclusive album release. The young artist revealed “SYRE: THE ELECTRIC ALBUM” via his social media page accompanied by six alluring visuals, forming a larger picture, with Instagram being the sole platform of access, at the time. Despite this being a music industry first, so far very little has come from Smith’s creative attempt, therefore, has it simply fallen short by recent music news or is it really just an ineffective method?

 

 

In an attempt to compete with YouTube and its staggering 1.57bn monthly active users, Instagram has recently launched IGTV, an attempt to reach out to content creators of all kinds that are naturally gravitating to the visual worlds of these popular social platforms. However, this is not Instagram’s first effort to bridge the gap between the creation and its audience; in late June, a music sticker was added to its features, allowing their 400 million users to add a 7 second clip of fully licensed music to their posts via Instagram Stories.

With the awareness of the important interaction between Instagram users and music, music has become a key strategy for the enhancement of the social media experience, reinforcing the company’s relevance in the marketplace. Alongside this, as users begin to adopt the music sticker as a soundtrack to their featured moments, a new, potentially effective way for artists to gain compensation and exposure has been created.

“This heavy adoption of music could potentially lead to yet more power in the hands of the IT sector – and with this power, you can never assume that the music industry’s best interests will be taken into account.”

 

It has been argued previously that Facebook’s audience has become increasingly disengaged, particularly with music artists and content creators as the medium lacks the personal touch that Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube encapsulates. In light of this, it is justifiable to suggest that Instagram is Facebook’s second chance at reaching out to social media users effectively; and music is the answer.

The issue that has been identified, however, is that this heavy adoption of music could potentially lead to yet more power in the hands of the IT sector – and with this power, you can never assume that the music industry’s best interests will be taken into account. This move does suggest to be something potentially disruptive, especially considering that the industry has only recently regained stability with streaming services growing in popularity.

While it is easy to predict that users will embrace the fusion of social media and music, it is unlikely to predict whether the Instagram exclusive release will be as successful. It has recently been argued that the opportunity for music windowing (whereby artists release music exclusively to one platform for a limited time) has long gone – it seems that consumers no longer mind the wait for the new music to arrive on their favoured platform. Therefore, this is likely to be an explanation for the lack of success in Jaden Smith’s Instagram “window-like” release.

On the other hand, however, in the past, Instagram has been used as a beneficial tool, particularly for artists seeking high engagement, with little marketing. The method of the “surprise” album release through social media has been a concept adopted by the likes of Drake and Beyonce, and has seen to create large amounts of traction through the audience’s excitement. While Drake and Beyonce are two of the world’s most successful artists of the modern day, this is a great example of how Instagram and similar social media platforms can once again bring the audience closer to music.

However, as the saying goes, everything must be in moderation!

 

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MJ X DRAKE: A HOMAGE OR A MUCH MORE SINISTER REALITY?

Updated:  12 July 2018          Written by: Natalya Davies

“This release does suggest something slightly more unsettling; that the value of a deceased artist is little more than a business asset, one strategized to send shock waves into the music community”

 

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Unless you live under a rock (lucky you), you will surely have heard the news of Drake’s latest album ‘Scorpion’, which dropped on the 29th of June, shattering numerous music records, including those held by J Cole, The Beatles and even Michael Jackson. Ironically, while Drake overtook Michael Jackson’s record for the most Hot 100 Top 10’s achieved by a male solo artist at 31 hits, “Don’t Matter To Me” earned Jackson his 30th.

The unexpected feature quickly stirred excitement among music fans upon the album’s release, earning a number 2 position on the official singles chart. While this may not be the first time that Jackson has made a posthumous appearance, it is clear that the late star is still extremely relevant in the modern music world.

In times like this, it becomes apparent that we live in an incredible time period where we possess the ability and technological resources to glorify and recreate beloved, influential artists like MJ, through the use of unreleased works and even holograms. However, access to such power must call for ethical guidelines: in other words, is it ethical to profit from a part of a late person’s identity?

 

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Before I continue, I will state that I love that the ability to encapsulate the essence of a late, great artist and input them into the modern world, exists. The musical contributions of artists like Jackson, Bowie and even Tupac are, without a doubt, worthy of this kind of glorification and exposure to younger audiences, keeping their existence alive through their music.

Similarly, this kind of collaboration is a great promotional tool for Drake, himself. Despite being one of the most successful artists of the modern age, much of this is a result of the clever marketing decisions made by him and his team. His involvement within the Sports and Fashion industry through the Toronto Raptors and his clothing line OVO (October’s Very Own) has exposed Drake’s presence and music to two varying industries which, otherwise, may not have shown a particular interest in him. In this situation, the collaboration has exposed Drake to a much older audience which are more likely to be stunned by a posthumous release and the nostalgia that Jackson’s distinctive voice brings.

 

“Where is the line between paying respects and seeking to be paid as a result of these respects?”

 

On the other hand, this release does suggest something slightly more unsettling; that the value of a deceased artist is little more than a business asset, one strategized to send shock waves into the music community. It has to be said, the news that Drake has collaborated with unreleased work from a late artist would surely urge a large amount of people towards his latest release; even if they are not particularly a fan. This ‘shock factor’ that is achieved with strategies like this is an extremely powerful ploy to, not only engage interests of many, but also to urge them to spread the word: quick and effective marketing.

Take the 2012 Tupac appearance at Coachella, for example. Who wasn’t baffled by the weekend’s events?

Engagement, however, is not the issue here. It is the idea of blatant capitalisation of a late being’s identity and success. Where, really, is the line between paying respects and seeking to be paid as a result of these respects?

 

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN: ‘DON’T MATTER TO ME’

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RISING STAR JORJA SMITH BAGS NO.3 POSITION IN OFFICIAL CHARTS WITH DEBUT ALBUM ‘LOST AND FOUND’

‘DRIVE SLOW’: THE ALBUM DRIVING MODERN SOUL

THE LONDON ARTIST REDEFINING GRIME CULTURE

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RISING STAR JORJA SMITH BAGS NO. 3 POSITION IN OFFICIAL CHARTS WITH DEBUT ALBUM ‘LOST AND FOUND’

Updated:  5th March 2018        Written by: Natalya Davies

“Have previous associations with modern music royalty lead to an unfair level of expectation? It is likely.”

 

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FOR FANS OF: RAY BLK, KALI UCHIS, MAHALIA

RATING: ★★★✰✰

There is an extremely famous proverb that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, or in fact, even a wonderful thing. However, for Jorja Smith’s debut album ‘Lost and Found’, it seems that the former is more fitting.

While the album has been successful in reaching a number 3 position in the official music charts, despite being the singer’s debut solo collective, it could be argued that the outcome simply was not enough to meet the high expectations built around Smith’s previous collaborations. Having previous associations with modern music royalty including the likes of Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Stormzy is an incredible achievement for a budding new artist like Jorja Smith, however, has this lead to an unfair level of expectation? It is likely.

‘Lost and Found’ is undeniably a strong release, especially being that it is the first complete solo-release of her career. The issue is that, maybe, it was simply too much, too soon from the artist, when an EP would have been sufficient. This conclusion has been brought about by the lack of differentiation within the heavily ballad-based album, causing few songs to stand out in a refreshing manner.

 

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On the contrary, when carefully listening through ‘Lost and Found’, it is clear that there are many incredible pieces of work that, ironically, seem to have lost their way. Opening track ‘Lost and Found’, sets a compelling tone, particularly with the introduction of Smith’s alluring vocals in the line “Why do we all fall down with innocence still on the ground?“.

While also following the ballad-like, controlled trend that dominates this release, ‘Goodbyes’ and ‘The One’ are two phenomenally written and produced pieces, with choruses powerful enough to blow your mind. Much can be said about many of the other pieces, however, it seems a shame that these musical gems are somewhat misplaced among tracks that fail to boost the listener’s attention on them.

 

“‘Lost and Found’ is a release which is sure to strengthen the rising star’s career and reinforce her reputation as a credible modern artist, worthy of the limelight that is being received.”

 

‘Lifeboats (freestyle)’, ‘Where Did I Go?’ and ‘Blue Lights’ seem to be the album’s saving grace, as they supply the differentiation that has been neglected, no matter how minimal this differentiation is. ‘Where Did I Go?’ is a particularly engrossing listen as it seems to be the only major attempt within the collective to incorporate an upbeat, pop-esque break to the restricted yet gloomy theme.

Over all, ‘Lost and Found’ is a release which is sure to strengthen the rising star’s career and reinforce her reputation as a credible modern artist, worthy of the limelight that is being received. The main critique, here, is simply that maybe ‘Lost and Found’ just is not memorable enough in it’s current state, however, with the consideration of track-listing rework, this would be a release which you would never want to forget.

 

Track List Rating:

1. Lost and Found – 

2. Teenage Fantasy – ★✰

3. Where Did I Go? – ★✰

4. February 3rd – ★✰✰✰

5. On Your Own – ★✰✰

6. The One – ★✰

7. Wandering Romance – ★✰✰✰

8. Blue  Lights – ★✰✰

9. Lifeboats (freestyle) – ★✰✰

10. Goodbyes – 

11. Tomorrow – ★✰

12. Don’t Watch Me Cry – ★✰

 

 

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN: ‘Lost and Found’

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UPON THOSE DYING – ‘DELUSIONS’ ALBUM REVIEW 2017 | ABSOLUTELY AUDIO

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‘DRIVE SLOW’: THE ALBUM DRIVING MODERN SOUL

Updated: 21 June 2018           Written by: Natalya Davies

 

“‘Drive Slow’ has the potential to be one of the most important Soul releases of the modern age”

 

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FOR FANS OF: BRUNO MAJOR, JORDAN RAKEI, LEVEN KALI

RATING: ★★★★★

 

There is a notion surrounding Soul that it is a dated genre, lost between the cracks of a past musical era, which can only truly be appreciated by those seeking a nostalgic fix (or pretentious musical hipsters).  However, New York’s very own Soul child prodigy, Mac Ayres, proves that this is far from the case.

Debut EP ‘Drive Slow’ is not your average 21st Century bedroom-producer release, but a commendable and refreshing approach to a classic genre. From start to finish, ‘Drive Slow’ explores intriguing modern interpretations of Soul and R&B, blended with the young singer’s outstanding  yet understated vocal capabilities, creating art worthy of high regard.

 

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Opening track ‘Calvin’s Joint’ encompasses a minimalist trend mirrored throughout the EP, never a note or layer missing or seemingly out of place. One thing most compelling about Mac Ayres is the clear dismissal of the ego and bravado, that is seen so often within young artists, allowing his abilities to do the talking within his music.

And honestly… This record speaks.

While each track manages to reach entirely new strengths, ‘Slow Down’ is undeniably one of the strongest points of the collection. A combination of minimal yet contrasting textures, alongside soft yet infectious choruses shapes an unforgettable listen which is a struggle not to sing along to or get lost within.

 

“The musicianship displayed by Mac Ayres is deserving of exceptional appreciation”

 

‘Drive Slow’ has the potential to be one of the most important Soul releases of the modern age, due to its capacity to draw on nostalgic elements to deliver a revitalising sound to younger audiences. For a debut release, the musicianship displayed by Mac Ayres is deserving of exceptional appreciation by all that experience the pleasure of delving into such incredible craftsmanship.

 

 

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN: ‘DRIVE SLOW’

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UPON THOSE DYING – ‘DELUSIONS’ ALBUM REVIEW 2017 | ABSOLUTELY AUDIO

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NOVELISTS – ‘SOUVENIRS’ (2015) | ABSOLUTELY AUDIO

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THE LONDON ARTIST REDEFINING GRIME CULTURE

Updated: 21st March, 2018                  Written by: Natalya Davies

“‘This Year’ is about proving that you can do it, no matter where you’ve been. It’s where you’re heading that counts… but never lose yourself in it all… You have to stay true to you.”

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FOR FANS OF: DAVE, DRAKE, RAMZ

RATING: ★★★★✰

I stumbled into young Hounslow-born rapper Haasan completely by chance as I was rushing to meet friends for one of the few fresher events that I actually attended upon moving to London. It was also completely by chance that within the two minute elevator small-talk we came to the realisation that we shared the same goal in life; to get paid for what we love doing most; music.

Drive and ambition are true gems that can often only be understood by those that have found their purpose in life and upon talking with Haasan, his purpose is clear – do what you love but never lose sight of who you are and those that matter – a truly humbling and wise outlook.

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Debut single ‘This Year’, released in February, is one that comes straight from the heart, not a typically exaggerated overview of the typical rapper life, but an overview which is extremely relatable to almost anyone.

The core meaning of the song is about proving to yourself that you can do it, while forgetting negative impacts or obstacles that may have once obstructed you from getting where you wish to be. “If its your dream then you have to believe it… or no one else will” says the young rapper when asked about the story behind the lyrics, showing that simply practising self-belief can be the first step to reaching your wildest desires.

Alongside the ever-flowing wisdom, there is a pleasing hint of humour delicately weaved into certain lyrics, so as to not make the song too serious but also enjoyable. References to ‘Iceland’ and ‘Charcoal Chicken’, while standing out like sore thumbs among such powerful meaning, are gladly welcomed, reflecting Haasan’s entertaining yet mature nature.

Music is a key form of escapism and self-healing for the best of us – therefore, young inspirations like Haasan are key role models for the future of music. Here’s to the future!

 

Debut single: ‘This Year’

Follow Haasan on social media:

Instagram – @Haasanmusic

GIVING INTO GHOSTS – “LET THE EARTH SLEEP” REVIEW 2018 | ABSOLUTELY AUDIO

Updated: 29th March, 2018              Written by: Natalya Davies

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FOR FANS OF: ALEXISONFIRE, ARCHITECTS, BURY TOMORROW

RATING: ★★★★✰ 

Cardiff metallers Giving Into Ghosts are back and better than ever with a follow-up to 2014’s explosive ‘Chasing Waves’ EP. Newly released single ‘Let The Earth Sleep’ looks likely to be the start of something extremely special…

 

One of the most special moments a music fan can have is watching an artist or band grow in their musical career and it can be said that Giving Into Ghosts have come very far since their debut. ‘Let The Earth Sleep’ is a wonderful representation of musical growth as it features their usual addictive fusion of metalcore and post-hardcore, however this time, perfectly polished and finely tuned to create an extremely mature track.

An aspect which will likely work in the Welsh four-piece’s favour, is that they have managed to secure a distinguishable sound from very early on in their career which means that it will be easier for them to create a sense of presence and identity within a genre that is so saturated with bands creating virtually identical content.

Guitarist and singer Mikey Thomas’ distinctive and infectious vocals seem to draw the listener further into the song each time they interject into the verses in a manner that is truly hypnotic. As one would expect, the most impressive part of the song is, in fact, the chorus, whereby Thomas’ pop-esque vocal style proves to be a true asset to the band.

‘Let The Earth Sleep’ is likely to be one of the most important releases of Giving Into Ghost’s musical career, one which is on its way to a very bright future.

 

Giving Into Ghost prepare to release their second EP titled ‘Let The Earth Sleep’ on April 4th which will available via iTunes and Spotify.

 

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN: ‘LET THE EARTH SLEEP’

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN: ‘CHASING WAVES’

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