Meet 10 UK Rap Risers Who Will Make 2021 Their Own
UK rap has smashed through all the boundaries placed in front of it.
The past five years have seen expectations up-ended, with a slew of honours - from the Mercury Prize through to BRIT gongs - raining down on a once strictly-underground sound.
2021 will see UK rap's imperial phase cruise into a fresh gear, with the sound shifting, changing, and evolving once more.
A host of newgen MCs are set to make their mark before the year is out - Clash writers pick out 10 names to watch.
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It’s telling that despite spending a significant part of 2020 sat on the wing, Harlem Spartan MizOrMac blessed us with some of the year’s best drill and rap cuts.
In June he reintroduced himself to listeners with the pain-driven ‘Return Of The Mac’. Over Nyge’s airy production, Mizzy reflects on the impact of grief with impressive clarity: “These years been far from brilliant / All of them tears put a villain in me.” Super-lyrical drill heaters ‘Say Mizzy’ and ’Right Step Left’ followed, along with a standout feature on Loski’s album, before he was recalled to jail.
If he’s allowed to flourish in 2021, MizOrMac will be one of the year’s defining artists. (Robert Kazandjian)
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South Norwood’s teeway kicked 2020 off in the right way, with an attention-grabbing verse on February’s cross-country riser ‘Year Of The Real’. The masked driller’s nonchalant conversational tone and intricate wordplay are a potent formula, making him one of the drill scene’s standout rappers.
It’s teeway’s storytelling ability that truly elevates him above his peers, though. May’s haunting ‘Private Ryan’ is unsparing in its detailed description of road life and is top-tier music in any genre. With a highly anticipated EP scheduled to land very soon, listeners can expect more vivid street portraits from one of UK rap’s understated young greats. (Robert Kazandjian)
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Streatham’s H Moneda made serious waves at the back end of 2020 with an effortless patois-laced, punchline heavy ‘Mad About Bars’ freestyle. It’s without doubt one of the year’s best freestyles on any platform and alerted anyone who’d been sleeping on the South London wordsmith’s talent. Moneda followed this up with the excellent ‘Flex Therapy 2’ project, which showcased his distinct brand of ‘luxury trap’.
There’s something decadent about H’s packed lyricism and unhurried delivery, like he’s kicked back in a suite at the top of the Burj Khalifa, cigar-in-hand, spraying bars between sips of the finest champagne. (Robert Kazandjian)
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Proving to be the next big city after London for music, Birmingham has an ever-growing cluster of promising acts that are waiting to break through – one of which is Tugz!
Posing as one of many impressive emcees from #TPM, the Birmingham native caught the eyes of many earlier on last year with a string of boast-worthy singles including ‘Latex’, ‘Repeat’, his ‘Bay Freestyle’ and not to mention his appearance on Mixtape Madness for his ‘Next Up?’.
Showcasing his profound pen, wheel-up worthy punchlines, dynamic flow’s, and fearless energy, Tugz has only certified why he is one to watch this 2021. (Elle Evans)
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Blanco, who made his name as part of the drill group Harlem Spartans has expanded his sound outside of the genre in recent years.
Taking inspiration from Brazil, the Kennington rapper blends soft Baile funk beats with laid-back vocals and a distinct skippy flow. His track ‘Pull Up’ received positive affirmation from fans and since then Blanco has continued to carve out his own path exploring this new sound further.
His Naruto-dedicated track ‘Shippuden’ was a standout from 2020, and we expect more of the same in 2021. (Joe Hale)
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When Vanessa Mahi - otherwise known as Ivorian Doll - dropped her scandalous breakthrough track ‘Rumours,’ she left the UK rap community absolutely speechless. Although the Hackney rapper could never have foreseen her journey, she’s raced from holding down a YouTube channel to fighting her way up to the top with her outrageous bars and flows.
Securing one million views within a week of dropping her Daily Duppy freestyle, she bows in a pink Dior tracksuit with upmost courtesy, proceeding to rip apart any beat swung her way. Embracing her femininity whilst pushing each and every boundary within her path, Ivorian Doll is here to stay. (Ana Lamond)
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Homerton’s very own V9, pronounced ‘Venom’, is both indistinguishable yet hard to miss in his distinctive Deadpool mask. Making his appearance on the scene back in 2018 with indisputable drill anthem ‘Charged Up,’ the sharp lyricist has established himself as the ‘Homerton Sensei’ amongst his peers.
From early on in his career, the East London rapper has been highly regarded by UK Rap’s key figures, from Kenny Allstar to Tim Westwood, reaching 1.7 million views on his recent Daily Duppy freestyle. Working closely alongside Unknown T and KO, V9 is proving himself consistently through his brutal delivery, unforgiving bars and vicious beats. (Ana Lamond)
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“What's my name? What's my name? Shaybo, ya dun know!” These are the words of the self-proclaimed Queen Of The South who has been running the UK rap scene for a hot minute now.
From a young age the 23-year old could envision a music career for herself, which – through her ferocious freestyles and unstoppable drive – is truly manifesting. Although Shaybo was raised in Lewisham, she was actually born in Nigeria which shines through her fierce bars, frequently switching between Yoruba and English.
She’s definitely not one to mess with, delivering nothing but heat, quite literally, as she’s surrounded by flames in her ‘Anger’ music video. She said it herself: “Any song Shaybo drops you know it’s hard”... (Ana Lamond)
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For those who don’t know, M.I.C aka The Master of Inane Conversation is carving his own lane with a unique spin on grime. Far from what his name may suggest, M.I.C freely experiments with not only his sound, but his playful lyrics as he takes self-expression to new levels, opening a range of discussions from race to childhood trauma.
Hailing from East London, the rapper’s unpredictability has earned him recognition from many, including grime veteran Jme. There’s constant excitement around what his next steps could be, with M.I.C continuing to excel with his own individual art-form. (Ana Lamond)
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French The Kid
Essex goldenboy French The Kid has the world at his feet. Early singles like the instantly-infectious ‘Dream’ put him on the map, before a slew of 2020 releases caused the hype on this dexterous MC to spiral out of control. A larger-than-life figure, he dropped ‘Broke Toys’ before linking with Kenny Allstar on the fiery workout ‘COCO’.
Ending the year by smashing a Daily Duppy, French The Kid laid down a formidable marker for others to follow. With his remarkable flow – controlled, yet so insistent – French The Kid ups the energy levels on everything he touches, while his penmanship matches the best around.
An artist coming into his own, few would bet against this Essex wildcard making 2021 his own. (Robin Murray)
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