It’s been a big year for British rappers.
The charts have been touched by the country’s rapping talent over and over again, and Spotify streams and YouTube views have touched numbers bigger than the card chargers of all of this island’s off-licences combined.
But in ISSUE ONE, to be released early next year, we’ve had the pleasure of covering a British rap and hip-hop scene far removed from the likes that have gained their long-awaited acclaim in recent years. We’re not talking about Giggs, Stormzy, Skepta. We’re not talking about J-Hus, AJ Tracey or YGG. It’s not grime, it’s not drill, it’s not road rap.
We’re talking about the cult-like hip-hop scene that’s hidden just a few clicks away on YoutTube, hidden in the sewers and swamps of inner-city Britain. A scene so ambiguous that it envelopes no-one yet excludes none. It’s got boom-bap, trip-hop, hip-hop and other two-syllable phrases that you’re free to invent.
Labels like Blah, Yogocop and High Focus have pumped out release after release this year, with Blah releasing roughly 8000 different projects, exported across mediums like the cassette tape, vinyl, Nokia ringtone and morse code. Yogocop, from our neck of the woods and our edge of the country (Brighton), put out their first ever wax and more with Benaddict’s debut grabbing critical acclaim. High Focus, one of the biggest labels in the UK in and outside of hip-hop, had another strong year on the bounce with Ocean Wisdom blowing up even more, Leaf Dog and Jam Baxter returning and Rag ‘n’ Bone Man finding worldwide success – a prodigy of the label, himself.
With independent mixtapes being squeezed out of bedrooms across the whole nation, the creatives without a label have only added more colour to the vibrant hip-hop scene in England, blossoming in the shadows away from the mainstream daylight. The NorthAze are young Leeds rappers making their own sound up in Yorkshire, playing a central role in a scene that they don’t even feel exists. Loyle Carner bucked the trend with his astonishing debut – backed by a major label and underground royalty in Jehst as he went from up and coming to the most wanted in 2017. He made a hit hip-hop album without even using the word bitch. It was mad.
To whittle it down to 10 is difficult and on our journey there, expect more honourable mentions than you can shake a a bag of cans at. But here, in all of it’s shopping list-like glory, is our shortlist to choose from:
In no particular order except other than the state in which they were recalled;