In 2017, MCs made waves in ways unimaginable. Between Stormzy landing at number one with his debut album, J Hus capturing the hearts of many with his eclectic style, and Dave balancing damning political rhetoric and a mission not to dead any beef, the mainstream and underground were shaken up by the ascent of urban stars. Even OGs like Skepta, Wiley, Giggs and Dizzee Rascal showed they still had gas in their respective tanks with their releases, strengthening the foundation on which this new stage of urban music is built. In a musical landscape more receptive to the powers of the UK, we showed dynamism in fun and innovative ways. Not to be denied, the women came to play as well, with the likes of Stefflon Don, Ms Banks, Lady Leshurr and more strengthening the case that they have as much, and even more, skill than the men.
Breaking down cultural perceptions further, MCs completely flipped the script after the scandal that was #BritsSoWhite (where only one black British artist was nominated at the 2016 Brit Awards). While the 2017 edition delivered little for these up for gongs, the strives made last year have allowed for a kick in the door, and now a variety of artists have been acknowledged. Expect MCs to win big this year.
As always, a new year means a look into the future and, whether they made noise last year and are about to shine, or if they are virtual newcomers ready to take on the world, these 12 are set for more success as the year rolls on. They have impressed through an array of frantic freestyles, dizzying videos and humongous viral hits, across grime, rap, dancehall, afrobeats and more, and we are excited to see where 2018 takes them. Scroll down for our selections and our special playlist below.
In the space of a few months towards 2017’s end, Ramz shocked the UK scene with the undeniable ode to the link up, ‘Barking’, and his ascent has taken many off guard. His near chart-topping success – it reached number two on the UK singles chart – isn’t without merit: he’s only been making music properly since the beginning of 2017 but has showcased a genuine sincerity and relatability with catchy hooks and honest vocals speaking to the everyday. ‘Barking’ has set him up incredibly for more attention as 2018 rolls by and, with one look at Ramz, you want him to win. And, win he will.
Although he’s been a known face for a couple of years, Che Lingo will be hitting new heights this year. The brash, confident and stylish rapper boasts a catalogue riddled with message of self-advancement and the empowerment of women but don’t get it twisted, he gets busy when the time calls. 2016’s Better Versions EP garnered critical acclaim, a foundation that tracks like ‘Black Girl Magic’ and ‘Zuko’ built on and, earlier last month, we premiered his hitting fuck-you-to-the-haters, ‘Same Energy’. 2018 promises a new EP, Charisma, and with it, more magic to be weaved on the scene.
From his infectious anthem that is 'Party Here’ to his recent collaboration with House of Pharaohs’ Sam Wise on ‘100 Degrees’, it’s fair to say that Octavian is about kill the game. As you go through the French-born, London-raised rapper’s tracks, it’s unquestionably clear that his crisp and gritty tone, accompanied by his addictive melodies and versatile vocal style, will leave you wanting more. Packed with personality, Octavian’s take on the UK’s hip-hop scene oozes of originality. His vocal delivery is humble and weirdly monotone, yet the melodies he’s laying on top of the pristine quality instrumentals resonate like a Chinese gong.
Chances are you were bumping a track by Hardy Caprio last year without even knowing. One of the unsung heroes of the UK’s new generation, the rapper from east London had a consistent 2017, pumping out bangers to rival with some of the biggest of the year. Take ‘Super Soaker’, the One Acen-assisted ‘Unsigned’ or ‘Cmon’ featuring Tion Wayne – a three single stretch that amassed tens of millions of YouTube views and the attention of the underground. Hardy is cool, calm and collected in his lyrical delivery, and this self-confident young artist will no doubt continue his undeniable run this year.
Oscar #worldpeace demands your attention. The North London MC follows a long line of prestige coming from the area, but he is not your typical rapper. He is easily one of the more animated voices in UK rap, while a brutally honest style and delivery places emphasis on the topics he tackles on record. On debut project Recluse, which dropped near the beginning of the year, Oscar made sense of issues such as Brexit, knife crime, depression and wider social issues that make London (and the world) a scary place. A mature head on young shoulders, Oscar’s next project, IC3, will no doubt gravitate more towards his talents.
Hailing from Battersea, South West London, Louis Culture is a chameleon of an emcee with an inkling for the alternative. Subscribing to a more mellow, breezy version of UK hip-hop, he draws from influences as far reaching as rockers Pink Floyd and rapper MF DOOM to paint a picture of life in London for fun-loving teens. Louis can change up his style at a whim; whether that is fierce and direct and braggadocious on tracks like ‘Culture for 17’ or mellow and reflective on ‘End of Summer’. His short career has bubbled for a while, and his journey is going full steam ahead in 2018.
You know when you look at an artist and you can tell they’ve just got it? Well, introducing Sam Wise. A member of the London collective House of Pharoahs, the dreadlocked Wise stands out with impeccable wordplay, confidence and an instant cool factor. One look at his Soundcloud page, and you can see how much work he has put in by himself over the years, and it reached a new level last year with underground hits ‘Lizzie’ and the instantly addictive ‘Rack Up’. A big 2018, both within and without HOP, is on his horizon, as Wise’s star continues to shine brightly.
Kadiata is, altogether, different from the norm. The rapper and producer describes himself as a ‘council estate visionary’ and creates soundscapes that are cosmic at least, and intergalactic at most. 2017’s Don’t Tell Me Plz EP is a great introduction for the uninitiated, and his colourful, striking visuals accompany this otherworldly feeling. Evidence for this can be found on ‘The Surface’ and recent release ‘Goodnight’. His music is that euphoric release sometimes needed to get through the hard times, and we can’t wait to see what this year has in store.
We are big fans of Yizzy, and his inclusion on this list is a nod to his incredible talent. The Lewisham spitter is everything you want from a grime MC: bars, personality and reload-ready, plus he's an extremely intelligent young man whose hard-hitting lyrics cut deep, with a relentless energy that's a not-so-gentle reminder of grime's early days, geared towards the present day. Take recent single ‘Radio Danger’, a full-throttle attack on the music industry for compromising artists for profit. Or ‘Steppin’, a cannibalistic lyrical exhibition. He has all the qualities to shine, so expect Yizzy to become your new favourite grime MC in 2018.
Big Zuu represents a revered strand of grime MCs: the eccentric. As soon as he touches the microphone and, with his gruffly vocals, spray loud, abrasive and reloadable lyrics that no other MC can keep up with. The West London rapper began 2018 with the Hold Dat EP, another exhibition in top tier lyricism that built on the shells he provided on last year’s self-titled opus, and he is putting out the best music of his short career right now. A larger than life character, Zuu has his own distinct flavour, and his early efforts this year are just the beginning of his ascent.
Intense, confessional and hyped are three words that would do Flohio justice. A year deep in the game, she hasn’t got a lot of work out there, but what surfs the net is the stuff of pure quality. 2016’s Nowhere Near EP, was short, sweet and packed with lyrical punches from the Nigerian-born, London-based MC, as she painted vivid pictures of her life over sparse, thumping hip-hop beats. In a lane all on her own, she strengthens the UK’s lyrical field and she hasn’t even hit heights yet, although a recent stop to Colors Berlin is a positive time of things to come. Watch this space.
Hailing from Peckham, south London, Prynce Mini is the product of the bold, bright and multicultural area he resides. The rapper/producer captures his emotions and influences growing up as a black boy, installing a blend of reggae, ragga, dancehall, grime and rap. With this, he manages to capture that energetic feeling and create a sound that is instantly recognisable. Previous single ‘Lead I Lead’ was an infectious offering bursting with personality and held its energetic, upbeat vibe. Add collaborations with Cadenza, Big Narstie, Izzie Gibbs and others, and we have multi-layered individual who is ready to blow.
Listen to Dummy's curated playlists on Spotify.