While it feels great to turn the page on 2017, it was a year which saw UK rap evolve to startling new heights. Seasoned veteran British rappers such as Wiley and Dizzee Rascal dropped frenetic full-lengths; Stormzy, AJ Tracey and J Hus – the next in line – continued to shine with sublime releases, and with the likes of Yxng Bane, 67 and Dave all carving out their own distinctly different soundscapes (be it swooning afro-trap, trunk-rattling drill or sombre piano-led ballads), Britain yet again raised the bar, culminating in unprecedented chart-success stories and increasing international recognition.
We now turn our attention to the next lot of artists out of the UK who will be on big, big things this year. Some have been simmering for a while and look ready to level up, while others have only just burst onto the scene with a handful of heaters. Bridging the gap between grime, rap, drill and afrobeats, this is your go-to guide to the British rappers who are set to make 2018 their own.
If you’re from the UK and you like rap, you’ll know about CASISDEAD – despite him being one of the most clandestine and elusive MC’s in the business. The whole aura of mystique to CAS is part of the appeal, with his sporadic – yet consistently special – releases self-diagnosed as “Not belonging to any genre. Just drug-fuelled, cold harsh reality.”
CAS has got the most visceral bars in the UK, adept at making you contemplative and wistful on tracks like “Pat Earrings” as he is making you feel utterly grotty on tracks like “The Code,” where he turns coke-sniffing into ad-libs and rapping “Doing bugle in this toilet cubicle / Off this beautiful bitch’s cuticle.” Anyone who has that ability is flat out fucking brilliant, and has been overlooked for far, far too long.
Flohio is another artist from South London with a big future ahead of her. She previously linked up with L-VIS 1990 and the hugely talented multidisciplinary artist GAIKA (as well as being chosen to support Princess Nokia, Clams Casino and Mura Masa).
Flohio’s cutting lyricism, punchy delivery and broad range of styles are exemplified in her aforementioned collaboration with L-VIS 1990, “Yeah Yeah.” It’s a hook MC’s would kill for, but she plays it unbelievably cool.
House of Pharaohs
There have been a few British rap crews lighting up the scenes in recent years; Section Boyz lit up the UK with their trap rapping in 2016, last year 67 almost single-handedly grew the UK Drill movement. House of Pharaohs are the next up.
Taking some flavors from across the pond, just as Section and 67 have done, the South Londoners have quickly forged their own sound, unleashing a slew of bangers and shutting down shows as if its second nature.
IAMDDB shot to the attention of the music world in 2017, but it’s evident that she was born a ready-made star. Despite being silky-smooth on the microphone with her seductive blend of ’urban jazz,’ she has worked incessantly over the last year to make it happen.
Finding the time to release three EPs, she is now seeing the fruits of her labor – her breakout hit “Shade” is booming out of clubs across the world, while brooding banger “More” showcases an artist at the peak of her powers. With more undoubtedly to come from the Manchester artist, she is poised for some serious moves this year.
Life is about to get very exciting for Jimothy Lacoste. The man with an increasingly busy schedule and money on his mind has all the ingredients for going viral; the confidence to walk up to any piffy, a seemingly unrivalled climbing ability and, of course, “cool rhymes.”
Having already done the rounds on UK social media with his self-produced tracks “Future Bae” and “Getting Busy!” Jimothy’s charisma could take him straight to the top in 2018.
Birmingham has been UK rap’s second city over the years – with the likes of Lady Leshurr, Jaykae and MIST all making a name for themselves in recent years. Lotto Boyzz look set to be next up out of 0121.
Fusing the best flavors emanating out of the country at present, Lotto Boyzz take after J Hus in their ability to weave Afrobeat, Grime and UKG into their own distinctive sonic palette, and the results are there for all to hear.
Having first appeared on the scene in 2014, Mostack has just kept on getting better and better. He made 2017 his own, becoming one of the UK’s best feature rappers on a number of hit singles, equipped with bars most likely to provoke you to spit your drink out everywhere than anyone else out. The ‘Gangster With Banter’ continued his legacy with lines like “What’s with all the abuse / I’ve got an awesome excuse / I only fucked your twin cos I thought it was you”
His tongue-in-cheek wit has banged on everything he’s hopped on this year – lighting up tracks with Dave, J Hus and MIST to name a few. An Instagram post from him promised Mo Bangers next year – and a snippet from an upcoming track with MIST looks set to continue his rich vein of form.
Octavian’s “Party Here” was one of the waviest songs out of the country last year, having created a small ripple in the underground before blowing up to international acclaim, courtesy of a certain Six God who has a penchant for all things United Kingdom.
People had never heard anything like it before; the track fuses grime’s blunt straight-talking alongside melodic US Trap melodies into a beguilingly unique track. After the initial traction, “Party Here” would be re-released, and understandably prick new ears across the globe. Octavian’s previous work indicates he can go do any number of new routes, and he seems to be have a lot of exciting new material cooking up for 2018.
In interviews, slowthai (one of our Class of 2018 Artists to Watch) is languid and goofy, claiming he picked up his name as a combination of him speaking with a mumble, and being called Tyron. But as soon as he picks up a mic, he becomes an utter beast, unleashing raw and raspy bars over devastating instrumentals that have understandably seen the Northampton artist cultivate a fervent following.
At the end of last year, he found the perfect accomplice on his I Wish I Knew project in the form of Kwes, who delivered a jarring, jittering soundtrack for him to really spit his shit on. The gritty, grime-meets-punk approach can sound like he’s almost suffocating on his tracks, but slowthai is set to provide exactly the breath of fresh air UK rap needs this year.
When one of the world’s foremost taste-makers features your track on his own radio show on one of the world’s biggest video games, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d made it. But while Suspect’s “FBG” featured on Frank Ocean’s Blonded Radio show on GTA, Suspect is adamant that he’s STILL LOADING – if the name of his upcoming mixtape is anything to go by.
In an interview with TRENCH, Suspect stated that he’s “trying to be international.” If he’s merely buffering with trap bangers such as “Wonder What” alongside Giggs and the whole of his ‘Loading’ playlist, once he’s fully charged, the world is very much at his his feet.
Check out our picks for the Highsnobiety Class of 2018 artists – featuring slowthai – here.