Written by: Frank B (contributor)
We are currently witnessing one of the greatest hip hop eras ever, and that is partly due to the creative nature of the underground artists in hip hop right now. In my opinion, I would say the authenticity is back. From the heartfelt bars, sonically updated gritty production, grimy stories over soul samples, and the drum-less loops. The heart of Hip-Hop is back in full circle, with a sprinkle of contemporary sound. Such is the influence and strength of this new underground wave, that it has already assimilated itself into mainstream hip hop. This impact can be gauged through underground rappers being heavily featured on most top ten rappers of year lists; the meteoric rise of Griselda (and Griselda Records expanding as a label and signing the likes of Rome Streetz, Boldy James and co); Benny the Butcher signing a 1.5 million dollars Def Jam Records deal, being the creator of both the NBA draft anthem and NFL team Buffalo Bills anthem; Conway and Westside Gunn being featured on Ye’s Donda album; Conway being one of the few artists to get a Hov feature; rappers such as Ransom and Mach Hommy being topics of discussion on prominent media houses such as the Complex show Brackets; and Freddie Gibbs and Alchemist’s album Alfredo being nominated for a Grammy in 2020. Some could even argue that we don’t get an amazing song like Champagne Poetry on Drake’s latest effort Certified Lover Boy, or CLB as its popularly referred to by Drake stans, without the incredible drumless loops Roc Marciano has been giving us for over a decade. This is certainly one of the most exciting trends in hip hop right now, and in this article, The Bytown Blog is going to reveal five underground artists that are shaking tables right now:
Following her partnership with 38 Spesh’s strong underground outfit called Trust Collective, this iconic artist from Buffalo, NY has been extremely active. Following her prior releases such as Thrill of the Hunt 1, Thrill of the Hunt 2 and Juno, she then gave us her magnum opus titled “As God Intended” produced by Apollo Brown in 2020. Back in January, Che Noir came out with another great album titled Food for Thought. Listening to the album, I realized that Che Noir uses her lyrics to delve into personal tragedies, which speaks out to me because I am a huge fan of introspective raps. Additionally, the album has one of the greatest female posse cuts in recent memory, with Ladies Brunch featuring 7xvethegenius and Armani Ceasar.
The Rochester native is a top contender for Pusha T’s ‘King of Coke Bars’ title. Stovie arrived on the rap scene in triumphant fashion through his debut album produced by Roc Marciano last year titled Reasonable Drought. Hip hop fans were immediately pulled in by his melodies, clever bars and his ability to harmonize some of the grimiest ishh on wax. He immediately developed a reputation as an outstanding lyricist, which landed him on the journalist BDot’s Top 10 rappers of 2020’ list but it was his capacity to write catchy, soulful and grimy hooks that set him apart from the rest. (paused) So much so that he was recently signed to the Babygrande Records label in what the Babygrande CEO called the biggest record label deal in the company’s 20 years history. Although he hasn’t released a project recently, in recent months, he penned incredible verses on features with 2Chains, French Montana, Westside Gunn, Ru$h & Jay Nice and Roc Marciano. His Babygrande debut project is one of the most anticipated albums right now.
The Bakers Club founder is already established in the local Toronto rap scene. Despite only being 27 years old, the Toronto rap general has been active as both a rapper and producer for over a decade. However, despite being in the game for a while and accumulating features and production credits from the heavy weights of our culture such as Raekwon and French Montana, in the past 3 years, Raz Fresco managed to outdo himself with the mixtape series Magneto Was Right. After sorting out his legal situation, Raz Fresco proceeded to drop 9 MWR tapes over the course of 2020 and 2021. The mixtape series title is inspired by the fact that the tension between X-Men comic books characters Professor X and Magneto was actually based off the debates between Civil Rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr and Malcom X. So naturally, the tapes are characterized by glorious but grounded, pro-Black storytelling and no bars are wasted. Additionally, the production is extremely rich with a smooth transition between soulful drumless loops and fast paced samples. The series came out with some of the most creative merch I have ever seen from a rapper too, check it out on his Bakers Club website. Some of the stand out tracks on the tapes include Universal Flag, 600 Years and the very personal Rain Hail Snow and Earth where he doesn’t shy from away from expressing the raw emotions he felt in the aftermath of loss.
The two Delaware, Dump Gawd affiliated, emcees are two different rappers with incredible merits on their own; Jay Nice is a super dope lyricist who is heavily barred up with a deep Biggie-esque voice while Ru$h has an extremely smooth and fly flow. Together, they are unstoppable and are currently one of the best duos in hip hop right now as they have shown throughout 2020 and 2021 with unreal joint collab albums Famili, Famili 2, Famili 3, trio collab album with Dump Gawd general Tha God Fahim in 2020 titled An Album Called Classic and as well as the many features they have on each other solo efforts. These guys are some of the most hard working rappers in hip hop right now and they are certainly destined for greatness. Ru$h on Beverly Hills Mansion Keys let’s you know the type of legacy the Delaware boys are interested in leaving by emulating one of the greatest dynasties in hip hop:‘ this tape is for the fam like Sigel, the jig is up, I need a mil Hovito’. That type of clever word play is a constant in their projects, they spit that fly ishh which, frankly, has been missing from the game. Standout songs include Sydney & Sharane, Hand Made in Paris, Bape Hoodies Sleeves 2, Luxlav and Hermes Chandelier Gleaming in the Foyer.
Very few rappers have had a better 2021 than Hus aka Wavo. The Long Island, NY rapper gave us Portishus and Threesome 2: The Art of Sex in the first part of the year before traveling to Brazil mid-year and then cooking up Bolio: Reze Pelo Rio and the Bolio Remixes over Bossa Nova laced production in Rio de Janeiro. That was not it though, the wave gawd came back and proceeded to release concept albums The Firm, inspired by the super group created by Nas in the mid 90s, and Holiday Hus: XXXMAS at the end of the year for the holiday season. Hus is an incredibly smooth rapper whose music let’s you know of top that although he may be an underground rapper he gets mad girls. He is single handedly bringing back the idea of concept albums. Wavo takes the most risk out of any rapper in the underground scene and it usually pays off, not only is he a nice rapper with great writing and clever wordplay he has a flawless sense of how great music sounds like. This is evidenced by his ability to flip iconic samples and put together albums that are short, concise and sonically coherent that lives the listener wanting for more and looking forward to his next release. Standout tracks include Who Made You Look, Forget Your Past, The Wave Angels featuring the wave originator himself Max B, Executive Decision, Justice for Jaca, Adriano, Adriano Remix and It’s Holiday Hus.
Honorable mention goes to many other established acts in the underground scene such Mach Hommy, Smoke DZA, Rome Streetz, Willie the Kid, Rick Hyde, Estee Nack, Flee Lord, Tha God Fahim, 7xvethegenius, Your Old Droog, Asun Eastwood and so many more who have pumped a breath of fresh air in the rap game recently.