Breakdown: All 52 Upcoming UK Artists Stormzy Mentions During His Glastonbury Speech

Luckily for us, Stormzy has created a primer of 52 artists representing a boom of British creativity.
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On June 28, Stormzy became the first black British solo artist to headline Glastonbury Festival’s iconic Pyramid Stage. Critics called the performance “glorious,” and even Stormzy himself labeled the opportunity, “the greatest night of my entire life.”

From BMX bikers to ballet performances, the show was an unforgettable audiovisual event, highlighted by surprise appearances from Dave, Fredo, and Coldplay’s Chris Martin. One of the most memorable and important moments of the evening came when Stormzy stopped the music and praised the efforts of a whopping 65 British rap artists who either impacted before his arrival or are standing with him now to uplift the UK music scene further.

“There have been so many different people that paved the way,” Stormzy began before giving a rundown of grime’s founders like Wiley, Skepta, Dizzee Rascal, and so many more. Or as DJBooth’s M. Oliver puts it, they created “the first, original Black British musical movement and one that was vilified from the get-go. Artists were blacklisted, and the police regularly shut down their shows using racist ‘risk assessment’ practices.”

Today, grime, drill, and the larger umbrella of UK rap have grown from the DIY underground to the top of the charts, despite continuing conflicts with politicians, legal battles, and biased power structures. America hasn’t shown much interest in the British scene, but luckily for us, Stormzy has authored a 52 artist primer. So let’s take this opportunity to dive in.

Editor's Note: We were unable to identify one of the names Stormzy mentions in his list. Therefore, our list features 51 artists. Our apologies if you are (or know) the artist we missed here.

AJ Tracey

Twitter: @ajtracey

“I’m a legendary grime MC,” Tracey told NME earlier this year. While the 25-year-old London rapper’s claim may be premature, his confidence and technical skill are well-displayed on his 2019 self-titled debut. Tracey has a keen ear for production and hooky songwriting. While his roots remain in grime (see his energetic collaboration with Dave on “Thiago Silva”), Tracey impresses across multiple genres from UK garage on “Ladbroke Grove” to the dancehall vibes of “Butterflies.”

Recommendations: “Butterflies,” “Ladbroke Grove,” “Thiago Silva”

Not3s 

Twitter: @Not3sofficial

Since going viral in 2017 with breakout single “Addison Lee,” a melodic earworm about picking up a woman in a taxi, Hackney’s Not3s continues to deliver feel-good bangers. “Pop is not a dirty word,” Not3s believes, comparing his flavor of romantic, R&B-tinged dance music to Justin Bieber’s “Sorry.” With crisp rhythms accenting Not3s’ sweet vocals, it’s hard to disagree.

Recommendations: “Wanting,” “Just Fine,” “Addison Lee”

Little Simz 

Twitter: @LittleSimz

Hopefully, you’ve already heard Little Simz’ fantastic album, GREY Area, which we recently named the fourth-best of 2019, so far. If not, you’re in for some of the crispest flows on either side of the pond. The 25-year-old rapper shares a raw and open look into self-cleansing and introspection. But don’t just take our word for it, even Kendrick Lamar thinks she “might be the illest doing it right now.” Damn.

Recommendations: “God Bless Mary,” “Selfish,” “Venom”

Avelino 

Twitter: @officialAvelino

After Avelino caught Stormzy’s attention back in 2014 with his breakout mixtape Iconic Ambition, the artist brought him on tour in 2015. Though the Haringey, London native has been mostly quiet since his last mixtape NO BULLSHIT in 2017, his ability to deliver a bouncy summer jam like “Boasy,” and a snappy, trap ballad like “So Fine,” make him an artist to watch.

Recommendations: “Boasy,” “Rich Soul,” “So Fine”

J Hus 

Twitter: @Jhus

Stratford’s J Hus has experienced a roller coaster of a career thus far. In 2017, his debut album Common Sense reached No. 6 on British charts and even garnered Stateside critical acclaim. Hus later faced jail time for knife possession before being released this April and joining Drake on stage at London’s O2 Arena. J Hus is currently lying low, but another album is forthcoming; Hus’ afro swing party is ready to explode again.

Recommendations: “Bouff Daddy,” “Dark Vader,” “Did You See”

Smoke Boys 

Twitter: @SmokeBoys_

Another group who recently joined Drake at O2, Smoke Boys (FKA Section Boyz) rose to prominence with their independently-released 2015 mixtape, Don’t Panic. Though the Croydon collective remains true to UK rap’s grimy attitude and features a heavy dose of Jamaican Patois (see “Lock Arff”), Smoke Boys adopt hazy American trap beats on both their breakout tape and its 2018 sequel, which features sharper production and a more substantial focus on collaboration.

Recommendations: “Hurry n Buy,” “Lock Arff,” “Section 6ixty”

P Money

Twitter: @KingPMoney

One of the oldest artists in this lineup, 31-year-old P Money has been delivering hard-hitting grime tracks since 2007’s Coins 2 Notes. In 2019, the New Cross emcee is exuding more confidence than ever, as evidenced by his newly released Money Over Everyone 3, boasting, “When its grime, nobody says ‘Whos he?’ / Im more legend than a Will Smith movie.” Despite his trippy technical skill unleashed over 17 projects, P Money remains an underground, yet uncompromising, veteran.

Recommendations: “Shook,” “Slang Like This,” “Where & When”

Knucks 

Twitter: @Knucks_music

Born North West like I’m the kid of Kim and Kanye,” Northwest London rapper/producer Knucks jokes on “Breakfast At Tiffany’s,” a snappy but laid-back track showcasing his blend of old and new hip-hop. “I wanted to make a sound where it’s old school samples but with trap elements. I just felt like the two gelled together so well,” Knucks has shared. When jamming to his newest banger, “Rice & Stew,” it’s hard to disagree.

Recommendations: “Breakfast At Tiffany’s,” “Rice & Stew,” “Vows”

Stefflon Don 

Twitter: @stefflondon

A member of XXL’s 2018 Freshman Class, Manchester’s Stefflon Don has captured the attention of superstars from Future to Mariah Carey. Don’s 2018 mixtape, Secure, showcases her Jamaican-flavored focus on bouncy rhythms and syncopated dancehall melodies. But the rising MC isn’t afraid to shut down the party and deliver confident flows on tracks like “Crunch Time.” She hasn’t yet reached Nicki Minaj or Cardi B status, but she does have a message: “If Im coming, better run.”

Recommendations: “16 Shots,” “Hurtin’ Me,” “Senseless”

Kojey Radical

Twitter: @KojeyRadical

Kojey Radical is a true renaissance artist, creating poetry, mixed media art, and music, all while serving as creative director for an arts collective and artistic director for a menswear brand. Though his pursuits are diverse, his content is heartfelt and focused on celebrating life and challenging societal injustices. His newest single, “Can’t Go Back,” is a hopeful anthem of self-emancipation from depression. Though details are still TBA, Radical’s upcoming album is one to watch for later this year.

Recommendations: “25,” “Can’t Go Back,” “Water”

Izzie Gibbs

Twitter: @izziegibbs

slowthai may be Northampton’s most popular rapper right now, but Izzie Gibbs isn't far behind, independently releasing electric grime bangers like “Lit.” While best known for his high-tempo wordplay and young braggadocio, Gibbs makes clear on 2018's “People,” it’s not just about him: “I dont wanna live illegal / But they dont treat us equal / Im surrounded by this evil / I did it for my people.”

Recommendations: “Lit,” “OK,” “People”

Potter Payper

Twitter: @PotterPayper

Essex’s Jamel Bousbaa (AKA Potter Payper) initially pricked ears with his 2016 mixtape One Time and full-length effort Training Day 2, delivering gritty street rhymes over guitar-driven tracks. However, after pleading guilty to supplying heroin and cocaine in 2018, he is now serving a five-year prison term. According to an open letter, Payper hopes for a “bigger and better” return to music soon and even released an EP last year from prison entitled Regina Vs Jamel Bousbaa.

Recommendations: “1 Time,” “Hard,” “Real Life”

Ms Banks

Twitter: @MsBanks

Ms (Thyra) Banks woke up in November 2017 to a pleasant surprise when Nicki Minaj shared her support by quoting lyrics to Banks’ “Yu Zimme Rmx” on Twitter. Since then, the young rapper has released a slew of successful singles, and a bangers-only mixtape, entitled The Coldest Winter Ever, which combines Banks' brutal lyrical takedowns with murky trap and grime beats.

Recommendations: “Bangs,” “Snack,” “Vibez”

A2 

Twitter: @A2Artist

For South London’s A2, the music is all about atmosphere. Having come up in the grime scene, the introspective singer-rapper can deliver ars when he wants to (see “Flex Luthor”). When he's given breathing room over woozy bass and synth tracks, however, A2 manipulates melody and flow with hypnotizing ease. His newest effort, All Spill, is due out later this month, featuring the recent trap-inspired single, “Smoked Out.”

Recommendations: “Holograms,” “Southern Comfort,” “X2 (Dble)”

67

Twitter: @Official6ix7

The rap collective 67, a major proponent of London’s drill scene, has received blame from law enforcement officials for the current spike in crime on the genre’s violence-depicting lyrics. The situation has disheartened the group, as member LD shares, “the hate [in the UK] is crazy.” But despite the adversity, 67 is “still outside drilling,” having released two gritty mixtapes in 2018.

Recommendations: “Let’s Lurk,” “Pink Notes,” “This Side”

Loyle Carner

Twitter: @LoyleCarner

Though only 24, Loyle Carner seems an old soul offering personal and insightful lyrics. A student of Nas and Mos Def, Carner is in his pocket rapping over low-key soul and jazz instrumentals like 2017’s “Damselfly” or “Mean It in the Morning.” Carner's second album, Not Waving, But Drowning, released in early 2019, cemented the artistic tone of the Lambeth, South London native, with features from soulful collaborators Jorja Smith, Sampha, and Tom Misch.

Recommendations: “Damsefly,” “Loose Ends,” “The Isle of Arran”

Dapz on the Map

Twitter: @Dapzonthemap

I write tunes while others write tweets / I dream big while others just sleep,” Dapz OTM raps on his breakout hit, “Froggy.” While the Birmingham rapper may come off intense over shadowy grime beats, his musical goal is to “[reflect] on personal experiences with the hope of inspiring listeners to think or feel good.” On his most recent EP, Champion Settings, Dapz achieves his goal through introspection, challenging himself to reach his “Personal Best.”

Recommendations: “Froggy,” “Off To Work,” “Personal Best”

SL 

Twitter: @slimzorsl

Seventeen-year-old SL isn’t interested in the notoriety of becoming a rising star. Instead, he’s taken the anonymous approach, sporting a ski mask at performances where he delivers his more laid-back twist on drill music. SL focuses his pen on the street, but the beats (which he mostly snags from YouTube) often carry a dreamy quality (“Tropical”). Though one of the youngest in the scene, SL’s ability to experiment outside genre confines is already paying off.

Recommendations: “Genes,” “Homage,” “Tropical”

Ramz

Twitter: @ramonerochester

Ramz’ first single, “Barking,” reached No. 2 on the British charts in early 2018, boosted by the song’s TikTok #BarkingChallenge and a hook which remains inescapable. However, the young singer/rapper came under scrutiny after a grating live performance and an odd social media rant, which led to some dismissing him as a one-hit-wonder. Despite the adversity, Ramz has pressed forward with his carefree afro swing jams, releasing his boldly-titled debut EP Blockbuster this May.

Recommendations: “Barking,” “Family Tree,” “Power”

Belly Squad

Twitter: @BellySquad

Speaking of viral artists, London rap trio Belly Squad scored their first hit, “Banana,” after group member Ty Jombla performed the song’s chorus in a Vine video. The plays just kept looping. The song highlights Belly Squad’s fusion of dancehall and afrobeat rhythms, which they inherited from their families’ West African and Jamaican roots. If you’ve been sleeping on their November mixtape Bon Appétit, don’t worry; Belly Squad makes music for summertime parties.

Recommendations: “Banana Remix,” “Lifestyle,” “Long Time”

K-Trap

Twitter: @ktrap19

Like SL, drill rapper K-Trap has always sported a balaclava for anonymity. “I wasn’t sure if I was gonna take music seriously,” he explained in 2018. “So I didn’t wanna bait out my face and then just stop rapping.” In 2019, however, K-Trap is all in with music, removing the mask in his newest video, “Big Mood.” K-Trap’s latest mixtape, No Magic, signals a vulnerable, yet confident new direction for the other “Mask Off” rapper.

Recommendations: “Big Mood,” “Mask Off,” “Paper Plans”

Krept and Konan

Twitter: @KreptandKonan

The first duo on Stormzy’s list, Krept and Konan have steadily built their career from DIY underdogs to speakers in Parliament. Before signing their first record deal, the duo’s combination of booming beats and mainstream appeal helped their 2013 album, Young Kingz, to peak at No. 19 on the UK charts. More recently, the Croydon veterans have become drill advocates. Their newest single, “Ban Drill,” secured them an audience in the House of Commons where encouraging steps are being made to end censorship.

Recommendations: “Ban Drill,” “Don’t Waste My Time,” “Freak of the Week”

Lady Leshurr

Twitter: @LadyLeshurr

Hashtag raps often come across as corny, and then there’s Lady Leshurr. The Kingshurst rapper went viral in 2016 with her Queen’s Speech series of freestyles, featuring no-nonsense flows and humorous punchlines ready to leave a bruise. Of late, Leshurr is taking a more radio-friendly approach, releasing a series of catchy singles in support of her debut full-length, Unstable, due out later this year.

Recommendations: “Black Madonna,” “Queen’s Speech 4,” “Queen’s Speech 5”

MoStack 

Twitter: @realmostack

In just a few short years, MoStack’s confident charisma has landed him collaborations with Stormzy, J Hus, Dave, and more. Not a bad start to a career, huh? While artists love to work with him, the melodic rapper remains private, tweeting in 2016, “Everything you need to know about me is in my music.” Even in his music, MoStack is more about celebrating stacks than self-introspection. For non-stop summer jams, press play on his newest record, Stacko.

Recommendations: “I’m the One,” “Shine Girl,” “Stinking Rich”

Yungen 

Twitter: @YungenPlayDirty

“There was a time...when I wasn’t happy doing music,” Yungen admitted in 2017. At the time, the “Bestie”-rapper was fresh off the release of Project Black & Red, a murky record which showcases the now 27-year-old’s technical skill with flows drawing from up-tempo grime and Take Care era Drake. On his 2019 release, Project Purple, Yungen takes a more soulful and melodic approach, exuding genuine joy this time around and recapturing what first drew him to music.

Recommendations: “Ain’t On Nuttin (Remix Part 2),” “Bestie,” “Comfortable”

Yxng Bane

Twitter: @yxngbane

Named after the mask-wearing Batman villain, Yxng Bane gained notoriety by collaborating with Yungen on “Bestie” and, more notably, with Ed Sheeran on a remixed version of the artist's smash single “Shape of You.” Bane grew up a fan of G-Unit, saying, “I used to think I was Lloyd Banks and my cousin would be 50 Cent.” But despite his harder influences, the East London rapper has pursued a smoother, more sensual vibe on afro-swing-meets-R&B hits, “Needed Time” and “Rihanna.”

Recommendations: “Needed Time,” “Rihanna,” “Vroom”

Bugzy Malone

Twitter: @TheBugzyMalone

“When you’re coming from outside London ... you better be something special if you expect people to take you seriously,” says Bugzy Malone, Manchester’s premier grime artist. It may seem complicated, but Malone has overcome the industry hurdles with vivid, first-person storytelling and technical abilities reminiscent of the 2Pac generation. Lyrically, Malone never sugarcoats his troubled situations, but his vulnerable struggle, like that of Kendrick Lamar, points toward a hope for personal growth.

Recommendations: “Beauty and the Beast,” “M.E.N.,” “Kilos”

Jay1

Twitter: @Jay1Official_

Coventry’s Jay1 arrived on the scene last year with his girlfriend-praising single “That’s My Bae,” which led to a trending Instagram hashtag #ThatsMyBaeChallenge and nearly 700,000 YouTube views. The tender love song with a dose of flexing continues to be a go-to theme for Jay, but it’s the cold, sparse beats he employs on records like “Your Mrs” and “Mocking It” that allow the newcomer to express his brooding tone.

Recommendations: “Mocking It,” “That’s My Bae,” “Your Mrs”

Unknown T

Twitter: @unknwnt9

Unknown T has only released four singles, including his debut, “Homerton B,” which climbed the British charts last October. However, the lyrical drill rapper’s small sample size proves to be promising. “I want to reflect the reality,” T expressed, “but I also want to show change. I want to show where, if you put your mind to it, hard work can take you.” On his newest single, “Leave Dat Trap,” featuring AJ Tracey, Unknown T does precisely that.

Recommendations: “Homerton B,” “Leave Dat Trap,” “MEAT”

Loski

Twitter: @loski_hs

Kennington’s Loski directed his attention to music after ending his professional football career due to injury. Luckily, the drill-leaning “Boasy” rapper possesses the swagger and lyrical prowess necessary to make his presence known, even at 20 years old. Combining braggadocio with a sense of humor, Loski sends everyone running like “Forrest Gump.” However, his infectious charisma ensures they’ll keep coming back for more.

Recommendations: “Boasy,” “Cool Kid,” “Forrest Gump”

Young T & Bugsey 

Twitter: @YoungTandBugsey

Even without a proper album or mixtape release, Young T & Bugsey are the new Sheriffs of Nottingham. But unlike the Robin Hood villain, the young duo is dedicated to lifting their city financially and emotionally with high-energy tag-team bangers like “Gangland.” As Bugsey has said: “I want it to be a thing where we take it as far as possible, and the next yout smashes it.”

Recommendations: “4x4,” “Gangland,” “Glistenin’”

Jaykae

Twitter: @Jaykae10

Originally a part of grime collective Invasion Alert, Birmingham’s Jaykae raps with a furious chip on his shoulder. Whether it’s a “middle finger to all my exes” or calling out the “couple day ones [who] have been hating ever since day two,” Jaykae demands respect with his unflinching presence. His 2019 single, “Heartache,” continues the aggressive style of his comeback hit, “Toothache,” signaling another good year for the MC.

Recommendations: “Headache,” “Heartache,” “Toothache”

Hardy Caprio

Twitter: @HardyCaprio

Two thousand and eighteen was a successful year for Hardy Caprio. Not only did he land two singles in the British top 40, but Caprio also graduated from university with a first-class degree (the highest honors system award offered). This year, the Croyden rapper with a pop sheen has continued “living [his] best life” with a handful of name-brand-flexing summer bangers like the dancehall-inspired “Droptop” and the steel drum-accented “Sponsored.”

Recommendations: “Best Life,” “Guten Tag,” “Super Soaker”

Geko

Twitter: @RealGeko

Drawing on his Arabic and Algerian roots, young melodic rapper Geko is creating a unique flavor of rap in the UK scene. Combining pop rap beats, afrobeat grooves, and Arabic melodies, the 22-year-old's brand of “Arabic swing” is global music. Though he hasn’t released a lengthier project since 2017’s LionHeart, his new horn-driven collaboration with Maleek Berry and Latifah, “Hey Mama,” is quite the feel-good, windows-down jam.

Recommendations: “Don Daddy,” “Hey Mama,” “Will Smith”

Tion Wayne

Twitter: @TIONWAYNE

“Just a normal geezer that can rhyme good,” Tion Wayne’s Twitter bio reads. But once in the studio, the Caribbean grime rapper’s humility turns to straight flexing, as he raps on new single, “Drive By,” “25 stacks and a Phantom / Tryna get my plaque like me jewels, all platinum.” While the Wayne’s World 1 and 2 rapper isn't yet platinum, his momentum and announcement of a Wayne’s World 3 mixtape are inching him ever closer.

Recommendations: “Drive By,” “Home,” “Me or the Lifestyle”

Nadia Rose

Twitter: @nadiarosemusic

As a cousin to Stormzy, music runs through Nadia Rose’s blood. Her rise to prominence, however, is completely her doing, with poised bangers like “Skwod” and tongue-twisting alternative cuts like “Station.” Early success led Rose to fifth on BBC’s Sound of 2017 shortlist, beating out Anderson .Paak, Dave, and AJ Tracey. Rose has only released a few singles since her 2017 debut, Highly Flammable. However, she did hint she’s written for Rihanna’s upcoming album.

Recommendations: “Skwod,” “Station,” “Tight Up”

Suspect

Twitter: @Suspect_OTB

Walworth rapper Suspect may very well feel like he’s Still Loading, but his aggressive raps over bleak trap-grime beats say he’s fully charged up and ready for more. On 2018 track, “Say It With Your Chest,” Suspect is frantic and animated as he screams and growls at trash-talking backstabbers too afraid to face him. The raw passion in his voice is striking and serves him well throughout his uncompromising discography.

Recommendations: “FBG,” “One Way,” “Say It With Your Chest”

Ambush Buzzworl

Twitter: @ambushbuzzworl

After spending the majority of the 2010s in the Camden underground, Ambush Buzzworl broke through in a big way in 2018, earning UK Complex’s song of the year with his flute-sampling, Skepta and Chip-featuring “Jumpy” remix. Ambush is one of those rare rappers able to offer polished performances of hard-hitting vocals without losing any integrity. While Buzzworl has yet to announce a new album, his latest single, “Dem Man,” is building anticipation.

Recommendations: “Blood,” “Jumpy Remix,” “Man Can’t”

Kojo Funds

Twitter: @KojoFunds

While many UK rappers have embraced the afro swing categorization over the past few years, Kojo Funds is responsible for literally coining the term. Combining the afrobeat and dancehall sounds of his Ghanaian and Dominican roots with pop-rap stylings, Kojo has become a master melody and mood crafter. His debut album, Golden Boy, was released last September, but Kojo’s hybrid sound is already considered by critics and artists to be a rising influence across the UK scene.

Recommendations: “Check,” “Dun Talkin’,” “My 9ine”

D-Block Europe

Twitter: @DBlockEurope

Led by Young Adz and Dirtbike LB, D-Block Europe is a collective influenced by the veteran American act The Lox (Jadakiss, Styles P, and Sheek Louch). Though Adz and Dirtbike dominate the mic with their youthful, Rae Sremmurd-like energy, other contributors like Lil Pino round out the group’s sound. Their newest record, Home Alone, features a diverse selection of trap-inspired tracks ranging from the melancholy rags-to-riches story on “Kettle Pouring” to flex-heavy “Running Man.”

Recommendations: “Gucci Mane,” “Kettle Pouring,” “Kitchen Kings”

Nafe Smallz

Twitter: @NafeSmallz

Rapper-singer Nafe Smallz experienced breakout success in 2015, with the releasing of his hazy weed anthem, “Smokin’.” In the three-plus years since, the 23-year-old has gained high-profile exposure opening for Future, Migos, and Skepta. In 2019, Smallz is busy promoting his new melody-heavy, star-studded project, Good Love, which features Tory Lanez, Chip, Yxng Bane, and M Huncho. Though his lyrical content may sound familiar—especially if you’ve been listening to Future—his youthful performances and shimmery production keep Smallz compelling.

Recommendations: “Fake Love,” “Good Love,” “Wouldn’t Believe It”

M Huncho

Twitter: @Mhuncho_1

M Huncho is determined to make trap as much a part of London as Atlanta. The masked rapper’s SoundCloud-ready beats and Auto-Tuned flows file beside Future et al., but there’s a certain London fog quality to Huncho’s music which overcasts the Atlanta heat. Huncho is confident on his latest release, Utopia, but he recognizes he’s still improving: “This is me going into third gear, and there are about fifteen gears I need to get into.”

Recommendations: “Birds,” “Come Up,” “Rock Bottom”

Octavian

Twitter: @OctavianEssie

Born in France, Octavian Godji moved with his mother to London at age three. Twenty years later, Octavian is one of Britain’s most forward-thinking artists, equally drawing from Drake’s smooth delivery and Bon Iver’s atmospheric experimentation. His 2018 debut mixtape, Spaceman, was praised by British and American press as “enormous in scope.” Released only nine months later, his second mixtape, Endorphins, exhibits the same enticing, ethereal qualities and confirms Octavian as a name to watch.

Recommendations: “Don’t Cry,” “King Essie,” “Lightning”

Berna 

Twitter: @OneBrna

Continuing the legacy of older brother and fellow artist Chrome who was killed in 2013, Harold Hill’s Berna “Won’t Stop” until he overcomes hopelessness and rises to the top of the UK scene. Though Berna’s debut project is still forthcoming, the 20-year-old’s impressive freestyles offer exciting previews of Berna’s raw energy and extensive wordplay. “Tell Stormzy I’m a #problem,” he boasts on his BL@CKBOX freestyle, unfazed and ready to pursue Stormzy’s crown.

Recommendations: “Alcatel / Likkle Bit,” “BL@CKBOX Freestyle,” “Won’t Stop”

Novelist 

Twitter: @Novelist

Lewisham’s Kojo Kankam, AKA Novelist, is trying to “make a better way” through his music. The self-produced rapper is still a hard-hitting grime MC, but his conscious lyrics and electronic production are breathing fresh air into the genre. His newest record, Novelist Guy, speaks out against racism and violence over whirling synths. But instead of diving into pessimism, these heavy themes lead Novelist to urge listeners instead, “Don’t lose faith.”

Recommendations: “1 Sec,” “Better Way,” “Stop Killing the Mandem”

slowthai

Twitter: @slowthai

slowthai should already be on your radar. His new album, Nothing Great About Britain, debuted at No. 30 on DJBooth’s second “Best Albums of 2019 (So Far)” list in June. Born Tyron Frampton, the Northampton native masterfully combines a deliberate flow with a range of soulful and grimy beats as he explores his past and the grievances he has against his country. On his album cover, slowthai is pictured in fetters, but his humorous criticisms are unrestrained.

Recommendations: “Gorgeous,” “Inglorious,” “Nothing Great About Britain”

Yung Fume

Twitter: @YungFume_

Yung Fume is another representative of the fruitful cross-pollination occurring in recent years between Atlanta and London. After the first single, “Watch Me Flex,” was remixed by Ty Dolla $ign and WizKid, Fume landed collabs with Zaytoven, Young Nudy, and Lil Durk, who each gel with Fume’s Quavo-like flows and “Untouchable” attitude. In 2019, Fume is more ambitious, releasing a 20-track mixtape titled Noughts & Crosses 4 filled with straight flexing over synth, bass, and hi-hat beats.

Recommendations: “Secrets,” “Something Else,” “Watch Me Flex”

Big Zuu

Twitter: @ItsBigZuu

Cousin to AJ Tracey, Big Zuu is “marching through the door / no opportunity [he’s] passing,” as he raps on “Came From the Block.” But Zuu’s positivity isn’t just self-confidence. Tracks like the gospel-sampling “We Will Walk” allow the former social work student to lift and inspire England’s youth amid poverty, depression, and racial tensions. His third project, July-released EP, We Will Walk, solidifies Zuu as a premier conscious voice in the UK.

Recommendations: “Came From the Block,” “The Struggle (Freestyle),” “We Will Walk”

Mist

Twitter: @tweet_mist

After stumbling through legal woes over a multi-year period, Birmingham’s Mist sought a new beginning through music. Since his 2016 debut, Mist has used music to discover himself, even when it hurts, as he raps, “Release pain on the track / But I still got pain here within.” His lyrics celebrate diversity, even incorporating Punjabi or Asian slang learned from coming up in Birmingham. His newest single, “So High,” is a bouncy, summer grime anthem, which showcases his determination to make you move your body.

Recommendations: “Fountain,” “Order It In,” “So High”

Br3nya

Twitter: @Br3nya

The Ghanaian-British Br3nya is full of hilarious one-liners (“Sometimes classy, sometimes ratchet”) and clever wordplay (“He want my child but that ain’t my destiny”). The rapper-singer is brand new with only a handful of singles released since last year. But the danceable Caribbean energy Br3nya brings to each performance is infectious and consistent. It’s only a matter of time before we hear her breakthrough effort.

Recommendations: “Double Dutch,” “Good Food,” “Like Me”

Cadet

Twitter: @Callmecadet

Stormzy ended his impressive survey of UK rap with a tribute to the late Cadet, who was tragically killed earlier in 2019 in a car accident. While Cadet charted twice last year with dancehall jams “Advice” and “Pumpy,” he was best known for his emotional and effortless grime performances like “Closure” or “The Stereotype.” The latter is a heartbreaking reminder to never take loved ones for granted and to live a life that makes you proud. Cadet fought for that until the end.

Recommendations: “Advice,” “Closure,” “The Stereotype”

[Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Berna as drill artist Burner].

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