Hometown: Birmingham, AL
Starlito was likely your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper before Lil Baby made his preference public but it’s nice to see him get his flowers from the younger generation. On “Nightmares,” Alabama’s Luh Soldier recruits the Nashville veteran for a track from his Zaytoven-produced tape, Keys To The Streets. For Luh Soldier, his collaboration with the iconic producer comes on the heels of a prolific 2020. The rapper delivered four projects, rising to the forefront of his region’s rap scene.
Hometown: West Orlando, FL
Handyman Tooley’s relatively small catalog at the moment mostly consists of the type of aggressive anthems that have recently made stars of multiple rappers from his home state. But “Off My Mind,” his most recent track, offers another mood. Over a laid-back instrumental, the Orlando rapper delivers an extremely catchy freestyle. More than anything, you can tell he’s having fun in the booth and it’s infectious.
Hometown: New Haven, CT
Snowsa put herself and the Connecticut rap scene on the map in 2018 with “Yank Riddim,” a track that celebrated her fallen friend and the dance he popularized in the streets of her hometown. Her latest, “Paradise,” follows a more downtempo groove, as the New Haven artist coasts over two step-ready percussion and saxophone, rapping on the hook: “That sauce drip right out my en and zynes.”
Hometown: Ibeno, Nigeria
After a string of strong collaborations in 2020, Nigeria’s SGaWD delivered her debut project Savage Bitch Juice in November. The EP presents a range of styles but the strongest songs find the rising artist delving into the airy rap sounds proliferating online. “POPSHIT,” a standout from the project, is a perfect end to the project—an aspirational jam about sticking and moving on the way to the top.
10TA Lil A
Hometown: Columbus, OH
In Columbus’ flourishing but often overlooked scene, the 10 Toes Alone team has been making some of the best music over the last few years. The Michigan influence is heavy, from the production to the shit-talking verses, but the group has carved their own lane in the city and branched off into strong solo efforts as well. Lil A’s July tape, Strictly 4 The Streets, begins with “One Day,” a song that finds the rapper dreaming of riding a Bentley down his block over rattling drums and gloomy keys.
Hometown: Port Arthur, TX
DC2TRILL was notably one of the only rappers not from Michigan on Lil Yachty’s “Royal Rumble” posse cut at the beginning of the year. After recently signing to Yachty, the Texas rapper dropped his new tape Drank Babies 3. The project features a number of Yachty collabs but also shows DC2TRILL’s own acumen, especially on the tape’s closer, “Until Next Time.” The instrumental sounds like something Curren$y would have rapped over if he was on the rise in the plugg revival era, and DC2TRILL brings his uneven flow to the smooth beat.
Hometown: Detroit, MI
As part of Detroit’s Cashgang group, 24Lik often lines up next to FWC Big Key and others but, “Maxin Out,” a song from his recent Da Biggest Sh24rk project, finds him standing on his own. The track might be his best solo track thus far; over tinny piano notes and a standard Detroit drum pattern, he delivers matter-of-fact threats and bars like, “Get in that room that boy sweating like a muhfuckin’ reverend.”
Hometown: New Orleans, LA
Being the son of New Orleans legend B.G. must come with its own set of expectations but, over the last few years, T.Y. has established his own presence alongside his Jet Life compatriots. His recent Baby Gangsta, Vol. 2 tape is mostly produced by Topside, a match-up that extends the Detroit producer’s clear Beats By The Pound influences somewhere close to its source. T.Y. sounds right at home over the organ chords and thumping basslines, as he tells stories about taking risks to make ends meet.
Hometown: Kingston, JA/London, UK
Before he was Cassh, he made a name for himself in the 2010s UK rap scene as Cashtastatic but, in 2014, the Jamaican-born artist’s rise in the British scene came to an abrupt end when he was deported back to his home country. His recent Return of the Immigrant album chronicles the rapper’s return to the UK after seven years. On “Wash Clothes,” he provides a vivid image of his life on the island where he was originally born. “Wash clothes with our hands, we don’t need no machine / But don’t ever feel we don’t have no machine,” he raps on the song’s hook.
Hometown: Miami, FL
K.Charles’ “LEFT RIGHT” begins like many rap songs in 2021: with the reversed sample and bouncy drums typical of the plugg sound. But the Miami artist’s melody brings a new dimension to the track, as he delivers a passionate vocal performance throughout. “LEFT RIGHT” is an expansion of K.Charles’ repertoire and provides a glimpse into a potential new direction for the current rap sound of the off-kilter internet.
By Ben Dandridge-Lemco for Audiomack