By now most of you will know how enmeshed we are within the UK hip-hop scene. From premiering tracks by Jehst, Fliptrix and Hawk House, to championing the early sounds of George the Poet, Frankie Stew & Harvey Gunn, Little Simz and more, we’ve been keeping a close eye on the movement as it evolves and grows far beyond the shores of our British Isles.
Just as 2014 brought – in our humble opinion – the strongest wave of new talent and well-deserved attention from around the world, 2015 has already surged with more of the same. In turn, we’re back with another list collating some familiar and not-so-familiar faces who’ve been setting the bar high for UK hip-hop in January.
1. Shaun Sky ft. Wu-lu – Placebo Reflect
Fresh face Shaun Sky brings mellow vocal tones spaced out over some beautiful astro beats in ‘Placebo Reflect’. Part of South London hip-hop collective The Factory, the rapper’s soothing poetic flow is met perfectly with production from London-based beatmaker Wu-Lu (one half of producer-duo Monster Playground and upcoming collaborator with Andrew Ashong & Ego Ella May). If that wasn’t enough, indie ad agency Greta provide the slickest of visuals to enhance the laid-back vibe of the track. Make sure to keep it locked on all of these guys in the coming year.
2. Jesse James Solomon – Y.P.T
Ever since his 4-track EP Jesse from SE dropped back in September, Jesse James Solomon has rocketed to the forefront of UK hip-hop. In December he floated some murky visuals for ‘Lionel Jesse‘, followed by more of that sultry strain of rapping in January with the track ‘Y.P.T’ (You Playin’ Tho). Cruising over an eerie beat that swerves between Burial and Shlohmo (courtesy of London producers Kiran Kai, Felix Joseph and X¥Z), Jesse brings the smoothest spoken-word type flow to the genre.
3. Age Of L.U.N.A – Six Feet Deep
After featuring the unbelievably young collective Age Of L.U.N.A in our Ones To Watch in 2015 last month, it hasn’t been a long wait for the London-based four-piece to grab our attention again. Coming out in mid-January with some fresh visuals dropping just last week, new track ‘Six Feet Deep’ champions the more soulful side of UK hip-hop, melting a 90’s throwback beat (courtesy of 16-year-old producer NK-OK) with full-flavoured flows and vocals. Big things coming from this crew in 2015, keep it locked.
4. Crave Moore – Strawberry Mirinda
A long-time friend and collaborator with Jesse James Solomon, Crave Moore is yet another South London artist who killed it in January with his track ‘Strawberry Mirinda’. Named after the king of all chicken shop beverages, the song brings a more old-school flavour with rugged raps swinging over a laid-back instrumental. The track ends quite aptly with Crave ordering a BBQ chicken burger and a strawberry Mirinda on the phone – UK steez in a nutshell.
5. SumoChief – 1of1 (D’vo Remix Ft, Specs’ Spectacle Dariés Street-Soul & Rashid Gyasi)
Holding the title for best UK hip-hop video in January has to be D’vo‘s remix of SumoChief‘s ‘10f1‘. Coming together with Specs’ Spectacle and Rashid Gyas (two more members of South London hip-hop collective The Factory), the trio move from a chicken shop to the top deck of a London bus where some fly choreography accompanies soulful raps and tranquillising vocals. Weirdly enough the London iconography doesn’t stop there. The observant among you will spot the same soda pop that Crave Moore (see track above) loves so much. Hold tight for 2.16 when things get rawkus.
6. Onoe Caponoe – Disappearing Jakob
After signing with UK hip-hop powerhouse label High Focus last year, psychedelic London rapper Onoe Caponoe released his long awaited Voices From Planet Cattele at the tail-end of January. Entirely produced by Chemo and with an appearance from heavyweight Jehst, the 11-track LP is a true exercise in forward thinking hip-hop. On that MF Doom/Quasimoto comic-book tip, ‘Disappearing Jakob’ pulls Onoe’s sharp wit and a fluorescent vocabulary into a mysterious cartoon story about his elusive dealer. Check out the whole album here.
7. Jay Prince – 4U / Lately
Soulection‘s UK homeboy Jay Prince released his 9-track BeFor Our Time EP in January, getting a large amount of love from Soundcloud surfers all over the world. Alongside Little Simz, Jay does seem to be leading the way for UK hip-hop overseas with an almost Kendrick Lamar-ian tone to his voice and a choice cut selection of chilled-out beats. ‘4U / Lately’ is a stand out track from the new EP, marrying soft rhodes chords, ritzy flows and even some fuzzy vocals from the London rapper.
8. SpaceAge3000 – No Landing
Finally some talent from the north side of London! SpaceAge3000 is a collective made up of Little Simz, Chuck 20, Josh Arcé and Tilla Arcé. This month they released a 4-track EP called The Theory Of…, of which ‘No Landing’ was a real highlight. The track fuses warm vocals, bubbling soundscapes and splintered beats with Little Simz’s thunderous tongue effortlessly whipping up a storm of flows.
9. OthaSoul – Inna Child
More vibes from North London now, this time from Kentish Town-based trio OthaSoul. Spearheading a more boom-bap style of UK hip-hop with some definitive J Dilla undercurrents, ‘Inna Child’ brings some major head-nodding with soft rhode sounds and a tag-team approach to killing it on the beat with gritty flows.
10. The Four Owls – Think Twice
A collaboration from across the Atlantic brings together New York legend DJ Premier with High Focus supergroup The Four Owls (consisting of Fliptrix, Verb T, BVA and Leaf Dog). ‘Think Twice’ brings the same golden boom-bap production that Premo put behind the likes of Biggie and Jay-Z, with each of The Four Owls hooting wise sentiments and clever wordplay. Leaf Dog’s opening verse is a particular highlight, putting a UK stamp on that shrill intonation that’s synonymous with Danny Brown and ODB.