With the steadily increasing cross-pollination of subcultures, the potential for independent musicians to find breakthrough success has risen as well. In rap’s case, viral sensations like Lil B, Tyler, The Creator, and Kreayshawn have been reeling in audiences who would otherwise pay no attention to what’s happening in the hip-hop realm. But the greater the success garnered by breakthrough acts, the larger the shadow they cast over lesser-known projects.
I put this list together to give exposure to a handful of newer rap projects that I feel aren’t getting the attention they deserve. Keep in mind that I’m specifically focusing on acts that have come into fruition over the past few years, and am skimming over acts we’ve covered on SSG Music extensively. For sake of cohesiveness, I’m excluding producers/beatmakers who don’t rap. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section at the bottom.
I. DEATH GRIPS
Death Grips are easily one the most original projects coming up in the rap world right now. Consisting of founding producer Flatlander, co-producer Info Warrior, math-drumming juggernaut Zach Hill (of Hella and about 20 other bands), ultra-intense forefront MC Ride, and additional vocalist Mexican Girl, Death Grips are a monstrous fusion of rap, rock, and electronic, which is then tossed into a blender along with a grenade or two. The only way to really understand what I’m talking about is to watch their videos or stream/download their free mixtape, Exmilitary.
II. MAIN ATTRAKIONZ
Part of the consistently great Green Ova collective, Oakland’s Main Attrakionz are a young duo consisting of Squadda B and Mondre M.A.N. Rapping over chopped up, bass-infused pop song warps, you can feel a sincerity in their lyrics that is often lost amongst rappers, young and old. Although they produce most of their own songs, they’ve also frequently employed the talents of buzzworthy producer Clams Casino. Last month Mondre M.A.N. released his latest album, MondreHott (free download), and in June, Attrakionz collaborated with folk-rock band Infantree on the laid back single “Power”:
III. NOBODY REALLY KNOWS
Hailing from the opposite side of the U.S. is another up-and-coming rap collective. Atlanta’s Nobody Really Knows (possibly inspired by N.E.R.D) are an extremely talented group of 10 young rappers and producers who aren’t afraid to step outside of traditional rap boundaries. Their most recent release, Alone in His Meadow Garden (free download), is a concept album by Tyler Major which will likely please fans of J Dilla, Quasimoto, and Outkast. NRK are also loosely connected to OFWGKTA through Hal Williams (aka Pyramid Vritra), who’s also one half of OFWGKTA’s grossly underrated The Jet Age of Tomorrow / The Super 3.
IV. ASAP ROCKY
Although it may at first seem like Harlem’s ASAP Rocky based his moniker off of Aesop Rock, the resemblance is purely coincidental. “ASAP” stands for “Accumulate Status And Power” and “Rocky” is a nickname derived from his given name, Rakim (a tough one to live up to in the rap game). After causing quite a stir with his screw-homage “Purple Swag” (produced by Clams Casino), Rocky’s latest mixtape, LiveLoveA$AP, should be out sometime this month. He’s also making an appearance on fellow Harlemite Smoke DZA‘s upcoming Rolling Stoned album.
Whether he’s the scientist, the monster, or a little bit of both, 17 year-old producer-rapper Frankenstein‘s moniker seems to fit his rap identity perfectly. His clever lyrics are tough but nerdy, poking fun at other rappers while also referencing things like Harry Potter, Ed, Edd, and Eddy, and Regular Show. Frankenstein also frequently praises featured ‘superior rapper’ Mitchgonenorth—who is actually his heavily slurred alter ego. He hails from L.A., home of Odd Future, but is clearly no OFWGKTA wannabe (as he puts it: “Don’t nobody want another Tyler, the Creator”). His debut mixtape, rappin’ ass nigga, is freely available through his tumblr (as well as a screwed version).
Upon initial encounter, many will dismiss 20 year old Perrion as a Tyler, The Creator ripoff; especially when watching his video for “Seamless”. But if you dig a little deeper, and listen to the rest of his latest mixtape, Le Bourgeon (free download here), you’ll find that he’s no biter. Based in New York City, Perrion’s flows and beats show a much stronger classic hip-hop sensibility than similar young acts. And while he cites Odd Future as influential (along with Pharrell and Kanye), he makes it clear that he’s been skating and making music since well before the success of Tyler, et al. He and his brother, Microphone Preview, are the founding force behind H.O.M.E. (High Off Music Entertainment) with a current roster 13-deep.
Over the past year, 19 year old Miami producer-rapper Spaceghostpurrp (aka SPVCXGHXZTPVRRP / Muney Jordan) has been becoming an underground Internet sensation. With over 100 YouTube uploads showcasing his talent, all he needed was the right spark. And once Odd Future DJ Syd tha Kyd started playing Spaceghostpurrp tracks at shows, there was no turning back. Like ASAP Rocky, Spaceghostpurrp’s music (and even the name) pays tribute to the screw scene. Jordan also frequently lends his beats to other rappers, such as Main Attrakionz and his friend Kreayshawn. Spaceghostpurrp’s upcoming mixtape, Trilluminati, features Odd Future affiliates Michael Uzowuru and SPEAK! (self-proclaimed “34th Best Rapper Alive”):
VIII. METRO ZU
Also on the come up in Miami are Metro Zu, a group of young musicians whose song titles reveal a lot about their style and outlook: “LSD Swag” and “Bong In The BakPak” are just a few selections from their already-extensive catalog. But while many other ‘stoner rappers’ sometimes come across as gimmicky, Metro Zu’s output always seems genuinely rooted in their day-to-day lives. Whether they’re rhyming over bass-infused chiptunes, classic R&B samples, or broken down disco, you can tell that they love what they do regardless of what anyone else thinks. Last month, they released their latest mixtape, CSPG (which stands for “Cokey Shores Posh Gang”).
IX. ANGEL HAZE
Like many others mentioned here, 20-year old female emcee Angel Haze is based out of L.A. and has been rapping for a few years now. After an impressive performance opening for a sold out Trae tha Truth show in New York, Haze’s YouTube raps and freestyles started generating a lot more buzz. Her output comes across as a more honest, thoughtful alternative to the likes of Nicki Minaj (whose songs Haze has rapped over). Last month, she released her third mixtape, King (fully streamable on bandcamp), where she flows viciously over popular instrumentals. Her debut LP, Men, Women, & Clocks, is set to be released later this year.
X. METAL CHOCOLATES
Continuing to keep Seattle’s alternative rap scene ablaze are Metal Chocolates, who released their self-titled debut earlier this year. The duo—Rik Rude (of Fresh Espresso) and OC Notes—are an excellent addition to our local cosmic avant-rap scene (a la Shabazz Palaces and THEESatisfaction). For live performances, Metal Chocolates sometimes become a genuine supergroup, calling upon allies Chocolate Chuck and Trent Moorman. At the end of this month, Metal Chocolates will be playing “The Emerald City Sequence” at the Nectar Lounge along with Chocolate Chuck.