Forty-two years after “Rapper’s Delight” put hip-hop on the map, the art form is nothing short of dominant. America’s most consumed genre of music, when paired with R&B according to Nielsen, has shaped every corner of our culture, and in far more ways than you think. These days, the name of the game is inclusion, fusion and more diverse styles. From queer acts to artists representing Puerto Rico and Nigeria, it’s time to embrace a broad range of emerging hip-hop artists. Today’s Daily Dose delivers the sounds you need to know now.
Joshua Eferighe, Reporter
1. Lil Cherry & Goldbudda
Dominating the South Korean rap scene is the sibling duo Lil Cherry & Goldbudda, whose latest album, Chef Talk, will have you shouting Korean at the top of your lungs. Known for their outlandish music videos and mumble rap style — a hip-hop microgenre where the emphasis is on the melody and not, you know, whether you can actually hear the lyrics — this pair will open a rabbit hole for true music obsessives.
This Irish-born, Nigerian American singer-songwriter makes music for people who need to believe in themselves. She approaches every track with a sass and soul you can feel, wasting no time on filler. Feyi, 21, always wanted to record music, contrary to her strict lawyer and psychiatrist parents’ will, so she waited until high school when she started posting songs on SoundCloud. Feyi’s fan base grew from there, launching her into the spotlight. Her 2018 EP, Hello, My Name Is Feyi, caught the industry’s radar with her unique vocals, followed in 2019 by One of a Kind, further proof of her song-making ability.
Catalyna’s introduction to the world with the single “Mirame” — more than 4 million views to date — was a collaboration with reggaeton legend Yandel that accelerated her stride to stardom. The Moca, Puerto Rico, native would later sign with Yandel’s label, Y Entertainment. Influenced by Ivy Queen and Nicki Minaj, Catalyna’s sexual vulnerability and rebellious lyrics have attracted a cult following, and while she has yet to release a debut album, all signs point to it being a powerful one. Check out her latest single, “Ganas.”
4. Alvia Islandia
She calls herself the “bubblegum bitch” of rap: Her collective is called the Gum Gum Clan and Hubba Bubba sponsors her for an unlimited supply of gum, which she tosses into the crowds during her shows. Laugh if you will, but Islandia is no gimmick — she’s the “snow queen” of Iceland rap with a following that’s on the rise. Her EP Bubblegum Bitch made her a household name in her hometown of Reykjavík, and she’s put out energetic, bass-heavy singles like “Fuckd Up,” “Mjaw” and “CyberGum.” Now, with the arrival of her first single of the year, “Pistol Pony,” we get to see just how big a bubble she can blow.
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An openly gay rapper who started his career at 15, Kidd Kenn is representing Chicago. His freestyles “Gummo” and “Slide Remix”made him a viral SoundCloud success, garnering him the attention of major industry players like Kehlani and Queen Key. Kenn’s sound is in a lane of its own: His second full-length project, Child’s Play, reveals a lyrical talent and a penchant for making club songs.
2. Mama Duke
Small-town Palacios, Texas, native Kori Roy, 33, better known as Mama Duke to her fans, transcended the local music scene with her hip-hop debut, Ballsy. The project celebrates her queerness as well as everyday emotions: “Ghost” is an homage to all the people who didn’t believe in her come-up, and “Get Off My (Expletive)” describes what happens if you step on her imaginary, well, “member.” The former disc jockey and new wife may just be getting started, but she has plenty to say.
She’s not yet 21, but with songs that rival Cardi B’s “WAP,” LA hip-hop artist ppcocaine is already gunning for the title of filthiest rapper alive. “Ayy-ayy, tell lil’ shorty come here / I’m tryna blow her back out, walkin’ funny for the year,” goes the chorus to her single “3 Musketeers” — which refers to the number of b**ches the lesbian biracial teenager has on her. And that’s pretty much how all her songs go, with other self-explanatory tracks like “S.L.U.T.,” and “DDLG” that are not safe for work. With each video scoring well over 1 million views on TikTok and YouTube and a record deal with Columbia, she must be on to something.
4. Quay Dash
Thanks to her performances on the underground New York club scene, Quay Dash is one of the biggest trans rappers in the game. Her first independent release, Transphobic, made waves with its vibrant sounds and rare look into the experiences of a single Black trans girl from Chicago. As a former foster child who bounced from group home to group home, her bars serve as a voice of power for others in her situation.
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A rapper’s rapper who cares little about how many followers he has, Joël has spent the last year releasing the smoothest, cleanest string of freestyles you can imagine, with accompanying videos that have MTV production quality. They only rack up hundreds of views, but the Maryland native’s approach is showing signs of catching on: On Twitter, his videos have accrued hundreds of thousands of views and likes. It’s just a matter of time before other platforms take notice.
2. Brooklyn West
This Nassau, Bahamas, native mixes the reggaeton tones of her home country with R&B and hip-hop to produce a sound reminiscent of Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill and a hint of SZA. Listen to her 2017 EP R69M and you’ll hear a slow, more synth-heavy Brooklyn — a moody masterpiece. By contrast, her release from last year, Daydreaming About Luv, is much more upbeat and even has flashes of pop. If one thing is clear, it’s her ear for production and songwriting. She’s an artist who, after playing her music at a party, people turn around and ask, “Who is that?” — the greatest feeling ever.
The musical legacy that Otis Redding, Little Richard and Jason Aldean established in Macon, Georgia, is in good hands with up-and-comer Sabir. The producer turned rapper has been working the underground scene for over a decade with a purposeful message and ear-popping wordplay. He also lets real-life issues lead his pen. A longtime Kobe Bryant fan, he released a song titled “Exhaustion” after the NBA legend’s death, focusing on how the Black Mamba pushed himself to greatness. And “2020 Made Me” is his nod to the lessons learned last year, accompanied by an introspective video.
we introduced you first
You first read about this Snow Hill, North Carolina, native on OZY back in 2017, well before Rolling Stone called her studio album Eve “a masterpiece of hip-hop feminism.” Now the two-time Grammy nominee is turning up alongside rap royalty on the Judas and the Black Messiah soundtrack. The 38-year-old isn’t interested in being one of the best female rappers out there: She’s going for best rapper, period.
According to Grip, he’s “the best rapper they ain’t ever heard.” Although with placements in Madden NFL 20 (“100YD Dash”), HBO’s Euphoria (“911 [Clap for Em]”) as well as cosigns from hip-hop heavyweights like Premium Pete, it’s only a matter of time before “they” no longer exist. It’s easy becoming a fan: The 32-year-old father of two brings storytelling, winding flow and wordplay enough to, well, grip you. His latest mixtape, Proboscidea, and the four singles he’s released since are an excellent place to start.
Write, rap, shoot, upload and repeat: For a while, the process was Carter’s way to practice her craft, but also, as she told me, her shit sounded cool. The routine led to more than 100,000 views across various platforms, a local distribution deal and shoutouts from rap royalty like Missy Elliott and members of Kendrick Lamar’s label, TDE. Carter’s skill is rooted in her spoken-word roots. Her debut album, As I Am, is the full-circle culmination of her faith and persistence.
He carries a pen behind his ear, graduated with a biology degree from DePaul and uses equations to map out life problems. Here’s the kicker: He’s one of Chicago’s rising rap acts and potentially the next in line to blow. The son of Nigerian immigrants, Femdot knew he wanted to rap since age 6; it’s just that — and if you know Nigerians, you’ll understand — education was ingrained in him as well. Come to find out, he’s fantastic at both. Besides songs with established stars like Mick Jenkins, Smino and Saba, and working with Grammy Award–winning engineers, he started the Delacreme Scholars Initiative for Black students struggling financially.
When Baha Bank$ released “Shake Dat A$$” with Chance the Rapper last year, it was a surprise to everyone: the music industry, her friends — even her. Born Vivian Bolden, the Chicago native’s goal wasn’t to be a rapper. In fact, she was enrolled at Roosevelt University trying to finish her degree in biology and sustainability. But when her post of a freestyle challenge went viral, her friends pushed her to give it a real shot. Banks, who’s in her mid-20s, has yet to release a full project given she has less than a year under her belt, but given the buzz thus far, her record will be one to look for.