Best of British: 15 Acts to Look Out For in 2018

by Mike Spyrou, Dec 29, 2017

Sharing some of the best up'n'comers in urban British music for 2018

It’s no secret that the UK Urban music scene is absolutely booming right now, with tons of previously niche genres and subgenres blowing up over the last 3 to 5 years. 2017, in particular, saw many urban British artists selling out tours across the pond when in previous years they might have struggled to fill a venue in their home country.

We’ve had a myriad of urban British music to feast our ears on; from the Grime Renaissance pushing up artists like Bugzy Malone, Capo Lee, Mez, AJ Tracey and Stormzy (whom I tend to argue would suit the label UK rapper far more than grime MC), to the UK Drill scene with music from the likes Section Boyz, Harlam Spartans, Zone 2, Outno Nation, and 67.

Then there's UK Rap which has seen the likes of Giggs collaborating with Drake and Nines being signed to a major record label (XL Recordings), plus the development of the Afrotrap/AfroSwing genre headed by people like J Hus, Mo Stack and Notes. In short, 2017 was pretty huge for the UK urban scene.

To kick off 2018, however, I will introduce a couple of artists from the often overlooked genre known as UK HipHop:

Coops

Hailing from Hackney, North East London, Coops is perhaps one of the lesser known rappers in the UK. However if hip-hop is your kind of thing, Coops is one of the smoothest British rappers to grace the mic. His boom bap style is clearly influenced by many of the great classic hip-hop albums, and you will find a lot of this sampling in his melodic instrumentation.

He has two projects to his name thus far, the mixtape Lost Soul and the album God Complex, and has featured on tracks with some of the biggest names in UK rap such as Benny Banks, and Black the Ripper. Still relatively young and early in his career, and having just signed to Brighton-based UK hip-hop label, High Focus, previously home to Rag N Bone, it will be interesting to see what his new his new musical surroundings will bring.

Ocean Wisdom

 

Another High Focus resident and Brighton local, Ocean Wisdom has one of the hottest flows you will hear from any rapper, period. He’s a very talented lyricist with an extremely good ear for a beat, thus, his debut album Chaos 93 which was released in 2016, was an excellent body of music.

After a relatively quiet year, Ocean debuted a new track “Eye Contact”. Recently, grime scene legend Dizzee Rascal met up with Ocean and went as far as stating that Ocean is “one of the best rappers this country has ever birthed,”. GRM Daily caught up with Ocean for an in depth interview in which he revealed that he is planning on dropping a new album in 2018 entitled Wizville.

PK

 

Up there with the likes of AJ Tracey and Novelist, North London representer PK AKA the BadHombre AKA Camden Lad AKA King Yosho is, for me, by far one of the greaziest MCs the contemporary grime scene has to offer. In addition to his success with collective YGG, featuring Saint P and Lyrical Strally bringing the KOFF-E, PK also has a number of fire features, and freestyles on radio and youtube.

PK’s innovative and unique style clearly takes some inspiration from bashment and afro swing, but his equally original lyrical content is reminiscent of the golden era of grime. Off the back of YGG’s debut project The World Domination EP, 2018 looks like it will be a year where PK and his compadres really break through the UK scene.

Casisdead

Hailing from Tottenham, North London, Casisdead, formerly known as Castro Saint, is one of the most underappreciated UK artists out there. Although his content may not be (read: definitely isn't) for the whole family, he is easily one of the most talented lyricists the UK has had to offer, but more impressive than his bars, is his musical repertoire. For someone who started out in the early grime scene, the progression from Castro to Casisdead is truly something to behold. He has made tracks with the likes of Giggs, JME, Merky Ace, Professor Green, Faze Miyake, and is extremely highly regarded within the industry.

His debut album, The Number 23, was released in 2014 and is cover to cover a fantastic body of work. This year he has released two tracks entitled “The Code” and “The Grid”, and in 2016 released “Before This” and “The Weekend” with The XXIII (NSFW), however we haven’t had a full project from Cas since his 80s themed mixtape Commercial 2, which was released exclusively on tape cassette. So, fingers crossed, 2018 will see the release of more music from Casisdead, and hopefully, if we're lucky, maybe even a full project.

Eyez

After the London grime collectives reached their pinnacles in the early 2000s, the sound of grime began to spread across the rest of England. It has been especially prominent in places like Birmingham and Manchester. However, one of the hardest in the new generation of MCs hails from Derby, and his name is Eyez.

Again, for me Eyez is at the forefront of the contemporary grime scene with people like Novelist and AJ Tracey. He has a string of insane freestyles, especially for JDZ media, and famously captained the Derby side to victory in the Red Bull 2016 Grime-a-side competition. I believe there is a lot more to come from this top lyricist, so keep an eye out for Eyez.

Big Zuu

Big Zuu is part of West London’s MTP collective, also the home of MCs AJ Tracey, ETS, and Wax. He's been a name in the scene for a while now, hosting his own programme The Joints Show on Radar Radio. Lyrically, his is up there with the greats, but when Big Zuu really gets going, his flow almost always gets a reload, shutting down raves with his huge energy. His debut project Big Zuu EP, was an extremely impressive record, one of the finest I’ve heard in a while. Looking forward, it will be tough for him to build on such a great mixtape but I believe Zuu has more than what it takes to make 2018 another successful year. 

J Hus

One of the hottest talents in the UK, the rapping singer songwriter from Newham, South East London, J Hus, wowed us with his smashing debut album Common Sense. He is a heavily courted talent and has collaborated with a huge line up of stellar UK artists, which include Nines, Dave, Mo Stack, Mist, Stormzy and most recently Krept and Konan.

An absolute mogul in his field, J Hus leads the way, pushing the boundaries of UK music with his exceptionally tasteful and unique blend of afroswing, R&B, and hip-hop. Some of his hit tracks include “Lean and Bop”, and “Did you see” which debuted at no 9 on the UK charts. Let's hope there's a lot more to come from the hustla in the coming year.

Dave

The mercurial young talent from Streatham, South London, Dave (FKA Santandave) burst through onto the scene in 2015 off the back of a few killer freestyles, notably his appearances on Bl@ckBox and SBTV’s Warm UP sessions, releasing one of his earliest tracks “JKYL+HYD” at the start of 2016 on the same channel.

Santan has delivered two mixtapes; Game Over EP and Six Paths EP thus far. His hit singles include "No Words", "Samantha", "Wanna Know", and "Thiago Silva", which themselves display his variety of flows and myriad of sounds, making the youngster on of the most diverse, original, and musically rich artists in the contemporary Urban UK music scene. For someone so young we expect there is still a lot to come, and with 2018 round the corner we're all expect more of the same from such a brilliant burgeoning talent.

Berna

Berna burst onto the scene with a Bl@ckBox freestyle, similar to the way Dave broke through. Originally from Stratford, East London, the young Essex representer is one of the most exciting prospects in British music. With an intense flow, and fine lyrical ability Berna is a full package, and is still very much in the early days of his career.

Although he doesn't have much content out as of yet, he has shut down every freestyle he’s done, proving he’s a certified problem. Berna is a versatile MC, able to spit over grime as well as drill and other kinds of instrumentals. Still yet to drop a full project, 2018 could very well be the year we see a full-length release from this talented young rapper. 

Novelist

Lewisham’s Novelist has been big in the grime scene for a while now. One of the hottest names when it comes to New Gen MCs, Novelist brings sick flows, bars, and an enrapturing energy and vibe. Although he’s been about for a little while now, he perhaps has not yet reached the heights he is capable of. He strikes me as someone who maintains a hunger in their belly so I’m sure there is still a hell of a lot more to come from this young grime artist. Yet to drop a full project, Nov will certi be making movements in 2018, so keep track. 

Faze Miyake

In the past two to three years, the talented artist from East London has really established himself as a leading producer in the contemporary urban British music scene with a very unique sound. He has worked with the likes of Reeko Squeeze, Merky Ace, AJ Tracey, Capo Lee, Casisdead and Belly Squad. He’s a grafter, having put out 3 projects, Evo EP, N.O.T. EP and Infamous EP in only the last 12 months.

The Evo EP is an especially interesting project as Faze makes his debut on the mic for the first time for the fans. If his 2018 is anything like the year previous, we will be happy to welcome a shed load of new music from one of the most talented artists in the contemporary urban British music landscape.

808ink

Another act to watch next year is alternative hip-hop duo 808ink from South London. 808Ink are very much in their own lane when it comes to the distinct sound of their music, blending a variety of musical sounds and inspirations. The duo consists of producer 808Chalmer and rapper Mumblez Black Ink. With two projects to their name, Billy’s Home released in 2015, and Hungry in 2016, they spent 2017 touring, not releasing much content other than the single “Flexing”, which could indicate a busy year to come from the duo. Without a solid sonic blueprint, who knows where 2018 could take 808ink. 

Jesse James Solomon

Hailing from Woolwich, South London, is rapper Jesse James Solomon who brings sick lyricism and innovative flows over a variety of interesting and alternative hip-hop instrumentation. He has only currently produced two projects, Jesse From SE in 2014, and The Ride Home in 2015. This year he added the tracks “City Lights”, “Barriers”, “I Hope You Knew” , “Son of the Ends” featuring Suspect, and “Routes”.

His frequently-used chilled, mellow, and dark sounding instrumentals and melodramatic bars portray some of the less exposed experiences of inner city London life making for an extremely original sound to his work. With him being reasonably quiet recently, hopefully he’s been grafting on some music to release next year.

Reeko Squeeze

Hailing from Lewisham, South London’s Reeko Squeeze is one of the biggest names in the UK drill scene, the genre for which the area is famous for. With a great ear for a beat, as well as catchy flow, Reeko has 3 projects to his name thus far, one every year since 2015.

He has frequently collaborated with other UK artists, with some of his biggest track mates including 67, DonaeO, AJ Tracey, Capo Lee and Youngs Teflon. The majority of his music is produced by serial hitmaker Carns Hill, who, in his own right, deserves massive credit as a key component of the UK drill scene. Reeko is still a very young artist with huge potential, so keep a tab on him in this coming year.

Polonis

For those of you that don’t know, Polonis is the 19-year-old Scottish grime production maestro with a touch of gold. His refix of the infamous classic Ghetto Kyote instrumental, for me stands on its own as one of the greatest grime beats, period. He has worked with an ever-growing list of MCs varying from Glasgow’s Chrissy Grimez (“Slice Roll”) to London firebrands YGG (“Fruit Salad”, “Grinding”).

He also founded Evilset, a collective of like-minded DJs, alongside MJK and Hermz; he soundtracked a round of Red Bull’s Grime-a-Side; and released the star-studded Beat Roots mixtape alongside Rapture 4D, which features appearances from Manga, Discarda, Capo Lee and more. The year ahead looks very promising.

Other British acts you should check out if you haven’t: Iamddb, Lyrical Strally and Saint P (of YGG), Faultsz, Slowthai, Rejie Snow, Loyle Carner, Dirty Dyke, The Four Owls, House of Pharaohs, and Vibbar.   

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