In a whirlwind of unhinged billionaires buying social media apps, wars breaking out all over the world, and escalating climate change exacerbating our impending doom, looking for new music is understandably the last thing on most people’s minds. Purchasable placements on music metric charts, finicky algorithms, and label-run digital streaming platforms can make artists believe that there’s no way to be heard in such an oversaturated market. Especially in the most popular genre in the world right now, hip-hop.
Fortunately, some of us do have the luxury of making crate-digging a part of our everyday lives. And there’s nothing we love more than to share our findings with you. So we carefully curated a list of 10 underrated independent rappers whose music engulfs you in a sonic sunbath that first melts you in blistering bars and then cools you through their mellowing melodies.
You can check out the list below. Enjoy!
Reigning from Minneapolis, Ricki Monique‘s fluid streams of consciousness are packaged in perfectly-produced beats. Her introspective “IMMORTAL” featuring yourbeautifulruin found its way to me and it’s been on repeat ever since. On the track, she relatably relays, “Only want me when I’m / Finished and polished / Shit on my eyelids / Contour on my cheekbones / In fabrics you call stylish.” In Ricki Monique’s catalog, she eloquently expresses feelings of insecurity, words of encouragement, and moments of enlightenment in such empathetic form; once you lend your ears to her attention, you’ll have no choice but to support her, too.
Baton Rouge’s quickly-rising Wakai is solidifying his place as one of the most prolific and well-rounded rappers in the game right now. His creative vision is so potent that it manages to shine through everything he does. The rapper’s captivating cadence and masterful ability to meld with a wide scope of collaborators are unparalleled. Whether he’s making music, creating clothes, or even producing some of his own beats, his fervor for his art is palpable through the play button.
Maryland’s Malik Elijah has a wildly infectious energy that draws you to him. While his silly social media disposition might make it seem like he doesn’t take himself too seriously, once you run through his catalog, you’ll understand it’s the complete opposite. The rapper is tapped in with some of the best underground beatmakers, which effectively elevates his sound and really sets him apart from everyone else in the scene.
When Angeleno trio grouptherapy. dropped their latest studio album, Truth Be Told, it was up against some of the biggest rap records of the year. But there’s a reason that didn’t stop the buzz around the record. SWIM, TJOnline, and Jadagrace translate their visual storytelling (did you know they were all former child stars) into benevolent bars, giving listeners a sense of who they are off-screen.
DijahSB is nothing short of raw. Whether that means they’re spitting facts in their rhymes or even on Twitter, what you see is what you get with the Toronto rapper. Wrapping every emotion in a time capsule, Dijah doesn’t shy away from sharing their experiences dealing with growing up without money, coming out as non-binary, or their struggles with mental health. But they also come with an optimistic outlook on life, reminding others that you can still shine through life’s darkest moments.
You might not have heard of Middletown, Ohio, but multi-faceted musician Hakuna Bruv is about to put the below 50-thousand habitants city on the map through his art. It’s hard to pin down exactly what he does since he hops around genres so often, but songs like “kicks off.wav” and “BLU MONDAY” earned him a rightly-deserved spot on this list. If you’re like me, and you like a little bit of everything, Hakuna Bruv will hit the spot.
When Ivy Sole (who goes by she/they) dropped Candid three months ago, it was all I could listen to. The 13-track project has everything you want in a record—from hard-hitting heaters to calmative comfort songs. She’s an artist who knows no bounds and is able to experiment with different sounds while still making a cohesive album that’s completely them. Grabbing inspiration from r&b, soul, and funk, Ivy Sole’s modern take on vintage melodies makes you feel right at home.
Louisiana isn’t failing to bring us incredible talent, and coincidentally, its capital of Baton Rouge delivers a second artist on this list with JIREH. The artist just dropped the first single off his forthcoming album, “BAD GRASS,” via tastemaker label and curator platform, Better Off Silent. The jazz-influenced beat in juxtaposition to the rapper’s tough bars hooked us instantly, so we’re hyped to see range of the full project.
While Atlanta is the home of a plethora of hip-hop legends, MARCO PLUS holds his own with his lush flow and introspective narration, all topped off with incredibly precise production. We recommend that you dig into his whole discography, but one thing that’s really capturing everyone’s attention is his highly-lauded feature on Wakai’s recently released “Silhouette.” Fans, critics, and even other rappers are preemptively hailing the verse as the best feature of the year.
I first learned about Haviah Mighty through her “Pull Up” collaboration with Keys N Krates on their newest album, Original Classic. But once I actually spent time in her solo catalog, I was gassed to find another dope woman in rap. Boasting a vigorous voice and a fierce flow, her brutal bars hit like a fatal blow to the head, making you wonder just how you could have missed her. While the Toronto native is powerful, the production on her tracks brings a unique balance to her sound, injecting intricate instrumentality that makes it easy to listen to at any hour of the day.