The ‘Golden Era’ of hiphop came around the mid-90s where seemingly even the most obscure rappers were releasing absolute fire on a regular basis. Well, it ain’t ’97 anymore.
The digitisation of music has created an environment where its easier than ever to get your music out there. The market has become saturated to the point where you must sift through a lot of mediocre music just to find that one unknown gem.
Digging in the crates has gone digital. There are more good quality independent and underground rappers around now than ever before, the tricky bit is finding them. Hopefully this list can help.
New York – Chris Rivers
Chris Rivers grew up in the Bronx NY. Youngest child of New York’s most legendary underground rappers ‘Big Pun’ who died in 2000 when Rivers was six.
Rivers debuted in 2011 on Cormega’s “Raw Forever” compilation but his first official release was the 2013 mixtape “Wonderland of Misery”. Stand out tracks include “Black Hearts” feat. Styles P & Whispers, and “Old Thing Back” feat. Lydia Caesar.
LA – Open Mike Eagle
Originally hailing from Chicago, Open Mike Eagle now resides in LA where he has helped to push the boundaries of the obscure ‘Art-Rap’ movement.
His first release came in 2007 as part of the group “Thirsty Fish” before releasing his first solo project “Unapologetic Art Rap” in 2010. In 2019 Mike co-hosted Comedy Central’s New Negroes with Baron Vaughn. Top tracks include “HSPTL” and “Why Pianos Break” feat. POS. Mike will be touring the UK in spring 2022.
UK – Trumendous
The UK isn’t short of amazing rappers, and Trumendous spits hard. Her flow is incredible for starters and her lyrics can be very ‘raw’. Basically, she doesn’t hold back and comes with some super hard bars that would leave more macho rappers smarting.
As a UK underground rapper, she is one of the current rising stars and worth checking out a few of her tunes. “O.T.Y.L” is one of her earlier tunes and a great example of her style.
Canada – Ghettosocks
Heading north of the border into Canada brings us to the Godfather of Nerdcore, Halifax Nova Scotia’s Juno nominated Ghettosocks.
His first album “Get Some Friends” landed in 2006 and was an instant hit. He subsequently founded the “Droppin’ Science Productions” label and has featured in several groups including TEENBURGER and the Backburner Collective. Tracks to look out for include “Out For Treats” and “Ballz in yo Stomach” feat. Pip-Skid & Timbuktu.
Originally from Croydon, Jman came up through the Plymouth Grime and D&B scene.
He showed potential from a very early age hosting N-Type at 15. In 2013 his first hiphop album “Auranography” was released on Greasy Vinyl which catapulted Jman into the UK hiphop scene. Since then, J has worked with the likes of Dr Syntax, DJ Vadim, and the Four Owls. Check out “Weed & Ale” feat. Dr Syntax & Eva Lazarus, and “ACAB” under the alias Babylon Dead.
Poland – O.S.T.R.
If you’re Polish and into hiphop then you may wonder what O.S.T.R. is doing on a list of unknown rappers but despite his national fame he has yet to make an impact among English speaking rap fans.
A classically trained musician he released his debut album “Saturator” in 2000, 16 solo albums and 6 collaborative albums later he is a mainstay at the top of the Polish album charts with a string of platinum releases. O.S.T.R. has collaborated with the who’s who of hiphop royalty from Jeru The Damaja to Marco Polo. Stand out tracks include “A.B.C” and “Spij Spokojnie”
NYC/California – Das Racist
Brilliant name, very clever rappers. Das Racist were a short lived band consisting of Heems and KOOL A.D, who pumped out two mix tapes and an album before disbanding – all within about two years. Their style though is very unique, with some incredible wordplay and witty lyrics. The duo also pop up on tunes with rap royalty including Danny Brown and Run The Jewels.
Heems has since gone on to work with Riz Ahmed as the ‘Swet Shop Boys’ and KOOL A.D is ridiculously prolific, dropping about 4 albums with 100 tunes each. Yup. Nuts.
UK – Pete & Bas
Joke or real deal? These geezers drop bars that would make people a quarter of their age envious. No joke.
Pete and Bas might not be underground rappers to some, but they’re a revelation if you’ve not heard them before. They have also paired with multiple UK grime superstars including M24 and Fumez the Engineer – and their verse on the Coldest Link Up 2 absolutely slayed the whole tune.
I’m not going to tell you too much about them other than to say that if you’ve never heard of them, check this video out…
NYC/Boston – Czarface
Although they’re made up of Wu-Tang heavyweight Inspektah Deck and scene stalwarts 7L and Esoteric, Czarface are still very much underground rappers. They’ve even partnered with the late great MF DOOM (or just DOOM) and have released about 12 albums and EPs.
With a comic book theme, the music is packed full of superhero references. It’s hard to find an entry point for Czarface because every album is a banger – but ‘Bombs Thrown’ is a great tune featuring MF DOOM. Or jump in to ‘Every Hero Needs a Villain’.
What’s the word?
So that is our take on the best underground rappers out there right now. What do you think? Let us know any of your suggestions for the best unknown and independent rappers and we’ll check ’em out… They might even make it onto this list.