U.K. SPECIAL: HIP-HOP ACTS TO WATCH


In the final piece of our U.K. special, Rhian Jones takes a look at some British hip-hop acts to keep an eye on. Click on each artist's name or photo to learn more.



UMG U.K. ACTS

Clavish: There’s no doubt 2023 has been a breakthrough year. It began with hitting #4 with his widely praised album debut, Rap Game Awful, and was followed by a sold-out eight-date tour that included two shows in London and a #8 hit with D-Block Europe, “Pakistan.”

Stormzy
: If there’s a leader of the recent wave of U.K. rap stars, it’s Stormzy. He’s enjoyed three U.K. #1 albums and was the first Black British solo artist to headline Glastonbury. His star has risen beyond the U.K., meanwhile, for alliances with Jay-Z, Adele, Billie Eilish and Burna Boy.


SONY U.K. ACTS

J Hus
: With two U.K. #1 albums to his name and a #6 debut, J Hus is up there with the most successful acts in British rap. He’s collaborated with Drake (on “Who Told You,” which hit #2 in the U.K. in June), has four BRIT-certified gold and eight silver singles and has tallied a total of 2.2b+ streams to date.

Headie One
: Was among the figureheads of the U.K. drill scene, which emerged in 2019 thanks in part to his #6 single “18HUNNA” f/Dave. He subsequently tallied four more Top 10 singles and hit #1 with his 2020 debut album, Edna (named for his mother, who died when he was three). This year, Headie reached #5 on the U.K. album chart with Strength to Strength.



WMG U.K. ACTS


Knucks
: The rapper released his debut album, ALPHA PLACE, last year. It hit #3 on the U.K.’s Official Albums Chart and was praised by Clash for its “immaculate self-production and refined wordplay” and credited with “raising the bar for U.K. rap.” Since then, Knucks has begun working with ADA (following two EPs, a mixtape and a short-lived deal with Island Records).

Youngs Teflon: The South London rapper is a new signing for Atlantic U.K. who’s been “delivering underground heat for a while now,” according to the label’s EVP and president of Black Music, Austin Daboh, who calls him “your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper.” He began amassing his sizeable catalog in 2009, which includes 16 albums (among them Purple Hearts, which hit the Top 40), and countless singles.



INDIE U.K. ACTS

Digga
D
: Having scored four Top 20 albums and a string of Top 20 singles, Digga D is a leading light of the hugely successful independent British hip-hop scene. His latest set, Back to Square One— released on his own Black Money Records and licensed by EGA—reached #6 in the U.K. in September. It followed 2022’s #1 Noughty by Nature.

Little Simz: A household name in the U.K., Little Simz staked her claim to the mainstream over the better part of the last decade. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, her 2021 album and third set on AWAL, rose to #4. It won the Mercury Prize and inspired a BRIT Award for Best New Artist. The critically acclaimed artist is also the recipient of two Ivor Novellos and a pair of AIM Awards.

Ceechynaa: Despite having only two tracks to her name, she is already attracting keen interest from labels on both sides of the Atlantic. The 19-year-old rapper burst onto the scene late last year with her self-released track “Legal Baby,” which has since tallied over 1.3m streams on Spotify.

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