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For a number of years now, London hip-hop has been growing inside its own bubble.
We say bubble, because within London’s boundaries it seems that everyone is conscious of the capital’s hip-hop scene – yet those outside are strangely unaware. If we take the time to trace our fingers on a map of England and lead our eyesight further inland, away from the rushing hype of the city, and its reflexive knowledge of its talent, it’s unsettling to look at these names and to realise that their following hasn’t stuck with them entirely in their journey across the country.
Though the scene is more closely knit in some areas of London than others (most prominently West London, and the South East), videographers like those at LOUDHOUSE have really provided a solid platform for previously anonymous London rappers. By bringing numerous, like-minded creatives together for cyphers, freestyles, and music videos, and shooting behind the scenes footage, LOUDHOUSE has been pivotal in raising London’s hip-hop to the pedestal that it has sought. It’s gained immense popularity in the capital and the rest of the UK in 2017, and British hip-hop artists have jumped on board.
Boiler Room’s recent all inclusive Low Heat series in January also recognised the importance of hip-hop organically sourced from the UK. The lineups have included at least one prominent rap artist from London, providing them with something hugely relevant following the growing success of UK hip-hop at the end of 2017. Radar Radio got stuck in over the last year too, with numerous independent collectives and artists being given airtime to show the world their music.
Why then, does this bubble still exist? UK music has been enjoying widespread acclaim internationally: from jungle, to garage, to dubstep, and of course, most recently in full effect – grime. What is so different about UK rap? Perhaps its age is a factor. Although hip-hop has existed for decades, the prominence of UK rap has really been tied to the internet, and with music this contemporary, some seem to believe that the genre needs to time to ponder over its own sound.
Here at Keep Hush, none of this matters: output is fierce and abundant, and although there’s a slight partition between the more conscious, slower lo-fi sounds, and the faster, bolder, trap-influenced tunes, UK rap remains united in support and respect. We hope this is the year that the bubble bursts.
Kish! first got our attention on Yxng Jynn’s track Ken$hi where both South London rappers go back and forth, swapping Mortal Kombat references. Since then, he’s proved that he’s a not-so-nice MC to fuck with, and he’s made no decisions to hinder his rise upward. Making rough, gritty, and even tongue-in-cheek trap with his collective PXC, Kish! released his EP Flagrant Death in 2017, and went on to play shows with the likes of Lord Apex, Jetsss, and even performed at Boiler Room’s first Low Heat in January this year. Unapologetic, untamed, and universal, London’s Kish! (or maybe more aptly Captain Heartbreak) will only keep growing, just keep an eye out before you miss it. And if not, well who cares, because first off: he don’t like you.
Don Feeble Jr
Part of lo-hop records, Don Feeble Jr’s had demos and odd recordings floating around on the internet for a number of years now. Last year, she blessed us with a unmatchable LOUDHOUSE freestyle over the smoothest, DOOM-esque beat, and as we bump the video more and more, it’s become clearer to us that her effortless lyricism is just one reason why she deserves all the acclaim that’s possible. Last year’s darkening political climate proved even further how sharp her mind is, and while her vocabulary can document her musings over “billing in the spilling sun”, she can be as polemic and politically charged as she wants to be. With her flow so casual, wordplay so natural, Don Feeble Jr is here to stay.
A frequent collaborator with south London rappers, Bristol-based Matavelli is one of the most consistent hip-hop producers on our island, putting together a hybrid of lo-fi’s subtle smoothness, and trap’s brash, dissonance. Though he usually shares his beats to collaborate with the harsher, more vicious rappers of the scene, Matavelli’s understanding of melodies and synths, sits warmly against the brutish vocals dubbed over it.
Part of the collective House of Pharoahs, Sam Wise played Low Heat 003 along with Radar Radio’s Martha in January. The quick response he got to many of his tunes was pretty striking, but we’re most excited to see what Wise has got in store for us as the year goes on. So far he’s released the House of Pharoahs single ‘Snatch’, and from videos lurking on Instagram, it seems like a collaboration with Night Slugs’ Sweyn Jupiter is very, very possible. While he’s made more commercial, accessible singles like ‘Lizzie’, Wise is always striving for the most, and he switches on full hype mode when he wants to.
There’s something really vicious about Flohio and her tunes, but here at Keep Hush, we’re most affected by the absolute brashness in her voice. There’s no Flohio bar or clip that doesn’t prove she’s a complete menace: her mic is her weapon and it’s aimed at everyone opposed to her. Her output includes more traditional tunes like ‘GOD COLONY’, and dissonant, harsher singles like ‘Dirt’, which got picked up by Noisey early last year. 2017 confirmed Flohio’s versatility with her feature on L-Vis 1990’s ‘Yeah Yeah’. Despite her accessibility, Flohio is not around to keep it simple, and not around to make trash, and her COLORS video says exactly that.
CLBRKS (pronounced C-L-Brooks) from SE1 has no time for you if you ain’t riding his wave. The lanky, spectacled, comic rapper from Borough has been making tunes, putting ’em out, and before you even get the chance to bump it, he’s made another set of tunes for your listening pleasure. Strikingly (to bounce off his frequent output) over the years, CL’s voice has grown more and more animated, with wavering diction, yet the allure of his voice is uncanny. How do you recognise a CLBRKS tune? Because he makes you recognise it, because CL does it his way and his way only, and all he can say is a big fuck you if you don’t understand. Collaborating with MCs from all over the block like Lord Apex, CapriiSun from the USA, and releasing an entire tape with SE producer Kiina, CLBRKS has always had his time coming. Let’s make this year the one that pops.
Kai Jones made serious waves at our hip-hop cypher with IAM. A lady of many talents, her tracks showcase her effortless delivery as she seamlessly switches up her hard, conscious boom bap flow, to the beautiful, beatific R&B vocals that she’s mastered so well. However, Kai Jones doesn’t confine herself to this restricting bracket, and her latest venture with SBTV boasts three different tracks, vibes, and visual projects in one video. She adopts silky vocals for the soulful, nostalgic, black and white footage; alludes back to her influences from the 90s in the middle; and finishes the music video on her finest form of braggartism as she unleashes her might on the trappier tune of the project. All her past projects are available for free download, and given the fact that she’s been honest in her work since 2013, we’re hoping that Kai Jones now gets the hype that she’s been working towards for half a decade.
Hailing from out of London – in the sluggier suburbs of his university town of Guildford – looms.‘ (or even ‘languid looms.’) progress over the last 3 years has been irrefutable. Along with his creative counterpart nine.two on the Roland SP, looms.’ grasp of the English language is something far too special to be ignored. His thick British accent, his honey-like delivery, and the infinite synonyms that escape from his tongue into the microphone are not to be taken lightly, looms. after all is “one of the most talented wordsmiths” we’ve ever heard. Maintaining a stark darkness in response to life’s bleakness, while appreciating every aspect of beauty that the world throws at him, looms. is no doubt a Romantic, standing upright within the whirlwind which follows him. This year points to the release of his debut tape mar.
Slightly manic, with instrumentals that belong somewhere in a sci-fi institution, and a style that alludes to rap from a Memphis of the future, High Focus Records’ Onoe Caponoe is one of London’s finest rappers. With a technique that’s masterful, a completely irreverent flow, grotesque music videos, and a fine ear for singling out beats he’s going to cause havoc over, Onoe’s success has remained organic over the past years. Though he remains underground, his weird, witty, but darkly comic persona is simply inescapable. Endearing, and growing more and more fascinating, Onoe Caponoe knows exactly what he’s doing. With the velocity he’s going at now, there are no signs of him putting on the brakes.
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– Written by Saagar Kaushik, @saagark –
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