The following recommendations come from David Owolabi, a lifestyle section reporter. These are not reflective of the publication as a whole.
Social distancing has left us with more alone time on our hands than usual, so now is as good a time as any to explore new music. The British rap scene is filled with exciting artists and continues to grow every day, so this week for The Brown and White Playlist, we’ve prepared a 10-song introduction to rap from England. Happy (digital) crate digging.
Title: “Praise The Lord (Da Shine)”
Artist: A$AP Rocky ft. Skepta
Released: May 25, 2018
“Praise The Lord (Da Shine)” is an 808 heavy track featuring some of Rocky’s best bars in recent memory, but what makes this song so great is how well Skepta and Rocky play off of one another.
In the next few years, expect collaborations like this to introduce more British MC’s to American audiences.
Title: “Behind Barz-Bonus”
Album: “Top Boy (A Selection of Music Inspired by the Series)”
Released: Sept. 13, 2019
The tide in American rap is shifting. If you need proof, look no further than the man himself — Drake, Drizzy or 6 God, if you prefer.
No one is sure exactly when it happened, but a few years ago the Canadian-born Drake decided he was part British, or he at least started rapping like he is. For anyone interested in listening to more Drake in a British accent, check out “War” on YouTube.
Artist: AJ Tracey & Aitch
Released: March 5, 2020
“Rain” is a relatively new song by British rappers Aitch and Aj Tracey, with a beat courtesy of star American producer Tay Keith. In “Rain,” Aitch and Aj Tracey take turns flowing crazy over Tay Keith’s energetic beat.
Title: “Greaze Mode”
Artist: Skepta ft. Nafe Smallz
Album: “Ignorance is Bliss”
Released: May 31, 2019
Greaze Mode comes from Skepta’s 2019 project “Ignorance is Bliss.” It’s a high-energy and aggressive track that’s anchored by Skepta’s distinctive style. Check it out.
Artist: Dave ft. Burna Boy
Released: March 8, 2019
“Location” is the triumphant anthem for a young MC with a bright future, and it’s the standout track from Dave’s 2019 album “Psychodrama.”
His partner on the track, Nigerian artist Burna Boy, gives life to this song through his vocals while Dave offers heartfelt bars that are just what we need to hear amidst everything else happening in the world right now.
Artist: Headie One
Released: Aug. 15, 2019
Headie One takes no prisoners in “Both.” In the song, it’s as if every word flows into the next. As a whole this song works well to highlight Headie One’s talent as a lyricist.
Headie One is a drill rap superstar who admittedly may not appeal to some American rap listeners, who are unaccustomed to English accents. Regardless, he’s doing great work.
Artist: J Hus
Album: “Big Conspiracy”
Released: Jan. 24, 2020
J Hus is among the many British artists whose African roots shine through his discography. He and superstar British producer JAE5 have crafted some of the best African infused rap songs to date, also known as afroswing.
No ifs, ands or buts, this song is wavey. “Cucumber” showcases the power of afroswing music coming out of England right now.
Artist: Loyle Carner ft. Tom Misch
Album: “Not Waving, But Drowning”
Released: April 19, 2019
The British rap scene has artists for everyone. For listeners more interested in rap that’s rooted in jazzy instrumentals, consider Loyle Carner, who’s most comfortable spitting verses on laid back hip-hop beats. “Angel” comes from his 2019 album “Not Waving But Drowning,” which is a top to bottom beautiful project. Give it a listen.
Title: “With U”
Artist: Jay Prince
Released: May 25, 2018
If there are any unsung heroes in British Rap, it’s Jay Prince. He’s a talented producer and rapper, with a tremendous amount of range as an artist.
“With U” is a hip-hop love song in all the best ways. It includes effortless bars by Jay Prince accompanied by English vocalist Mahlia’s beautiful vocals. Pair that with a knockout guitar driven beat and what else could you ask for?
Title: “New Shapes”
Artist: Diplo & Octavion
Released: Feb. 22, 2019
Within the British rap landscape, Octavian is a wildcard. He garnered a lot of attention for his broody 2017 track “Party Here” and, since then, he’s not been afraid to experiment with his sound, with varying levels of success.
“New Shapes” is a simple and somber Diplo produced electronic track. This song seemingly comes from left field, but it’s pretty cool. “New Shapes” may not work for everyone but it’s definitely worth a listen.