All radio play and TV time aside, Hip-Hop and rap go far beyond the mainstream music we hear everyday. In every city, town, and ‘hood, there are MCs crafting exceptional sounds and styles that may never see the “pop” light of day. Still, they matter, and they have always been the organic forces that feed all of the rap that does make it to the masses.
AllHipHop.com contributing writer Skyyhook checks in with the “Top 25 Underground Artists of 2011″…IN NO ORDER! See if your favorite just-below-the-radar rappers made the cut:
Eclectic, energetic, lyrical and phenomenal production are all words that automatically come to mind when you think of the Brownbag Allstars! This group of Hip-Hop geniuses is the gift that keeps on giving. Just when you think they have done more in a month than most groups have done in a year, they hit you up again with another dope track. With Brownbag, it’s definitely all talent all the time.
YC the Cynic
YC has to be the most featured underground artist of 2011, and not for no reason! His energy and commanding presence on every song he touches transmits a viral flow that is definitely infectious. It’s virtually impossible not to have a YC line or hook stuck in your head after hearing a song. He is versatile and brings hope that lyricism is back to stay.
2011 found this artist featured everywhere! His “rappity-rap” style is what makes Hip-Hop heads nod approvingly at every show, and when listening to his music in general. Not afraid of the controversial topics, Homeboy Sandman bodies every subject he tackles. Quite honestly, the guy goes in!
Totally unique, from the name, to the look, to the music, DonWill and Von Pea are clearly one of a kind. Rhyming over beats that are eclectic and refreshing, these two have created a lane that is all of their own. Tanya Morgan is changing the face of Hip-Hop by creating amazing music that transcends all lines.
What can you say about the Phenom out of Phoenix? RoQy TyRaiD refuses to accommodate “sandbox rappers” in his lyrics. He rhymes about whatever he deems worthy, and he could care less what the critics say because he knows he is able to punish every beat he spits over with pure gold. In his words, “The Culture Is Back”.
This spitfire is unapologeticly bringing verses with passion and depth to the game and is lending new meaning to the word femcee. She goes in on every line, and each song brings more than just girlie bump and grind imagery. Simply put, the girl can rhyme!
Quick lyrical beasting is the only way to describe this artist! Lyriciss grabs a line and has his way with it before letting it go. His music is all over the place in the best way imaginable, and his acrobatic wordplay is definitely worth the lyrical workout!
Senica Da Misfit
Lyricism is making a comeback, and it’s not lost on Senica Da Misfit. This versatile rapper, representing the DMV, is daring any beat to get in his way. He, along with the dope production of Jimmy Flight, have continued to come up with creative and innovative ways to push the envelope with each musical adventure they took in 2011.
It’s no secret that Soul Khan was a reigning battle champion, and for good reason. However, now his battles are fought and won against a crazy beat and a microphone! Soul Khan takes you on a journey that will not leave you the same listener you were when you began! Whether it’s spitting about pop culture references or topics closer to his heart, Soul Khan’s dynamic knack for leaving an indelible imprint on your ears goes unchallenged.
Hailing from Canada, Son Real has found a way to make an impact on various U.S. Hip-Hop critics in a profound way. His honesty, and his sometimes hypnotic flows, will make you both bop your head and smile. Son Real, while versatile, disengages from the bandwagon rapper phenomenon. He doesn’t need to be someone else, which is a great thing for the listener, as his ability to tell a story as himself is the best part of this artist.
The ability to rhyme fluidly over anything is what landed Writtenhouse on this list. The metaphorical twists and turns that are taken creates undeniable flames under every single simile spit. Simply stated, this is what you want Hip-Hop to sound like.
The Bodega Brovas
This rising trio can not be stopped!! Whether with wild lyrics and antics, or the sheer kinetic force they represent on stage, The Bodega Brovas are able to distribute metaphorical amusement to Hip-Hop heads through the comedic deliveries and creative writing of their members.
Murs is still one of the most unappreciated artists in Hip-Hop. His ability to grab your attention through his powerful imagery and genuine passion for story telling is all-encompassing. Late 2011 was blessed with his latest contribution, and as usual, Murs refused to disappoint. The strength in his character is reflected in every line of 316 Ways and in true Murs form, he bows to none.
Top $ Raz
Top $ Raz truly delivered this year! His talent for setting up one liners and quotables like bowling pins to be knocked back down was way past impressive. He has definitely won the crowds over though good old fashioned rhyme ability and stage presence, like any great MC should! We anxiously await what he is cooking up for 2012!
The West Coast is represented all day long with this artist. Speaking on the realities of the streets, Fashawn embodies everything that is considered classic West Coast Hip-Hop. From the discernible accent to his style of flow, this artist conjures up fond memories of West Coast spitters’ past with each song, rendering him not easily slept on once heard.
Eric Sosa’s willingness to be different and to rhyme in a way that is truly his own is the eclectic type of rhyming that is not heard enough. There is something enticing about an artist that can take a live band and create their own brand of magic with real music, not just samples and cuts and scratches. Eric Sosa bodies the track “Hate” for just this reason.
Every now and then an artist comes along who is able to put out music that just simply makes you happy, and Jeff Spec brought that this year. Every song had all the elements that one appreciates in a song, and many quoatables to recite to my friends and co-workers ad nauseum, thus making me happy!
Remember the days when females rapped about more than their anatomy? Well, Signif has proven that she has the ability to dominate a beat with real lyrics about real topics! Not only that, but she can hang with any guy who dares to rhyme next to her. Many guys did take that dare in 2011, as she was one of the most featured female artists in the underground this year. Whether blessing someone else’s track or rhyming on her own, Signif took a huge step for womankind and all of Hip-Hop this year.
Coming straight out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and making all kinds of Midwestern noise is Adebisi, who is bringing “Blax-Life” to Brooklyn! This artist never misses an opportunity to show love to his hometown, and it’s obvious through his Midwestern style and flow that he is genuinely bridging the gap between Middle America where he’s from and New York where his dreams have carried him. Each song is representative of this.
Through his multiple tracks with Tranzformer and J-57, Koncept spins tales about life’s complexities in such a way that enables the listener to get a better idea of who he, as an artist, actually is. His truth is always reflected in his lyrics and in a world dedicated to artistry that is not usually on the level, this knack that Koncept has for spitting reality as he sees it, is truly appreciated.
Silent Knight is one of those charismatic rappers whose lyrics demand your respect out of the sheer dopeness of both the words and the flow. His innate capacity to transform verbiage into a lyrical reality is like none other. No sleeping on this guy; his rhymes will not allow for it!
Three words to describe Warren Britt…ENERGY, ENERGY, and ENERGY!! Whether on a track or in concert, this rapper gives you every little bit that he has, and then reaches down deep and gives you some more. I have never seen someone perform with such a fierce passion and such fervor. This is an artist that you must see live to do yourself or him justice!
Brash and proud Otis Clapp takes the culture back to a familiar place through his storytelling. Using irreverent one liners and blatently honest metaphors for life, Otis is able to draw the listener in and make them want to cheer for him. These skills are important to keep the attention of the listener, and Mr. Clapp has mastered the art form!
Yes, it’s a fact – Nitty is pretty – but if you stop paying attention from there, you are losing! Nitty Scott steps up to the mic with much more than the usual “look at me” rhymes! This chica actually commands attention from her audiences through her slick flows that are reminiscent of the female MCs that blazed the trail before her. There are no gimmicks with this girl, and there don’t need to be! She’s a voice for the females that is not convoluted with male fantasy, just plain old lyricism. Don’t sleep!
This beasting MC from Boston is proving that being a jack of all trades with his style and flow allows him to get the respect he’s worked so hard for! Repping his city and the truths he’s learned there, Alage changes his delivery and approach like a chameleon in a new habitat! This versatility proves to be successful for him, as he is able to appeal to a wide fan base with this trait.
Skyyhook is CEO/FOUNDER/General Manager of Skyyhook Radio. Follow her on Twitter at @SkyyhookRadio.