Existing, situated, operating, or taking place beneath the surface of the ground, hidden or secret; not open, published or produced by political or social radicals or nonconformists:avant-garde; experimental.
In other words, unique, different, something special that is not like everything else. The Underground.
In 2012 The Underground Hip Hop scene found itself expanding and transforming into an almost unrecognizable entity from most any other year. As the mainstream industry finds itself in virtual free fall, The Underground is not only thriving but morphing into a place where artists from all realms are finding their own ways to succeed without a major machine behind them. Underground artists have genuinely changed to meet the handful of definitions of what Underground truly means. This is a list of 50 such artists that caught our eye in 2012. They’re not the only ones we checked out, and are not the only one’s we liked! And as with any list, the final choices were formidable! With so much talent out here trying to pick but a few is next to impossible! The Underground list is not based on a popularity contest by any means. If you are dope, it doesn’t matter if you have 600 followers or 6 million. This list is one of the rare places where an artist makes it on talent. We hope to introduce you to some new artists on the verge, showcase some artists you already let us know you were feeling this year and reintroduce you to some of your favorites that made their presence felt with a great impact in 2012 ! The Underground no longer means without merit, or unknown. Each artist here has challenged listeners to take part in their journey whether it be creating their own lanes through a mean stage game, lending a voice through music to social causes or the culture, creating a real movement toward self-amelioration, showcasing an ability to get a grass roots musical revolution started simply by having great music, or just through making music that made the listener bob their head and hit repeat! Please check out AllHipHop.com’s Best Of The Underground for 2012!
[Editor’s Note: Although this list is numbered, the “2012: AllHipHop’s Top 50 In Underground Hip-Hop!” is only in ALPHABETICAL ORDER.]
Putting the city of Boston in the spotlight has been a big part of 2012 for this young artist. His ability to adapt to a wide range of beats and subjects leaves Alage in a class by himself. His desire to discover the true meaning of Hip Hop in his city this year left him with a full throttle EP and a deeper understanding of the Boston Hip Hop scene and those who broke the barriers before and for him. What Lage means to his city is a whole lot. The heartbeat of Boston can be found within Alage’s music. We look forward to hearing his new project in the new year.
2. Audible Doctor
The good doctor has been known as one fourth of a dope group and as an amazing producer for years now, but this year Audible Doctor stepped out into the spotlight on his own in a major way. The tracks on “I Think That” showcased the Doctors ability to cut up nouns, verbs, metaphors and similes with the precision of any good surgeon! The complexities of his storytelling became ever apparent on the song Baby’s Momma, a song that on the surface seems to be addressing one topic but upon truly listening you discover there is a whole lot more going on there then you might think. Audible Doctor proved that he is a threat both in the studio and on the mic this year. And if his growth continues at this rate, he is going to be a problem for Hip Hop!
3. Bizz The Prince
Jersey’s own Bizz found himself ripping stages and features to the fullest this year. Regardless of if he was working with Freeway or doing his own thing, he managed to be the very definition of grind and that speaks volumes. Club heavy bangers that beg one to bob their head were a huge part of his appeal on this years Black Carpet Mixtape and the subsequent singles. Be on the look out for the new releases with Q Parker in 2013, they are not to be missed!
The mighty Midwest spirit in the middle of Planet Brooklyn, Blax’s light shone bright with a series of projects that scattered throughout the entire year. Blax Everyday demonstrated the awesome storytelling power of the Wisconsin Wonder and proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that Blax Life has definitely spread across the U.S. in 2012!
5. Bodega Brovas
What happens when more energy than any red bull distributor could ever dole out meets lyrical gold and nostalgia? You get Keynote, Travii The 7th and Headkrack aka The Bodega Brova’s. The trio spent the year putting out song after song paying homage to the Hip Hop they grew up on and ripping stages world wide. Their signature throwback blend was everything a Hip Hop soul needed this year. While they have the ability to adjust to any track they touch, their unwillingness to pander set them apart from the masses.
6. Brother Ali
Brother Ali didn’t just come correct out of the gate this year, he crashed through it! Heads sat up and paid attention in 2012 as his latest project did not allow for you to sit still unaffected by his words! From the artwork to every single line spit in Mourning In America And Dreaming In Color, Brother Ali delivered a complete project, period. Nouns and verbs with so much power you’d swear he was in control of the entire grid! If you slept on this project I’d suggest you wake up and quickly!
7. Brown Bag AllStars
Two words to define these guys this year, Buckle Up! The Brown Bag Boys representing Brooklyn NY were live and in Technicolor this year. Brown Label Part 2 had the group punishing mics with the ferocity of a disgruntled Warden. The group has found their niche and the clever lyrical goldmine that is their signature sound was all the better for it in 2012.
8. Charmingly Ghetto
The first word that comes to mind when describing Charmingly Ghetto is poetic. This spitter rockin out of Boston, Mass has taken the art form back to the form of art! Reminiscent of a young Nas, his verses insist you bring your brain to the game. Charmingly Ghetto was an appreciated breath of fresh air in a simplistic versed world.
While the cocky rhyme master may not be new to the scene his style continues to grow and evolve the way a successful veteran of the game should allow for. He was feature heavy this year and blessed a lot of hip hop artists and fans with lines of pure hilarity and his own brand of microphone bravado. His brazen in your face, “You want my spot Flash?” Five Heartbeats type style left audiences smiling along with the music this year and it is a clear explanation as to why his music keeps this guy a beloved member of Hip Hop.
One of Sacramento’s shining stars, Chuuwee put in work on his own projects as well as gracing other artist’s tracks from coast to coast in 2012. His ability to tell the story with a laid back West Coast delivery while simultaneously merging the lyrical cleverness and metaphorical writing of East Coast spitters helped this artist gain attention in a huge way this year.
11. Danny Brown
When you say the name Danny Brown a few words come to mind in description. Angry, Mad, Upset tend to be some of the chosen depictions, however you would only be looking on the surface if this was all you saw. Danny Brown is in his own lane and unapologetically crashing into listeners with his harsh lyrics, but there is so much more to what he is saying. It’s worth the time to truly dig deeper and listen to this artist, the bigger picture is harder to find, but like any good treasure hunt, it’s worth the prize in the end.
This Dutch Hip Hopper out of Breda, has taken Hip Hop around the world and back again many times over. The veteran artist known for the metaphorical wonders that his music conjures up for the ears, has added taking music to China as a new venture in 2012. His ability to transcend all cultures has allowed him the success many artists have a hard time finding outside of the US, and this year was no exception.
Mr. Augustine, the dynamo from the N.O. showed both his former students and parents world wide that it isn’t just what you say, it’s the way you say it. His songs are all riddled with clever verses that are not only powerful, but potent. He speaks his truth on every track and fears no evil. His ability to make music that any listener can hear and enjoy and benefit from keep him in a dignified realm all his own. 2012 was a huge year for Dee-1 and we are sure this is just the beginning of big things happening for everyone’s favorite teacher!
14. Deshawn Supreme
Whether he’s on the mic solo or with various other artists as a feature, Brooklyn’s own Deshawn Supreme brings his unique voice to any track he touches. His skill for transcending genera’s and accommodating listeners with a huge range is pivotal in making him a great artist for collaboration and he’s reaped the benefits of this tremendously in 2012!
Legendary artists Dres and Jarobi took a huge jump this year and collabed to create a new duo and the result was an unexpected musical treat. Their lyrical snack of clever metaphors allowed Hip Hoppers to vibe out to familiar artists with a modern day twist. Songs like PTI reminded us of the importance of the culture and intelligence still making an appearance in the hip hop world. Like mythical unicorns with a mic, these two artists are something you hear exists but you have to see with your own eyes to believe. The culture was better for the duo’s uniting this year.
16. Final Outlaw
Final outlaw is the kind of unassuming artist that can hurt your feelings if you get caught not paying attention. The quiet assassin is not playing around once he’s unleashed on the mic, it’s as simple as that. His voice slices through beats with the precision of a ginsu knife through a tomato after cutting nails on an infomercial. 2012 found him furthering his craft and method of attack and the result was a felony hip hop murder of tracks.
17. Jasiri X
Jasiri X is the definition of Integrity. His music this year addressed several topics plaguing our communities and he succeeded in educating the masses through verse. His ability to take something sad and dark and make it a beautiful thing worthy of hearing over and over again is uncanny. He did so with ease this year, and an entire culture is becoming aware of important issues as a result.
18. Joey Bada$$
He was super unexpected! But most great surprises are! That’s the way it felt upon the discovery of Joey Bada$$ in 2012. Who knew? Upon hearing the first line uttered from him it was clear that this kid was something different! His voice is was one of those things you didn’t even know you needed until you had it in your realm. Keep your eye on him in 2013!
19. Jon Connor
The word “movement” is completely overused and out of touch with the realities of hip hop, unless you are referring to Jon Connor. His army of followers will not let you forget his name and since the inauguration of Mike Jones onto the Hip Hop scene in the mid 2000’s there hasn’t been this much noise made about an artist’s first and last name! He took that name and made it work for him while simultaneously putting Flint, MI back into the Hip Hop subconscious through amazing music and a mean hustle. Jon Connor definitely came into his own this year and it showed!
20 . J57
It’s not just super duper production with this kid! Though his verses tend to be shorter on BBAS tracks his solo project and his work on the Brown Bag EP proved this year that it isn’t for a lack of anything to say! J57 has stepped to the plate and left the fans wanting seconds and thirds! The problem is the in demand super producer doesn’t have the time to give them a whole lot more than he has thus far. However since one always wants what they can’t have, it simply endears his fan base to him even more. His solo effort while still having features proved that sometimes less is more and if you can say it just as powerfully with fewer words, then by all means Mr. 57 do what you need to do! The fans will be sitting and extra patiently waiting for you! Truthfully stated, you heard it here first, J57 is going to merk 2013!
This Ugandan female emcee gives new meaning to the word perseverance. But it’s not just her back story and love of Hip Hop that have endeared her to crowds in Africa and across the globe. Her hard work and determination to make her music no matter the cost, paid off as she was able to get her music to ears from all walks of life. Keko has found success in a male dominated genera and world in a way that would bring US female artists to shame because she does not pander or showcase her body instead of her skill. Her tenacity and ability have made her much more than the cliche “femcee” around the world. She’s recently become one of the first signed artist to Sony Africa. Not an easy feat by any means, but especially not for a woman. Keko has demonstrated what it means to create and dominate your own lane and her music speaks for itself.
This young Brooklyn emcee found his voice in a way that most didn’t know was possible. It’s easily said that Koncept was already a dope lyricist before, but 2012 brought something else to the table for the AllStar in such a way that he ripped apart pretty much every track he touched this year. Whether it was his own project that released in the spring, or the myriad of features he did throughout the rest of the year, if you found yourself listening to Koncept you knew immediately who it was. If you didn’t know who it was, you definitely were asking questions to find out his name! His range found more power and emotion this year, and depth was put not only into his delivery but to his writing. we don’t know what got in to him in 2012 but we’re eagerly anticipating the rest of the metamorphosis in 2013! Killer Koncept indeed!
23. L’Dialogue Dicaprio
This emcee is moving crowds in Beverly Hills, the N.O. and all the way back to his native Memphis. He represents the South proudly in any forum on any song, but has a crossed over sounding metaphor and simile filled style that sets his music aside from anything else out. Just when you think you get it with Dia he changes it up and gives you something 360 degrees different. Whether speaking on his history, the stories of those around him or just on everyday recognizable slice of life topics, L’Dailogue’s ability to spin a story through imagery sets him aside from the others.
What can you say about Lecrae? This emcee has proven to the world at large that you don’t have to speak about the most ratchet of topics among us in order to get love from audiences. People were ready for a change and Lecrae proved that bringing a positive outlook and a divine love in your heart for the Most High is not a death sentence in Hip Hop to anyone who truly believes. They say “God bless the child that’s got his own” well it seems that this statement has come to fruition for this rapper and the results are astonishing. With his own game played by his own rules, Lecrae accomplished in 2012 what some artists will work their entire lives playing by all of the industry rules and never receive, vindication. His awesome flow and story telling ability have earned him a place at the table, and something tells us his hunger for even more in 2013 will not be satiated anytime soon.
25. Mac L
Mac L is the most unlikely suspect of spitters from Nashville. His southern roots dictate the need to spread his city’s truth, and his boom bap loving heart forces him to share it in a sort of fusion of Dirty South meets East Coast style all of his own creation. This artist has been tearing up the stage all over the South and his strengths are finally starting to be felt in every region! The collabs that are brewing have us excited to see where his music evolves in 2013.
A definite Supersonic sound out of Seattle, Macklemore has paid dues to the Hip Hop God’s for some time now. Drawing attention to social causes through his lyrics was just one of the dynamic feats he took on in 2012. His hugely successful Indie album topped charts and checkbooks a like as he outsold many mainstream artists with huge marketing machines behind them. Thus demonstrating that the game has changed and proving that the little guy can win too, if he combines a strong work ethic, mean hustle, passion, determination and some good music together. The result is a pot full of Hip Hop awesome sauce!
27. MC Elijah Black
A young artist with a throw back soul, MC Elijah Black is the best of both worlds. He’s young fresh and new, but his vibe is so reminiscent of everything Hip Hop heads openly admit to missing that there’s something good for everyone. In 2012 Elijah Black featured heavy and stayed on stages and in the booth heavily. The result was evolution and progress. You will be absolutely be hearing more from this artist in 2013! His recent efforts in the studio will most assuredly dictate his presence in the upcoming weeks.
Oddisee, is one of the most well traveled artists of 2012, and not for nothing, it’s because they are lovin him world wide! He was phenomenal this year and all projects he worked on were just as smooth and cool as you would expect an Oddisee track or project to be. The sincerity in both his lyrics and delivery keep him a fan favorite and will continue to attract additional listeners to him in the new year.
29. Omar Offendum
2012 was a big year for artists doing their part to change the world, Omar Offendum is absolutely a big part of the list of artists that stepped it up for society at large! Largely known in the Arab world, the artist is actually a Syrian-American and upon being inspired by the Arab spring in Egypt created priceless music to capture the sentiment of the events unfolding in the Middle East. His talent for speaking on the ills of the world have brought him fans around the globe and have allowed him to work with some pretty special collaborations as well.
30. Otis Clapp
Intense, over the top, wild and perfectly Otis Clapp. 2012 found Otis just as brazen as usual and super determined to prove to the masses that it isn’t a fluke with this Queens spitter. He broadened his fan base this year through a dope EP and grinding out feature after feature all year long. There weren’t many weeks that he wasn’t on a stage or grabbing a mic in a studio somewhere. His hustle was extra mean and the results are definitely there. It’s all real with this kid and the fans and his peers have noticed. 2013 looks great for Mr. Clapp!
Dopeness from Dallas. One of this years ultimate storytellers, Playdough takes verbosity to a whole new level in 2012. His aptitude for not just telling you a story but making you want to continue to listen to it is stellar. He has a playful delivery that is exactly what you might expect with a name like Playdough, but it’s truly not a game with this artist. He does a great job at what a lot of artists constantly miss that mark at, entertaining. You can love a song but not be entertained by it in the slightest. Playdough has no problem getting you to like his music and to be completely contented by it.
The Heart of Hartford, Prestige is a freakin problem for many competitive Connecticut artists. In a smaller market with wall to wall talent it can be hard to break out of the pack, however the Prestigious one has not run in to this obstacle as he simply can not be contained. He’s the producer and the artist so he doesn’t have the problem of waiting around to grab dope beats. he simply makes them himself. Again, this kid is a problem! And with the break out year that he had in 2012, and with the types of spins and looks that he’s been snatching in NYC and beyond, he’s sure to be creating the best kind of havoc in other cities and regions soon!
33. Prince Ak
Jersey is definitely in the house and Prince Ak goes no where by himself! He takes everyone he knows with him! The Doitall Du mentee has found his own voice and truly come in to his own in 2012. Growth was key in the rapper this year and was super duper apparent in pretty much everything he spit. Taking the region by storm was on his agenda for 2012, and the mission was completed! 2013 should be even more exciting for him!
34. Psalm One
This Chicago chica has been rockin crowds with the famed Rhymesayers for some time now and she’s giving the fellas a run for their money. Her capability of hanging with the guys while still being feminine makes her a double threat in the Hip Hop world as she can successfully appeal to all listeners! She’s able to slice and dice a verse like she’s at a hibatchi grill and can make the listener cheer for her simply by virtue of having dope lyrics worth repeating and 2012 was definitely a great year for this! Her work with kids groups which introduced kids to both rhyming and creating a song was admirable. There should be more artists passing down the tradition in this way. Psalm One was very good for the culture in 2012.
Phoenix stand up and make some noise. The Mega Random rapper with the acrobatic flows is back. 2012 caught Random all over the place both on tour and in the booth. Ran made his presence known and truly felt with powerful performances at SXSW and across the U.S. as well this year. His verses left the listeners almost dizzy from the twists and turns they took which had discombobulated fans rockin out and trying to keep up for the entire year.
36. Rapper Big Pooh
This veteran showed the newbies what Hip Hop is supposed to sound like in 2012 with his project Fat Boy Fresh Vol 2. With addictive one liners and slick delivery Big Pooh reminded fans why he is in the game and why they should care, and they still do. He’s evolved and grown as an artist since the Little Brother days and it shows in each subsequent project that he puts out. The Hip Hop realm is better for having him as a part of it and it seems very clear that the former Little Brother is all grown up and in command now.
37. Rasheed Chappell
Lesson learned! Rasheed fans need not worry the message was well received in 2012! But make no mistake, he lands on the list for 2012 due to his dope projects. collabs, hard work and an exhausting hustle! Rasheed Chappell was everywhere this year and the result was something pretty wonderful! His ability to define his own voice on any of his own tracks and then accommodate other artists upon recording as a feature is outstanding. Mr. Chappell proved that over looked never means not good, it simply means they haven’t heard you yet. 2012 found him being not only heard, but appreciated too!
38. Rebel Diaz
There’s really only one word that can be used to describe Rebel Diaz, revolutionary! Whether spitting metaphorical fire into the mics in the booth or on stage, or calling for and/or making huge change in the world, Rebel Diaz has the fortitude to call for revolution in their music and the integrity to actually try to do something about it in real life.
39. Rocky Rivera
This dope rapper from The Bay is throw back in one of the most beautiful ways one can be. All though she is completely modern, her style reminds some listeners of the old Shante days. From her voice to her particular way of delivering a verse, Rocky Rivera grabs the mic and shows that girls can be just as powerful with their words as the boys! No wonder she’s a favorite in the California area and around the world!
40. RoQ’y TyRaiD
This year has mostly been a blur for young RoQ’y TyRaiD! He found himself on tours, showcasing at SXSW and being inducted into the prestigious AllHipHop.com Breeding Ground for starters. Then there was the amazing music he put out to go along with it. His stage show has become nothing short of amazing as the songs he performs seem to have more words within them than the entire dictionary would even allow for. This guy is honing his craft and it is apparent, the transformation of this artist has been dynamic, and 2013 looks as though it will be just more of the same!
41. SneakerBox Chock
SneakerBox Chock shows his passion through every line he spits. Whether collaborating with other artists or doing his thing solo, Chock finds the fortitude to say some of the things others wish they had the nerve to say but don’t. He’s also a versatile artist that is able to rhyme over what ever type of beat that is placed in front of him. The sincerity that Chock displays shows through on every song. He’s been rocking Apple stores all over New York City this year and we’re sure the new year is going to bless him all over again!
One of Canada’s finest, SonReal stepped up his extra impressive game from 2011 and had an even better year in 2012. His ability to play lyrical hopscotch over various beats and tracks of all kinds makes this artist a collaborative favorite. His energy and storytelling capability set this artist apart and allows him to dominate his own lane. If the last two years are any indication, SonReal will be doing amazing things in 2013 too.
43. Soul Khan
Soul Khan spent the majority of 2012 showcasing on the latest Brown Bag AllStars’s project or on other artist’s mixtapes and EP’s until the fourth quarter when his latest project Psalm dropped and boy oh boy was it worth the wait! It’s completely different from any other SK project in that it’s not feature heavy this time. We are getting all Soul Khan all the time and it’s a great thing! His rough voice that speaks smooth words is both a Hip Hop lover’s paradise and paradox all at the same time! He is still spitting about the world he lives in and his thoughts on what that world should be, so it’s still something that will make you think which is what the fans love about Soul Khan’s projects in the first place. Everything SK’s done in 2012 continues to top what he accomplished in the previous year. If progression is the name of the game, then Soul Khan is absolutely going to stay winning.
44. The Narcicyst
Narcy is another powerful Arabic Language Hip Hop Artist that is known for pointed lyrics and a smooth voice/delivery. He brings it on every song and the passion with which he spits is pure and super present. Lyrically packed and centered on message, the Narcicyst’s music in 2012 was educational as well as worthy of the heavy rotation it got world wide! If you aren’t familiar with him, get familiar with him!
45. The Natural Truth
Seattle’s supernatural emcee! The Natural Truth aka TNT is not just a rapper the kid is a mad rapper, a rabid spitter with one liners and clever lines for days! For everyone who has been sleeping, well this is your alarm clock and it’s set for right now! TNT is a tripple threat, whether on stage, the booth or the parking lot of Dick’s freestyling in a cypher, this artist has the quick whit and verbal ability to add depth to any roster or is complete dope on his own. Keep your eyes peeled for his collabs in 2013!
46. Top $ Raz
This year Top $ Got It definitely had it! His first project on Throat Chop Records was just the beginning in a series of steps that work toward solidifying his spot in the realm. His knack for taking any beat and knocking it around verbally like a prize fighter with a punching bag leaves the listener curious as to what’s next. Luckily for him a complete project was what was delivered so there couldn’t be an unhappy customer. His strength is ever apparent in 2012 and the growth is nothing short of ridiculous. Top $ Raz continues to come in to his own and 2013 should be no exception.
With Torae what’s old is new again! His music makes Hip Hop heads ecstatic with his beat choices. Torae’s lyrics while modern are still reminiscent of the cherished golden era and he does a death defying tight rope walk to make the kind of music that can cater to both realms of Hip Hop. Most emcees fall off the wire without the benefit of a net, however Torae fears no fall. It’s that confidence that makes his lyrics powerful and believable. This grasshopper clearly learned to walk before he ran, and now he’s running faster than Forest Gump all over the industry.
Representing London, England the rapper Ty has been wowing crowds and clubs alike with his soulful delivery and feel good brand of Hip Hop for years now. While well known world wide, his mass appeal for Hip Hop heads seems to span languages, cultures and age groups. Ty’s penchant for nailing exactly what the listener wants to hear is key. Bottom line, this rap veteran Ty is simply fun to pop your fingers and listen to! His fans will definitely agree!
Wildelux has made Tokyo’s Hip Hop scene a home by way of New York City and LA. The dominating emcee shows his talent for transforming any song that he touches in to a track that’s all his own. His ability to appeal to audiences from all walks and cultures is what makes this native son memorable to all who hear him. In 2012 he transcended musical barriers of all types. Not even the ramifications from natural disasters could stop his hustle this year. This guy has continued to wow audiences world wide for a reason, he spits dopeness!
50. YC The Cynic:
How do you describe an artist who knows that what he’s written is so dope, so honestly amazing that he stops the music in his own live show to go back over the line he just spit to ensure that you know it to? This is the dilemma in trying to describe one of the most versatile eclectic young men in the game today. YC The Cynic has demonstrated that he can rhyme over anything put in front him. He eats up beats like a kid with a bag of Halloween candy! It was exciting to watch the young genius create in 2012 and what is about to drop in 2013 is going to blow the Underground at large away.