Looking to switch up your playlists? Try any of these artists to help you break out of your musical comfort zones.
The NC native has an impressive list of guest features from hip-hop heavyweights such as Big Krit, Talib Kweli and Childish Gambino, yet she holds her own and she often steals the show with her lyricism and rhythmic flow over the beat. Primarily produced by Jamla’s in-house masterminds 9th Wonder and Khrysis on her own records, Rapsody has a luxury that a lot of MC’s aren’t afforded, allowing her to showcase her talent on every song she records. Her witty lyricism even grabbed her a spot on Kendrick Lamar’s album To Pimp A Butterfly and she spit arguably one of the best verses on the album. If you’ve never heard Rapsody’s music, do yourself a favor and look her up on Spotify, Tidal or Soundcloud. She’s dope.
The melodies of this Atlanta-based rapper are probably the best in the industry (sorry Drake fans) and are matched only by the high-quality production that either he himself provides or receives from Rascal or Sango (who is undoubtedly one of the most underrated producers in hip-hop). Elhae’s music runs the gamut from “emo” hip-hop to party and turn up music, so he doesn’t necessarily fit in an easily defined “box.” But don’t get it twisted, Elhae can spit. His rhythmic flow and ease of switching between rapping and singing (often done in the middle of a verse) makes him both one of the most versatile acts in the underground scene and negates the need for many collaborations. If you’re in the mood for some chill hip-hop, Elhae can provide you with the sounds you’re looking for. Check for him on Soundcloud.
This Grand Rapids MC is gritty, with a flow reminiscent of his state mate Big Sean. But he’s definitely not a carbon copy of Sean’s style. His lyricism and beat selection are almost always on showcase when you hear Waldo’s music. He also receives some production from Sango, but others include Fortune, Gravez, and Mozaic. Waldo is another MC that rides beats effortlessly, never really having to “work” at his style. He chooses a lot of trap beats, but he spits over them aggressively, as though every song might be his last. The few laid back tracks he chooses, he makes it a point to showcase his lyricism and his wit, as if to say “y’all gone appreciate this today.” If you like gritty hip-hop and your rappers with chips on their shoulders, you’ll love Waldo’s style. Check for his music on Soundcloud.
Hailing from the DMV, GoldLink is now getting a lot of press for his latest release in late 2015, And After That, We Didn’t Talk, which is being called an instant classic. Goldlink is not comparable to Wale or any other rapper from the DMV for that matter. His style is different, his sound is different and he’s an excellent storyteller in the vein of the Notorious B.I.G. when the need arises. GoldLink is a wordsmith and has an ear for the melodies and rhythms which will complement his style. GoldLink is an artist on the rise and one who will not be content to rest on the laurels of his latest release. You can find his music on Soundcloud, Spotify or Apple Music.
5. Jackie Hill-Perry
A spoken word artist-turned-rapper hailing from St. Louis, she is an extremely talented with words, which shines through on her debut solo album, The Art of Joy. Reminiscent of Lauryn Hill, she uses spiritual convictions to propel her work forward. Hill-Perry builds her verses with incredible intricacies addressing street violence, love, and even an ode to Lauryn Hill herself. The production is provided exclusively by Beautiful Eulogy, artists and in-house producers on the indie label she’s signed to, Humble Beast Records. The production provides room for her lyricism and wit to come through unhindered by the clutter of 808s, a relatively safe bet, but a bet that paid off as Hill-Perry’s album was greeted with much praise. It’s an album that I still listen to like it just dropped last week. You can listen to a few tracks from the album on Soundcloud, but the best bet is to find it on Apple Music.