After grime’s mid-2010s resurgence put British MCs on the global stage, switching international rap fans onto the power of British voices with unashamedly British accents, UK rap, drill and the rest picked up the torch and ran with it.
Now safe in the knowledge that foreign praise is a bonus and not the be-all and end-all, UK acts are emboldened with a newfound confidence in their own identity. So much so, that “sounding American” is now a hindrance rather than an asset. With that, we’ve seen the full gamut of what our homegrown emcees are capable of. Nothing’s off the table. Where 2019 saw rappers flirt with Afrobeats, bashment, jazz, and even punk, this year we’ll see them dive headlong into more and more unexpected avenues. From now on, hearing a saxophone in a J Hus tune or a tough-talking punk on a Snowy tune is going to be the rule, not the exception.
That goes double for the UK drill scene. While rap has been more open to cross-pollenation, drill remains in its infancy as the scene thrashes out the blueprints and lays the foundations—but that could all change this year. Already a few of the drill scene’s more established players like Skengdo x AM have been trying out new things, but you can bet the rest will follow suit and push that trend into overdrive.
Here are 20 UK lyricists to watch in 2020.