24 UK Rappers To Watch In 2022

New year, new batch of aspiring UK rap stars hoping to shake the room. From trap to drill to conscious and cloud-rap, meet our ones to watch rhymers for 2022.

complex uk rappers to watch in 2022
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Image via Complex Original/Artwork by Willkay

complex uk rappers to watch in 2022

2021 was the year when some of UK rap’s most accomplished heroes put out the greatest albums of their already impressive careers. Dave, Ghetts and Little Simz all gave us literally world-beating albums, and it’s worth adding that the new gen hardly lacked either—Central Cee, M1llionz, V9 and Digga D also shone. But, already, it’s looking like 2022 will be a year that is dominated by newcomers.

There’s an exciting new wave of rhymers and they don’t necessarily adhere to one particular style or subgenre. Where previous years were ruled by one fixed strain, the new gen consists of drillers, road rappers, conscious rhymers, futurists, and artists who don’t fit into any of that. Tribalism and gate-keeping is out and there’s an energised wave of chameleons and experimentalists waiting in the wings, ready to shake things up and smudge the boundaries. In short, 2022 is the year of the individual.

Here are 24 UK rappers to watch.


 

Jordy

jordy-complex-uk-ones-to-watch

If you’re into UK football culture, chances are you’ve heard Jordy’s takes on the game via the popular Filthy Fellas podcast. If you’re into UK rap, you may have heard him finesse beats like a pro on either a Vibbar track (a music group that he’s in) or on one of his own joints. Last year, the North London native released SMH—a 7-song project which saw him receive flowers from critics and fans in abundance. A lot of “content creators” are making music these days, but very few of them are actually any good; Jordy, however, was made for this, his choppy flow often veering off into grime or drill mode and his beat selection always on the ball. Whenever he’s ready to swap podding for rapping full-time, the scene will be ready for him, open arms. —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson

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Sainté

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Leicester-born Sainté played basketball at semi-pro level before deciding to take the music route while at university. After the year he had in 2021, it’s clear he made the right choice. Dropping not one but two projects in Local MVP and Out The Blue last year, his effortlessly smooth, laid-back rap style was a hit on the underground, and if Local MVP was the introduction, then Out The Blue was, by extension, a statement intended to let you know that he’s here to stay. Collaborating with artists such as A2, Knucks and Miraa May on the latter 7-track project, Sainté takes you on a journey and shows that he’s not a rapper that can be put into a box, sounding just at home on nu-R&B beats as he is on trap ones. That makes 2022 all the more exciting, as it’s genuinely anyone’s guess where he goes from here. As we slowly come out of the pandemic, Sainté is almost certain to be the name on everyone’s lips come the end of the year. —Aaron Bishop

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SR

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Having created early stars in the likes of 67 and 150, Brixton is the mecca of UK drill, and now SR is hoping to continue the South LDN borough’s legacy. In November 2020, SR released the track “Welcome To Brixton”—a menacing tale of how it goes down in the ends—and just a few months after its debut, it started to go viral on a global scale, with everyone from TikTokers to YouTubers appreciating its aggressive nature. With over 35 million views on the music video and over 100 million spins across Spotify and Apple Music, it was his first taste of major success. Since then, SR—who was nominated for Best Drill Act at last year’s MOBO Awards—has continued to drop heat for the streets with singles like “Practice Makes Perfect” and “Snap It”, and with solid fanbases in places like Australia and Spain, the masked one is on a winning streak. —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson

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ShaSimone

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In a time where authentic talent can often go unnoticed, East London’s ShaSimone refuses to be overlooked. With an aura so infectious, her conspicuous star-like presence is indisputable, leaving her mark on audiences far and wide. Only a year into releasing music officially, ShaSimone has been a known name on UK Rap Twitter for a minute now: first off the back of her hard-hitting, stop-the-press freestyles, and then for her show-stealing performance on We’re All Alone In This Together, Dave’s chart-topping second album. Channelling an array of self-confident narratives throughout her music, ShaSimone’s relentless energy is felt on every track—from gripping debut “Belly” to her latest joint “Hushpuppi”—and after grasping 2021 with both hands, she’s about to have a 2022 that she will never forget. —Casey Dorney

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Horrid1 x Sav’O

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Next up out of the CGM camp—hot on the heels of frontman Digga D—are Horrid1 x Sav’O. Keen-eared drill fans will already be familiar with the brothers from West London; they’ve been putting in the work for some time now, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that they’re meant for more than underground kudos. But please don’t expect any pop crossovers from them just yet. At the very end of last year, they were invited in for a Daily Duppy freestyle and, let’s just say, it didn’t pull any punches. Cruddy street talk and barbed rhymes are par for the course in drill, but these two came straight from the gutter. However, where that level of rawness can sometimes get in the way of execution, Horrid1 x Sav’O fired off with absolute precision. They’ve also got their double act down to an art and though both are more than capable of holding a track on their own, the real magic comes when they can bounce off each other. If anyone’s worried about drill being watered down—and, let’s be honest, that’s a valid concern—you can at least rest assured that Horrid1 x Sav’O are keeping its raw essence alive. —James Keith

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M’Way

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Rising up from the East Midlands district of Nottingham, M’Way is bringing a touch of US trap flavour to UK rap’s mix. From his freestyles to his tracks, like “Take Orders” and “Whole Lotta Guap”, the young upstart could easily sit on a playlist next to the likes of G Herbo and Lil Durk—both in terms of his choice of production and the snappy rhyme schemes—but he always brings it back home with that undeniably British slang and swagger. M’Way is in a great position to take things to the next level this year, as he just signed with BBC Radio 1Xtra host Tiffany Calver’s imprint, No Requests—a rap-focused sub-label with Polydor—so expect nothing but greatness from him, from this day forward.  —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson

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Bawo

bawo complex uk ones to watch

For those with their ears to the ground, Bawo is a name that has probably become familiar over the last twelve months. He released his debut EP, Live & Let Thrive, in June 2021—including previously released songs “I Hated My Name” and “Starts With a Text”—and has already started this year strongly, connecting with BXKS on “Leave Britney Alone”. Bawo isn’t a hard artist to get into as he skates over beats like a pro in a skatepark. But his real draw is the themes that he chooses to explore in his music and the different musical arenas in which he picks to flesh them out. Production on the project spans a range of genres, from cloud-rap and UK garage to Afrobeats and drill, while he raps about race, love and identity, clearly influenced by his African roots. With over 140,000 monthly listeners on Spotify alone, this could be the year he starts to gain some momentum amongst his mainstream peers. —Aaron Bishop

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Cristale

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Coming straight outta Brixton, Cristale is more than your typical drill rapper, as she draws heavy influence from grime, spoken word and soul, as well as her Caribbean upbringing. Since releasing her freestyles and music videos on platforms such as Mixtape Madness and P110 in early 2020, with support from the likes of Snoochie Shy, Kenny Allstar and Tiffany Calver, she’s had the right people in her corner and they rarely get it wrong. She even impressed punk-rock icon Courtney Love, who listed her among some of the UK’s rising women rappers that she’s currently rating. Cristale has also shown that she can hold her own amongst her peers, starring in Charlie Sloth’s ​​Hood Heat cypher, Tiffany Calver’s Abbey Road cypher and Trillary Banks’ Hot Gyal cypher, and leaving a lasting impression. Having built up a cult-like following, and with the music industry finally catching on, the only way is up for this South Londoner. —Mimi Itseli

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DoRoad

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Gypsy Hill-hailing rapper DoRoad is a name to know in 2022. After featuring on K-Trap’s widely-loved mixtape, TRAPO, on the tracks “Maths” and “RRR”, and a much-hyped Plugged In freestyle for Fumez The Engineer, he quickly became one of UK drill’s hot properties last year. And it’s not hard to see why. Backed by an unrelenting flow—akin to an AK47 at war—DoRoad adds a vibrant energy to every song and every freestyle he’s on, every time giving drill a new lease of life. The stage is now set for him to have a promising twelve months ahead. —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson

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wewantwraiths

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Leicester-born wewantwraiths is out to win by any means necessary. While most new rappers tend to host their music vids on channels like Link Up TV and GRM Daily, since launching his own YouTube channel in 2020, wewantwraiths has accumulated 18 million-plus views, evidence that talent speaks for itself. Known for his icy visuals (see: “Lifestyle”, “Voices”, “Chanaynay”), the Auto-Tuned, melody-driven rhymer recently featured on the Beatfreakz single, “Money Calling”, alongside Russ Millions and RAYE, and gave it a welcome dose of luxury rap. With new co-signs coming in seemingly by the day, expect to see wewantwraiths all over 2022. —Mimi Itseli 

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Nemzzz

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Manchester’s Nemzzz describes his music as “personal and introspective, influenced by the US trap sound.” The 17-year-old rapper—who began rhyming at the age of 14—got his first taste of success when his track “Elevate” racked up over 2.8 million views on TikTok and over 4 million spins on streaming platforms. But it’s tracks such as “Deep End”, “No Ratings” and “Transparent” that highlight how mature this talent is, unafraid to show his vulnerable side by covering topics like bereavement and betrayal. A wordsmith in the making, Nemzzz has shown that age really is nothing but a number. —Mimi Itseli

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Deyah

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Hailing from Wales, Deyah is further proof of the powers emerging in rap outside of the UK capital of London. After a love-hate relationship with music growing up, a push in the right direction via a youth organisation in her hometown of Cardiff encouraged her to pick up the pen, and she hasn’t looked back since. Lyrically, Deyah’s smooth vocals are enveloping as she shoots straight from the hip, with a matter-of-fact style that leaves nothing to the imagination. But there also lie hints of self-reflection and examination underpinning her music, grounding it with acres of depth. Active for the last two years, and in that time taking home the 2020 Welsh Music Prize for her project Care City (the first rap act to do so), ‘light work’ is the best way to describe her ascension. Dope bars? Check. History maker? Check. Deyah is just warming up. —Yemi Abiade

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Tugz

tugz-complex-uk-ones-to-watch

The first time I heard Tugz’s music was on the way to the club. Usually, when me and the fellas head out, I’m the one in control of the aux, putting everyone on to new acts—but not today. With the Henny in full flow, my guy Aston runs his playlist, “Nasty Drip” by Tugz comes on, and from there, it was reload sessions all the way. Then, I come to find out he’s connected to M1llionz and the Ten Percent Music crew, and it all made sense. Born and raised in Birmingham, Tugz is a drill rapper who has been bubbling in his city for a few years now. Citing UK rap greats such as Giggs, Blade Brown and Youngs Teflon as influences, he was inspired to get into rhyming by watching Channel U (R.I.P) as a teen and seeing artists from his city on the channel. With all eyes on 0121 right now—thanks, in part, to his co-dee M1llionz—it’s only a matter of time before Tugz gets his time to shine. —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson

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Fizzler

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For the past year and a bit, 19-year-old Fizzler from Charlton, South East London, has dropped viral freestyle after viral freestyle, while also landing collabs with the likes of Offica (“SkiddiBop”) and TeeZandos (“Phone Call”). Armed with a clarity that UK drillers sometimes lack, he poetically taps into street struggles and his need to grow up fast; he’s got more to get off his chest though, so don’t expect any fly-guy bando joints from him just yet. As Fizzler continues to grow and glow in his lane, this student of rhyme will be mentioned alongside drill’s big-hitters in next to no time. —Jack Lynch

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Motive105

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Last year may have been Motive105’s first full year releasing music, but you wouldn’t have known it. The West Londoner dropped two impressive projects in The Drive Downtown: Part One & Part Two, building momentum via his striking visuals and hard-hitting lyricism, with his comments sections regularly drawing comparisons to J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar. This may seem like a reach if you haven’t yet heard his music, but exploring topics such as fatherhood and community over soulful instrumentals, Motive is clearly a man of purpose and someone who takes great pride in the craftsmanship of his art. Currently working on his debut album, if what he’s put out so far is any indication, he’s about to shake the room in 2022. —Aaron Bishop

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John Glacier

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Last year was a big one for Hackney’s John Glacier. With her debut album, SHILOH: Lost For Words, she emerged fully formed as an artist set apart. Much of the LP was borne of a partnership with producer Vegyn (although further contributions came from Psychedelic Ensemble, Tn_490 and Holly) and that gave the album the kind of marked throughline that makes a good album a great one. Comparisons have been drawn with elusive auteur Dean Blunt and, funnily enough, the seeds of the project were planted when both Glacier and Vegyn made an auspicious appearance on last year’s Babyfather cut, “MANNA”, and joined Blunt on stage at his World Music takeover at Corsica Studios the same year. The comparison, no doubt, comes from the cavernous atmosphere she crafted with Vegyn, as if the entire album was recorded in a dank subterraneous space with a packed-in audience’s sweat dripping from the ceiling. But, it’s crucial to point out, she’s far from abstract. Though at first listen her delivery feels cool and distant, there’s a warmth and intimacy to her writing that will stand the test of time. —James Keith 

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Country Dons

country dons complex uk ones to watch

UK rap outfit Country Dons—aka Hampshire’s Rocky, Maroc, and Blaze—made an impression on the scene when they released their breakout track, “Ramsay”, in 2020, before dropping a number of singles last year that turned them from a one-hit-wonder into a collective to be reckoned with. Just as comfortable on trap beats as they are on drill, the trio give us their brazen takes on road life in the English countryside in a way that makes you believe every last word. There’s no weak link in the camp either, which is a plus, so don’t be surprised if they eventually go on solo journeys in the years to come. —Jack Lynch

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Shaun Sky

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Shaun Sky brings considered lyricism, abstract visuals and a poetic steez to the mix. The South Londoner hits with every word he spits, making them as impactful as the last. After dropping his debut project, Still Thinking, in 2018, the rapper, producer and DJ was quiet on the music front before a return in 2021, reminding us of the promise he’d shown four years ago. Reintroducing himself on the hypnotic banger “Pretty”, he then breathed new life into Nas’ classic “Oochy Wally” instrumental (no mean feat), before sharing the immersive “Circles”—a surreal inversion of life from two different lenses. As thoughtful as he is daring, Shaun Sky’s measured approach to his art has left no room for error, proving almost effortless. Balancing his music with a burgeoning career as a DJ, he has carefully cultivated himself as a problem on all fronts and with more music on the way, 2022 will no doubt see the self-described ‘Pilot’ reach new heights. —Yemi Abiade

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ayrtn

artyn complex uk ones to watch

In the world of so-called ‘alternative UK hip-hop’, ayrtn’s name garners respect. Though he’s been making music for a number of years, the South London native has carefully cultivated a skillset of producing layered, atmospheric sonics for his almost monotone vocals and nonchalant style. His music is the definition of a vibe, catered to chill sessions and turn ups in equal measure. Having made a splash in 2018 with his infectious single “Edgar Davids” and debut project FLIGHT07, ayrtn has stayed working, dropping a further four projects taking him to the present day. Add to that a few more singles and a beat tape, and you have an accomplished young artist. DIY through and through, ayrtn has etched his own milieu through his productions which, as he gets older, will only reach new levels of imagination. And if you need more proof, press play on his latest album, Ghost, to hear an artist grow with every beat and bar. —Yemi Abiade

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SB

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There’s a new class of female UK rappers coming through, and SB has a seat right near the front. Hailing from the gritty end of Tottenham, North London, SB embodies the authenticity needed to stand firm in the rap scene; she’s the epitome of boss chick, showcased through her commanding flow and effortless wordplay. Captivating music lovers with her snappy freestyles on Twitter and Instagram—which saw co-signs from the likes of Nines and Young Adz—SB is about to blow up the spot with her unapologetic lyrics and being able to relate to so many women who come from a similar place of struggle and often being misunderstood. —Mimi Itseli

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Kofi Stone

kofi stone complex uk ones to watch

By rights, East London-born, Birmingham-raised rapper Kofi Stone should be massive. His 2019 project, Nobody Cares Till Everybody Does, was a master stroke debut that struck a clever balance between the classics and the vanguard. Rap fans—young and old—should have been all over it. It comfortably racked up solid numbers on streaming services, but the wider world remained slow on the uptake. With his heady blend of lyrical dexterity, beautifully orchestrated instrumentals and expertly-selected collaborations (all without sinking into self-indulgence), there’s no reason Kofi shouldn’t be held up alongside Little Simz, Kojey Radical and the like as one of the best of the current generation. We’re certain his time will come. —James Keith 

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Teks Sinatra

teks sinatra complex uk ones to watch

It was around this time last year when Croydon’s own Teks Sinatra revealed his debut project, Home For Winter, in which he laid his heart on every verse, coming across more as a series of confessionals rather than an EP. It was this level of introspection and honesty that endeared him to rap fans across the board and saw him carve out a lane for himself through his tales of struggle and his willingness to let fans into his headspace. Whether he’s talking about failed relationships with women, strained relations with his father or thinking back on bad decisions he’s made in the past and the lessons learned, he manages to explore personal topics in an engaging, relatable way. That’s before even mentioning his R&B-tinged instrumentals and use of samples, which allow him to float on the beat with a pain, a grit, that cannot be faked. Having accumulated over a million streams on his debut, the platform is set for Teks to continue where he left off and cement his name as one of the brightest lights coming through in UK rap. —Aaron Bishop

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BXKS

bxks complex uk ones to watch

As all the best rappers should, BXKS has a phenomenal ear for a beat. Whether it’s the dancehall inflections of “Bones 2 Pick” or the jazzy wisps of “Mean Amount”, she hasn’t picked a dud yet. Last year, she dropped two (yes, two) full-length projects—Full Time Daydreamer and Hack The Planet—so there’s no shortage of material for you to immerse yourself in, even at this early stage in her career. A constant fountain of ideas and experiments, each new drop brings something a little different—from sci-fi futurism and classic rap throwbacks to explorations of the diaspora, BXKS has shown that she’s a one-of-one talent. Now, watch her star rise. —James Keith

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S1LVA

s1va complex uk ones to watch

Having introduced himself to the masses just last year, S1LVA has made a considerable amount of noise. In the short space of six months, the Brazil-born, Oxford-raised rapper has left a footprint on UK drill that is palpable. It started last May with his debut single, “Milli”—a declaration of his intention to set himself up for greatness—before finding himself rhyming next to Krept & Konan, Morrisson and M1llionz on the football-themed “Ole (We Are England)”, a major statement from an artist in his infancy. Merging drill’s rampant foundation with his love of Brazilian music, S1LVA has an endearing rap style that is so sincere in his recalling of his less-than-glamorous life before music. His hunger is clear, and failure is not an option. —Yemi Abiade

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