18 Grammy-Worthy British Rap Projects, Since 2015

To catch The Recording Academy up on some of the British rap albums and mixtapes we feel deserve some shine, here’s our list of Grammy-worthy gems since 2015.

j hus dave
J Hus and Dave perform at Lovebox, 2019.
j hus dave

The Grammy Awards have always been controversial. For as long as they’ve existed (61 years), their results have been hotly debated. This year, however, “music’s biggest night” was perhaps its most controversial ever. Already on the back-foot thanks to pandemic restrictions, with no live audience and awards presented on an outdoor stage, the ceremony netted its lowest ratings to date and was mired in accusations of less than objective voting processes (see: The Weeknd).

For obvious reasons, our own homegrown artists aren’t really represented in the same way as their stateside counterparts. That’s understandable, to a certain degree, but since 2015 UK music has been connecting with U.S. music fans in a whole new way, from Kanye at The Brits to Drake’s continued love affair with all things British. We know the past six years have been stacked with the kind of UK rap, drill and grime that would make waves over there, so to catch them up on some of the albums and mixtapes that we feel deserve some shine, here’s our list of Grammy-worthy gems since 2015.


Skepta, 'Konnichiwa'

skepta konnichiwa album

Release date: May 6, 2016 

Standout tracks: “That’s Not Me”, “It Ain’t Safe”, “Ladies Hit Squad”, “Lyrics”, “Man”

Grime 2.0 was one of the most important things to happen to Black British music. From 2014 to 2016, the UK genre had entered a stage of regeneration, having experienced a downturn in excitement from some of the scene’s top-billing MCs and producers, and fans bemoaning the lack of its raw appeal. What took place during this season—from music to culture and fashion—would change the trajectory of the scene entirely. And one of the leaders of this charge was Skepta, the man behind Kanye West and Drake’s once-regular UK tap-in. Konnichiwa, Skepta’s fourth studio album, was birthed during this period and opened grime up to the world again—from London to Japan to NYC and back again—and encapsulated everything that was great about this proudly British movement at the time; magician-like flows, otherworldly beats, and quotable bars for days. —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson


J Hus, 'Common Sense'

j hus common sense

Release date: May 12, 2017

Standout tracks: “Common Sense”, “Bouff Daddy”, “Did You See”, “Plottin’”, “Good Time”

By the time J Hus released debut album Common Sense in 2017, he had already shown glimpses of what would be with his mixtape The 15th Day and provided the UK some of its finest turn-up anthems in years, taking the momentum of “Lean & Bop”, “Did You See” and “Friendly” (which still bang) into his first studio effort. The rap scene was waiting in excitement, and it’s fair to say the East Londoner more than exceeded expectations. Common Sense is a genuine game-changer, showcasing Hus’ dynamic, magnetic and wide-ranging artistry as easily as a young lion chasing its prey. From the majestic title track all the way down to “Fisherman”, “Spirit” and “Good Luck”, Juju J is slick, charismatic and absorbing over Afroswing, grime and UK rap soundscapes courtesy of JAE5, Steel Banglez and more. His ability to tap into various modes of himself, from the graceful to the gully, stood out immensely. We can’t forget the star-making hooks, either. Though he would steer himself in a completely different direction on his second album, Big Conspiracy, Common Sense is J Hus’ unforgettable arrival, as complete a project as anything the UK has seen over the last decade. —Yemi Abiade


Dave, 'Psychodrama'

dave psychodrama cover

Release date: March 8, 2019

Standout tracks: “Location”, “Streatham”, “Disaster”, “Lesley”, “Black”

Before he had even released his debut album in 2019, it was clear to all of us that Dave was a prodigy. The previous year he had gone number one with “Funky Friday” and won an Ivor Novello all at the age of 19. And at 17, he had the biggest artist in the world, Drake, featuring on a remix of his song “Wanna Know”. By the time Psychodrama came around, expectations were high—the levels had already been set and Dave just did what Dave does and raised the bar again. Through complex concepts, layered delivery, inspired flows and carefully selected features combined with ambitious scope and a thorough, no-holds-barred exploration into the depths of his psyche, the Streatham-born anomaly took his place amongst the pantheon of UK rap greats that had come before him. The Burna Boy-assisted “Location” was the soundtrack to the summer, while songs like “Black” and the ambitious “Lesley” touched on deeper, more sensitive topics with a level of poise, sensitivity and cognisance not even shown by some twice his age. —Aaron Bishop


Stormzy, 'Gang Signs & Prayer'

Stormzy, 'Gang Signs and Prayer'

Release date: February 27, 2017

Standout tracks: “Cold”, “Don’t Cry For Me”, “Blinded By Your Grace, Pt. 1”, “Bad Boys”, “Mr Skeng”

Stormzy’s debut album, Gang Signs & Prayer, was one of the most hotly-anticipated drops of 2017. He had become grime’s new poster-boy following two years of high-charting singles in “Shut Up”, “Know Me From” and “Not That Deep”, and what we were presented with was a real masterpiece that lived up to its namesake from start to finish. Big Mikey expertly explained the difficulties of being a young Black man in the world, dealing with all its trappings, while trying to hold onto his faith in the Lord (not an easy task). Gospel and grime in the same sentence even looks strange, but Stormzy manages to unite these seemingly disparate worlds for a better understanding of both, hitting home for millions in the process. Long live GSAP. —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson


slowthai, 'Nothing Great About Britain'

slowthai nothing great about britain

Release date: May 17, 2019

Standout tracks: “Northampton’s Child”, “Dead Leaves”, “Gorgeous”, “Grow Up”, “Toaster”

slowthai’s arrival was a stiff punch in the face of the establishment, straight from the underbelly of working-class Britain. The Northampton rapper had spent years building up an aura as a man of the people via his screeching, unpredictable bangers broadcast live from the NN trenches—where ASBO activity and growing up with little were common themes—before making a grand statement with debut album Nothing Great About Britain. Broad in sound (spanning rap, grime and punk-rock) and direct in his visceral lyricism, slowthai brought honesty, wit and intrigue in abundance. Uniquely critiquing the British state by painting a picture of the harsh times defining his life and those like him, he shone a light on the class divisions rampant in the country, painted perfectly by the title track, “Inglorious” and “Grow Up”. But NGAB wasn’t all chaos. There are some truly poignant moments that illustrate how far Tyron Frampton has come from his origins (“Toaster”) and his constantly evolving mental state (“Peace Of Mind”), which made for an intriguing listen. —Yemi Abiade


Children Of Zeus, 'Travel Light'

children of zeus

Release date: July 13, 2018

Standout tracks: “Slow Down”, “Respect Mine”, “All On You”, “Kintsugi”, “Vibrations”

Travel Light is the jazz, R&B, soul-laced hip-hop album everyone needs in their record collection. Created by Manchester rapper-singer duo Konny Kon and Tyler Daley, better known as Children Of Zeus, their debut album from 2018 came full of chillax-ready numbers, such as “Slow Down”, “All On You”, “Kintsugi” and “Vibrations”, and is the kind of journeying music that most people can find relatability in. Even now, in 2021, Travel Light is being hailed as one of the most well-produced albums to come from the underground hip-hop scene in the last five years, which is very much facts-only. Join the convo! —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson


Novelist, 'Novelist Guy'

novelist guy

Release date: April 13, 2018

Standout tracks: “Afro Pick”, “Smiles”, “Stop Killing The Mandem”, “Dot Dot Dot”, “Gangster”

The analogy of a footballing wonderkid making good on his potential and turning into a world beater is a perfect depiction of the young man named Novelist. Marking his arrival with 2014’s modern grime classic “1 Sec” at age 17, the Lewisham MC/producer’s intricate bars, flows and delivery marked him out for greatness as he carried the spirit of grime’s first generation with a modern flex. Whatever expectations we may have had for his eventual debut album were blown out of the water, for 2018’s Novelist Guy is a one-way trip to a whole other world. Marked by his distorted, atmospheric production blurring the lines between grime and rap, much like Dizzee’s Boy In Da Corner, Nov’s braggadocious bars, introspection and social commentary shine through. Politically charged anthems like “Stop Killing The Mandem” sit in perfect tandem with odes to the ends like “Smiles” and self-assessment riddims such as “Dot Dot Dot”, perfectly capturing his ever-changing mindset. —Yemi Abiade


Wretch 32 & Avelino, 'Young Fire, Old Flame'

wretch 32 avelino

Release date: December 18, 2015

Standout tracks: “Nothing Will”, “Dry Cry”, “GMO”, “Hulk Hogan”, “Gift To You”

By 2015, Wretch 32 was reaching the height of his powers as a chartered OG, maturing into a composed artist who made the difficult come across easy when it came to bars. At the same time, Avelino was starting to make noise through a slew of mixtapes and freestyles, representing a new cohort of lyrically-adept UK MCs. The decision for the two to combine on a joint mixtape was a masterstroke: Young Fire, Old Flame is a cross-generational marvel from start to finish. While reminding us that Wretch really is that guy, the tape also serves as a perfect introduction, for the uninitiated, to Avelino’s powers, guided by Wretch 32, walking with him at every step. There is something for everyone on this tape; social commentary (“Young Fire, Old Flame”), physical and emotional growth (“GMO”, “Dry Cry”), flexing (“Hulk Hogan”) and lyrical dexterity throughout, the two Tottenham natives sparring with each other, over refined production, to devastating effect. —Yemi Abiade


Ghetts, 'Conflict Of Interest'

ghetts conflict of interest

Release date: February 19, 2021

Standouts: “Autobiography”, “Mozambique”, “Dead To Me”, “Crud”, “Skengman”

Just like his album opener, Ghetts can be compared to a “fine wine”, only getting better with age. While his third studio album, Conflict Of Interest, has been his most commercially successful LP (charting at No. 2), it is also regarded by many as an almost instant classic. Developing his sound even further from the foundation laid on Ghetto Gospel: The New Testament, the atmospheric, cinematic production provides the perfect backdrop for the Newham MC to deliver the full scope of his artistic arsenal. Weaving introspective and contemplative tales of his personal and career trials and tribulations, alongside social commentary and telling references to his grime history, his intrinsic penchant for flows and pockets is at its elite best. Added to that are the array of star-studded features that only serve to complement the soundscape Ghetts has created (with help from producers TenBillion Dreams and TJ Amadi), delivering a career-defining entry into his already enviable catalogue. Not many artists have the hunger, resolve or ability to last almost two decades in this industry, but the veteran wordsmith has put in the work and is now reaping the rewards and getting his well-deserved, long overdue flowers. Having only been released last month, the Grammys still have plenty of time before their 2022 ceremony. —Aaron Bishop


Che Lingo, 'The Worst Generation'

Che Lingo   'The Worst Generation'

Release date: October 23, 2020

Standouts: “My Block”, “Black Ones”, “Screwface”, “Hunch”, “South”

When Che Lingo gets in his bag, with his ability to sit in awe-inspiring pockets, he’ll leave you certain that no other rapper could replicate or improve on what he does on a track, and on The Worst Generation we get an exemplary demonstration of the ‘Wizard of Wandsworth’ at the peak of his powers. Whatever your taste is when it comes to rap, South London’s Che has it all in this cohesive debut album which sounds like you’re listening to an artist in-tune with his paintbrush, masterfully decorating his canvas. No bar is wasted as Che looks inward, musing on his life and that of those around him, while also commenting about what that says about our society and the wider impact of themes and stories from his journey thus far. A gem of a listen. —Aaron Bishop



Pa Salieu, 'Send Them To Coventry'

Pa Salieu   'Send Them To Coventry'

Release date: November 13, 2020

Standouts tracks: “My Family”, “Betty”, “Frontline”, “Energy”, “T.T.M”

When “Frontline” landed with a bang at the top of 2020, it swept through the drill scene like a tornado. The production, a lurching, Afro-touched creation from North West London rhymer Jevon, was a surprise entry to the scene, devoid of any of drill’s usual tropes, but the harrowing war report of what are streets are really like (accented by his pained cries of “They wanna take my life”) were the resolute proof that drill could evolve into new and unexpected directions without compromising on integrity. On the rest of the tape, Pa Salieu made good on the promise laid out by the year’s run of singles—threading together drill, grime, rap and the rest of the diaspora in a way we hadn’t heard yet. Dub and Afrobeats rubbed up against rap and R&B, playing to the history that tied them all together. It was tough, soulful, atmospheric and raw all at once. This wasn’t drill or even rap or grime—it was all of those things and far more than the sum of its parts. Even Jimmy Fallon recognised its cultural cache. —James Keith



Kano, 'Hoodies All Summer'

kano hoodies all summer

Release date: August 30, 2019

Standout tracks: “Class Of Deja”, “Pan-Fried”, “Can’t Hold We Down”, “Trouble”, “Teardrops”

Kano’s legacy has long been solidified and it’s been a long time since he had anything to prove. Although his palette and his output have always stretched beyond the confines of 140bpm grime, he’ll always have an anchor to those sounds. Where 2016’s Made In The Manor was personal and introspective, Hoodies All Summer was Kano surveying the landscape of a country in crisis. Sure, there are golden grime moments like the pirate radio rawness of “Class Of Deja”, but what really made the album special were the thoughtful treaties on Blackness, community, violence, and culture. Set against the backdrop of the tension that comes at the height of summer, Hoodies All Summer is a beautiful collection, but its key strength was to document rather than preach, and it did so in a way that was deeply moving—particularly the inclusion of a passage from the late, great activist Darcus Howe. —James Keith


Little Simz, 'GREY Area'

little simz grey area

Release date: March 1, 2019

Standouts tracks: “101 FM”, “Offence”, “Selfish”, “Venom”, “Pressure” 

When people discuss Little Simz’s albums, they often point to Stillness In Wonderland as her magnum opus. It’s a stunning, sprawling showcase of her impressive vision, but for our money it’s 2019’s GREY Area that stands as her biggest creative feat yet. Created with phenomenal focus, there’s not a word or note out of place in any of the 10 tracks. Every single sound is deliberate and nothing is wasted. Moreover, her team of collaborators was much more paired back, kept to those closest to her. Production came from her childhood friend, Inflo, and it shows. A mix of soulful samples, tightly-wound rap beats and an indefinable something that nodded to the global adventures her success had taken her, it felt like two creatives working in perfect harmony. The finished result is more personal, more intimate and much more impactful than we heard from her. In fact, you can hear its influence in her work to this date, particularly last year’s Drop 6.

James Keith



Nines, 'Crop Circle'


Release date: April 20, 2018

Standout tracks: “I See You Shining”, “Oh My”, “Rubbery Bands”, “Liz”, “Eagles”

Crop Circle was a huge moment. Not just for Nines, but UK rap in general. Standing on the shoulders of forebears like Giggs (and indeed Nines’ own work, which stretches back more than a decade), this was Nines’ breakout moment. UK rap was no longer the outsider breaking in; it had now taken its rightful place at the epicentre of British music and Nines was making himself right at home. A short film primed us for what was to come, but even the restrained storytelling and kitchen sink drama intimacy didn’t prepare us for how mature, emotive and clever the album would be. That it managed to do all of that and still deliver anthemic moments like “I See You Shining” is all the proof you need that Nines is one of the UK’s greatest modern storytellers.

James Keith



Headie One, 'Music X Road'

headie one music and road

Release date: August 23, 2019

Standout tracks: “Both”, “Home”, “18HUNNA”, “Rubbery Bands”, “Back To Basics”

Headie One created a new lane in UK drill with Music x Road as he channelled introspective themes of conflict between two distinct parts of himself: his love for music and his family-like connection to the streets. Besides the undeniably impeccable lyricism and prodigious production value in tracks like “Both”, “18HUNNA” and “Home”, it’s clear there was a shift in the way Headie approached music following the hype of “Know Better” in 2018, and the Drillers x Trappers project with RV. Music x Road peaked at No. 5 in the official albums chart, complete with a Top 10 single with Dave and a Top 20 solo single. A star was born through this album-like mixtape—one who now sits comfortably at the top of UK drill’s tree. —Mimi Itseli


Krept & Konan, 'Revenge Is Sweet'

krept and konan revenge is sweet

Released: November 1, 2019

Standout tracks: “I Spy”, “Forgiveness”, “Keep Talking”, “G Love”, “Goat Level”

South London’s Krept & Konan, known in most corners as the “punchline kings”, take the art of lyricism very seriously and never fail in giving us bars for thought. Following their pop-friendly debut album, The Long Way Home, second studio album Revenge Is Sweet was the return of that early underground grit we saw on mixtapes like Tsunami and RedRum, with tracks such as “I Spy” with Headie One and K-Trap, “Forgiveness” and “Keep Talking” with Stormzy and the late Cadet, but they also catered to their newer fans with radio-ready cuts like “G Love” featuring Wizkid. Revenge is sweet, but this album was sweeter. —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson



Giggs, 'Landlord'

giggs landlord

Release date: August 5, 2016

Standout tracks: “Whippin’ Excursion”, “Lock Doh”, “The New Shit”, “The Blow Back”, “The Best” 

Giggs has maintained his place as one of the rap scene’s most revered, and his 2016 album Landlord is still some of his finest work to date. This album fed the souls of nostalgia-lovers—particularly those of us who witnessed the birth of Giggs on Channel U—and now, in this present day, you can’t help but admire his ability to survive in such a demanding industry almost 15 years in. Giggs is your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper, and Landlord further proves this as we bared witness to the support he received from his musical peers: Skepta spun “Whippin’ Excursion” at all of his shows that year; pre-TikTok Jme ran a competition offering £500 to the best “The New Shit” routine; Stormzy woke up his neighbours to Landlord on its release day; and The Weeknd gave it a shout-out on Twitter. One word: iconic. —Mimi Itseli



Digga D, 'Double Tap Diaries'

digga d tap diaries

Release date: May 17, 2019

Standout tracks: “No Diet”, “6+4”, “P4DP”, “What’s Love?”, “They Wanna Know”

With over 10 million streams to his name before the release of his debut project in 2019, Digga D had already faced many obstacles in his career, namely the censorship that restricted him and his CGM cohorts from making the music they wanted to make in 2018. This ultimately led Digga D to alter his creative approach in expressing his lived reality. Though some perceive this as restrictive, others argue that it has strengthened Digga’s lyricism, with his use of metaphors and punchlines heightening the listening experience. Double Tap Diaries lives on as one of drill’s biggest success stories, having peaked at No. 11 in the albums chart, and while the controversy and hype created momentum around it (he was in prison when High School Musical star Zac Effron used “No Diet” for his movie premiere promo), Digga D came out the other side victorious. —Mimi Itseli



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