For all the naysaying and doom-mongering about this and that being “watered down”, there’s a huge amount to be optimistic about when it comes to UK rap.
Right now, we’re in a position that the U.S. has enjoyed for years: that is, rather than have one dominant scene, we have several, all converging, splintering and converging again, and that kind of cross-pollination is much more valuable and more conducive to long-term cultural prosperity than any alternative.
As it stands, we’ve got: road rap, drill, alternative rap, trap, conscious rap, boom-bap and more. And we’re now seeing top-selling artists like Dave and Knucks who don’t feel beholden to any one tribe, but instead feel inspired to mix and match. Just as exciting, we’re also spoiled by a glut of new faces—like KidWild, TSkinz and AntsLive—who have been raised on new technologies, new platforms, and are harnessing them to completely shake up the industry. So while there isn’t the tidal wave of cultural upheaval we got with grime’s mid-2010s reboot, or the UK drill explosion that followed, we’ve arguably got something that is much more sustainable.
Here are 23 UK rappers to look out for in 2023.