Any New Yorker will tell you that the water is different in the five boroughs. That’s why the pizza and bagels are better, but it’s also why the talent out of (especially) Brooklyn is as rich as it’s ever been. The tiers of popularity among the city’s emcees suggests a very healthy ecosystem. There’s room for stars and up-and-comers alike, with each bracket gaining respect and traction as the area’s scene continues to grow. Smoove L is a star in New York, but his national rise is still on the way up. His SoundCloud tracks routinely garner millions of streams, and his unique, rapid-fire flow makes him a standout in a crowded scene. The way Smoove moves between speed-fueled bars of street hustles to melodic lines about the girl he wants, signals maturity and mastery of his artistry. He’s a rapper’s rapper with mainstream appeal, offering technical flourishes for the rap heads and sticky choruses for radio-friendly listeners. Standing out in Brooklyn these past few years has been difficult for some, as the scene is impossibly rich, although it’d be hard to tell while watching Smoove L’s rise. —Will Schube

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