In 2018, it’s difficult to define what “underrated” means. Often, when listeners think of the term, they picture a rapper who is getting no looks—someone who is putting their music out (and good music at that), but it still having a hard time getting by.

 But the reality is, the term “underrated” can mean a lot of different things. In other words, there’s levels to this. Most of the time, if an artist is underrated, they may be receiving some recognition, but still can’t seem to the capture the mass exposure that’s available. They don’t find themselves part of the daily conversation initiated by the DJ Akademiks’ Instagram page or other prominent music resources. While not every rapper strives for this specific type of recognition, not getting it certains limits their accessibility.

 We often forget this, but virtually all of our favorite rappers start out as underrated. There was a time where Kendrick Lamar was overlooked enough to have a controlled performance in a Best Buy. But it’s all part of the rap process. Today, the number of rappers that are grabbed from obscurity and thrown into the spotlight overnight is absurd, but it wasn’t always like that. In the past, rappers had to go through the ups and downs and fight for coverage and radio play before they ever achieved success.  

 Here we’ve highlighted 18 underrated rappers, all with varying levels of success. Some have previously been on the brink of stardom; some have yet to blow up beyond their initial breakthroughs. It’s a collection of artists that all bring something new to the table, and many of them had actually to watch other artists run off with styles and trends they set in motion. But again, unfortunately, that’s rap.

 Each one of these rappers has put in the work. Hopefully the acknowledgement eventually comes and they are underrated no more. Here are the 18 most underrated rappers right now.