Visuals: Tom Abbiss Smith
Words: Holly Hollister & Oscar Burton
Back in the days of the block parties where hip-hop was conceived, sounds and styles would fit far more comfortably into their given boxes. Today however, beats, lyrics and themes associated with one genre are re-appropriated, mashed-up and modified to make another.
But the MC remains a constant, vital part of the formula.
Of course, there are too many important new voices out there. So burdening ourselves with the problem of selecting 5 (in no particular order) was a heavy task. But the MC’s highlighted here have a distinctive quality. Pathfinders unshackled by the reductive temptation to conform; we hear their music and want to know their story.
You might balk at our ignorance, commend our fine judgement or simply be surprised by your own indifference. Whatever your view might be: here are the 5 Essential New Voices in Rap, according to Bonafide…
ill Camille is our first pick. Not just an influential female voice within an L.A rap scene dominated by male bravado, but a fascinating lyricist, having discovered her own talent by happy accident during her days working as an A&R rep. In fact, it’s hard to work out an area in the industry that Camille hasn’t had experience in. It seems like she’s been waiting in the wings for a fair while now, ghostwriting for Terrace Martin and delivering backup vocals for the likes of Kendrick Lamar. Her style is smooth as velvet; nostalgic, but in no way a derivative throwback. Her wealth of experience shines bright on her long anticipated sophomore album, Heirloom, released by the ever-on-the-pulse Jakarta Records. Here you’ll find seamless blending of R&B hooks into tight verse, beats weighed heavy with brass, skipping jazz drums and uplifting piano melodies. Womanhood, ancestry and what it’s like to grow up on the other side of Hollywood are the dominant themes. It also features a host of esteemed collaborators, namely, Stones Throw’s Georgia Ann Muldrow, TDE signee SiR and fellow Los Angeles native, Iman Omari. Finally stepping into the limelight, ill Camille is most definitely not one to be slept on.
We introduced Louis VI as a future player in the game back in November last year and haven’t shifted our position. As both beatmaker and lyricist, the London born rapper has momentum. Not afraid to tackle the issues of the day affecting young mixed-race men in London – step into his back catalogue and you’ll find contemplations of mental health, race and the human condition. The lyrics are introspective but never over-earnest. His recent release, More Water is a thoroughly hydrating metaphor for ‘cutting through the bullshit’, for cleaning the decks. Characteristically playful with tempo and pace switch ups, More Water stands as the bridge between his last EP and forthcoming EP, signaling a move away from introspection and toward ‘outrospection’ with a more global scope. We hear the new EP will be dropping in the next few months, featuring guests from both sides of the Atlantic. Keep them peepers pealed, but for the moment, check More Water on Spotify.
Whether you’ve been calling it afro-dancehall, alt-pop, UK afro-grime, afro-swing or anything else among a host of hastily crowbarred monikers, undeniably there’s a new sound attacking the UK airwaves. Pioneered by J Hus in particular, this blend of afrobeat and UK rap with a sprinkle of azonto is here to stay. And Kojo Funds is on the frontline of this emerging sound. The prodigious 22 year old rapper and singer can already boast projects with Jme and Mabel, endorsement from the likes of Young Thug and most recently appears on Redlight’s newest offering I’ll Be Waiting, released just a few days ago. Accordingly, Bonafide predicts that Kojo Funds will be coming to a high-street store playlist near you soon, but if you can’t wait, check his SoundCloud.
LayFullStop is the most expressive and indispensable female rapper in the UK if you ask Bonafide. Her content, form, flow and delivery are all original, all on point… Put it this way, she’s cooking at a level beyond her years and making up the recipes as she goes, way beyond what you’d expect for a 20 something freshman artist. The last year has seen the Brum born Manchester resident uploading tracks and visuals to YouTube, hinting at her day-to-day life and creative process, often alongside neo-soul star in the making IAMDBB. Also a member of hip-hop crew Cul De Sac, this young adoptive Mancunian is just beginning her journey – but with a debut this impressive, we don’t think she’ll see the depths of obscurity any time soon. Grab her EP The Blue Compilation for free on her Bandcamp.
Describing his music as “Anxious” in a recent interview, Benny Mails is asserting himself as an honest and humble rapper. With an unmistakable south London drawl and a tone full of insolent resentment to match, what really strikes us about Mails is his technical ability. He’s equally comfortable spitting laid back high concept bars as he is double timing. Grime, hip hop and trap influences are all nakedly obvious in his work, but what he manages to do that steps beyond the norm is blend them all cleanly. The sound that emerges from this emulsifier is more than the sum of its parts. While he’s undoubtedly still finding his feet stylistically, Mails manages to convey the grit of London and realities of life with sensitivity and flair. Comparisons with Jesse James Solomon will be unavoidable for him but honestly, this really doesn’t present a problem, for either of them. Watch him laying himself all out and highlighting his life motto; “everything happens for a reason” in this live performance of Mantra and check his Facebook to keep updated.