20 British Rappers You Should Know


Why Doesn't UK Rap Crossover to the US?

Rock bands and pop artists from the UK have never had a problem crossing over to the US and experiencing tremendous popularity—look at The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Adele, Coldplay, Queen, Amy Winehouse -- just to barely scratch the surface. So, why can’t the same be said for UK rappers? Rap seems to be the one genre that cannot handle the jump to the American stage. For a society that typically idolizes anything Anglo (Royal Wedding Fever, for example) we have not yet embraced the UK rapper. Could it be the accents? Do we not understand their pop culture references? Or is it merely a case of Americans being satisfied with what we already have?

There is an old saying that The United Kingdom and The United States are two nations divided by a common language. This becomes even more apparent in the international hip-hop community due to the genre’s heavy reliance on slang and colloquialisms. It could be argued that it is easier for our friends across the pond to embrace our rap because they are already accustomed to our slang and speech patterns. Many American television shows and movies are popular over there, giving them a leg up on catching subtle references in songs. Outside of Hugh Grant movies and the Harry Potter franchise, British films and TV shows do not have the same impact over here. Instead, we take great British sitcoms and put an American twist on them, look at The Office and The Inbetweeners for example, further depriving us of an opportunity to gain insight into the British culture.

Their accents could also be to blame when it comes to their lack of fame in the US. For a country that is smaller than eleven different states they have much stronger variations in accents than we do. In most cases, Americans love British accents, ladies think they are charming and guys get a kick out of their pronunciation of words like penalize and the fact that rubbers are erasers. However, when you couple their accents with music and increase the speed that they are talking, all of a sudden the bloke you were having a chinwag with has become unintelligible to American ears.

Since hip-hop’s roots can be traced back to American soil it could simply be a case of Americans not being open to new interpretations of it just yet, i.e. grime. Compared to other genres hip-hop is still relatively young and even younger abroad, maybe in 5 or 10 years these points will all be moot. In the meantime, while you may have heard of Dizzee Rascal, there is so much more great music coming from the other side of the Atlantic that you should check out, so read on and get familiar.

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uk wiley 20 British Rappers You Should Know

  • cunt

    Lunar C

  • Morris_b

    One of the best rap songs I ever heard was from a UK sampler promoted back on Myspace. Union Jack or something like that. “No friendship or trust/ And in this world all we got it us..” the chorus went..Damn. I tried to do the right thing, not download and buy. Now, I’m out. :-P lol

  • Rob M

    and why is not these guys in the list:


  • Somebody, that’s all.

    I think he’s saying that you should at least understand music if you’re going to call yourself a fan.

  • Bn1dan

    J spades? Joe black? Klashnekoff?

  • Matthew Walker

    I’m not sure if it’s “off-beat”, just a different flow. However, this is the problem with trying to cram the artists into a “UK sound”. They are British & doing hip-hop, but you simply cannot compare people like Phi-Life Cypher to Wiley. I think if people judged the entirety of US rap because a few US artists they had heard sound weird, or can’t rap then it would be far less popular as a genre than it is. Fact is, a genre is just a vague guideline to a particular sound but we always have the artists we prefer within that sound, even when we are “fans”. Nobody likes EVERY artist just because they are US Hip-Hop, so nobody should dislike EVERY artist just because they are UK. If you are into the music, whether it be US or UK or wherever, you keep digging in order to discover those artists which do appeal. I’m not big into Grime, for example, and much of the reason why is I don’t particularly like the flow, but then their flow is what separates Grime from just being Hip-Hop. Many of the artists above a Grime artists, altho he does include a few very good British Hip-Hop MCs such as Jehst and Fliptrix. Their flow is impeccable, as are their lyrics, and I don’t see how anybody could hear them as being “off-beat”. Rodney P, UK’s original (recording since ’87 & still going strong) is simply 1 of the best Hip-Hop artists around, US or UK, and he is very much “on-beat”. Check out tracks such as Task Force’s “Cosmic Gypsies”, Phi-Life Cypher’s “Herbaholics”, Aspects “Correct English”, Fliptrix’s “You’ll Never Change”, Lewis Parker’s “Visions of Splendour”, Rodney P’s “Riddim Killa”, Foreign Beggars & Dr. Syntax’s “What Goes up” . . . . the list goes on & on but just check any or all of those tunes for starters & tell me if you still think UK Hip-Hop is off-beat.

  • Matthew Walker

    Lol, & not Jehst?

    Foreign Beggars and Roots Manuva are deserved of any UK list also

  • jabuchan08

    Hey, thanks, for the tips. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think all “grime” (I guess that’s what I was listening to) is bad, and when I say “off beat” I don’t mean “no rhythm,” I just found that style to be a bit disconcerting when it seemed to be encompassing all of Brit-rap that I heard. I also didn’t mean to imply that I haven’t liked any British rap that I’ve heard. I was trying to give an explanation for why Americans don’t connect with UK hip-hop – as filtered through my own experience.

    I like a lot of hip-hop of different nationalities and backgrounds, but I think it’s a bit different when people are rapping in a language you don’t understand. When that happens their particular idioms, slang, and cultural references don’t seem as idiosyncratic or unfamiliar, whereas when a UK rapper raps about tea or cricket it’s a little jarring to an American – neither of those seems very “hip-hop” – but I guess that’s a very insular American attitude to take. Finally I would say that Americans probably have a lot of stereotypes of Brits that don’t jive with their hip-hop sensibilities. I guess we all need our horizons stretched a bit sometimes though.

    Anyway, thanks for the track suggestions. I’ll be checking them out, and hopefully some of them will fit my palate for hip-hop and rap music.

  • Matthew Walker

    Now these are BIG UK tunes. You Americans listen to these tracks and tell me UK Hip-Hop isn’t up to the job:

    Phi-Life Cipher “Herbaholics”

    Fliptrix “You’ll Never Change”

    Paro & Bil Next “Weedmasons Anthem”

    Foreign Beggars & Dr. Syntax “What Goes Up”

    Task Force ft Braintax & Jehst “Cosmic Gypsies”

    and there’s plenty more where they came from

  • StunnaJ
  • StunnaJ

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  • dbz

    where is dike

  • Heather Jones

    I grew up listening to punk and 90s hip hop and the music actually had a message….It wasn’t always a nice or direct message, but the message was there, nonetheless. We used to read the lyrics on the sleeves of the tape cassettes, because we wanted to know. Today’s rap is all about gangs, violence, crimes, drugs, partying, sex, b’s and hoes, money, success and bling…and it’s all wrapped up in thug image and glorification. Does art mimic life? Or does life mimic art? Both. Today’s American rap does nothing but perpetuate the cycle of everything that is sick in American society. I teach at a court placement school for teenage delinquent boys and these boys are the target audience for todays rap. This generation is over-influenced by media and image; Look what today’s simple, shallow rap and hip hop is feeding our youth….they all want to be like that mush-mouthed, ignorant, fool Lil Wayne. The rap of today has one message only and it’s particularly relevant to our youth struggling in the inner-city who sometimes don’t ever leave their own neighborhood. Instead of these children being given hope, all they hear is that growing up in the hood means you have to gang-bang, slang, and make those “hundos.” So why isn’t UK hip hop/rap making it in the states? Today’s youth won’t take the time to hear the message. All they want is deep bass and thug image. I recently started listening to British rap and it feels raw and makes me think. It makes me feel like maybe expression through music still lives. It gives me hope that rap hasn’t reached a complete dead end. I’m going to make my students listen to Akala….and then read the lyrics if necessary (They don’t call me “Damn Ms. Jones” for nothing!) Knowledge is power…………

  • Cash Khevy Music

    Some of you chat real bull shit. list of uk rappers? some start talking bout being black and american.. original. Hip hop is culture, making music your own is what its all bout not being a racist fuck. Some good names being put out for 2015 in the UK even if america is where hip hop came from dont mean it cant be modified to fit or inspiring for the music side of finding your own style. GRIME ?? tell me where dats from then. Rap is generally under the form of “spoken word” in whatever language. so what you sayin’?

  • Steve Ferguson

    How is Wrekonize not even listed here? He’s a Brit, and one of the most gifted artists out there right now. Him with ¡Mayday!/Murs/TechN9ne are killing it these days, albeit mostly in the States…

  • simon

    where the hell is KLASHNEKOFF?

  • James

    I heard a british rapper on the radio, anyway he had a sick song and I can’t seem to find it. Part of the song went “uhh uhh we hear the cops coming, but we aint gonna stop for nothing” anyone know it?

  • Laurie

    First of all I’d like to say that this post is very well written in that it definitely hits the nail on the head with the reasons for why UK Rap is not big in the US and the author has definitely put some of the very best we have to offer in the list. One of my favourites that wasn’t included in the list though is CasisDead formerly known as Castro, search up ‘Drugs Don’t Work’ in particular, he has a raw and aggressive style and he gets some crazy production.

  • Justin

    This list needs to be updated, and omit the grime artists. Not saying they aren’t talented, but Grime is totally different that the rest of UK hip hop. As a dude from New Jersey, I am privy to a lot of hip hop, and I can honestly say the UK scene is BY FAR, healthier, hungrier and honest. Jehst is standard. Respect to Roots Manuva, Black Twang, Skinnyman,Terra Firma, Supa T, Lewis Parker, London Posse, Task Force. The new blood, while not that new, has been given a golden road paved by the previously mentioned artists. The High Focus label, I mean come on, strength after strength. Fliptrix, Verb T, Jam Baxter, Dirty Dike, Edward Scissortounge, Onoe Caponoe, Ramson Badbonez, THE FOUR OWLS, Leaf Dog, BVA. Then you got Jack Flash, Defenders of Style, Sonnyjim and the Eatgood fam, Stig of the Dump, Confucious MC, Cappo, Triple Darkness fam. I could keep going and I don’t even live in the same fucking country! US hip hop with some exceptions, is stagnant and boring; bottom line. Oh UK producers : Chemo (Telemachus), Jon Phonics, Wizard, Ayepee, Molotov, Leaf Dog, Jehst (yes he produces, yes its ill)

  • Gabriel Niklitschek

    First of all I´m neither british nor american (south american). I wanted to hear some british hiphop because actually I like the accent. After hearing it for a while I realized that sounds quite similar to german hiphop with that kind of trap/techno/dubstep base. It´s definitely not Old´s School hiphop (at least not what I have heard by now) and I miss that gospel/jazz/blues/funk influence. Maybe I was just looking for the british version of American hiphop (Snoop dogg, Wu Tang Clan, Redman, Busta Rhymes, Mos Def, Biggie, The Fuggees and all that kinda stuff). If someone know a british artist like that please let me know

  • juken

    What about Mr Pane!

  • RandomDude

    wheres sway? durrty goodz? SKEPTA?

  • johnnyhandsome

    Dude try Jehst, Rodney P, Chester P, Kashmere.

  • http://peopleofwalmart.com YoMayka

    obviously American. this guys statement more ignorant than the one he was attempting to complain about. if i was as dumb as people like this i would think all euros were absolute hypocrites