Music moves quickly these days. With so many new artists popping up, it can be difficult for any rap fan to keep pace. Our monthly column 10 Rappers You Should Know Right Now cuts through the noise to tell you the rising hip-hop artists on Audiomack you should be paying attention to.
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Atlanta’s Hunxho scored a regional hit last year with “Let’s Get It,” a distinctly ATL anthem that helped signal the rapper’s continued rise in his city. That song showcases Hunxho’s laid-back Atlanta flow, but on “Made Me”—a song from his recent Street Poetry project—he delves more into his melodic bag, trading verses with NoCap about having one foot in rap and one foot in the street.
Hometown: Milledgeville, GA
Pap Chanel hails from Milledgeville, a town about 100 miles southeast of Atlanta, and her latest single is something of an ode to the environment that raised her. “Real country girl jumping out of black trucks,” she raps emphatically over sparse piano and rolling percussion. The song, a standout from her 2021 Pretty & Paid 2.0 project, serves as both testament to her skill and her values, as she raps on the second verse, “Let’s put the cap shit to an end/Don’t care ‘bout your followers or ‘bout your Benz.”
Baby Stone Gorillas
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
For much of the past year, Baby Stone Gorillas have made a name for themselves through their one-off songs and videos, mostly filmed in and around Jim Gilliam Park in their Baldwin Village neighborhood. With the release of their debut full-length—the self-titled BABYST5XNE GORILLAS—in March, the group has expanded both their sound and their scope, collaborating with other LA artists as well as rappers from the Bay Area and Detroit. For “Back Up,” the group provides an update on a classic Dr. Dre beat, coasting over a sample from Eve’s “Let Me Blow Your Mind.”
Hometown: Richmond, VA
Frank, Fly Anakin’s recent album, may be billed as the Richmond rapper’s debut, but he’s spent the better part of a decade releasing projects and helping solidify the foundation of a local rap scene in his hometown. The album features old friends and familiar faces, like frequent collaborator Pink Siifu, but Anakin’s distinct, above-the-beat vocal style sometimes sounds best on its own, like on the interlude “Class Clown.” He has made no secret of the fact that Ghostface Killah is a huge influence and this track is probably his best homage: a tightly coiled, hypnotizing vocal sample that lends to the song’s overall rhythm, and Fly Anakin’s nostalgic, sometimes tragic, rapping that sends the listener to another space and time.
Hometown: Prince George’s County, Maryland
One of the pioneers of what became known as the “DMV flow,” Tae Dawg was incarcerated while a handful of artists in the scene garnered attention outside the borders of the region. But since his release in 2020, the Maryland rapper has been on a tear, dropping a steady stream of high-quality projects and singles. “Wildcard,” a standout from last December’s OozinDawg 2 tape, is a perfect example: the pocket he inhabits on the beat is familiar but his melodic vocal approach carries the song to new territory entirely.
Hometown: Lebanon, IL
Wovvoka, the recent teenage signee to Donald Glover’s Wolf + Rothstein imprint, hails from Lebanon, a small Illinois town with a population under 5,000. After dropping her debut single “GANG!!!” at the top of the year, Wovvoka returned with the equally energetic “100%.” On the new track, the young artist strings together compact statements over distorted bass before, taking a page from Playboi Carti, building towards a dialed-down scream that matches the animated beat.
Real Boston Richey
Hometown: Tallahassee, FL
Maybe the clearest sign of the Detroit rap scene’s growing national influence has been the rise of Detroit-style production popping up all over Florida. Tallahassee’s Real Boston Richey is the latest rapper from the Southern state to employ a beat that sounds like it was made with Peezy in mind. On “Keep Dissing,” Richey’s Florida drawl still sounds right at home over the sinister string melody and busy percussion, as he raps, “I wanna hit the booth, but I’m stuck up in them trenches.
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Hailing from Chicago’s West Side, Flex Sinatra has been honing his craft since his 2016 debut EP ProjectFlex. Over the past six years, he’s established himself as one of his city’s most consistent rising rappers, most recently scoring a regional hit with “Issue,” a menacing track that showcases his understated flow. On his recent single “I Guess,” Flex delves deeper over similarly hard-hitting production, opening the song with the line, “My pops was a gangsta/Just not gangsta enough to raise me, I guess.”
Hometown: Worcester, MA
A few years ago, before the genre “pluggnb” was the subject of niche internet wormholes, Massachusetts artist Devstacks made a name for himself online as a producer for rappers like Summrs and Autumn!. Over the last two years, with projects like Now They Know Us and Now They Know Us 2, he’s established himself as a rapper in his own right, expanding on the melodic, internet-driven wave he helped pioneer. His most recent single, “Do U Understand,” encompasses the sound. Over euphoric production that sounds straight out of Kingdom Hearts, Devstacks employs a simple but effective melody, rapping about how far he’s come.
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
In his music, Na-Kel Smith—the pro skater, actor, and rapper—often straddles the line between the energy of a hardcore show and rapping. He’s been prolific as an artist in 2021, releasing five projects so far, starting with the eight-song Skullface Bonehead in late January. His most recent effort, African American Death Dodger, a similarly paced, 13-minute EP that leans further into dystopia and disparate sounds. Standout “Letterman” starts out with a dejected-sounding guitar sample and turns into something with rowdy, West Coast energy, as Na-Kel shifts accordingly from a whisper to a scream within the span of verses.