Indie artists who stand out in sea of mainstream rap
In 1968 a musician had to book studio time, record with a live band, engineer their music and get literal records pressed, just to make their music available to the public. Fifty years later, that same process has been streamlined, only requiring a laptop, a creative mind and internet connection.
The barriers to entering the music industry have fallen dramatically, with sites like SoundCloud and Bandcamp hosting millions of songs from all around the world, waiting on the right listener. hip-hop is one of the genres most directly benefiting from this online world of music, with the ease of access turning friends, neighbors and relatives into aspiring rappers and producers. With an ever-evolving indie scene, here are some of the best underground hip-hop artists.
Pink Siifu — Hailing from Birmingham, Ala., Pink Siifu is an artistic chameleon. Originally a poet studying in a theater program, Siifu has become a standout rapper who’s also experimented with punk, R&B and production. Incredibly confessional lyrics are his way of celebrating the nuances of everyday life. With albums that span multiple genres, Siifu is a talent that’s keeping his music rooted in his experience. “I’m processing reality and being mad honest," Siffu said in an interview with WRSU.
Top Projects: "Ensley", "space ghetto", "B. Cool-Aid"
BRAINORCHESTRA — An Elizabeth, NJ native, BRAINORCHESTRA has been making beats since 2013. His creative consistency has led him to feature on programs like Dublab and NTS Radio, while playing shows all around the country. Whether it be through an imaginative remix or a well-placed sample, BRAINORCHESTRA’s music draws from and celebrates R&B, Jazz and East Coast hip-hop. From lofi beats to d n’ b to ambient music, BRAINORCHESTRA explores all that the world of electronic music has to offer, repping N.J. all the way.
Top Projects: "DOMI", "Patterns", "Speculo"
Swarvy — Originally from Philadelphia, Swarvy is an LA-based producer and engineer with a prolific output. Whether it be through mixing credits or beats supplied Swarvy has released a multitude of solo and collab albums, including one with the aforementioned Pink Siifu. His latest project "Anti-Anxiety" is a mellow affair featuring a few of the artists he’s helped in the past, including talented rappers like Lojii and Jeremiah Jae.
Top Projects: "Anti-Anxiety", "twothousandnine" (w/Pink Siifu), "Stunts Vol. 1-4"
Medslaus — Medslaus is a duo from NYC comprised of the MC Medhane and producer extraordinaire Slauson Malone. Together they’ve released two exemplary projects, 2015’s "Greys in Yellow" and 2017’s "Poorboy". Malone’s instrumentals rumble under Medhane’s voice, which acts as a brighter compliment to the often bass-heavy beats. Starkly honest, Medhane addresses the weight of expectations from family and friends and the everyday pressures of an artist trying to make a living off their craft. With both artists constantly releasing music in tandem and separately, this pair of talents is one to keep your eyes on.
Top Projects: "Greys in Yellow", "Poorboy"
Jade Fox — Jade Fox is the rapping alter ego of the artist more widely known as Liv.e, a burgeoning R&B singer from Dallas. Her style is largely influenced by chopped and screwed music and the laid-back delivery that Texans are known for. While she’s been recognized more for her output while singing, Jade Fox is in a super-group called Kryptonyte, who just released its self-titled debut mixtape. Whether in rap or R&B, she’s one to watch for.
Top Projects: "Kryptonyte", "::hoopdreams::", "FRANK"
There are countless talented rappers and producers that could easily be on this list. Tuamie, MIKE, Mavi, Young Nudy, Slowthai, Kenny Beats, Key!, Ka and many more instantly come to mind. Rap’s underground has also had a strong year to this point, with artists like Saba, Noname and Maxo Kream all dropping very strong albums. There’s more hip-hop in the public eye than ever, which means more types of rap to explore. Happy journeys.