This is a lesson in British rap.
Whenever I tell people I love British rap, I usually get two responses:
“Yeah! I love Dizzee Rascal/The Streets too!”
“There are British rappers?”
Well, yes there are. And some of them are very good. While I definitely appreciate Dizzee’s style and I used to listen to the Streets, neither is really indicative of the caliber of rapper that Britain has produced.
My favorite British rapper and the first I followed with any sort of regularity is Jehst. Simply put, the man is on par with any of the great wordsmiths on the American scene. His surreal, often absurd imagery, strange sense of humor, and elastic flow form fascinating journeys through the mind of the self-proclaimed “alcoholic author.”
Up there with Jehst on my list of favorite British rappers is Klashnekoff. As far as flows go, few can step close to Klashnekoff’s. His lyrics capture the difficulty and violence of Urban British life (a subject that I admittedly no little about) vividly with an energy and rage absent from so much rote trap rap. Plus you can’t really go wrong when you reference Hype Williams’ Belly in a song.
More well known than those mentioned thus far is Roots Manuva. The award winning emcee has had a following on both sides of the pond due to his affiliation with Ninjatune/Big Dada Records and tracks with rappers like Chali 2na. I’ve never enjoyed him as much Jehst and Klashenkoff, but I think he crafts great tracks with his unique beat selection and forceful baritone.
Also, Slick Rick was born in London. Any excuse to post Slick Rick is fine in my book.