10. Daniel OG – Plan
Daniel OG started the year off strongly with the release of his leading track ‘Plan’ on his Art Attack EP. Although he is probably one of the least well known artists on this list, the track did receive attention from the likes of established artists Skepta and Jammer. It’s easy to understand why – his relaxed style and effortless flow, accompanied by his self produced beat, make for great listening. Furthermore, there are some standout quotables:
In addition the visual matches the track and improves the whole experience. The video includes Neverland Clan members Ryan Hawaii and Connor Williams. Both have pushed barriers also in their respective fields; Ryan in his artwork and clothing and Connor in his modelling. The whole of the crew has pushed boundaries this year, pioneering a new wave of music, fashion and culture. We expect even more from them next year too.
9. House Of Pharoahs – RWM (Run With Me)
House of Pharaohs. Again, less well known than many of the other artists on this list. However, the rap/art collective has also had a very strong year. They’ve released a number of other singles, which have all been major. Their sound is unique and each member brings their own flavour to each track. Each release seems to surpass the last and they’ve also upped the levels when referring to visuals. The group arguably hasn’t had the same attention as Neverland Clan but they did get noticed by DJ Semtex. Semtex has hosted shows with them, dating back to 2015 and House of Pharaohs even had a headline show at Brixton Jamm. They’ll surely get even more recognition in 2017.
The actual track has a cool vibe about it, which doesn’t sound like many other U.K instrumentals. Each artist added their distinctive sound to the track, with standout verses from Blaze and Sam Wise. The visuals were sharp and fresh as usual, again surpassing their last. In the words of Sam Wise: ‘People don’t do it like this’. There’s no one like House of Pharaohs. They’ve found their own lane and stayed in it. Expect more greatness from them in 2017.
8. Loski – Hazards
Another breakthrough act on the list. It hasn’t just been Loski however. Harlem Spartans have really been on the come up and are the hottest crew in drill (maybe excluding 67). They came into their own in 2016 and were another group that found their own lane. The release of ‘Hazards’ really cemented their place in the scene after ‘Jugg’. Since Hazards, Harlem have been prolific and have released quality tracks consistently, each track racking up hundreds of thousands views – ‘Jason Bourne’ and ‘Splash and Cash’ being the standouts.
I remember having ‘Hazards’ on repeat for months after the release. Something about the it is hella replayable. It could be because of Loski’s cold flow, that sits on the beat expertly. Or his cold, unsparing lyrics. Or maybe it’s the cold instrumental. Regardless, the song is a hit and has lead to Harlem becoming a staple in U.K Drill. His lyrics have been recited by many across the country, especially ‘how can a gyal be rude and dead’ or its many variations. If Harlem can focus on music and stay out of trouble, then they’ll be a mainstay in U.K Drill and could spread the sound overseas, gaining more exposure.
7. Sir Spyro – Topper Top ft. Teddy Bruckshot, Lady Chan and Killa P
Sir Spyro back with another banger. As if 2015 wasn’t good enough, the old school DJ/producer made his mark on 2016 with the release of ‘Topper Top’, recruiting some more old school emcees to jump on his instrumental. Once again, the track didn’t disappoint.
The track commences with an epic feel which is matched in the video. Teddy Bruckshot standing menacingly, like something out of a thriller and Spyro, Killa P and Lady Chann lurking in the background. The video seems to be Sir Spyro’s take on a Western and a thriller (in London. I never knew this existed), emphasised by the sound of the horse and Teddy Bruckshot barking hawkishly. Even Capo Lee does excellently with his acting and we get to see the affair from a first person perspective. Lady Chann’s scene is also menacingly captivating. Lastly, the final scene concludes the thriller expertly. The editing is perfect and the transitions between characters suits the tone of the video. The video is so good that the lyrics haven’t even been mentioned yet.
Teddy Bruckshot, starts first and does indeed bark his merciless lyrics. He also takes the hook and tells everyone that he is the best of the best; he is the ‘champion’. Lady Chan follows up levelling with Teddy Bruckshot. Then Killa P concludes the hit, by letting us know he’s not to be messed with, just like Lady Chan and Teddy Bruckshot. The track is packed with hard hitting lyrics and of course Sir Spyro’s hard hitting instrumental. Topper top!
6. Cadet – Stereotype
A break is most definitely needed after ‘Topper Top’. Cadet provides this with conscious, relatable lyrics. ‘Stereotype’ was his first release of the year and definitely made a mark on the scene, after its release. Cadet is often known for his conscious lyrics; in his ‘Slut Freestyle’ and ‘You Need To Hear This’. ‘Stereotype’ was no different and set Cadet up for the incredible year he’s had. From ‘The Commitment’ EP to his headline show to songs with Big Tobz. In the words of Stormzy – ‘it’s been a good year for the kid’.
The emotive freestyle has countless relatable lines. It touches on a variety of topics and is filled with feeling. He begins by outlining the stereotypes of a black man living in South London. He told himself and his mother about how he wasn’t going to become the stereotype but as he’s gotten older, he’s become exactly what he didn’t want to be. The track then progresses as he speaks on family issues. He speaks about how he treats his mother and brother and vows to improve. He then ends by again admitting to the stereotype. It’s an honest and open account that can be evocative to many who listen. Cadet also shares his talent for rap even when his tone becomes more animated during certain parts of the track. In songs like these, filled with lyrics, not much needs to be said. Just listen and take in.
5. Kojo Funds x Abra Cadabra – Dun Talkin
“Ye me dun talkin’, Ye me dogs dem gun barkin’”
The collaboration. The catchy hook. Kojo and Abra, back with a banger. Both have had an amazing year. Kojo’s releases this year have all reached at least one hundred thousand views with many hitting a million. Abra Cadabra meanwhile, has had arguably the best year out of anyone in U.K rap. All starting from his Bl@ckbox Freestyle. He’s also been consistent, with a new verse almost every two weeks. ‘Dun talkin’ saw both of them come together and it didn’t disappoint.
The beat and the hook go hand in hand and engages the listener before the song’s fully underway. Kojo runs with his Afro – swing vibe as usual. This makes the verse easy to listen to and makes the song even more catchy, emphasised with the repetition of ‘sana sana’ or ‘aiii’. The song would’ve been a hit regardless, but of course Abz had to give his verse and add his flavour to the track. His rough voice, mixed in with his singing/rapping, has become an Abra Cadabra trademark. Once again, Abz uses it effectively and brings the track up to the next level. The song is simple but not basic. Catchy but not annoying. A banger for sure. ‘No Problem, No problem’ (Abra Cadabra – 2016).
4. 67 – Lets Lurk ft. Giggs
With 67 and Giggs, you can’t go wrong. Both have had a strong year. 67 are the face of U.K Drill and are now being recognised by a more mainstream audience. Their Lets Lurk mixtape has been a great addition to the scene and has added to their previous mixtape; In Skengs We Trust. They’ve transcended U.K Drill and are mentioned across the country. If 67 stay focused, then they could be on their way to becoming a national treasure. I need not over sell Giggs’ value to the scene. One of modern U.K rap’s pioneers and his records speak for themselves. This year was particularly good for Giggs because of the release of Landlord (currently a silver album). Another body of work added to Gigg’s collection. This one was particularly well balanced and hard as usual. With these two forces coming together, one of the hardest street songs of 2016 was made.
Monkey starts off and grabs our attention with his verse; ‘Skeng in my pocket, can’t you see the bulge in my coat?’ He’s then followed by Dimzy and then LD on the hook. Next it’s Asap then LD again, but on a verse. Each member holds their own and excites the listener. And just when you thought the track couldn’t get any harder, Giggs enters the arena and maintains the energy levels. The track is then rounded off with LD’s hook once again and the track is completed. The track simply does the job to a high standard and there will surely be more hits from these two giants of the game in 2017.
3. Dave x AJ Tracey – Thiago Silva
Dave started the year with ‘JKYL+HYD‘ followed up by his legendary ‘Fire in the Booth‘. He then linked up with Aj Tracey and their rise became even more rapid. After Thiago Silva, they received even more attention and this lined them both up to release EPs. Dave released Six Paths which included ‘Wanna Know’, which was later remixed by Drake. And of course after Drake remixes your song your popularity is sure to increase. It’s also known that Dave plays the piano and even thought of the initial chord progression for ‘Picture Me’. We’ve seen him more recently, showing off his skill on the piano, at Maida Vale and later for Big Zuu on SBTV. It’s been refreshing to see Dave’s progression. There have been points throughout his career, not just this year, that have pushed him up to the next level. It’s clear to see his drive and determination to make the best music he possibly can. His content matter is also very pleasing as he speaks on serious, relatable topics and has a clear message. What’s also good, is how he takes time when releasing each music video and has pushed boundaries by recording visuals in different countries. He, with the help of LX, make their surroundings look beautiful, instead of making their ends look bad. This makes for the perfect experience, as if the bars weren’t enough.
AJ Tracey too has had an incredible year. He and MTM have run the radio stations and AJ Tracey has featured in a number of big songs e.g. ‘23’, ‘Knotty Head Remix’, ‘Like That’ and many more. His feature game alone shows how hot he’s been this year. He’s done a number of freestyles, with ‘Packages‘ being the highlight. He’s released multiple visuals, which have also pushed boundaries, as he’s gone abroad too (in ‘Buster Cannon’ and ‘Pasta’). His EP was also released and had some amazing sonics. He’s currently leading a grime/drill/trap sound which many artists are currently running with. AJ Tracey’s forte is his style and flows, which he almost always gets right. His success is also refreshing and can be used as an example to many young people and his peers. His success should surely push other members of MTP and other grime emcees. His ability to put out songs so quickly is similar to Chip’s and their song ‘Capri Sun’ is one of the highlights on the Lil Tracey EP. Both artists are different in their methods and content but both serve their purpose. Two artists who have again found their lane. They’ve both had an amazing year and they’ll become even bigger and gain more popularity as time goes on. These two are definitely the future of our scene and are already two of the biggest artists in the scene. Phew, oh yeah and the songs also a banger.
2. Mura Masa – Love$ick ft. A$AP Rocky
The only song on the list that doesn’t feature an artist from London. Instead it’s Mura Masa from Guernsey and A$AP Rocky from Harlem, New York. Despite this, the song makes the London based list because of the video and the unique calypso type instrumental. The original ‘Lovesick Fuck’ was featured on Mura Masa’s album ‘Someday Somewhere’. So Love$ick is A$AP Rocky’s take on the song. And Mura Masa is definitely one to look out for and he was ranked joint fifth in the ‘BBC Music Sound of 2016’. His unique sound stands out as he’s able to infuse Hip Hop, Dance, Electro and Oriental type sounds into his work. At his young age, Mura Masa has an incredible musical palette and is one to watch.
The song is a mix of Dance, Calypso, Pop and Hip Hop, giving it a fun, optimistic feel. The subtle changes throughout the song are executed perfectly and are matched by the video. A$AP Rocky flows over the beat nicely, as always, and delivers a solid couple of verses. The key original elements of the song remain, keeping the original aura of the song.
Then there’s the highlight; the video. It’s often be compared to the 1995 film ‘Kids’. Like the film ‘Kids’, it shows the reality of being an adolescent. It captures life on London estates expertly and shows the kids having a good time. It also includes the ‘Love$ick’ storyline and is effectively a short film, instead of your standard music video. The video has a summertime feel although the weather doesn’t agree. Imagine if it was released in the summer, the reaction would’ve been even greater. I’m sure it would’ve been played at all the music festivals and would’ve been played even more around London. Well, there’s always next summer. Regardless, the song is definitely a hit!
1. Abra Cadabra – Robbery Remix ft. Krept & Konan
Number one. The fact it’s a remix needs to be noted because many won’t have listened to the original. The remix however saw the U.K punchline kings, Krept & Konan, join up with one of the coldest newcomers, Abra Cadabra. Not much introduction is needed really. Krept & Konan have already proved themselves over the years and seem to release a banger every year. Abz on the other hand, has already been mentioned and has had the biggest breakthrough of 2016. The ‘Bl@ckbox Freestyle’ already made him someone to keep an eye on and highlighted his talent. The ‘Robbery Remix’ then took it to the next level. His popularity has grown rapidly and the song has gone on to win best song at the ‘MOBO Awards’. The most pleasing thing about all of his success, is his humility as he’s often lost for words when speaking in his success. ‘Man don’t talk’ (Abra Cadabra – 2016).
The track produced by Yamaica Productions, is heavy and hard hitting. Then the famous hook hits home. Krept follows up with a well crafted, ruthless verse and Konan also holds his own, adding some more punchlines. Then of course Abz rounds the song off. I would go into more detail but this pretty much sums it up:
“Man don’t talk, man rob
Run up in the trap like boss weh di money deh food affi nyam
Yuh, tek weh yuh arm pon deh ‘chete before it get chop
Bumbaclart ya a eediat, ya a eediat, don’t bother try run, yuh”