Over the next few weeks, we’ll be amping up our FACT Rated coverage of vital new acts you need to care about with lists and interviews introducing you to the most exciting newcomers set to storm the year ahead. Welcome to Rated Season.
From Fox News-baiting Los Angeles crew Shoreline Mafia to DMV “sugar trap” rapper Rico Nasty, these are the rappers you need to keep an eye on in 2018.
While music streaming platform SoundCloud is still experiencing difficulties, it shows no sign of releasing its grip on rap. As a way to share music for young rappers and producers it’s completely unmatched, and just a quick look across the top 50 most played tracks in the USA reveals all you need to know: it’s all rap, mostly from artists who don’t even remember a time without file sharing.
As usual, FACT has rifled through the best and the worst of rap’s current crop – from Post Malone’s wave of emo crooners to 21 Savage’s legion of eerie mumblers – and put together a list of rappers to watch in 2018.
As you might expect from her moniker, Chattanooga, Tennessee rapper bbymutha is indeed a mom – with two sets of twins, no less. She rose to prominence back in 2013 after collaborating with LSDXOXO and has released a stellar run of EPs, culminating in December 2016’s Glow Kit. That record’s ‘Rules’, with its syrupy Southern production and smart lyrical touches, is bbymutha’s breakthrough. She has what so many other rappers don’t – genuine swagger. JT
Baltimore’s Creek Boyz broke out last year with an unassuming anthem, the surprisingly tender ‘With My Team’. It was a crack of light in a shitty year and a good reminder that when the world’s burning, you need your crew around you while you toast marshmallows on the embers. And if anybody was worried that Turk P. Diddy, ETS Breeze, J Reezy and Fedi Mula were destined simply to be one hit wonders, Creek Boyz silenced critics with the one-two punch of ‘Loco’ and ‘Trap Digits’ this month. With their debut mixtape 1:11 set for release on 300 in March, 2018 is theirs for the taking. JT
It’s tough having the weight of New York City on your shoulders. Artists such as Young M.A, Desiigner and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, who soared almost too quickly to the top of the city’s relevancy scale, learned the hard way, rapidly rising and dropping from view almost as fast. But Jay Critch’s ascent has been different: slow and steady, he’s taken a backseat to Rich the Kid and Famous Dex and built a following organically. Now Critch has the entire city behind him as he prepares for the next stage – with both his debut mixtape and Rich Forever 4 on the schedule for 2018, he’ll soon be inescapable. AP
Chicago rapper KAMI is no newcomer – he was a founder member of Chance The Rapper’s Savemoney collective and put out his debut mixtape way back in 2012. But last year the 24-year-old artist found his voice, toying with synthwave on dark pop full-length Just Like the Movies and inverting the well-worn trap formula on the excellent Superstar EP. That EP’s standout track, ‘Payload’, has just been treated to a typically stylish video and is already picking up momentum; KAMI has proved he’s just as comfortable making rap bangers as introspective pop, the rest is just numbers. JT
DMV rappers Lil Dude and Goonew exploded onto the scene after a co-sign from Atlanta’s Hoodrich Pablo Juan. Both artists have powerful solo voices (as evidenced on last year’s Luciano 2.0 and Beware of Goon respectively) but work even better together – their gritty street rap is as catchy as it comes and their explorative flows set them apart from their peers. Now they’re are just waiting on exposure; once people stumble upon their brilliant Homicide Boyz mixtape, it will then only be a matter of time before everyone is shouting “Hey Auntie” and “Trapnanana”. AP
Lil Skies’ momentum is growing fast and at this point may be unstoppable. Not only does the Pennsylvania rapper have the full support of YouTube powerhouses such as go-to director Cole Bennett and popular reactor Cam of CUFBOYS, but he’s also mastered the art of simplicity. Lil Skies’ music is straightforward and light, making it extremely accessible – think Post Malone, or Drake – and seems primed to climb the Billboard charts. With songs like ‘Red Roses’ and ‘Nowadays’ already achieving massive numbers – 26 million and 24 million views respectively – Lil Skies may leave 2018 a superstar. AP
With a placement on HBO’s Insecure for last year’s ‘Poppin’, self-styled “sugar trap” rapper Maria Kelly, aka Rico Nasty, is certain to have a good year. Kelly has already shared the mic with Lil Yachty (on The Fate of the Furious track ‘Mamacita’) and last year’s Tales of Tacobella and Sugar Trap 2 mixtapes showed a level of skill, humor and charisma that’s all too rare. JT
The rap group is not dead and LA’s Shoreline Mafia are here to make sure you know that. Made up of rappers Ohgeesy, Fenix, Rob Vicious and Master Kato, the group have embraced their West Coast roots and made the sound accessible for a generation raised on SoundCloud. With songs like the eerie ‘Musty’ and the Bay-influenced ‘Bottle Service’ gaining traction and more ears finding 2017’s underrated ShorelineDoThatShit mixtape, 2018 should be a wild year for the collective. Having buzzing beatmaker Ron-Ron The Producer at their disposal will only help. AP
28-year-old Chicago rapper and producer Valee emerged on our radar after sharing the mic with FACT favorite ZMoney, and following VTM, a mixtape with St. Louis producer ChaseTheMoney, Valee is well on the way to wider notoriety. VTM is that rare mixtape that doesn’t overstay its welcome – it’s only 26 minutes long and 11 tracks – and Valee knows how to pack in charisma without having to worry about Spotify-beating duration and a litany of needless features. Tracks like the grimey post-Yeezus cut ‘Acid’ display a rare energy and the tape’s predecessor, 1988, is almost as flawless. JT
YBN Nahmir is the perfect example of a contemporary rap landscape where a teenager can go from obscurity to sensation within a couple of days. When his hit song ‘Rubbin Off The Paint’ first appeared, Nahmir’s flow and content was a breath of fresh air, reminiscent of similarly young breakout rapper Tay-K (Nahmir even put out his own remix of ‘The Race’). Now, YBN Nahmir has a legitimate fanbase (‘Rubbin Off The Paint’ is sitting at a cool 80 million views on YouTube) and as long as he doesn’t end up endlessly regurgitating his breakout hit, the Alabama rapper should be an artist worth paying attention to. AP
Read next: 10 pop and R&B artists to watch in 2018