(AllHipHop Features) While some fans beg for “real rap,” there are tons of talented rappers struggling to get on. Sometimes it’s about beat choice or subject matter, and sometimes it’s seemingly for no reason. And at a time when our youth needs positive direction more than ever, most mainstream rappers are glorifying money, hard drugs, and murder.
But beneath the slew of uninspired, cookie-cutter rap that clutters the mainstream lies a handful of diamonds. These 10 underground kings aren’t just dope lyricists, they use their platform to educate and motivate the people.
1 – Mick Jenkins
A lot of underrated artists are missing something—consistency, cohesive projects, good production—but not Mick Jenkins. His last two projects, The Water[s] and The Healing Component, were packed with nice bars, solid production, and meaningful content. And if that’s not enough, he intertwines uplifting themes into all of his music.
Rap has always struggled with gender equality, but not because there aren’t enough dope female MCs. TDE collaborator ill Camille is living proof that bars have no gender. Her last album Heirloomwas a testament to her skill behind the mic, starting with a gritty track that could have lived in any of the past 3 decades.
3 – Mickey Factz
If you aren’t familiar with Mickey Factz, I feel bad for you. Although he doesn’t always turn heads, the Bronx rapper has built up a great catalog, punctuating it with his debut album The Achievement last fall. He’s currently working on the deluxe version of The Achievement and the second installment in his Mickey MauSe series.
4 – King Los
Whatever your favorite beat is, Los probably murdered it on a past mixtape. Kendrick said he had the best “Control” remix. But he still doesn’t get the credit he deserves, a problem which signing multiple deals with Bad Boy hasn’t helped. A solid album and 14 mixtapes give us plenty of good music, though, and his High Frequency mixtape is on the way.
5 – Nino Bless
Did you know Slaughterhouse almost had another member? His name is Nino Bless, and he’s been spitting absolutely mind-bending rhymes for the past 5 years. Nino defies the laws of rap, effortlessly skating over beats with a highly unorthodox flow and incredible bars that would have been an interesting fit for Slaughterhouse.
6 – Fashawn
In 2009, Fashawn dropped his critically acclaimed debut album, Boy Meets World. It took another six years before we heard a second album from the Fresno spitter, but it seems the demand for his music has all but disappeared. All in all, it was still a great album, and his upcoming album Manna should be more of the same.
7 – 3D Na’Tee
3D Na’Tee is hip-hop through and through. She grew up in the 3rd Ward of New Orleans where she began rapping at a young age and eventually established herself as a battle rapper. She even shot and edited her 2011 “Switch” video by herself. In 2016, she dropped her debut album, The Regime, a 23-song offering packed with bars.
8 – Jon Connor
The self-proclaimed People’s Rapper, Jon Connor looked to be breaking into the mainstream a while back when he dropped Unconscious State and was featured in both the XXL Freshman and BET cyphers. But four years later, the Flint native is still working on his sophomore album, and the buzz surrounding him seems to have died down a bit.
9 – Smoke DZA
Contrary to his name, Smoke DZA is more than a weed rapper. DZA started off with a more weed-influenced sound, but he’s quickly risen to a top-flight lyricist. Near the end of 2016, he dropped Don’t Smoke Rock with Pete Rock, a great album and a testament to the respect he gets within the game.
10 – Ab-Soul
When Control System had just dropped, some people argued that Ab-Soul was better than K. Dot (myself included). But when These Days… received mixed reviews and Soulo was all but absent for the next year, he lost some of his buzz. He looks to be back on track, though—his last album was dope and received positive reviews from those who cared enough to listen closely.