New California Rappers to Watch in 2018
In 2018, you can be from the middle of nowhere and still find an audience. We’re seeing artists from all over the map gain traction and achieve nation-wide buzz, but decade after decade, California remains a hip-hop hub. The past year was an especially interesting one for Cali rappers. Artists who seemed brand new just short time ago are making major moves—Boogie signed with Shady Records, Kamaiyah is on her way to becoming a household name, Vince Staples is a West Coast icon, Mozzy is setting the bar for consistency, Brockhampton is the most exciting new boy band in existence, and Dumbfoundead is making enough noise to get banned by entire countries. While all of this has been happening, a new batch of artists is gearing up to take over next, and the future is looking very bright. Here are some new California rappers you should be looking out for.
Drakeo the Ruler
In 2015, Drakeo the Ruler linked with DJ Mustard for “Mr. Get Dough,” the multi-million-streamed track that would put the LA up-and-comer on the map. His career was interrupted, though, by a number of jail stints—his most recent was an 11-month sentence ending in December 2017. Since then, he’s dropped Cold Devil, his most acclaimed mixtape to date, earning a number of major co-signs and becoming one of the most buzzing California rappers on the rise. While he pays homage to production and cadences native to the West Coast, his confidence, unique voice, and inventive wordplay set him apart. Check out highlights “Big Banc Uchies,” “Impatient Freestyle,” “I Could Never,” and “Flu Flamming.”
While not technically new (he’s been rapping for over a decade), 03 Greedo is finally becoming impossible to ignore. The Watts, CA native describes his melodic style as “emo music for gangbangers,” and some of his music is categorized as “R&B/Soul” on iTunes. It’s hard to classify, and that’s part of what makes him the perfect artist for 2018. 03 Greedo has an impressive work ethic—rumor has it he recorded his 13-song tape First Night Out in one sitting, the night he was released from a jail sentence. “Mafia Business” is his charmingly lo-fi token hit, but tracks like “Never Bend,” “Run For Yo Life,” and “Crimey” all show Greedo’s versatility and potential to be one of the West Coast’s next stars.
Only a few months into her career, Saweetie is already going viral. Her biggest hit “Icy Grl” uses Khia’s “My Neck, My Back” beat and has over seven million YouTube views, and her newer efforts like “Focus” and “High Maintenance” showcase her immaculate, self-assured style. The 21-year-old Bay Area native is also working with her cousin, Zaytoven, and often pays subtle homage to Gucci Mane in her lyrics. Saweetie’s got star power, charisma, and momentum, and she’s on track for a 2018 takeover.
SOB x RBE
Vallejo-based SOB x RBE caught our attention in late 2016, when their song “Anti” started gaining regional attention. Shortly after, the group released their self-titled debut album and toured with Sage the Gemini, breaking out of the Bay and into international territory. Since then, the crew—comprised of Slimmy B, Yhung T.O, DaBoii, and Lul G—has developed into one of the most exciting groups out of California. SOB x RBE has built a following through grassroots efforts and have become local celebrities instead of social media stars. That’s going to pay off in the long run.
G Perico and Jay Worthy
South Central rapper G Perico and Compton-based Jay Worthy have each earned reputations as consistently on-point solo artists. In 2017 they joined forces and enlisted producer Cardo for a group effort called G-Worthy, and that resulted in career highlights for everyone involved. According to Worthy, G-Worthy made their seven-song EP in a single day, and it’s 22 minutes of effortless G-funk that warrants start-to-finish listening. Whether these guys stick together or get back to their solo work, it’s a safe bet that they’ll stay keeping West Coast traditions alive, and it’s worth your attention.
Rapper and singer Yung Pinch doesn’t come from the usual music hot spots like Los Angeles or the Bay Area—instead he is from Huntington Beach, a city south of L.A. that’s better known for surfing and sunshine than rap music. That isn’t stopping his rise though.
With a melodic style, sticky hooks, and lots of beach references, Yung Pinch is rising fast and racking up millions of plays. His consistency also played a part, as he’s been releasing music at an impressive pace. There’s an album on the way, but in the meantime, tracks like “Sail Away” will keep his original fans happy while those like Dillon Francis collaboration “Hello There” show his sound’s pop appeal.
Los Angeles collective Villain Park started buzzing as a group a few years ago, but they returned in 2017 as a duo (consisting of Bunge and Smoke), and they haven’t lost a step. They avoid trends and gimmicks, sticking to a classic, no-frills approach, and they’re good enough songwriters to make that work without sounding boring or played out. While so many other new rap acts are trying to fit in, Villain Park is staying true to the sound they love and providing an alternative to the same-sounding newcomers inundating the market. “I think a lot of young artists of this generation are too busy chasing the contemporary sound of today instead of finding their own,” Bunge told us last year.
Hollywood-based Shoreline Mafia, founded by frontmen Ohgeesy and Fenix, caught a spark of notoriety after being featured in an investigative Fox News story on lean, which plays a major role in the crew’s lyrics. Their biggest records to date are the Ron-Ron produced “Musty” and “Bottle Service,” which have music videos with over eight million combined YouTube views. Both on group cuts and the members’ solo tracks, Shoreline Mafia is contrasting time-honored West Coast production with modern and youthfully reckless subject matter and attitude.
Lil Xan probably dealt with more backlash in 2017 than any other new rapper without a controversial criminal record. It’s understandable given his name, but the 21-year-old recently announced that he’ll eventually be going by his birthname, Diego, and that he’s anti-Xanax now. Still, he’ll probably never hear the end of it. Despite an abundance of naysayers, Xan managed to have a breakout year. His Cole Bennett-directed music video for “Betrayed” has almost 100 million views on YouTube, and he accepts that everything he’s been through is part of his story. “The whole thing is like a journey,” he told us in December of last year. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, Xan made a song a long time ago embracing Xanax, he’s a fucking liar.’ They can see my journey unfold.”
Musically, Xan favors spacious, bass-heavy beats and concise, sometimes melody-laden verses and hooks. It’s not the traditional West Coast sound, but it’s modern and accessible, like a more refined version of the wild, youthful rap that has emerged from the internet in the past few years. If Xan got this far with this name, we’re looking forward to seeing what he does as Diego.
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