A compilation of recent songs from the best independent rappers in music.
Last month, Okayplayer crafted a comprehensive guide to the pros, cons, and purpose, and functions of record labels, A&RS and, contracts in this new era of music. The piece is a goldmine of information for aspiring artists trying to make a mark in the music industry and independent acts vying to position themselves for success.
Both groups can look to today’s list of the best new indie rap releases for examples of what a successful independent artist looks like in 2019. From spitters like Latasha, Connie Diiamond and Chris Rivers, to melodically gifted genre-benders like Kari Faux and Dave B, today’s independent music scene is loaded with ambitious artists proving that the term “independent” has no bearing on an artist’s mass appeal.
So, we’ve compiled the best new independent rap music out there. Most of these tracks are only a month old. Feel free to share this with that “there’s not enough good rap music” person in your life and show them the fire they’ve been missing out on.
Chris Rivers – “Sincerely Me”
Mello Music Group’s Chris Rivers, the son of the legendary Big Pun, is doing his best to pave his own path. While he’s undoubtedly his own man, as evidenced by his reticence to explore gimmicks or cosigns from his dad’s famous friends, he shares a semblance of his father’s technical fervor and willingness to be vulnerable. Both of those attributes shone on “Sincerely Me,” a heartfelt single from his upcoming G.I.T.U., a project where he fills Pun in on how his mother and sisters are faring, says how he forgives him for his domestic abuse and wishes he could kiss him, surmising “fuck all that masculinity sh*t, I ain’t seen you since I was a kid.”
Connie Diiamond – “Put Ya Hands Up”
There aren’t many people who can spit on a loop popularized by Beanie Sigel in his classic Jadakiss diss record and keep you from simply playing Beans, but Connie’s Diiamond’s Bronx bravado and gruff lyrics make her one of those chosen few. Diiamond has explored other sounds, as she noted on the collaboration with TgiFly, but her trap talk and unflinching delivery showcase her at her best. She deemed it her “signature rap” on the 3-minute song. With more work like “Put Ya Hands Up,” it’s only a matter of time before she’s putting her signature on big-time deals.
Curtis Roach – “I’m Good!”
Curtis Roach has been open about his struggles with depression and anxiety in his music and past interviews. That ongoing fight is likely the impetus being the uplifting “I’m Good,” where he reaches out to those who identify with his plight and affirms his existential content over bare, sanguine production. Roach rhymes with a breezy, melodic cadence, imbuing listeners with advice like, “don’t like what you got, don’t like what you see, go for what you want” that seems simplistic but may serve as the timely reminder that his young listeners need. Who knows what life has around the corner, but everyone should consider giving “I’m Good” some burn if it rings true — and even if it doesn’t.
Dave B – “CPU LUV”
Seattle’s Dave B offered a strong entry into the burgeoning “put your damn phone down” canon with “CPU LUV,” a relatable track where he bemoans how wired the world is through the lens of a relationship. He shows off his melodic gifts over a lush Sango and Wax Roof co-production, rhyming and singing about how he’s making strides all over the country and wants the little bit of quality time he gets with his boo to feel worthwhile. “CPU LUV” prefaces his upcoming BLEU project, which will be out June 21st.
IDK – “Digital”
You may be familiar with Jay IDK, but he’s changed his name. Get familiar with the rapper-producer from PG County, Maryland before everyone else in your circle is telling you about him. He’s preparing his Is He Real album this summer, and dropped off his first single, “Digital,” in May. The cerebral track is right in line with his best work, as he commandeers a thumping, synth-dominated beat to explore how kids like him can be corrupted by poverty, but turn it around and get on their “digital dash” with the right opportunities.
Kari Faux – “MEDICATED”
Kari Faux’s public persona radiates a zany, carefree vibe, but she displays serious gifts —and struggles— in her music. Such is the case on “MEDICATED,” the intro to her recently released Cry 4 Help EP. Kari is as gifted with her rhymes as she is crooning about heartbreak, but “MEDICATED” puts her bars on full display as she lists all the ways in which internal discontent hinders her while “I’m just tryna make a killin’ so that I could feed my village.” Cry 4 Help came out before most of the other tracks on this list, her but “here we go again, another low again/here we go again, she’s rollercoasterin’” chorus will be relatable generations from now. Some things just transcend the construct of time.
KOTA The Friend – “Church”
KOTA The Friend’s Foto album is a highlight of 2019 so far, and the sentimental “Church” is a standout track. The Brooklyn MC goes off on a pair of stream-of-consciousness style verses, affirming that he “hope I serve my purpose when I die.” He also reflects on his childhood in church before celebrating his newfound success and empowering the listener to do the same. The song is laced with incisive gems and honest lyrics that shed light on his character, such as his “hella bummy, nigga, fuck an image” ethos and the thought-provoking summation that “Sunday love will not make you forget who you was.”
LATASHÁ – “Glo Up (Remix)”
LATASHÁ released the SPACEPEOPLE-produced remix to her “Glo Up” track at the beginning of May. Anyone familiar with the Brooklyn born, soon-to-be-LA-based artist would know that “Glo Up” is a perfect title to describe her past several years. She delves into rewarding aspects of her personal growth throughout the track, narrating a tale of shallow men, self-love and body positivity with her undeniable vocal presence, bars, and wittiness.
Latrell James – “One Call”
Let Latrell James’ “One Call” be the reminder you need to check in on your people. The Boston emcee takes advantage of the smooth, jazzy soundscape to get philosophical and explore the fragility of life, rhyming in a bouncy cadence about making the most of your existence and pledging his loyalty with rhymes like, “I’d do anything for the family/ain’t no time or amount.” James had been on a bit of a hiatus before “One Call” and April’s “Tracfone,” so perhaps “One Call” comes from a particularly reflective space.
Murs – “Night Shift”
Murs has years of experience to most artists on this list, but he still identifies with their grind, as evidenced by “Night Shift.” The track is one of two singles released in May from The Illiad Is Dead And The Odyssey Is Over, his upcoming collaboration album with 9th Wonder. That album will be a finale for their duo albums, but “Night Shift” shows Murs speaking about the beginning, rhyming with his trademark assonance about how he was “a former introvert until I put the pen to work.” He spends the second verse asserting his authority as a rap veteran by calling out new artists who rap over their own beats, rhyming ”y’all niggas can’t do karaoke for y’all whole career.”
Andre Gee is a New York-based freelance writer with work at Uproxx Music, Impose Magazine, and Cypher League. Feel free to follow his obvious Twitter musings that seemed brilliant at the moment @andrejgee.