Year-end lists can often be insufferable. Clogged and crowded with the same twenty five or so names, up and coming hip-hop artists and emcees often lose their moment in the spotlight to the usual suspects whose music resonates with indie-heads and rap fans alike: artists like Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Vince Staples, Run the Jewels - the list goes on. Fortunately for diehard rap fans, websites like SoundCloud, Bandcamp, and Datpiff deliver a platform suitable for both novice recording artists and industry veterans. Swimming through these media platforms, however, the bulk of it consists of mostly forgettable beat-tapes and not-quite-there-yet emcees.

Either too young, too old, or too broke, the cream of the crop tend to get overlooked and dismissed for big label releases receiving floods of publicity. But, through the power of the listener and the rap-nerd, these said cream of the crop emcees garner either cult followings or sizable donations, and occasionally embark on tours where the shows might not be sold out, but the fandom is there, and for some, that's plenty.

Freshman emcees that avoid getting caught up in the cesspool of mumble-rap — your Migos, Lil Uzi Verts, and 21 Savages — often get written off almost immediately until their time has passed, and suddenly, people actually listen to them. However, some don't go unnoticed, and, although this list does consist of some rather "big" names — whatever that means — these emcees should soar high and above the garbage Hot 100 lists, but, due to a world stuffed with oblivious radio listeners, the real artists and raw emcees struggle to make solid names for themselves. With emcees embracing old, '90s inspired gangster rap, dirty, deep-south horrorcore, and underground experimental hip-hop, we as true rap fans have found ourselves in the middle of a twenty-first-century renaissance.


Big K.R.I.T. - 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time

In May of 2010, a mostly unknown Southern emcee by the name of Big K.R.I.T. dropped a mixtape titled K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, a landmark mixtape that introduced the hip-hop world to one of its hottest newcomers. Seven years later, K.R.I.T. has unearthed 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time, a long-awaited double album full of hyper-produced, dirty-south bangers and smooth-sailing — if not moody — trap anthems. With a list of features including hip-hop royalties such as T.I. and CeeLo Green, — whose verse is one of the best of the year — 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time is one of the easiest listens on the list, with a familiar voice exploring unfamiliar territory.

Milo - Who Told You to Think??!!?!?!?!

After gaining considerable attention after his tenure in the Hellfyre Club, a now defunct label that consisted of emcees such as Busdriver and Open Mike Eagle, Rory Ferreira — AKA Milo — arrived midway through 2017 with his most stunning and cohesive studio album, Who Told You to Think??!!?!?!?!, a vocab-heavy release that's both experimental and philosophical. Arguably the strongest hip-hop album of the year, Milo takes the modern world by storm, where he explores his own insecurities as an artist and the formal years of fatherhood.

G Perico - All Blue

A jheri-curled, '90s gangster at heart, G Perico delivers synth-filled production with a half-joking, half-deadly serious flow on All Blue, an album that goes harder than the majority of its contemporaries, for its excess substance and authenticity. More consistent than most albums on this list, All Blue is best digested at once, immersing yourself in his humorous take on urban life and his life on the streets (or so he claims). G Perico is a face fans of hip-hop will be seeing for quite some time, after a steady flow of releases over the past two years, each picking up where he left off and expanding it in the process.


The biggest and most critically acclaimed name on the list, the former half of Outkast delivered BOOMIVERSE in the summer, with a features list that includes Killer Mike, Jeezy, Adam Levine, Gucci Mane, and Snoop Dogg, to name just a few. Big Boi is his finest and purest self on BOOMIVERSE, an album consisting of radio-friendly club bangers as well as smooth, blunt-passing flows embracing the best of Big Boi and Co.

Brockhampton - Saturation II

Perhaps the most overlooked hip-hop album of the year, BROCKHAMPTON, the brainchild of teenage emcee Kevin Abstract, released Saturation II in early September, the second of the three-album installment all under the Saturation name. With a contradictory flow throughout, the end result of Saturation II is slick and impressive, a refreshing and premature album that includes some of the best up and comers in the industry. Abstract, alongside Ameer Vann, William "Merlyn" Wood, Dominique "Dom McLennon" Simpson, Matt Champion, and Russell "JOBA" Boring, has simply outdone himself with Saturation II, an album too good to come from the brain of a half-dozen teenagers.

$uicideboy$ & Germ - DirtierNastierSuicide EP

Probably the toughest listen among the veterans and newcomers listed, New Orleans based duo $uicideboy$ — with a sound typically tagged as "horrorcore" — have been making waves and composing some seriously fucked up trap-rap anthems reminiscent of early Three 6 Mafia, circa Mystic Stylez. It's a tough feat to convince somebody unfamiliar with the duo to listen to DirtierNastierSuicide, an EP with lyrics like "Make a punk bitch bite the curb / American History X," but, if it catches you at the right time, DirtierNastierSuicide is a remarkable chapter of hip-hop's darker side.

Action Bronson - Blue Chips 7000

If you're a millennial or familiar with Viceland, much like BROCKHAMPTON, Action Bronson is just simply part of your vocabulary. The once chef and truffle connoisseur turned reality TV star and emcee, Action Bronson's flow and incredible production is a staple of modern hip-hop culture. The Queens bad boy's third installment of his Blue Chips mixtape series, Blue Chips 7000, now released as a studio album, is one of Bronson's most precise and energetic releases. Not as angry as he once was, Bronson's semi-aggressive yet half-baked flow is stronger than ever on Blue Chips 7000.

MIKE - May God Bless Your Hustle

Although he gained some much-needed recognition from media kingpins like Pitchfork, New York-based rapper MIKE is (another) teenage emcee causing a ruckus in the underground. Channeling his depression through experimental production and confessional lyricism, May God Bless You Hustle is an album so before its time that it's hard to believe it even exists, let alone made completely by somebody who can't legally drink in America.

Open Mike Eagle - Brick Body Kids Still Daydream

An underground veteran and another ex-Hellfyre Club emcee, Open Mike Eagle is best known for his gentle flows and hyper-intelligent lyrics, typically backed by mesmerizing beats that channel jazz and ambient music. Another album way before its time, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is the album that will put Eagle on the radar, one that will sooner or later burst the thing completely. Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is yet another instant-classic hip-hop album hailing from Chicago, much like the most recent albums from Noname, Vic Spencer, Joey Purp, and Mick Jenkins.

Wiki - No Mountains In Manhattan

The goofiest of the bunch, New York-native Wiki delivers raspy vocals on top of simplistic yet somehow tediously produced instrumentals. However, Wiki is no newcomer in the traditional sense — he's been rapping since he was 16. Few 24-year-old emcees can get a feature from Ghostface Killah, so, if that's not enough proof of his lyrical proficiency and diversity, listen for yourself. Wiki blows away any competition in his realm, slickly and swiftly shutting up any critics and non-believers of the New York City-lifer.

Anti-Lilly & Phoniks - It's Nice Outside

A Bandcamp all-star, Houston-native Anti-Lilly — alongside production-wizard Phoniks — delivers a smooth and jazzy follow up to his 2014 debut, Stories From the Brass Section on It's Nice Outside, an album blowing up Bandcamp pages yet still staying remote and secretive. Probably the least known of the group, Anti-Lilly is wise beyond his years, painting pleasant pictures with a quick-witted and mystical flow. Galaxies beyond his debut, It's Nice Outside is a ridiculously wholesome release for an industry-novice.

Cam James - FreeFall

Atlanta-native Cam James is quite possibly the most promising of all, with a discography that includes two full-length LPs in 2017. What's so remarkable about James isn't necessarily his flow or his production, but rather, his voice. James's voice is one that, behind the right instrumental, sounds eerily familiar, yet is still completely original and authentic. Under the right circumstances and exposure, Cam James is likely a name you will see daily in the near future, but, for now, enjoy the obscurity of his figure while it lasts.