The 5 Best New LA Rappers, According to an LA Hip-Hop Journalist
If you make the unfulfillable promise of “bringing New York back” with enough frequency, you’ll land on the XXL Freshmen cover. The next rapper to stumble out of Magic City will be Atlanta’s Next Big Thing. (After his second or third mixtape, he, too, will be on the Freshmen cover.) But there’s no singular mechanism for stardom in Los Angeles. The rap landscape is as diverse and sprawling as the geography—gangster rappers from South Central, Compton, and neighboring Long Beach can go their entire careers without meeting the more tie-dyed denizens of the legendary weekly Low End Theory. Neither is a perversion of the city’s spirit. It’s just like that. Here are some of the artists coming up that you need to know about.
Boogie’s a loyal father to a five year-old, a critic of oversharing on social media, and an introspective examiner of lust. Boogie’s gentle lisp, the type grade school children mock, is a gift: few voices are more immediately recognizable. His Jahlil Beats-produced “Oh My” has nearly a million views on YouTube–significantly more than his other singles– but he’s no one-hit wonder. Boogie stands to profit from the a Kendrick Lamar and Dr. Dre-led increase in Compton awareness.
Cozz is a rarity: a contemporary rapper who’s never released a free mixtape. His only project, Cozz & Effect, started a bidding war between Lyor Cohen’s 300 Entertainment and J. Cole’s Dreamville Records, with the latter releasing the album in October 2014. Normally, such immediacy would shriek “INDUSTRY PLANT!” But Cozz’s talent, and the high quality of his album, mollify such concerns. Cozz, like Boogie, is post-Kendrick; it appears the path to both critical and mainstream viability is a delicate balance of street savvy and social consciousness. But Cozz & Effect never veers into heavy-handed moralizing–Cozz is intelligent and thoughtful, but still young enough to partake in willful ignorance and partying.
Without much fanfare, KR amassed a sizable SoundCloud following. And, until this past January, hardly anyone knew who he was. In the first 18 months of his career, KR learned how to rap, sing, engineer, and mix well enough to garner comparisons to Chance the Rapper, Childish Gambino, and, obligatorily, Kendrick Lamar. It’s understandable–KR’s music is a mix of post-everything teenage melancholy and more commonplace rap braggadocio.
The title of KR’s to-date tripartite mixtape series, I$0Lyf3, is based on his own existential philosophy. Speaking with Jeff Weiss of LA Weekly, KR explained, “The ‘I stands for me. The ‘S’ is a dollar sign for ‘I need to get my own money, be financially stable and independent.’ ‘O’ represents my small circle. And I spelled ‘Life’ ‘LYF3’ because life is filled with lies, failure and experience.” If KR keeps rapping, he’ll probably be able to stop worrying about money. Everything else? That’s inspiration.
Hugh Augustine’s taken the path less traveled in his rap career. His father worked security for Run-DMC and The World’s Most Dangerous Group, and later managed the Up In Smoke tour (headlined by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Eminem, and Nate Dogg).
Augustine told Max Bell of LA Weekly that his mother wouldn’t allow him to go to the show itself, but a visit to the tour’s dress rehearsal fomented dreams of rap stardom. At Loyola University New Orleans, Augustine briefly pursued a degree in music business before deciding higher education wasn’t economically viable.
After returning to Los Angeles, Augustine was the victim of a gang rite, which left him hospitalized. During his recovery, Augustine refocused on music, and in the past three years has released three full-length projects. Augustine’s recent album, Massimo Ciabatta, is his strongest work to date, his ability growing in concert with his curly mop of hair.
You could stand on the corner of Abbot Kinney and Venice, throw a vegan chocolate chip cookie into a crowd, and you’d be a hundred times more likely to hit a yoga instructor, mid-century modern coffee table, or another vegan chocolate chip cookie than an aspiring rapper. Warm Brew, who hail from the aforementioned beach communities, released their debut album, Ghetto Beach Boyz, earlier this year to some acclaim. Members Serk Spliff, Ray Wright, and Manu Li are aware of their unusual place in LA rap; Li told Max Bell of LA Weekly that “We’re not the only people [rapping in our neighborhood], but we’re by far the best. If people want to take that as disrespect, then do it better than us.” He’s not wrong.