Breaking Through: Big in 2011

Devlin (Island Records/Universal)

Ended the year on a high, the recently released “Bud, Sweat and Beers” was probably the most original grime album to be released that year; naked emotion softened with catchy, easy going backing tracks made for a really interesting listen. With a style that can best be described as ‘raw’, Devlin has managed to burst into the mainstream without having to dilute his material – much to the pleasure of many grime fans.  As collaborations with Xample and Labrinth come to fruition, the kid from Dagenham will surely pick up where he left off in 2010.


Diggy Simmons (Atlantic Records)

For anyone who thinks that Willow Smith’s feats were impressive for her age, try listening to this young man. Son of Rev Run, Diggy has obviously had a lot of opportunities that many unsigned artists could only dream about. This however is what makes Diggy special in my eyes; he makes sure that everything that comes out of his mouth has purpose, constantly trying to prove his worth in the hip-hop community. The boy shows incredible lyricism and flow in a series of freestyle’s and shows that for a little man, he is more than capable of making a big noise.


Ed Sheeran (Atlantic Records)

Probably the most unconventional ‘rapper’ I have heard in a long time. His recently released collaboration project with a number of grime heavyweights demonstrates an impressive versatility that makes every track sound like a hit.  The best thing about Ed, in my opinion, is the incredible amount of soul he brings to his delivery; slick choruses combined with unbelievable verses. This man and his acoustic guitar are going places in 2011.


J. Cole (Roc-Nation)

Recently signed by Jay-Z, Cole’s slightly unconventional flow is refreshing to hear. The best thing about J. Cole is that he produces his own beats; his debut track “Who Dat” was self-produced – shunning the likes of Jay and Kanye to go at it alone. Cole has shown an impressive ability to be self-sufficient, holding his own behind the boards as well as in the booth – a dual talent not seen since one Mr West emerged on the scene. In “In the Morning” Ft. Drake, J raps “god bless the child that can hold his own” and he is definitely practicing what he preaches. I cannot wait for his album to drop.


Jay Electronica (Roc-Nation)

Argued to be the strongest rapper on the label at the moment, this man is slightly unknown in the UK, but not for long. With producers such as Just Blaze fighting his corner, Jay Electronica is making rap critics across the globe sit up and take notice. With so little released at the moment it is hard to imagine Jay Electronica being a household name by the end of 2011 but with tracks such as “Exhibit C” and “Renaissance Man” it’s hard to see how any lovers of hip-hop will not be drawn to this man; slick beats and a style reminiscent of a young Nas – truly enjoyable tracks.


Mac Miller (Rostrum Records)

Not an artist I expect to be appearing on the radio stations any time soon but an excellent introduction nevertheless. Miller provides anthems for the stoner generation, offering a style that would best be described as ‘Skater Hip-Hop’; think early Lupe Fiasco or a better Asher Roth. An album release in the near future doesn’t look imminent but his mixtape, K.I.D.S provides quality listening in the meantime.


P-Money (Avalanche Music)

Less likely to be part of the commercial scene in 2011 but, from a listeners perspective, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. P-Money has been slowly climbing to the top of grime tree and whilst he may not have a number one any time soon, his raw style and impressive verses are a monument to the current state of the underground scene. For anyone interested in where mainstream UK Hip-Hop comes from, go and check out P.


Wretch 32 (Ministry Of Sound)

After numerous attempts from 1Xtra, Wretch 32 was finally forced upon the masses through his debut single “Traktor”. Listeners could be forgiven for likening the track to one Mr Tempah, but make this comparison at your own peril; Wretch goes harder, thinks deeper and means more than Tinie ever will. I’ve heard Wretch being described as “your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper” and, after a peak of the upcoming album, I’m of the belief that this young man fits the description well.