Legendary hip-hop magazine XXL have just released their annual Freshman list. Although some critics consider the credibility of the publication to have fallen a little, it’s still a talking point each and every year when the list of future rap stars drops.
In the North East we’ve recently seen an influx of new talent making music in the region. Whether it’s older acts who have popped up in cyphers over the years just finally releasing their debut projects or completely fresh faces taking their first steps building a name in the sceNE’s open mic nights. Here are twelve acts we’re excited about breaking through in 2019.
The now Manchester-based Mackem probably looks out of place on a Freshman line-up alongside artists at least a decade younger than him. Philth Like has been about since MC’s first started penning rhymes in Sunderland, but his activity has been limited to occasional feature verses and cypher sessions. In January he performed a live set for the first time in his hometown and is set to unleash World Wide Waster, his debut EP imminently. With strong radio support from Spark, BBC Introducing, 6 Music and Amazing Radio, alongside festival bookings for Tipping Point Live, Philth Like has achieved a lot in his first six months releasing music and we’re excited to see what he does next.
Although he burst onto the sceNE in early 2018, and quickly established himself since, it would feel like a crime to not include Claymore in a list spotlighting the newcomers to North East hip-hop. He’s arguably outgrown the newcomer title if we’re talking about live performances, but until he releases his first project we’re considering the Sunderland spitter a new face still. Working closely alongside E-Mence and Listaa, Claymore’s development as an artist has been inspiring. With a stand-out verse on NE Dons’ 0191 posse cut, festival appearances from Darlington to Lindisfarne and a highly praised Shutter Productions freestyle under his belt, whenever that EP finally comes, Claymore might have clocked the game already.
In the pitching stages of this list, there were questions over whether Levi Watson was continuing as an active name in music now he’s joining the army. Given his impact over the past year or so, the Hartlepool rapper demands a place here regardless, and hopefully we get some new music somewhere down the line too. From supporting Jaykae to smashing his own Shutter Productions freestyle and collaborations with Levi Lee, Watson has become a name of everyone’s lips in the region with his makina-fused style. Hopefully the works he’s put in so far is remembered when he inevitably makes his return. No musician with this amount of potential stays away for too long.
As mentioned above, the collaboration of the two Levi’s has been the buzz of the sceNE for a while. Levi Lee has also supported Jaykae and smashed a Shutter Productions freestyle of his own, alongside a particularly good performance as part of the second Northern League cypher where he’s largely considered to have the best verse. It’s unclear what the future holds for the Hartlepool but hopefully there’s a project of some form in the works and more live bookings to come in the future.
J R Dreamchaser
Another Teessider who supported Jaykae at Newcastle’s O2 Academy is J R Dreamchaser. With a more traditional hip-hop sound J R made fans of Leddie MC, H-Man and Smooth Jezza among others. The Middlesborough MC has also built a buzz using Shutter Productions freestyles and the second Northern League Cypher. He’s just dropped his debut album Fragments on all digital streaming platforms and is earning early hype on social media so now is the time to jump on the bandwagon before it’s too late.
Don’t let the facepaint fool you, Freddy can really really rap. Often artists who use such striking aesthetics are compensating for a lack of talent, but the opposite is true in this case. With a strong social media following, interest from a couple of record labels and already earning festival slots in the region, the Durham artist has killed it in the last twelve months. Producing the beats for both Northern League Cyphers and working alongside the likes of Zico MC, the multi-talented rapper-producer already feels beyond a freshman in his debut year.
A regular name on RIDE Music, Scapegoat Avarice has already crafted a captivating sound we have featured prominently including a handful of video premieres. Joining up with KV$HNOODLE, Darc and Ronin Clan to create the NRTHGØDS collective, the Newcastle musician has already featured on some of the regions biggest stages including a particularly lively event at Riverside this year. Although a couple of EP’s surfaced in 2018, we’re expecting Scapegoat to make a bigger splash with whatever comes next now he’s a more established act in the sceNE.
Coming through via CoMusica Arches, Legion has been plying his trade for a while now but 2019 feels like the year for the Sunderland based rapper-singer. Although his sound is closer related to mid-noughties artists, the quality is so high it doesn’t sound out of place in the current era. He’s currently working alongside CoMusica peer Kush-T and given their differing sonical approach it’s exciting to see how the two will mesh musically. With a headline gig in his hometown at Pop Recs done and dusted alongside performances at Independent and Sage Gateshead, his live set is a must-see.
After seeing Sweets at the second NE Rising Open Mic Night which doubled up as NE Dons’ RAW EP Launch, he’s seemingly become an overnight success given his relative newness. With festival slots at Newcastle’s Hit The North (his first hometown show) and Manchester’s Dot To Dot, he’s already got fans in high places from the looks of things. His first official single release F.Y.M has been supported by BBC Introducing and Amazing Radio already and he’s just been announced to work on a compilation album through Magnetik ran by City Youth Music and Loft Music Studios; which will also feature RIDE Music favourites Kay Greyson and NATO.
‘North East Baby’ P Mann arrived on most North East heads’ radars when he won a competition ran by NE Rising to win their help releasing music and apparently his debut EP is coming in September as a result. At the first NE Rising Open Mic Night he had one of the biggest crowds and almost every person in the crowd knew the words for the North East Baby chorus. With a couple Shutter Productions freestyles in the tuck, and the continued support from NE Rising, the buzz is building for P Mann and the aforementioned EP could see his potential realised.
Irish-born Newcastle-based Arcane Soakes has become a regular on the region’s open mic circuit with appearances at NE Rising’s Open Mic Night at The Cluny and various incarnations ran by Wright Music & Management. He’s cyphered in the Ouseburn with SceNE legend Rick Fury and built a relationship with Sunderland veterans 90BRO and Ill Mitchell. He’s putting in the effort to make sure local heads can’t ignore him, taking advantage of any and all opportunities available, and he possesses a unique vocal sound that ensures he’s not easily forgettable too.
With equally one of the best and worst names in music history, Scrannabis is at the very least memorable and in today’s oversaturated era that’s important. He hasn’t released too much and only has a handful of live performances on his CV, but already building a buzz with Kush-T marking him as one-to-watch after catching him at a Wright Music & Management Open Mic Night. He’s since made an appearance at Think Tank for a gig alongside BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend performer Thomu and looks set to start making a real name for himself in the sceNE in the coming months.
Words by Lee Hawthorn