Photo via Junior XL/Instagram

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The London-born-and-bred producer and ½ of lol K, Junior XL released a smorgasbord of demos titled Delayed Relic: Junior XL Demos 2018-2023 this month. Just like the ambiguous and meta nature of mixtapes, albums being called projects or even playlists: giving more reason to appreciate demos that can exist as a finished product in its unique little corner of the virtual sandbox. As online as it exists, these demos sound so “complete”, living and breathing South London, IDM, UK bass, nights out and trippy childhood memories.

There’s something nocturnal and brooding about Junior XL’s flat affected-delivery in this song, as he waxes philosophical observations, pondering his way in the world as a lone wanderer in South London. “agnostick” comes from the autobiographical lens of Junior XL, enveloped in nostalgia for an ever-changing city as he tries to dodge the cracks on the pavement and battles religious existential crises with Gods.

The beauty of it is that if you lived in South London – aware I’m a London transplant but let me finish – his songwriting can be a conduit for your own experiences too. So many delirious ending nights, taking you to that weird cross-section of Deptford/New Cross after a night out in Venue MOT and you’re tempted to check out PFC on the way back home.

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If you love high-octane drill, this is it. Both artists have blown up as the new wave of UK drill’s cream-of-the-crop to the point, it feels moot to describe why these two hyped up women in some Nike techs go in.

Hackney’s TeeZandos and Brixton’s Cristale demolish their back-and-forths supplying the freestyle with an insane geyser of energy and leave-no-survivors flow; TeeZandos chucks in a little Digga D easter egg while Cristale dishes out chest-banging threats. It’s very easily one of the best freestyles to come from that channel, placing it right next to LD, Yanko, and M24.

There’s so much potential coming from TeeZandos and Cristale separately but hearing them together doubles it and I hope they release an EP of this kind of material. It doesn’t only further cement Fumez’s taste in organising link-ups, showing off his innate ear of what works, crafting years as a studio engineer mixing the tunes of RV and Russ Millions, it leaves enough space for TeeZandos and Cristale to show off their sisterly chemistry that’s more powerful than a Gohan and Trunks fusion.

So when Headie One x Fredagain… released their collaboration tape, GANG in 2020. I thought its crushing lyricism, downtempo electronic-influenced production should’ve opened the gates to drill rappers exploring new ground. Recently, Headie One went more pro-Europe than Edward Heath hosting the No Borders mixtape stacked with European drillers while Fredagain… captained a viral Boiler Room set and couldn’t be seen out-of-sight without that KORG drum pad or Four Tet and Skrillex.

GANG still leaves an impression in my heart but maybe I was just too excited to hear something so raw from a man with few words. In the grand scheme of things, three years isn’t enough time to be fully sure but I don’t think I’ve heard anything like GANG but I haven’t heard anything like this “Cup” song produced by Yulo.

The magic of this 20 year old faceless German producer slapping #OFB Izzpot’s freestyle acapella over a drill-meets-super trap beat and transporting it to a different universe is alchemistic genius. There’s even a slowed-and-reverb version tipping its hat to, of course, the drowsy atmospheres of chopped-and-screwed music.

Although the depth of the OFB collective is as deep as the current Milawukee Bucks roster. It still stings for the OFB fanboys who fell down their knees when the law came. But the previously-masked Izzpot quickly filled that SJ-shaped hole following SJ’s life sentence in 2020, healing the wound and hearing the up-and-coming Izzpot holding his own alongside BandoKay and Double L’z on “AHLIE” and “YKTV”.

The codeine-laced beat of “Cup” provably fits with Izzpot’s incinerating flow as he glides on top of the sharp hi-hats, video game beeps and the 808s slides that dart through the mix like laser beams. The golden touch of Yulo and flow of Izzpot’s leaves enough musical breadcrumbs to know where the trail started while breaking a lot of new ground simultaneously. It’s pretty future-forward thinking and leaves fans thinking why hasn’t a UK drill rapper wishing to be the UK’s equivalent of Yeat hopped on this – I hope anyway – another beguiling mutation of UK drill.

British radio is a diamond in the dirt. It fueled rebelling DJs and hungry MCs in those XXXL white tees spitting the maddest bars over a dusty grime riddim and white noise circumventing national airwaves, sending a musical two fingers to Ofcom and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Things got more established now but you could argue the spirit got a bit polished. However, the Head Honcho of Obligated Records and DJ Oblig is pushing that lighting-in-a-bottle grime spirit to new environments and platforming a lot of talented young MCs in the process.

In his April episode, he tags the talented South Londoner Duppy, supplying the tunes for the Delusions of Grandeur MC to massacre 150 BPM selections. It quickly interludes with a conversation about jungle and how Duppy grew up listening to the sub-genre, warming up the burning desire to separate himself from the herd while he seamlessly keeps up with the delirious percussions with a blink-and-you-miss-it flow that’s perfectly engineered for radio.

You can skip to 30:00 for the lyrical savagery but radio is meant to be enjoyed in its fullest you know? So listen to the whole set if you can, Oblig’s transitions and tunes are curated properly.

Having released his EP, relapsed! after the drug-peddling and head banging masterclass debut POLARIS last year, OG KEMi is an underdog, protecting his style with a brutish and bouncy flow which bites like a Greyhound and “ext2” continues that tradition nicely. On top of thumping 808s, machine-like hi-hats and murky synths, his voice morphs into a head-bopping triplet flow then slows down, pitches up like a trumpet all within the same verse. Afterwards, he passes the mic to blame steez who taps into a storytelling auto-tuned materialistic journey, telling us about Versace slippers while witnessing a limber woman touching her toes. blame steez raps about it like it’s not a flex but you know it is.

It seems like that 2010-2018 era of Soundcloud stalwarts, you know, like Pi’erre Bourne, Thouxanbanfauni and Lancey Foux are past their era of lowkey sleeper hits via SoundCloud links, it propelled to increasing visibility by the mainstream and hampered by major labels or their own sporadic release schedules. It’s driving Discord fans with too much time on their hands to organise groupbuys of Playboi Carti leaks and bothering Lil Uzi Vert for the Pink Tape when like there’s a whole class of UK artists emulating that style and adding their own British flavour.

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This Lewisham-based rapper is too good to be this low-key. With a second EP cooking up and an immaculate ability to weave contemplative lyricism over fire lo-fi tapestries. Armada is on a slow but sure path to separate himself in the UK chill rap world as one of the best.

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Klein’s music is weird, familiar and discombobulating, sometimes all at the same time. Cryptic lyrics tied to girlhood collaged with vocal modulations, glitched out samples and drone-like minimalistic song structures but you never know what you’re gonna get, you just listen and see if you like it or not.

The Birmingham-bred Blue Room Mafia consigliere is back warming up the vibes for Summer 2023 with a chill UK-rap banger “BOW!” to play during the BBQs and summer motives. It’s only 2 minutes long which means there’s more opportunity to fully exhaust the replay value of this tune.

I saw these guys live at The Great Escape. Although they only have one song on DSPs, this 3-piece band from Crewe is a bit Swans, a bit Slipknot and a whole lot of mystery in-between.

It’s a bit of a curveball for a UK-rap column and you may or may not connect with the song, maybe it depends on how close you were to that kid with the moppy black hair who would do death roars and bump Bring Me the Horizon during lunch time break. Seeing these three teen faced wizards live in a purple-lit small basement venue for 30 minutes, marrying the expansive post-punkness of This Will Destroy You with the savage roars and brash guitar shreds and intense drum blasts of death metal. It was such a transcendental experience, see them live if you can!

Bro trust me, show the girl with the septum piercings and Deftones shirt this song before her Carhartt-wearing, Madjestic Kausal-subscribing creative ex with patchwork tats does and tells her “damn this song reminded me of what we used to be.”

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