Hip hop is more global than ever. Whether you point to Latin trap, Afrobeats or even now with drill, regions around the globe are adopting and making their own sounds.
Just look at Nigerian singer WIzkid’s smash hit, “Essence.” Since the Tems-assisted song was released in October 2020 from Wiz’s Made in Lagos album, the rhythmic Afrobeat club jam has been racing up the charts, rising to its current position of No. 13 in the week ending Sep. 4 on the Billboard charts.
That’s why in 2019, the BET Hip Hop Awards decided to make a category that would recognize the influence of international artists globally, resulting in the “Best International Flow” award.
UK rapper, Stormzy, took the honors last year for his critically acclaimed body of work, Heavy Is the Head, as did Ghanaian rapper Michael Owusu Addo in 2019 after delivering a well-received project, Black Love Album.
The 2021 BET Hip Hop Awards will be here before we know. So, in preparation for what may come, here are five international acts that you should check out.
Lil Simz (UK)
This 27-year old North London MC was part of the inaugural class in this category, with her nod in 2019. But the Yoruba rapper was on our radar even before the nomination, as she took part in a cypher alongside 6lack, Mysonne and others at the BET Hip Hop Awards 2017.
While not nominated in 2020, Simz was far from idle, releasing the latest installment to her cult Drop EP series, Drop 6, followed by her fourth studio album, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, on Sep. 3 of this year.
With the lead single, “Point and Kill,” already doing well, be on the lookout for her to take the honor home this year.
You might have first heard of Dave back in 2016 when Drake remixed his buzzy single “Wanna Know” on his OVO sound radio.
The record first appeared on the London native’s debut extended play Six Paths, helping bolster the already rising conscious rapper. But it wasn’t until 2019, when he released his debut studio album, Psychodrama, that he became a blimp on all of hip-hop’s radar.
One year later Dave is back at it again. The 23-year-old released his sophomore album, We're All Alone in This Together, July 2021, which has already set a new record in terms of weekly album streams for a UK rap.
Could this be his year?
Adekunle Gold (Nigeria)
Graphic designer, singer, songwriter, producer — you name it. Nigerian artist Adekunle Gold has made himself a household name by blending pop, electronica, folk, and R&B.
He first made ripples in the music scene with his debut single, "Sade," in 2014, followed by a string of releases that showcased his soulfulness. But the 24-year-old’s career took new heights after his 2020 album Afro Pop, Vol. 1.
With tracks like “Okay,” and “AG Baby, and collabs with fellow Nigerian star Davido (“High”), if you’re not in tune with Mr. Gold, you soon will be.
Born Daniel Simpson in Kingston, Jamaica, Bakersteez, in less than three years, has poised himself to be the hottest thing out of the Jamaica since Popcaan.
Although he’d later migrate to Hollywood, Florida at age 11, Bakersteez never lost sight of his roots, creating a style that blends the booming basslines of trap alongside the flair and zest of Dancehall.
His new EP, Active, was released this past July and is heavily influenced by the Jamaican icons who came before him, as you can find elements of Bob Marley, Popcaan, and Stylo G’s sound throughout.
Known to weave in and out of Jamaican patois, Bakersteez offers a fresh new sound out of Jamaica, bringing rap together with its Dancehall roots.
This French rapper is credited for coining Afro-Trap — a mix between the west African music he grew up with and the now inescapable 808-inspired subgenre out of Atlanta. He’s also the first French rapper to play at the Coachella festival and is possibly the most recognizable French rap star of the recent decade.
Born Mohamed Sylla, the Parisian MC went from delivering pizzas to playing for 65,000 people after his self-titled debut project. Since then, the rapper, who is of Guinean and Senegalese origins, has been growing his sound, releasing the album 19, in 2018 to critical acclaim.
MHD doesn’t attempt to fix what isn’t broken on his latest album, Mansa. Released this year, it incorporates Nigerian singers Naira Marley on “Fiesta” and Adekunle Gold on “Wonder Mama” while implementing those trap sounds that we all love so well.