Most people will tell you that the only things going on in Birmingham are a massive shopping center that looks like a tin foil cloud designed by an extremely high person, terrible accents, and Peaky Blinders themed nights at gin bars. Fortunately for Brummies however, those people would be wrong. Yes, our accents are questionable; yes, the Bull Ring is probably an iconic piece of architecture for the wrong reasons; yes, I have seen a photo on Facebook of one of my old teachers dressed as Tommy Shelby. But that’s not the point! What those people—those naysayers—are missing is this: Birmingham is the epicenter of some of the most exciting music happening in the UK right now. You just have to know where to look.
Helpfully, your old pals at Noisey UK are here to point you in the right direction. Our new film Noisey Birmingham, hosted by Brum legend Mike Skinner, features Second City MCs like Lady Leshurr, Jaykae, and Mist (as well as Lotto Boyzz, Daps on the Map, and Safone, but we don’t like to brag), all of whom are rising through the ranks of grime and UK rap quicker than a razz around Spaghetti Junction. In case you’ve found yourself sleeping on the Birmingham scene, however, we’ve put together a guide to all the star players (with their best track included as a bonus) as a bit of a primer. Sound bab. Make sure to come back around tomorrow when we release the full documentary.
Best track: “Black Panther”
If you need reminding who Lady Leshurr is, I’d like to personally congratulate you because you’ve obviously managed to basically stay off the internet for the part few years. She’s been a huge presence in grime for most of the last decade, and is best known for her blistering “Queen’s Speech” video series (from which everyone has their personal favorite moments—for me it’s the legendary roast “you go sleep with your makeup on” from “QS6,” never forget).
In terms of her best track, however, I’ve gone for something different. Leshurr’s so prolific that there’s a great deal to choose from, so I’ve chosen the song that best represents her evolution. The relatively new “Black Panther” is a lesson in lyrical dexterity, as Leshurr delivers speed, wit, and power all at once. The track displays a world-class rapper at the peak of her abilities—and she’s got a Brummie accent. —Lauren O'neill
Best track: “On It" (Feat Nines)
Likely, you’ve seen the following two memes. First: name a more iconic duo than…; and Second: the biggest crossover event in history. As of right now, May 2018, there isn’t a meme that celebrates the fiercest triple threat, but if there was, it would feature rappers Mist and Nines on a track produced by Steel Banglez. For those not already in the know, Mist is the closest thing Brum has to a Nines character. He doesn’t make grime, he raps. And with Steel Banglez on the boards behind him, he does it over colourful, fruity production that comes with a sweet bounce.
To find out more about Mist—his journey and how he came to realize himself—come through to our profile feature here, published shortly after the release of his celebrated Diamond In The Dirt album. —Ryan Bassil
Best track: “Hitlist”
Lotto Boyzz first came on my radar with their 2016 track “Hitlist,” and while it may not be their best, it is one that resonates the most. Like that first bong hit or sight of your next girlfriend/boyfriend, it’s unforgettable. It is, also, drenched in the sweat and scent of summer—as evidenced by the video, shot in a backyard while the sun blesses the parties’ patrons with a heavy dosage of vitamin D as they blaze up and sip the good juice from some red cups. Since then they’ve released a slew of singles, as well as their Afrobbean (The Genre Definition) EP—a name that more than services their sound. —Ryan
Best track: “Toothache”
If you haven’t heard of Jaykae where’ve you been? The man has been on a mad one for a minute, moving from his own solo releases into a hook-up with Mike Skinner on The Streets comeback track “Boys Will Be Boys.” For a brief definition of the pleasingly blunt sound presented on his stand-out track “Toothache”, think about the following things: smashing a fridge off a bridge in the dead of night, a car slowly revving its way through rained up, street lamp lit streets, the stench of amnesia haze floating from a bedroom window. Essentially, the song goes hard, but is haunting—with moments of light reflection floating among the harshness. —Ryan
Dapz on the Map
Best track: “Champion Champion”
Hailing from West Bromwich, Dapz has been making music for around half a decade, although he only really landed on the map (sorry) a couple of years ago after a string of particularly potent releases. Songs like “Champion Champion” (above) “Shinobi Part 1”. “I Swear” and “Murdah” among others showcase an MC who is as dark as he is melodic, as witty as he is conscious. The moments he really shines, imo, is when his harder bars slowly transform into this silky, sing-song tone, and you’re presented with an artist that sounds kind of like a more leftfield, switched on Brummy Drake. —Daisy Jones
SafOne Best track: “She Wants a Man From Brum”
If you live in Birmingham you probably already know SafOne for his 2015 Brummy anthem “She Wants a Man From Brum”, which has almost one million views on YouTube and counting. But he’s got so many other tracks to get stuck into, including but not limited to “I Heard,” “Trendsetta,” “We Know,” and his recent link up with M10 “No Subliminals.” Sometimes he gives us straight up-and-down grime, all spitfire bars and cold beats. Other times he gives us rap, slowing it down and turning up the bass. Often he blends the two. But whatever he brings, he always does it with energy. —Daisy
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This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.