Words: Dean Van Nguyen
Behind every flagship Irish drill rapper, there’s a group of artists behind hoping to be next in line. Here are 10 such stars. Some are at the beginning of their voyage; others have been around a while and are primed for a higher tier of success. The common denominator is you’re likely to be hearing more from then in 2023.
86bxby is cliqued up with INK, highly prominent in Dublin drill, and Wolfpack Records. He emerged with the song ‘Ready or Not’ (posted to YouTube via INK’s channel) in September, a murky, atmospheric cut that showcases his oddly jagged flow – “This is Ireland, bro” being chanted intermittently. It laid down a hell of a gauntlet for 86bxby, whose emergence has felt carefully managed for maximum impact. What comes next will be engrossing.
Also of the 86 crew, 86Jkr has been popping up here and there over the last couple of years. There was ‘Go Hállain‘, his big coming out solo single, plus collaborations with the likes of AC-130. But his archives remain sparse – something we hope nobody can say this time next year.
With Offica and A9Dbo Fundz having already made big moves outside the crew, will another A92 rapper break out? There is A9Kebz, whose 2022 single ‘Row Your Boat‘ featured his deep-voiced flow over some off-kilter, almost Timbaland-style drums – a totally different insight into the A92 machine.
The prominent theme of Ac3’s ‘Dublin Not London‘ was a stratagem that netted the rising rapper extra attention, but 2022 also saw him drop an impressive grimy gangster rap number in ‘Streets Cold‘. Having already made the declaration that he wants to be an “icon for his generation,” a smart next move could be a multi-track project showing off all the sides of his artistry.
Dee (sometimes styled as Đee) dropped the strong single ‘Lacking”’on the prominent Dearfxch TV platform back in 2021 and promptly disappeared, inflicting hurt upon anyone who might have put him on their “Ones to Watch in 2022” lists. It remains his only song on Spotify. But we’re still hoping for a comeback to rival Lazarus of Bethany or Elvis Pressley will materialize for the heavy toned rapper.
2022 saw Derry rapper HYFIN star in a Netflix short documentary, directed by Sean Mullan and Michael Barwise and funded by the streaming service’s Documentary Talent Fund, that captured the early shots of his career. HYFIN: The Story of Hip Hop’s New Voice In Northern Ireland gave insights into the man and the city. But no rapper wants to be best known for pursuits off the mic, and so HYFIN will hope to parlay both interest in the film and work on songs like ‘Back Up Plan‘ to bigger things in 2023.
W12 rapper Keemz added to his collection of punishing drill tracks like ‘Denz n Renz‘and ‘No Hook 1.0‘ last year by going full lothario on the softer ‘Luv N Money‘. His release schedule has been sparse thus far, giving him plenty of space to attack from in 2023.
Representing the #D15 crew, Mikez B released a series of strong singles last year. There was ‘Smoking & Thinking,’ an emotive open-book number, while ‘Gangland‘ offered a classical take on gangster rap in the vein of Compton star The Game. Moving low key right now, Mikez B will no doubt be hoping for a more significant breakthrough in the next year.
Smilez (né Samson Da Silva) started making music on his laptop at just 7 years old. Reaching artistic maturity, he seeks to give honest dispatches from his home of Mac Uilluim, Tallaght. Take the song ‘17,’ a coming of age tune about family bonds and the uncertainty that can come when you reach adulthood.
TraviS X Elzzz lead Gliders, a creative collective that operates with the motto “Think it, Materialise it”— the video for their song ‘Pricey‘ even doubled as a trailer for Gliders’ own “G Suit” tracksuit. Though the pair do operate as solo artists, they feel at their most potent together with 2022 seeing the release of the joint EP Independent and a few other singles. The next year promises more music together and apart—and whatever other creative endeavours spill from their heads.
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