5 under-the-radar rappers from Baltimore you should know about

Featuring Bandhunta Izzy, Shordie Shordie, Jayy Grams, YG Teck, and HAZMATCAZ

November 01, 2018
5 under-the-radar rappers from Baltimore you should know about

Historically, Baltimore is not a rap town. From the late ‘80s until the mid 2000s, the city’s musical language was still spoken through the thumps of Baltimore club. But as the city lost iconic DJ, K-Swift, and venues that centered the genre started to gradually close, club music largely lost its grip of local youth. Some rappers still found a way to thrive, though, even just for abbreviated periods: Los inked deals with Bad Boy and consistently wowed rap fans with his exceptional skill at freestyling; Rapper B Rich scored a national hit with “Whoa Now” in the early 2000s; Keys had a short taste of viral fame when she dissed Nicki Minaj back in 2009. But none of those short-lived success stories ignited a flame under young artists in the city to create a true scene.

It wasn’t until 2014 that a real wave started to flow through Baltimore. The two artists most responsible for that shift are East Baltimore’s Young Moose and the late, West Baltimore rapper Lor Scoota. Together, the two spearheaded an excitement for local talent that the city never experienced. Most importantly, their arrival finally gave Baltimore's youth relatable voices to listen to on a regular basis. Scoota and Moose’s ability to touch already-established artists outside of Baltimore played a huge role in their local influence as well. Boosie Bad Azz fittingly took the rough-around-the-edges, street narrator Moose under his wing and Meek Mill was attracted to Scoota’s flashy style and rise-from-nothing narrative.

Now, the city has developed a scene that has a healthy variety of styles and stories. JPEGMAFIA rose out of the eclectic, Central Baltimore DIY scene. YBS Skola regularly collaborates with some of the country’s biggest street artists. Lor Choc’s heartfelt stories of pain and love are gaining her a following outside city limits. But there are other artists that have a strong chance of taking the next step to national acclaim. Here’s five.

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Bandhunta Izzy

In February of 2016, Bandhunta Izzy made a splash in the Baltimore rap scene when he and his brother, Bandhunta Jugg, released a video for their “BandHuntas Pt.2” collaboration. The song had already been making rounds locally due to the momentum-building back-and-forth the two engaged in, but the video quickly started to creep into the six-figure view range. And by the end of the year, Izzy found himself in consideration for being the city’s most exciting new artist with loose tracks like “Rumors” and “BBB” with Blue Benjamin Sleepy, and a raw tape comprised of fuzzy beat jackings. During that time, Izzy’s most traceable influence was the vivid, narrative drill being made by G Herbo and Lil Bibby. The bulk of his music followed a similar blueprint to the Chicago rappers, but his tweak was taking that template and updating it with lyrics that reflected his life growing up in West Baltimore.

Since that breakout year, Izzy has inked a record deal with Republic Records, served as the opening act on Ski Mask The Slump God’s national tour, and played Rolling Loud’s Bay Area fest in September. But most exciting is that, beyond the accolades, Izzy has become a much more nimble and charismatic artist by taking his gift for compelling, long-winded raps and diversifying his flows and beat-selection. The best examples of that growth are one his Code Blue tape from January and on loosies like “I Got It,” “Open Trap Door,” and “Poppin Shit.”

YG Teck

Being known as the “freestyle guy” can often limit the public’s perception of a rapper’s skillset, especially when their recorded music doesn’t match the intensity of a one-off performance. It’s arguable that veteran Baltimore rapper Los — whose freestyles and beat jackings have been praised by Kendrick Lamar while his projects have gone mostly overlooked — has fallen victim to this over the course of his career. But, Park Heights, West Baltimore rapper YG Teck has found a sweet spot somewhere in the middle. In August of last year, he quietly released one of the best projects to come out of the city with Eyes Won’t Close, filled with sharp-tongued lines about taking penitentiary chances in order to get out of the streets. But likely due to Teck’s omission of club-ready music, the project didn’t make a big splash locally.

That changed when, in October of 2017, he appeared on local radio station DTLR and proceeded to ignite the whole city with a four-minute long impassioned freestyle. The video of him in the station went viral in Baltimore and for months, he shared clips of fans rapping it word-for-word in their homes and cars. It became so sought after that he included it as an official track on his seven-track EP from this year titled The Hardway.

HAZMATCAZ

HAZMATCAZ isn’t one of the most visible, or listened to, rappers in Baltimore but over the past year, she’s been consistently releasing singles that, in sound, take you somewhere that most of her local peers don’t. Primarily traceable on Soundcloud, her music and look reflect the playfulness of many rappers who have made their marks on the platform in recent memory. Last year, one of her best tracks “I Don’t Give No Fucks” encapsulated what makes her music so entertaining: an immediate and straightforward message, her gift for Auto-Tune harmonizing, and her taste in lo-fi, mind-twisting production. This year, one of her standouts is “Thats What I Thought,” which starts off with a short guitar solo, then ends up taking you on a trip with cooky synth loops and bars about other girls’ boyfriends being obsessed with her.

Shordie Shordie

Northeast Baltimore’s Shordie Shordie is the closest thing the city has to a Lil Uzi Vert-like character. For one, in the grand scheme of which artists have gotten citywide support over the past few years, he is surely the most flamboyant and eccentric. As a member of group Peso Da Mafia, Shordie’s dances and scratchy harmonies have created some of the best entertainment to come out of the city in recent memory (see the group’s Never a Drought tape from this year). He’s never not made an amazing hook, hilariously, but fittingly, earning him the a.k.a., Captain Hook. For two, Shordie has mastered the art of keeping his fans on their toes. Just about every week, he uploads and deletes Instagram snippets of songs from his forthcoming solo project, mostly comprised of almost alien-sounding trap ballads about failed attempts at love. The clips are so enticing that fans upload compilations of them to YouTube to hold them over until he finally drops.

Jayy Grams

Not unlike what came out of the Pro Era movement in Brooklyn at the top of this decade, 18-year-old Jayy Grams’s love for boom bap is a stark contrast to what you will typically hear coming out of cars driving around Baltimore in 2018. Back in January, while still in his senior year of high school, he appeared on Sway in the Morning for an impressive freestyle that rose his profile to people away from home. In mid-December, he dropped the seven-track Grime & Basslinez, which featured him earnestly rapping about the challenges of the neighborhood and how much better he is at rapping than anyone else. Grams is now singed to Cinematic Music Group’s label, where Joey Badass also calls home. For the bulk of 2018, he’s been pushing music from his group LOWFi, a collective of kids from Baltimore who share his interest in creating rap that was most popular before they were born.


5 under-the-radar rappers from Baltimore you should know about