FOREIGN EXCHANGE: CASHH, IAMDDB, CITYBOYMOE

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Curating six emerging global acts that you need to be across, hosted this week by UK-based and GRM Daily writer Oli Knight! From all corners of the planet, these emerging stars should be on your playlists right now! Keep it locked to FOREIGN EXCHANGE; your home to find new talent on the reg. Stay locked via our socials, and if you’re outside the AU and keen on some AUD’$ love, be sure to send us your latest drop via Submithub

A2

There is an ever growing pool of talent within the UK who are determined to step outside of the normal conventions of what is considered UK Rap. This trend has been most pronounced in the last year or two, with a surge of rappers deliberately stepping outside of what have become the obvious tropes of UK Drill and Wave music. Despite this, A2 has been a pioneering staple within this underground scene since 2019. Rising to cult status largely off the back of his exceptional project All Spill (2019), A2 has been making it clear for a while now that there is much more to the UK Rap scene than just drillings and drip.

The sonic landscape A2 operates within is the most obvious example of what makes him stand out. Curating a dark, moody musical world in which his vocals sit, A2 is a marked example of the longstanding innovation present within the UK Rap scene. Drawing from an eclectic range of influences, his ability to rap, sing, and even produce offers him a wide spanning range of tools which ensures he is able to let his inherent creativity fully shine. Think instrumentals inspired by the melancholy of PartyNextDoor, combined with an elegant but poignant rapping ability and style.

If you’re looking for an introduction to his work, there is no better place to start than the aforementioned All Spill. Cuts which particularly stand out are ‘Smoked Out’, ‘Fill the Void’ featuring Jesse James, and an editorial favourite in ‘Clearly’. Present throughout all of these tracks is A2’s distinct ability to draw from a diverse range of influences, as he switches between singing and rapping with ease. There’s no better artists for those reflective late night drives.

CITYBOYMOE

Cityboymoe is a starring part of the new school of underground, left-field voices within the UK Rap scene. More of a singer than he is a rapper, his roots within the streets of North West London (Wembley to be exact) gives his art a certain edge distinct to other vocalists. This is reflected in both the audio and visuals of his tracks; ‘Royal Rumble’ for example sees Moe glide over a graceful Joy Orbision production, singing about the realities of everyday life. The visuals though are a stark juxtaposition to the sweetness of the audio, with Moe meandering through a trap-house wearing a detached expression, seemingly illustrating the normality of such an environment to himself. 

To understand the versatility of Cityboymoe though, check out recent release ‘Might Be’, featuring close friend and frequent collaborator Gdup. Swapping the complex but introspective production of Orbison for an upbeat production reminiscent of a Pierre Bourne beat, ‘Might Be’ is a unique take on trap music. Steering clear of the usual motifs and tropes of the genre, Gdup and Moe go back and forth, singing with poise whilst dropping thoughtful bars reflecting on their lives. Again, the juxtaposition of syrupy vocals and production against the streets grounded content makes for an intriguing overall package, and illustrate what makes Moe’s approach to the music game stand out in the UK. 

SCUTI

Another underground gem coming out of the enclave of talent present in South London is Scuti. Rising to prominence with her playful, charismatic approach to rapping, she’s a welcome breath of fresh air in a music scene which could be largely criticised for taking itself too seriously. I actually interviewed Scuti for GRM Daily at the start of the year and her commitment to honing and finessing her own craft, (and only her own craft) was tangible, and sheds light on why her musical output is so unique within the wider scene. ‘Skoowup’ was the track that really cemented her status as a figure to watch within the underground world of UK rap, and still serves as a great introduction point to her music. Rapping with signature poise and swagger, her effortless flow shines over a sparkling, upbeat trap instrumental. The chorus is incredibly catchy, but my personal favourite point is towards the latter end of the song, where Scuti cleverly interpolates a line from Bakar Not Nice’s smash hit ‘Live Up To My Name’. Breathing new life into the instantly recognisable line “Trap Trap, Trappy in the rain”, Scuti conveyed her ability to utilise and insert influences with ease, whilst creating something which felt true to her individual essence as an artist. 

Another intriguing aspect to Scuti’s personality as an artist is her demonstrated ability to absolutely dominate live performances. Check out her edition of the iconic series ‘Boiler Room’ to see for yourself; despite being filmed over two years ago when she was only beginning to bubble in the underground, she proceeds to shell her performance, captivating a crowd of people who mostly didn’t know her music before that day. These days, Scuti is continuing her charge to the top of the UK Rap scene. Recent releases have included the likes of ‘Hold My Hand’ and ‘Eating’, both of which demonstrate further her ability to experiment and her appetite to take sonic risks. 

CASHH

Cashh’s importance to the UK Rap scene transcends just musical brilliance. Born in Jamaica but raised in Peckham, he was deported from the UK in 2014 as part of the Windrush scandal. The Windrush Scandal is the name given to the uncovering of systemic and secretive government policies which resulted in the forced detention, deportation and stripping of human rights of hundreds (if not thousands) of Commonwealth citizens living in the UK. It’s now an irreversible tattoo on the UK Government, serving as a reminder of the institutional racism and discrimination still inherent to the system. As a result, Cashh’s personal story is intrinsic to his music, but also incredibly important on a wider societal level. This story is told in Cashh’s 2021 debut album, Return of an Immigrant – an incredibly poignant and revealing record which deals directly with the mental and physical consequences of forced deportation. Rapping lines such as “We’re not people, just paperwork”, the project is awash with political commentary, yet still intensely vulnerable from a personal standpoint. Tracks such as ‘Wash Clothes’ and ‘Outside Again’ are both musical and lyrical masterpieces, creating grand, atmospheric musical worlds to ground Cashh’s tales. 

Before Return of an Immigrant, and before he was deported, Cashh was already making waves as an undeniable talent on the UK rap scene. A legendary edition of ‘Behind Bars’ released 11 years ago gives us precious insight into both the ability and the person before the series of tumultuous and traumatic events which has given us the Cashh we know today. Rapping over the beat for ‘Champion’ (originally a Chris Brown and Chipmunk collaboration), Cashh tells stories of pain and torment, detailing the struggles his families and close ones have been through. It’s honest, vivid, and sensitive, and illustrates clearly why to this day Cashh remains one of the brightest lights in the UK rap scene. 

SAINTE

Hailing from the Midlands (Leicster to be exact), Sainte faced different challenges to the rest of the artists on this list in order to establish himself. Coming from an area typically underrepresented in terms of cultural output, his introduction to the music industry has been more storied than some of his contemporaries on this list. First capturing attention with the 2019 cut ‘Envy Me’, Sainte has gone on to capture his own distinct pocket of fans within the UK rap scene. Attracted to his unique aesthetic and overall artistic creativity, Sainte has broken barriers over the last three years by pushing his unapologetically personal sound despite the general UK sound seeming to push in the exact opposite direction. Essentially, as UK rap music has continued to arguably become watered down and reminiscent of “fast food music” Sainte has only increased his resistance to conform. This is demonstrated by his increasingly experimental music, which sees Sainte bounce from different musical worlds influenced by West Coast luxury rap to Soundcloud rap, and everything in between. 

Out the Blue is Sainte’s only project to date, but is the perfect introduction to understand what makes Sainte special. Particular highlights include ‘Summer is Blue’ (which features Knucks and A2 who was featured earlier on this list), alongside ’03’ and ‘No Love’ featuring Miraa May. All of these tracks are excellent individually, but listened in succession illustrate plainly both his effortless versatility and also undeniable artistic ability and vision. In a scene dominated by writing the best lyrics or crafting the best flows, a rapper who isn’t so technically focused is a welcome respite – and that’s a compliment. Sainte’s focus on the overall artistic impact of his work ensures he treats each song from a more abstract perspective than many of his contemporaries, ensuring the end result is unquestionably a Sainte song. 

IAMDBB

IAMDBB is another rising talent emerging outside of London. Born in Lisbon, but moved to Manchester as a young girl by her Angolan parents, IAMDBB is yet another UK artist who is fearless in the pursuit of pushing boundaries. Blending rap with R&B and jazz influences, the result is a metamorphosis of talent – which form it will take you’re never quite sure. This is demonstrated by the sonic range in her releases; whilst ‘Shade’ (her biggest release to date sees her sing and rap joyfully about everyday life), recent release ‘JGL’ is instrumentally sparse and fiercely political. It’s a testament to both her ability and vision to be able to create so freely. 

IAMDBB’s musical output has dropped off over the last couple of years, but she’s still keeping somewhat active. ‘JGL’ is her most recent release, released nearly a year ago, and she released a few tunes in the 12 months before that. With that said, IAMDBB already has a wealth of music out there, with three projects to her name. I’d personally recommend starting with her debut project Hoodrich, Vol 3 to get a real insight into who IAMDBB is and what it is that makes her music so special. 

Article by Oli Knight.

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