Los Angeles has been a hotbed of rap and hip-hop for decades, and the current time is no exception. While there are a slew of big names coming out of the City of Angels, there’s a burgeoning underground scene of lesser known but equal talents. Thanks in large part to platforms like SoundCloud, Datpiff and Bandcamp, these artists have been able to get their music out there, and we decided it’s time to give them a shout-out. After all, you don’t need to be signed, with major-label albums under your belt, to be good at your craft.
10. Kosha Dillz
Maybe you've heard Kosha Dillz outside the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood on a Friday night. With his amp and microphone in tow, he sets up shop on the sidewalk and starts freestyling, usually to everyone’s delight. Kosha, who hails from New Jersey, is Jewish and raps in English, Hebrew and Spanish. He claims he got his rap name, literally, off of a jar of pickles at the supermarket at the age of 17. He got his start in New York rap battles and has since released over six projects, played South by Southwest, and performed with artists like Snoop Dogg, Ghostface Killah and Maitsyahu. He’s signed to Murs’ 3:16 imprint and dropped his most recent project, Awkward in a Good Way, in 2014. (Not so) fun fact: Kosha’s website got hacked by ISIS last year. He’s currently working on a documentary about being a Jewish rapper.
9. King Trell
It’s been over a year now since L.A. native King Trell was singed to Tyga’s Last Kings label. The L.A. native has yet to release a full project, but he’s been dropping singles steadily over the last few months. So far, his tunes have leaned toward party anthems and club music, which is to say his songs are highly danceable. His most well-known jams are “True Dat” featuring Young 100 and this summer’s League of Starz-produced release, “Talk Dat Shit,” featuring Iamsu! and RJ. Rumor has it that he’s coming out with a mixtape by the name of Manchester Park later this year.
The girl group PTAF (which stands for Pretty Taking All Fades) might not ring a bell, but odds are you know their breakout hit, “Boss Ass Bitch.” The hip-hop trio made the song during an after-school class when they were students at Crenshaw High back in 2012. The song went viral and later caught the attention of Nicki Minaj, who remixed the slap with her own lyrics. Though Nicki gave the girls a shout-out on Instagram the day the track was released, they claim that the singer never contacted them about using their beat and that the song itself came as a surprise. In the last few years, PTAF, who are all young mothers, have graduated from high school and released a newer, sleeker music video for the track. They signed to Capitol Records in 2014 and dropped two projects last year: Fake Friends and The Hard Way. Though they have yet to come out with another viral hit, they’re working on new stuff and have hopes of breaking through without Nicki's help soon.
For the last few years, Compton-bred rapper AD has been steadily building a name for himself and dropping new releases. Like Inglewood MC Skeme (who is also on this list), AD has made his hometown a central feature of his music, most notably through his 2013 and 2014 mixtapes, Welcome to ComptonFornia and ComptonFornia 2. His latest mixtape, Blue:89, is a collection of synth-heavy, bouncy tracks that match well with the rapper’s energetic vocals. Featured artists on the project include Lil Durk, OT Genesis, Jon Hart and RJ, as well as production from League of Starz. Some of his songs, like “Juice,” are starting to get radio play, so keep an ear out for more from the young rapper.
6. B-Mac the Queen
B-Mac the Queen is a little-known rapper from the Crenshaw district who is part of Hit Boy’s HS87 (Hits Since ’87) hip-hop collective. She’s been on the scene making music for the past eight years and was featured on HS87’s last two compilation albums, We the Plug (2014) and All I’ve Ever Dreamed Of (2013). She dropped her first EP, Black Kid$, on Aug. 3, with features from Skeme, iLL Camille and Kembe X. The eight-track release (plus a bonus track) is a perfect intro to B-Mac, who is known for her deep voice and particular blend of “ghetto gospel.” She’s tough and fierce, but reflective and candid about her life and Los Angeles, too. Not only is it refreshing to hear a female voice in the rap world, but it’s nice to hear one as real and raw as hers.
5. Bricc Baby
Bricc Baby made a big splash this year with his second mixtape, Nasty Dealer, a psyched-out, hardcore rap project produced by Brodinksi, Metro Boomin and Mike Zombie. Bricc Baby (formerly known as Bricc Baby Shitro), grew up in South L.A. alongside fellow rappers Kid Ink and Casey Veggies, before moving to Atlanta where he befriended local hip-hop artists like Future, Young Scooter and Young Thug. His well-connected, musically gifted homies were a boon to Bricc’s rap career, which only just began four years ago with the release of his first mixtape, Son of a Bricc Lady. Since then, he’s gone on tour in Europe with Kid Ink and the rest of the Batgang, and recently had a feature on Oakland rapper Lil Debbie’s mixtape, Home Grown. Bricc stands out due to the rawness of his lyrics and the nouveau-gangsta rap bent of his music.
4. Jay 305
Thanks to his April radio hit “Thuggin,” Jay 305 is finally starting to transcend the Internet and get his name out there. The ratchet anthem, featuring Joe Moses and produced by DJ Mustard, has gotten play on both Power 106 and REAL 92.3 and tells the tale of the rapper’s life in South Central. Before he got into rapping, Jay 305, who grew up in the Crenshaw district, provided the muscle for Dom Kennedy’s OPM (Other People’s Money) label. As he told HotNewHipHop, he was a “homie that was down for the cause.” He first got known from his collaboration with Ty Dolla $ign on the song “Bitches Ain’t Shit,” but the timing wasn’t good because he went to jail just after it came out. His debut album, Taking All Bets, is coming out in the next year through OPM and Interscope Records. Apparently, Jay 305 was supposed to be on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, but that plan fell through, and he also recorded material with Future that might, alas, never see the light of day.
3. Rich Rocka
Rich Rocka (formerly known as Ya Boy) hails from San Francisco and as such, has a hyphy, bass-heavy bent to his sound. He now lives in L.A. and he’s been dropping music since 2005. He has released two albums, one EP and at least a dozen mixtapes, including his most recent project Rich Rocka II. He’s known for his gravely, low-pitched voice and mastery of tonal inflections. One of his best songs, “Lights Out,” featured on DJ Base’s summer mixtape West XL, is a melodious blend of Bay Area synths with the grittier street beats that have come to be associated with the City of Angels. He’s been signed to Game’s Black Wall Street Records and both of Akon’s labels. Fun fact: Rich Rocka’s cousins are fellow Bay Area rapper San Quinn and NFL wide receiver Stevie Johnson.
RJ is seemingly everywhere right now. You can hear his summer jam “Get Rich.” featuring Iamsu!, on multiple radio stations, and he's on both DJ Mustard and Skeme’s latest mixtapes. RJ is part of Pushaz Ink, the hip-hop collective started by YG, DJ Mustard and Ty Dolla $ign, so it’s no surprise that his name is starting to get out there. Given the number of L.A.-based rappers that he’s collaborated with (Dom Kennedy, Skeme, Ty Dolla $ign and Jay 305, to name a few), he’s basically the darling of the L.A. hip-hop scene at the moment. He’s relatively new to the scene and only just came out with his first mixtape back in 2013. His second mixtape, OMMIO 2 (short for “On My Momma I’m On”) came out this year and features many of the aforementioned artists. He also did a short-lived vlog, which just goes to show you how much the young rapper is pushing to get his name out there. With his quick raps and influential friends, you’re definitely going to be hearing more from this Compton native in the next few months.
No other rapper on this list is making a bigger splash than Skeme. Like YG, who helped put his hometown of Compton (or Bompton, if you will) on the map, Skeme has been doing the same for his hometown of Inglewood. He’s been rapping since the age of 17, when Ty Dolla $ign took the young rapper under his wing and encouraged him to pursue music. His first mixtape dropped in 2007, but it wasn’t until his 2010 project, Pistols and Palm Trees, that he really started to make a name for himself.
To date, he’s come out with eight mixtapes and two albums. Though he turned down an offer to join Top Dawg Entertainment in 2014, Skeme’s buzz continues to grow and he’s performed with a number of big name artists like Wale, Iggy Azalea, T.I. and Young Thug. His most recent project, Ingleworld 2, is his most ambitious yet, with 16 tracks and a slew of bangers. Though his style has evolved and changed over the years (listen to “Don’t Lose Focus” from Pistols and Palm Trees, then listen to “Issues” from Ingleworld 2), Skeme’s wit and reputation as a storyteller haven’t changed. With his raspy voice and jaunty instrumental choices, Skeme is an eclectic MC who is always putting out new music and improving his craft.