While nobody is doubting that hip-hop originated in the US, there's also an entire plethora of artists here in the UK plying their trade as rappers and hip hop artists.
For those new to hip hop or UK hip hop, there's a lot to discover. While we can't guarantee that we'll include everyone's favourite, we hope that there's a good sample of British hip hop and rap artists to get you started.
The Origins of UK Hip Hop
Rap music in the UK has similar origins to that in the US with MCs and DJs rapping over the top of instrumental breaks in music at club nights and parties.
However, UK rap was less racially homogenous right from the start as segregation by race is less common in British cities and London, in particular. Of course, that isn't to say that UK hip hop doesn't have black roots, it's just that it's been very cross-racial since its beginnings.
Early UK rap had a Caribbean sound as West Indians played a significant role in the early days. Throughout the years, other musical genres like electro, reggae, jungle, and garage have all influenced UK hip hop and the genre has continued to evolve as strives to avoid becoming mainstream.
Let's have a look at a few of the biggest rap and hip hop artists through the years.
Hijack were one of the first British hip hop groups to have any sort of success with their releases Hold No Hostage and Doomsday of Rap in 1989 getting noticed by Ice-T, who subsequently signed them to his Rhyme Syndicate record label.
The group then recorded their debut album The Horns of Jericho, but the album was never released in the US, leading them to leave the Warner Brothers record label.
The group split in the mid-90s and the individual members pursued other projects.
Roots Manuva, whose real name Rodney Hulton Smith, debuted back in 1994. His biggest successes came in the 00s with his Run Come Save Me (2001) and Slime & Reason (2008). Root Manuva's debut album was released in 1998 to critical acclaim with NME naming it the 37th best album of 1999.
It's suggested that Roots Manuva's music is the precursor to grime music, which draws upon UK garage, jungle, dancehall, and hip hop music for inspiration. We'll look at some grime artists later, though.
Dizzee Rascal debuted in 2003 with his Boy in da Corner album and is widely considered one of the most important grime artists. Despite a troubled childhood and multiple school expulsions, he found success with his debut album and the singles I Luv U and Fix Up, Look Sharp.
The album's second single Fix Up, Look Sharp samples Billy Squier's The Big Beat, a song that's been sampled in a lot of hip hop including songs by Jay-Z, Kanye West, Nas, Puff Daddy, A Tribe Called Quest, Ice Cube, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and Run-D.M.C.
Dizzee Rascal's success continued to grow with each subsequent album charting better than the previous. His chart success peaked in 2009 with his Tongue 'n' Cheek album which included his four #1 songs.
Mike Skinner (The Streets)
While Dizzee Rascal was probably recording his first album, The Streets, led by Mike Skinner, were enjoying the success of their first album Original Pirate Material in 2002.
The group, unlike a lot of British rap and hip hop artists, don't hail from London but rather the UK's second city, Birmingham. Their first single Has It Come to This? was released in 2001 with the aforementioned debut album releasing the following March.
The album was nominated for BRIT Awards in 2003 and the following albums A Grand Don't Come for Free and The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living were both #1 albums in 2004 and 2006 respectively.
While originally from Leeds, Skinnyman grew up in London and released his only album Council Estate of Mind in 2004 on Low Life records. The album peaked at #65 on the UK charts.
Skinnyman has also released several singles and appeared on tracks with artists like DJ Vadim, Rodney P, KRS-One, and Akala.
Skepta is a British hip hop and grime artist whose career started in the early 00s with performances on pirate radio. He released his debut album, the confusingly named Greatest Hits in 2007.
His second album charted poorly but his third album Doin' It Again reached #19 in 2011 and he had even more success with the next two albums going to #2 in 2016 and 2019 respectively.
His 2016 album Konnichiwa won the Mercury Prize with the songs Shutdown and That's Not Me both receiving MOBO Awards for Best Song and Best Video.
Tinie Tempah grew up in London and released his debut album Disc-Overy in 2010 after his singles Pass Out and Written In The Stars both went to #1. Similarly, the album also reached #1 and we should also mention that the single Frisky reached #2.
It would be fair to say that at the time, Tinie Tempah was the biggest rapper in the UK, but he hasn't been able to recapture the success of that debut.
J Hus is another British rapper from London whose music falls within the hip hop, afro swing, and road rap genres. The afro swing sound has more UK dancehall and afrobeat origins and has been very successful in the UK with J Hus' debut album reaching #6 and his second Big Conspiracy reaching #1 in 2020.
While J Hus is yet to have a #1 single, he's won MOBO and NME awards for both individual songs and albums.
Stormzy is one of those British rappers whose success can easily be classified as mainstream. At the time of writing, he's released two studio albums, both of which went to #1, and two #1 singles. His first massively successful track was Big for Your Boots, which was on his debut studio album Gang Signs & Prayer.
He's won BET Awards, Brit Awards, Global Awards, GQ Men of the Year Awards, MOBO Awards, and MTV Europe Music Awards, to name a few. Whether you judge an artist by their critical success or commercial success, Stormzy checks all the boxes.
Now you should know a little more about British rappers. To learn more about other rappers and rap songs, check out our other articles. You can also learn more about rap and music with a private tutor on Superprof! There are different types of tutoring available and since each comes with pros and cons in terms of the teaching and the cost, you'll want to think carefully about what's right for you and your budget.
Face-to-face tutorials are often the most cost-effective, but they also tend to be the most expensive per hour. This is because you're paying for a tutor to tailor the sessions to you, your level, and what you want to learn. Similarly, a lot of tutors will travel to their students and have more expenses to deal with than those offering online or group tutorials.
Online tutorials are a good option if you live rurally or can't find any suitable tutors in your local area. These tutors can still offer tailored sessions but can charge less as they don't have to travel to their students and can schedule more sessions each week. As long as you have a decent internet connection, webcam, and microphone, you can enjoy private online tutoring from tutors all over the world.
Group tutoring is an excellent option if you're on a tight budget. While you won't get as much one-on-one tuition from your tutor, you usually end up paying less as the cost of the tutor's time and expertise is split amongst all the students in attendance. If you and some friends, family members, or colleagues, are interested in learning more about music or rap, group tutoring could be a fun and rewarding experience.
Before you start contacting tutors, it's a really good idea to think carefully about the type of tutoring that you're after and what you're looking for in a tutor. Make a list of your requirements and keep them in mind as you search for tutors on Superprof. Once you have a few tutors in mind that meet your requirements, you can start getting in touch with them and discussing how and what you'd like to learn.
Remember that many of the tutors on the Superprof website offer the first lesson for free. Use these free sessions to try out a few different tutors before deciding on which one would be right for you. Remember to keep your requirements in mind when chatting with potential tutors and remember that since you're probably going to be spending a decent amount of time with them, it's important that you get on well with them.