8 Acts That Prove Urban Music Is Flourishing In The UK

The controversy stirred up by BBC 1xtra's Power List has got people talking about urban music again, which means it's probably a good thing. Here are a few people we think deserve the spotlight.
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The fact that in 2014 our biggest media outlet still separates music into colour, especially when the mixed-race population is the fastest growing in the UK, is ridiculous in itself, but that's for another day.

Rather than keep telling the world things everybody already knows about the music industry, I'd rather get something something positive out of it, and if the embarrassment of having a two-bob Urban Power list in the first place can turn the spotlight on to those still working their way up the game, then that can only be a good thing.

Some of these have been around for a long time, others are just coming up, but they're all people I think are important to the future of urban music in the UK. This is not a league table and they are in no particular order.

Isaiah Dreads

The 16 year old from Dorchester (him in the picture above) barely had time to change out of his school uniform before he was making noises with an absolute beast of a record, the big bashy 'You See Me', produced by Preditah. Spitting with the confidence of someone twice his age it's hard to believe he's got anything but mad success coming his way.

Wot Do You Call It


Every healthy scene needs somebody standing there with a camera and a trigger happy finger. Wot Do You Call It was started by Marco Grey and George Quann-Barnett as a method of capturing the often overlooked moments in the grime scene. They've photographed some of the people in this very list, as well as capturing the raw energy at events like Lord of the Mics, Boiler Room and Butterz. It can't be underestimated how much a photo blog like this makes a difference to the kids in internetland who can't get to the raves.

George The Poet

Probably the most special talent on this list. Not to take anything away from the rest, but George has got something that doesn't come around very often. His direct, socially conscious lyrics have the ability to cut through the dusty velvet curtains of the entertainment business with razor precision. Through his poetry (he doesn't think of himself as a rapper or even a performer) he tackles everything from racial equality to the effect American hip hop culture has on kids in the UK. Proof that urban music is essential in encouraging positive change in young people, something the 'industry' couldn't seem to give a left bollock about.


Another youngster making "council estate music" as he put it, is South London's Novelist. So young in fact that security at Plan B in Brixton would only let him in for 30 minutes while he performed earlier this week. His energy and charisma are off the scale, and could well make him grime's next commercially successful MC if that's the road he wanted to go down. Either way he's already got the respect of his peers.

Hawk House

I first heard of Hawk House through a mixtape on DatPiff last year. Since then the Croydon trio have dropped the follow-up, A Handshake to the Brain, and got the internet hyped about UK hip hop again. They're quick to tell you they're not the UK's version of The Fugees, or anyone else for that matter, but the comparisons, while slightly lazy, show how highly they're regarded. It's been far too long since Britain had serious contenders to the USA's dominance of the genre, and these guys are the ones to do it.

Benji B

Now something of an elder of the urban scene (not so much in age as experience), Benji B's weekly Radio 1 and 1xrtra show is still the biggest champion of future beats on the Beeb, with a selection coming from traditional urban roads to more techno / electronica vibes. His eclectic taste and ability to pinpoint interesting sounds regardless of genre or colour is why he's one of the most respected names in the game. His popularity is proof that despite the controversy this week, the BBC does support urban music strongly, which just makes their Power List all the more baffling.

Nick Brewer

I went to the same school as Nick and I'm still pals with his sister - we sat next to each other in RE, but that's irrelevant. I didn't even realise how good Nick was until recently. His latest EP 'Four Miles Further' showcases an incredible flow over laid-back beats, another young artist confidently steering UK hip-hop into fertile ground. Little Simz (another big talent deserving of everyone's attention) features on the standout track, The Drop.

Chloe Leone

I don't even think Chloe Leone has had an EP out yet, but the BBC were quick to point to the fact that they supported Ed Sheeran when he had 400 followers on Twitter so now's your time to back Miss Leone. I stumbled upon her Soundcloud a few months back and was bowled over straight away by her demos: the girl's got the kind of raw talent you don't need a bajillion label bought-Twitter followers to validate.

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomdisco