A Guide To Baltimore’s Top Rappers
Baltimore has long been one of the country’s capitals of underground hip-hop. Though it may be overshadowed by the more significant commercial success and national spotlight enjoyed by some of its musical peers in New York and Los Angeles, Baltimore’s independent and DIY hip-hop scene is nonetheless a bastion of pure and unadulterated creativity.
Who Are The Best Under-The-Radar Baltimore Rappers Right Now?
Today we take a look at some Baltimore rappers who are worth your time and attention. They’re not all big names, though they’ll likely be big soon enough. Their sounds are unique and they’re growing a name for themselves at a rapid pace. These are some of the best rappers in Baltimore.
Brian Ennals is the sort of rapper who’s bound to be filed under “obscure” for most listeners. He’s been a rambunctious presence in the Baltimore underground since the early days of his career, rhymes have the same kind of punky urgency that grips you with every syllable. Ennals is an immense talent with an ear for lush arrangements and an ability to write vivid, lyrical prose. He’s not only the most interesting rappers around, he’s also one of the most important underground Baltimore music artists to come out in recent years in any genre.
Ennals has been recording music for over a decade but he’s only recently received the critical acclaim and peer recognition he deserves. His 2022 album King Cobra was highly lauded by critics and signifies a distinct turning point in Ennals’ career. Under the guidance of Baltimore producer Infinity Knives, the album is a rewarding listen that showcases his considerable gifts as a lyricist and an impressionistic music artist, cementing Ennals’ place as one of the best rappers from Maryland. Simply put, Brian Ennals is one of the most important living rappers from Maryland and King Cobra is his masterpiece.
ILL Conscious is a rapper at the forefront of urban conscious hip hop. With a classic approach that hearkens back to hip-hop’s golden era, ILL Conscious has gained praise from audiences up and down the east coast and beyond. The Baltimore MC has been likened to AZ, Big Pun, Big L with the consciousness of Talib Kweli and the passion/word choice of Tupac. His lyrics are introspective and conceptual, and his beat selection is laced with a grimy edge that perfectly compliments his style. ILL Conscious has conscientiously made his name by drawing from the classic hip-hop stylings of the genre. He’s a lyrical savant who crafts stories like a rapper’s poet armed with a sharp wit and a taste for classic boom-bap production
ILL Conscious’s 2022 offering, Acre of Diamonds, is a tour de force that puts his lyrical prowess on full display alongside choice guest appearance from fellow rising stars like Rome Streetz. The album is a perfect blend of conscious hip-hop and rugged anthems, making for one of the most entertaining projects out of Baltimore in recent years.
Jay Royale is Baltimore’s own king of lyrical muscle, cranking out raw and uncut verses that are packed with rhymes and compacted with the full-on force of the city’s signature beats. Jay Royale is one of the best rappers from Maryland and perhaps the city’s most talented lyricist. He’s a rapper’s rapper, someone who throws up a ton of punch lines without ever looking to dish overkill. His lyrics are packed with rhymes and compacted with the full-on force of Baltimore beats. Jay represents the peak of local talent and carries on Baltimore’s long tradition of great emcees. In other words, he’s one of the top talents in Baltimore, and one of the best rappers from Maryland.
With an impressive catalogue of projects already under his belt, Jay represents the peak of local talent and is carrying on Baltimore’s long tradition of great emcees. His skillful rap style is evident on his 2020 album, Baltimore Housing Project, is a prime showcase of his hard-hitting style, featuring guest appearances from some of the underground’s finest emcees, including ILL Conscious and Skyzoo.
While Baltimore-based duo Dirt Platoon represent a throwback to 90s-era rap, one listen to any of their EPs reveals a much richer rap sound that rings with a classic Baltimore vibe. The group’s sound is a throwback style, but it’s not just a cookie cutter sound. Their sound sees production quality and lyrical content rise to the top, taking a golden era feel and adding a bit of gutter and grit to it to create their own vibe. Dirt Platoon blend inspiration from 90s-era hip-hop acts like Redman, Wu-Tang Clan, and Mobb Deep with a bit of a grittier Baltimore feel to create their own unique sound. The result is a fresh sound that makes Dirt Platoon one of Baltimore’s most exciting rap duos to emerge in recent years. With a sound that blends modern-classic hip production throwback wordplay attitude, Dirt Platoon is helping to usher Baltimore back into the spotlight when it comes to rap music.
Guy Grams is part of a new crop of Baltimore rappers bringing the grime to your speakers. One of the best rappers from Maryland, Guy Grams is bringing Baltimore back to the underground scene with a classic sound that slots perfectly into the raw and gritty east coast underground movement. With a loyal following of fans, a successful solo career and a trail of open mics in the city’s battle rap circuit, Grams has released a crop of EPs and singles with a classic sound that slots perfectly into the raw and gritty east coast underground movement.
Grams’ run of stellar solo projects includes War Medals and Gramzilla, and he continues to raise the bar with each successive release. With his own unique flow, crisp lyricism and smooth delivery, Grams’ music always shines through on any track he finds himself no matter who produces it.
STEEZA is a Baltimore rapper that’s not afraid to step outside of the box. With off-kilter flows, intricate rhyming patterns, and unconventional beat selection, STEEZA is 100% in his own lane. He consistently keeps listeners on their toes while delivering gem after gem of experimental hip-hop. STEEZA has made his name by popping off with some of the most intense verses this side of the Mid-Atlantic region, whether it’s on his own music or other artists’ tracks. STEEZA is unafraid to push creative boundaries, and challenges himself with every track. A true artist who understands that a great song is one that varies from the norm and challenges the listener, STEEZA’s music is for those listeners who are ready for something new.
Bounding into the scene with a unique blend of complex wordplay, technical flows and experimental production, BLAST4ME finds the rising emcee looking to take his place among the ranks of the best rappers in Baltimore and Maryland as a whole. Made in collaboration with the great Baltimore beat maker eu-IV, STEEZA employs a number of different flows on the project, showcasing his versatility as a rapper while complimenting each beat he touches.
Al Rogers Jr.
Rappers in Baltimore have one common denominator: authenticity. Al Rogers Jr. is no exception to that rule. Al Rogers Jr. is a man of many talents, but one of his most unexpected is his ability to surprise you throughout the course of a full-length record. He’s known for out-of-the-box creativity, with lyrics that switch and turn into something entirely different at the drop of a hat and his heart-on-his-sleeve authenticity has made him one of the best rappers in Baltimore.
On 2015’s Luvadocious, the local rapper showed off an Outkast-inspired side in which he delivered track after track of deft wordplay with ease. And with his later work, he’s becoming more confident and deliberate than ever before. One of the most versatile Baltimore music artists working today, Al Rogers Jr. is also one of the best rappers in Maryland, period.
A true lyricist and a jack of all trades within the rap game, Labtekwon has been rapping for nearly two decades and shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. Easily one of Baltimore’s best rappers, and one of the top artists in the Maryland rap scene, Labtekwon has a knack for brain-twisting rhyme schemes and a talent for scathing commentary from nearly any angle.
Labtekwon is the perfect example of how songs don’t need to be catchy or overly produced to be great. Once you hear Labtekwon speak, it’s impossible not to be captivated by his rhymes. He not only creates songs that are lyrical, but creates a very strong atmosphere for his listeners to be absorbed in. His rhymes command your full attention; you’re captivated for the duration of each track, and his rhymes demand repeat listening to capture the hidden meaning in between the lines.
UllNevaNo is one of the best up-and-coming rappers in the underground hip-hop world of Baltimore. He’s also one of Baltimore’s most respected up-and-coming artists, thanks to his effortless flow, which leaps from one style to the next. An artist who honors the past while staying ahead of the curve and experimenting with all aspects of hip-hop, each of UllNevaNo’s songs showcases his versatility and effortless skill behind the mic by combining the best bits of old school and new school hip hop.
You can hear him dropping bombs over nothing but Kev Brown instrumentals on his color-themed mixtape Color Brown, and rhyming over tracks of original material on albums like Confidence Is Everything, and his 2022 album The Ghost Of Reggie Lewis, a gritty affair which hearkens back to rap’s golden era.
MC Altered States
MC Altered States has been rapping and producing for over a decade. After taking a lengthy hiatus from music, Altered States has been creatively rejuvenated by Baltimore’s contemporary underground hip-hop scene, returning with some of his best work and cementing his place as one of the top rappers in Baltimore, and one of the best rappers from Maryland, period.
His 2022 album The Usual Suspects demonstrates new found drive and focus through its lyrical content and musical identity as a whole – from beats to lyrics, in both content and delivery – hard hitting drums coupled with complex bars. The album provides listeners with a deep dive into Altered State’s lyrical world, a combination of complex beats and lyrical content united by an unrelenting intensity that makes it impossible to ignore.
Baltimore rapper YTK has found success in his hometown but is ready to take his brand of melodic hip-hop nationwide. Hailing from the city’s Northeast corner, YTK sets himself apart from his peers through his storytelling ability and unique mix of R&B and hip-hop. His latest track “WOE” is a prime example of the songwriter’s top-notch lyricism, painting a picture of the little things in life that could go unnoticed by many. His flow and wordplay is impeccable and witty, whether he’s rapping over catchy singalong piano and strings or spitting rapid-fire on a hard-hitting boom bap instrumental. Each track finds him pursuing various paths and on different tracks, carrying his listeners with him.