East coast rap continues to have a significant influence, even as the genre has shifted away from where it once came from. It was there where hip-hop first emerged in the Bronx in the ’70s, it was there where hip-hop first gained commercial traction in the early ’80s, and there it is today where what constitutes contemporary hip-hop is most thoroughly discussed.
You can hear echoes of early east coast sound in the productions styles and lyrically dense hip-hop that’s popular in underground circles around the country. Inevitably, that influence has infiltrated even today’s most popular rap produced in the West, South and Midwest.
As such, a knowledge of today’s east coast artists is still important for any hip-hop fan. Today we discuss 10 of the best, most underrated east coast rappers who are worth your time and attention.
Philadelphia’s lojii is a master of the art of chill. Mellower than most of his Philly counterparts, his sound is driven by hazy, lo fi beats perfect for late night listening. His voice is laid back yet resonant, somewhere between Ka and A Tribe Called Quest. To anyone with an open ear, it’s clear that lojii has something unique to offer. lojii’s not only one of the best rappers in Philly, but he’s one of the best rappers on the east coast, period. He’s also been on a flawless run over the last few years, dropping the stellar lo&behold album and Taurus_EP, and putting in guest appearances alongside iconoclasts like fellow Philadelphian Moor Mother.
Related Reads: lojii – Taurus EP Album Review
Navy Blue’s music bares his soul. The Brooklyn rapper/producer’s work is a raw and nuanced look at life in his borough and beyond. Vulnerable lyrics displayed on his three stellar albums – Àdá Irin, Songs of Sage: Post Panic and Navy’s Reprise (one of 2021’s best) – have given him a unique place in the rap world. His self-produced beats are sparse and jazzy, with sample-heavy loops that allow for a looser form of introspection than the freewheeling, hyper-lyrical style many modern rappers cultivate. When packaged together, his music is a unique style of experimental rap that recalls the work of Earl Sweatshirt, Wiki and Lord Jah Monte Ogbon, three artists who he’s also worked with.
Related Reads: Navy Blue – Navy’s Reprise Album Review
Nascent MC al.divino is making his presence felt in the Boston area. After years of hustle, al has become a buzzed-about commodity in the east coast rap scene. Not content to sound like every other east coast rapper, al.divino takes rugged boom-bap and reshapes it into a distinct style that should be heard by any rap fan. He hides clever punchlines in his gruff voice and percussive cadence and he gets the majority of his production from the finest beat makers around, including Graymatter, Ewonee, and Ohbliv.
Richmond, Virginia rapper Koncept Jack$on takes a cerebral approach to his flow, drifting in and out of consciousness to deliver hard-hitting bars with a supreme knack for wordplay. With Koncept’s verses, every word hits its mark like an expert marksman. His solo work stands alone in its own right but the east coast rapper is at his best when accentuated by guest spots from Richmond’s Mutant Squad and beats from his city’s increasingly laudable production scene that set the tone and perfectly complement his rhyme patterns.
Related Reads: An Intro To Richmond, Virginia’s Rising Rap Scene
Over the past three years, Niagara Falls MC/producer Che Noir has gained a reputation as one of most incisive, hard-hitting and flat out best rappers on the east coast. Garnered by a reputation for intricate lyricism and sharp songwriting, she’s made a mark with streetwise lyrics and intelligent projects like Juno and Food For Thought that have established her as one of the brightest talents in rap. On the mic, Che Noir is a natural-born killer. Her flow is distinctively her own but reveals a deep connection to classic New York MCs. She’s a sharp lyricist and gifted storyteller, adept at relaying dramatic scenes and holding listeners in the palm of her hand.
Mach-Hommy has made some of the strangest and most exciting rap music in the world over the past five years. He’s part of a small constellation of artists whose music is as challenging as it is rewarding — rappers whose style is rooted in their home region but whose interests are global. Based in Newark, New Jersey but hailing from Haiti, his work is so singular that an entry point can seem elusive. Until recently, much of his music couldn’t be found on streaming platforms. He’s sold some records through Instagram and has used Bandcamp as a way to sell his albums for hundreds of dollars. The move worked in his favor, with his music resonating deeply with those who’ve discovered it, gaining him a cult following. He’s since gained wider recognition thanks to recent works like Balens Cho and Pray for Haiti, an album that works as a summary of everything that’s made him special up to this point and also demonstrates an ambitious new direction for his sound.
Related Reads: 5 New Jersey Rappers You Should Be Listening To
J Scienide is a true hip-hop head. This Washington, DC transplant is a crafty MC and producer who writes witty rhymes and uses obscure samples to create new sounds. Like a hip-hop mad scientist, he has a gift for combining various influences and making them into something unique and exciting. His talents were recognized at an early age, and he’s been honing those skills ever since. Today, J Scienide continues to grow as an artist and a writer, as displayed on his two most recent releases, 2021’s Somebody’s Paradise and KAPUT!!!, which dropped in February.
Gabe ‘Nandez gained a worldly perspective from an early age, growing up shuttling back and forth between New York City and international locations thanks to his father’s job with the United Nations. A childhood abroad fueled his love of language and developed his ear for different sounds and dialects. Today ‘Nandez’s music is is largely influenced by his upbringing, characterized by multilingual raps while still embodying the gritty New York sound. His latest album, Strife, feels like the next step for ‘Nandez—his rapping has evolved into some of his most potent and nuanced work yet. He’s not only one of the most interesting and eclectic rappers on the east coast, he’s also one of the best.
Comprised of two of the best rappers on the east coast—ELUCID and billy woods— Armand Hammer are bringing new depth and creativity to New York City’s underground rap scene. Together, the dynamic duo are creating some of the most atmospheric and complex music currently out in any genre. Armand Hammer have little patience for translating their lyrics — their verses are communicated through a dense haze of coded imagery that’s often difficult to decipher but wholly captivating. Their latest album, Haram, a collaboration with The Alchemist was one of 2021’s best, perfect for those who like their hip-hop laced with a heavy dose of the psychedelic and arcane.
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. 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. His latest 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.