A List Of 2023’s Best Rappers From The Midwest
Forget the coasts. Some of the brightest lights and most promising talent in hip-hop are coming from America’s Heartland, where a group of impressive up-and-coming rappers are busy writing their own legends. While the west coast, east coast and the south regions have produced iconic rappers like 2Pac, Biggie and Outkast, for decades the best midwest rappers have been largely unsung, independent and overlooked. From Minneapolis and Detroit to Chicago, the midwest has long been home to some of the best rappers in the game. We’ve witnessed an incredible amount of talent come out of this region over the past several decades that has yet to receive its proper due in mainstream circles.
One of the most underrated regions in the country for hip-hop talent, the midwest is home to a lot of new and exciting rappers that deserve more attention. In fact, when it comes to up-and-coming rappers from this area, you are genuinely spoiled for choice. Artists like Chance the Rapper, Atmosphere and Danny Brown have changed the course of rap music with their innovative styles and forward thinking creativity, but you’ve likely already heard those artists’ names (if you haven’t already heard their music).
The following midwest rappers are lesser known names in the region’s burgeoning hip-hop scene. They may not be household names yet, but they certainly deserve to be. The best part about all of the rappers on this list is their diverse styles and approaches to music; there really is something here for anyone who loves rap music. So without further ado here’s a list of the best up-and-coming rappers from the midwest right now.
The Midwest’s Top Under-The-Radar Rappers
In a city like Chicago, underground artists are always hustling to make meaningful connections in their artistic community. As one of the most exciting new voices to emerge from Chicago in recent years, Defcee has applied this principle to his art, going thru countless open mics to reach where he is today—a dedicated emcee working tirelessly on his craft to become one of the best midwest rappers out today.
With a big underground following that’s helped him to make his mark in the Windy City’s rap scene, Defcee is one of Chicago’s top-tier lyricists. As an emcee, poet and educator known for his complex rhymes and thought-provoking flow, Defcee has carved out a unique space in Chicago’s vibrant hip-hop scene with his vaulting lyricism and undeniable bravado. He blends insightful lyrics and soaring hooks with cutting-edge production from producers like Boathouse, who he collaborated with on the stellar 2022 album For All Debts Public And Private.
Quelle Chris is a Detroit, Michigan-based rapper, beatmaker and producer. An eclectic aritist who’s also worked in genres ranging from punk rock to abstract soul, Chris is practically a genre in himself, although today he could be most accurately described as a hip-hop lyricist with eccentric beats and a relaxed flow. Unconventional and hard to categorize, he prefers lo-fi production and oddball samples for his beats, yet remains down-to-earth with his rapping. At a time when most hip-hop artists are rapping about violence or bragging about their wealth, Quelle brings a new perspective to the genre with a thoughtful approach—poking fun at himself while also addressing serious topics. His dark sense of humor adds to the irreverent observations about himself and others found on records like Deathfame, one of the best rap releases of 2022.
Rapper HUBBS began his musical journey guesting on the mixtapes of other local talent in his home city of Pittsburgh. Since 2010, he’s been perfecting his craft, and every inch of it shows. His rhymes weave together like a labyrinth, with bars that interlock in a way that few other midwest rappers can pull off. His flow is effortless and smooth as he floats over the beat. In 2021, he released an EP called Winston Zeddemoore, which garnered attention for its deft wordplay and songs that are both hard and soulful. With an array of intricate wordplay and a variety of styles, HUBBS is sure to be one of the midwest rappers we’ll be hearing from for years to come.
Teller Bank$ has a unique resonance that distinguishes him from other underground rap artists. Whether it’s his hypnotic delivery or the inventiveness with which he uses his production, Teller has been putting in stellar work in the recording booth and sharing it with all of us for awhile now. His lyrical content and delivery stand out among the crowd; he’s witty and honest, with a voice that is both gruff and smooth. One of the best and hardest working midwest rappers out today, the Des Moines, Iowa-based artist exhibits a fearless flow that is highlighted by his energetic delivery. To complement his style, he collaborates with choice beat makers to produce eerie, noir-ish soundscapes that lend a cinematic quality to his music. Case in point – the The I & I, a 2022 album crafted alongside producer Ed Glorious, whose epic yet somber beats provide the perfect backdrop for Teller’s tales.
Willie The Kid
With a clean and articulate flow, coupled with a unique delivery, Willie The Kid is a force to reckon and one of the most promising young midwest rappers to come out of Michigan in recent years. His consistently evolving style and diverse flow showcase lyrics that are often colorful, descriptive, and full of metaphors. His rhyme schemes perfectly sync up with each track seamlessly without fail, providing his raw beats with a flow that makes his tracks stand out above others. Though generally regarded as a lyricist with a unique rhythm, he has also mastered an off-kilter flow that makes his music iconic, with crisp cadence and colorful vocabulary often woven between lush instrumentation. Having already collaborated alongside notable artists like Nas, The Alchemist, Action Bronson, and Roc Marciano (to name a few), Willie The Kid is poised for big things in the coming years.
As Cincinnati’s top underground rapper, Brandon Isaac is a rising star in hip-hop. Born and raised in The Queen City, Brandon Isaac is a homegrown MC who’s always carried the torch for underground music with him wherever he goes. As a rapper, he continues to impress those around him with his insightful lyrics, laid back flow and his raw talent on the mic. Heavily influenced by the classic boom bap sound, he’s created a unique style that weaves together his midwest roots with inspiration from the east coast legends. He has an undeniable passion for the art of hip-hop and his lyrics and vocal inflection are laced with raw emotion, placing him in the upper echelon of midwest rappers working today. He’s built his audience one fan at a time through hustle and putting in time in the recording studio, dropping a handful of excellent albums and EPs over the past few years, including the stellar North Star collaboration with producer Free Mind and Evolution Of Existence in late 2022.
Early in his career, Stalley signed with Maybach Music Group and released music under the Rick Ross label. He eventually left that deal to become an independent artist, before later signing with Mello Music Group, where he established himself as an underground rap hero through his consistently high-quality releases. With a multitude of mixtapes, albums and guest slots under his belt and close ties to hip-hop’s rawest artists, he’s remained a hip-hop powerhouse.
In his hometown of Massillon, Ohio, Stalley is known for his razor sharp flow and signature liveliness, which takes the form of sharp lyrics and a bop to its own drum. Stalley’s style has always been a blend of sincerity and street smarts and his vocals and beat selection are reminiscent of the kind of classic hip-hop sound that never goes out of style. His flow, deft lyricism and all-around cohesiveness have made him one of the top midwest rappers around and one of the region’s not-so-best-kept-secrets.
Hailing from Minneapolis, rapper JuneThaKid has already begun to make noise in his hometown. As an emcee, he’s able to create a style that combines elements of traditional east coast hip-hop with influences from the west coast, midwest and south. With a unique sound and lyrics that reflect real life, the young rapper is quickly rising through the ranks. His rhymes are packed with punchlines and clever wordplay, but always maintain a clear theme and message. His raw, laidback approach is able to reach both hardcore hip-hop fans and also those who just want to relax and vibe. JuneThaKid’s debut EP, Rhonda’s Son, is a unique and diverse six track listen, showcasing his versatility while hinting at how he will continue to grow as an artist in years to come. Already receiving well-deserved acclaim, JuneThaKid artist is ready to stake his claim as one of the best midwest rappers around.
With an off-kilter flow and production to match, Akron, Ohio-born, Stockholm-based Toni Sauna is surely one of the most out-there midwest rappers on the scene today. With his eclectic sound, Toni Sauna combines varied instrumentation to create a different rap experience for listeners. An emcee who transcends the genres of hip-hop, Sauna is a man on a mission to connect with fans around the world through his lyrical and stylistic genius. Blending messages into his music, Sauna uses art as an everyday weapon. With a batch of LPs and singles under his belt, he continues to push boundaries in an effort to expand your mind.
Known for his imaginative yet relatable rhymes, which are matched by mellow beats from choice collaborators, Aaron Alexander is a talented emcee whose work highlights the diverse talent that exists in his hometown of Kansas City. Alexander’s lyrical prowess is sharp, with verses that dance between wit and introspection. In 2022, he teamed up with producer Lnrd D$troy to form the duo Diamonds In Space. Together, they presented a smooth batch of soulful vibed hip-hop that put a distinct KC stamp on the genre and solidified Alexander as one of the most promising new artists to come out of his city.