In the ceaselessly shifting terrain of rap, Seattle rappers are steadily gaining recognition while etching their unique footprint on the west coast rap scene. Celebrated for its rich history of musical innovation, the Emerald City has recently birthed a new wave of lyricists who are fueling a new era in the local hip-hop scene.
While international superstars like Sir Mix-a-Lot and Macklemore and local legends like Shabazz Palaces and Nacho Picasso helped put Seattle on the hip-hop map, today’s burgeoning underground talent is rippling through the city and helping shape its rap future.
With that in mind, we’re here to showcases the standout up-and-coming rappers pushing boundaries, the most riveting and electrifying voices emerging from Seattle’s dynamic hip-hop landscape. Meet Seattle’s rap future.
AJ Suede stands out for his innovative and daring musical approaches. From disseminating power-packed verses over vibrant trap rhythms (see 2017’s Gotham Fortress) to songs characterized by heady loops and sample-heavy beats (see 2023’s Parthian Shots and Ark Flashington), what weaves consistently through his sonic experiments is Suede’s robust and resounding tenor, blended with his abstract, stream-of-consciousness lyricism. His verses play out like a compelling tapestry of insightful socio-political commentary, clever allusions to arcane subject matter, and hypnotic psychedelic imagery.
The broad spectrum of AJ Suede’s musical persona is testament to his resilience against creative repetition, and indicative of his mission to push boundaries. Through his versatility and potent voice, Suede crafts an audial voyage that seizes your attention while subtly challenging preconceptions of the rap norm.
Seattle-born rapper Oblé Reed is changing the Emerald City’s music game one track at a time. Fusing raw emotion with inspiring lyrical content, Reed’s distinctive sound sets him apart in the world of Seattle hip-hop.
Piercing through the clamor of mainstream music, Reed’s tracks resonate with real life experiences and emotions. A notable feature in Reed’s music is the deliberate absence of explicit language. Rather than relying on shock value, Reed crafts his rhymes with powerful, emotive words. This approach has carved a unique pathway for the rising star, making his music accessible and relatable to a broad audience.
With every release, Reed solidifies his presence not just as an artist, but as a force for change. His 2023 album, LINDENAVE! is his most accomplished to date, a record that leaves a lasting impact that echos long after the last beat fades.
Defying norms and blending influences, Seattle rapper BlkSknn is breathing new life into Pacific Northwest hip-hop.
With a sound that marries rap’s golden era with futuristic and contemporary vibes, BlkSknn’s music takes a distinct path, straying from the well-trodden lanes of mainstream rap. Drawing inspiration from hip-hop masters like Curren$y and Nas, BlkSknn has skillfully crafted a personalized approach to music that’s evident in every track he releases. But instead of simply imitating his idols, he takes their influence and carves out a niche for himself — a space where he freely weaves his narrative mixed with classic and innovative tones.
Case in point: his 2023 album Quiet Kid in the Corner, a collaboration with producer Soufend Music that provides a candid glimpse into BlkSknn’s life that also showcases his penchant for dropping rewindable bars.
Demonstrating remarkable versatility, charismatic rapper-cum-crooner Karma Knows creates a unique blend of soul and rap, capturing the best elements from both genres.
Rich with soulful undertones, Karma Knows’ style could best be likened to Anderson Paak’s distinctive versatility and the ebullient energy of Andre 3000. There’s an engaging fluidity to Karma Knows’ music – merging jazzy inflections with a hip-hop rhythm that makes it tough to pigeonhole his sound into any one category. Just when you expect a high-energy rap verse, he surprises with a soulful melody, keeping audiences on their toes.
Bridging the gap between soulful serenades and captivating rap, Karma Knows is a Seattle rapper who possesses an intuitive understanding of how to strike the perfect balance, resulting in a sound that leaves an indelible imprint.
10 Thousand Rats
Breaking boundaries in a city known for its rich musical heritage, Seattle’s own 10 Thousand Rats is an enigmatic duo that masterfully melds rap, house, hip-hop, and electronic music. The group consists of the dynamic pairing of rapper Jesse Desean and producer Andy Savoie (both members of the Seattle band SUS), a pair who’ve fostered a unique artistic bond that sets them apart in Seattle’s rap scene.
Jesse Desean, renowned for his clever wordplay and rhythmic cadences, creates an effortless flow like water running downstream. Displaying an innate capability of articulating complex lyrics with an astonishing laid-back ease, Desean’s vocal prowess finds the perfect match in Savoie’s rhythmic beats, highlighting their robust creative partnership.
Andy Savoie, an adept beat-maker, is acclaimed for his detailed production blending a plethora of musical styles. The base upon which the narrative of 10 Thousand Rats is built, Savoie’s beats lay the groundwork for Desean’s vibrant flow. Characterized by an energy that is as infectious as it is innovative, Savoie’s beats intertwine elements of house, hip-hop and electronic music in a harmonious dance that gives 10 Thousand Rats’ music a real edge.
Hailing from the Seattle suburb of Burien, Travis Thompson has risen to prominence with an authentic sound that embraces his diverse upbringing. Son of a Navajo father and a white mother, Thompson’s artistic perspective tweaks the melodic framework of contemporary hip-hop into something new and compelling.
Aided by attention-grabbing visuals, Thompson burst onto the scene with singles that showcased his innately playful spirit and exceptional lyrical prowess. Launching into the limelight after being featured on Macklemore’s 2017 track “Corner Store,” Travis made his major-label debut with the 2019 EP Runaways, followed closely by the full-length album Reckless Endangerment.
For an intro in Travis’s rap world, peep his 2023 collaboration with the ever-dope producer Jake One, titled Wolves & White T’s.
With a distinctive blend of thunderous beats and introspective rhymes, Astral Trap has made his mark in the Pacific Northwest music scene, shining brighter amidst the crowd of his peers.
Astral Trap’s sound emerges like a radiant beacon in the dark; his music resonates with an unrefined energy that immediately hooks you and refuses to let go. This fervor, mirrored in his passionate and emotionally charged lyrics, spotlights his relentless dedication to his craft.
Every facet of Astral Trap’s music is intricately woven – from the pounding basslines to the irresistible hooks – leading to a deeply immersive auditory journey. His meticulous attention to detail results in a unique listening experience that marks Astral Trap as an rapper to watch in the Seattle-area music scene.
Ca$h McClane (Bellingham)
Emerging from the heart of the Seattle-adjacent city of Bellingham, Ca$h McClane stands as a vital character in the underground rap scene forming within Washington under the careful orchestration of significant local record shop and label Black Noise Records. McClane’s artistry as a rapper pulls you in with his preference for gritty, soul-steeped, boom bap beats that flawlessly harmonize with his straight-ahead lyrical flow.
Offering an unfiltered perspective, Ca$h McClane’s music emanates an allure that’s rooted in simplicity yet powerfully evocative, just like his no-frills flow.
An artist molded by different cultural landscapes, J’Von hails from Oakland, but found his artistic roots planted deeply in Seattle’s soil. Known for his collaborations and shared artistic visions, J’Von has built a solid reputation in the hip-hop community.
His remarkable joint venture with Lakim (Soulection) resulted in the notable Left EP that sent ripples in the underground music scene. And his collaboration with producer Ackryte birthed the equally-compelling album Raw Sheep, a testament to J’Von’s distinctive sound and storytelling.
Riding high on his successful collaborative endeavors, J’Von continues to shape and influence the Seattle rap scene with his distinct and versatile style.
Seattle R&B virtuoso LIVt crafts tunes born in harmonized contrasts, finding equilibrium within an ever bewitching sound that’s touched by a resilient soulful pulse.
Her extensive musical catalogue forms a rich tapestry that flawlessly encapsulates this essence, unveiling her impressive vocal capabilities and penchant for choosing the perfect beat. The brilliance of her range and the in-depth character of her music are exemplified in the exquisite 2022 album, Pink and Orange, and her audacious 2023 EP, I JUST WANT MY BITCHES TO FLY.
Inspired by the diversity and reach of her voice, LIVt has carved out a distinctive niche for herself in the Seattle music scene, resonating deeply with listeners who seek both intensity and tranquility in music.
Representing Washington’s Pasco and Tri-Cities, Roque Thekickitmastah has come to symbolize an unmatched work ethic within the Seattle rap scene, dropping projects at a steady clip while elevating his sound every time. Roque’s remarkable productivity marks his music as essential listening for those in pursuit of robust, authentic, and relentless hip-hop. Scars and Trophies 2, released in 2023, further underscores how Rogue seemingly never drops the ball.
Accompanied by his formidable crew, The Black Marqet — a cadre of heavyweights in their own right — Roque Thekickitmastah is sculpting an exceptional legacy within the Tri-Cities rap scene.