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5 Underground Artists You Should Be Looking Out For In 2023 According To KING APPAREL

Underground music, from rap to grime, may have been snubbed at the BRIT Awards, but the scene is still buzzing with new, talented artists breaking through in 2023. These artists are hustling hard below the mainstream bubble and may well follow in the footsteps of underground alumni Stormzy and Dave in achieving commercial success. 

Staying true to its east London roots with underground artist collaborations, pioneering streetwear brand King Apparel gives us the lowdown on the hottest artists in drill, rap, garage and grime that we need to look out for in 2023. Whether it’s in the form of up-and-comers or underrated veterans, these are five artists you need in your playlist.


Manga St. Hilare

Long-time grime listeners need no introduction to Manga St. Hilare. A member of Roll Deep since 2004, the rapper has followed in the footsteps of ex-members Dizzee Rascal and Tinchy Stryder to forge a solo career. Although his solo output hasn’t reached the mainstream heights of his fellow Roll Deep artists, it’s a must-listen in 2023. 

The veteran MC remains one of the most forward-thinking artists in grime today, combining classic Eski synths with rattling 808s and his trademark nonchalance. His latest project – 2022’s ‘Run For Your Life’ – might be his best work yet, calling on features from P Money and Tre Mission amongst others. 


We picked out ShaSimone’s breakthrough year back in 2021. The MC has been on the rise for years, with her debut EP ‘SIMMA DOWN’ dropping in 2022. After an uncredited feature on Dave’s #1 album alongside James Blake, the British-Ghanaian singer and rapper has been showing out across a string of singles and festival appearances.

She’s at home on a wide range of beats, taking cues from afrobeat, UK rap and drill. She credits ‘90s hip-hop and R&B as influencing her work, and this is clear to hear in tunes such as ‘Thug Affection’. For a nostalgic dip into classic beats with a fresh twist, ShaSimone is your girl.

Joe James

“Sleep when you’re dead” must be Joe James’ motto, because the rapper has not stopped lately. The Essex native kicked off 2023 with a triple EP release, dropping 18 tracks across the “3, 6, 9” trilogy. He’s picked up exactly where he left off in 2022, with no fewer than SIX (!) releases.

James’ talent really lies in his voice, which is overlaid beautifully on hazy, sample-heavy productions. Bringing a smooth, bass-heavy delivery to the table, his music is reminiscent of early Giggs. 


Blending US trap vibes with heavy UK street slang in his music, M’Way’s lyrics tell the tale of a scrappy rags-to-riches rise. His 2020 single “Whole Lotta Guap” was a sleeper hit, and his latest releases have seen him explore new flows, developing a new aspect of his sound. 

It’s hard to believe that the Nottingham native is just 22, considering he’s been active on the scene for a couple of years already. And he’s just as good a freestyler as a written lyricist – his 2022 tune ‘Provide It’ featured him “just spittin’ freely”. For energetic trap beats and conversational flows, M’Way needs to be on your playlist.


Brixton-born female MC Cristale is a rapper that holds no punches. She’s instantly recognisable from her scathing, venomous delivery, and her lyrical talent has seen her compared to the legendary Lauryn Hill. Equally at home over thundering UK drill beats as on jungle and dancehall, Cristale embodies a pure lyricist with supreme confidence in her ability. 

Cristale draws inspiration from the spectrum of the underground scene; her childhood was characterised by Caribbean beats from Buju Banton, before she got hooked on UK artists like Wretch 32, Chip and Stormzy. She was nominated for best newcomer at last year’s MOBOs and has been highlighted on Radio 1Xtra’s ‘Hot for 2023’ list – keep an eye on her! 

David Graham of King Apparel comments: “The most exciting thing about all of these artists might be their crossover appeal. The new scene is like a melting pot, with the next generation taking cues from plenty of different genres to carve out their own sound. It’s organic, and it’s like watching a new sound develop before our eyes.” 


If these artists aren’t on your playlists, what are you playing at? Get them added, stat. For a teaser of their best tunes, check out King Apparel’s ready-made Spotify playlist – it has all the essential tracks you’ll need!

** Click on the link below for 10 UK artists that you need in your playlist according to King Apparel ** 



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