Though 2020 brought many restrictions that greatly affected the music industry, it was a time that artists used to hunker down and work on their craft. As things opened up throughout 2021, including venues and clubs, as well as the return of festivals, it was evident that many artists were using the pandemic as a time to prepare new projects and skills for 2021.

Now that the year is nearly over, Respect My Region took a look back at what was going on and who was making noise in the world of hip-hop; and more specifically, underground and emerging hip-hop. In 2021 alone, we researched and covered the budding hip-hop scenes in dozens of regions across the country. We also paid close attention to who was buzzing online, as well as who genuinely display major talent and potential.

Without further ado, we present Respect My Region’s picks for top emerging rappers / hip-hop artists of 2021.

*This list is in no particular order and is based on RMR’s personal opinion.

Top 21 Emerging Rappers of 2021

$NOT

West Palm Beach, Florida

$NOT is one out of a handful of rising hip-hop artists on this list that we saw live this year. Going into his set only knowing his most popular track, “GOSHA,” I was hit with a total surprise that I dubbed one of my favorite sets at Firefly Music Festival.

Born in New York City but moving to West Palm Beach at a young age, $NOT has a sort of South Florida Soundcloud rap aesthetic, but with a less gritty, more modern approach. His style bounces around, with tracks like “Tell Em” having a more Playboi Carti-esque sound, while his latest track “Go” has a speedy, hyped-up vibe.

$not 2021 rappers

EST Gee

Louisville, Kentucky

EST Gee is a name that we continuously came across in 2021. Since his debut album in 2019, EST Gee has been on a steady grind, releasing multiple projects every year after. In 2020, the Louisville rapper really started turning heads with his album, I Still Dont Feel Nun, which featured huge names like Jack Harlow, Yo Gotti, and Kevin Gates.

Catching the attention of the industry, Gee’s first 2021 release, Bigger Than Life or Death, featured even bigger names like Young Thug and Future. Thereafter, he released Bigger Than Life or Death Part 2 as well as a deluxe version.

Est Gee 2021 rappers

City Morgue

New York City

More now than ever, different music genres are being molded and mushed together, creating refreshing new genre cocktails. Though elements from rock have been intertwined throughout hip-hop for decades, rap-rock has just recently found its permanent place in hip-hop. This is thanks to many artists, but one in particular that has been leading this sound is New York City-based duo City Morgue.

City Morgue consists of ZillaKami and SosMula, who together create intense, riotous music dubbed “trap metal.” Think $uicideboy$, except a whole lot more punk rock. The duo released their debut album, CITY MORGUE VOLUME 1: HELL OR HIGH WATER, in 2018, quickly garnering a cult following. Each year after, they released the next volumes, with the latest being 2021’s CITY MORGUE VOLUME 3: BOTTOM OF THE BARREL. Moreover, they’ve collaborated with Lil Uzi Vert, Denzel Curry, Jasiah, and more.

city morgue new york city hip-hop duo also

Token

Salem, Massachusetts

Token’s 2015 hit and rap competition submission “No Suckas MCs” put his name on the map. Over the past few years, the Massachusetts rapper went from a viral YouTube sensation to an acclaimed new artist – now, to one of the hottest emerging names in hip-hop. Token’s lyrically focused and speedy, aggressive style compares to rap legends like Eminem and Tech N9ne.

Though he hasn’t released an album in years, he released a handful of absolute bangers this year. This includes a collab with Rico Nasty on “High Heels” and Lil Skies on “IOD.” Alongside these tracks, he directed and dropped music videos for each one. Token has proven to be a rap prodigy and true lyricist, and it’s apparent that he’s not stopping anytime soon.

Token Massachusetts 2021 emerging rapper

Kenny Mason

Atlanta, Georgia

Kenny Mason isn’t just a rapper. He’s a storyteller, a lyricist, a producer, an artist, and beyond. His debut album, Angelic Hoodrat, presents a mix of MF DOOM and Atlanta-style production – with a little rock mixed in, too. Finished off with profound lyrical abilities, this project was being crafted for three years before hitting streaming platforms in 2020. You can hear the diversity throughout the album when comparing the first track, “Firestarter,” with heavier track, “Metal Wings.”

Kenny takes a Kendrick Lamar-like approach in his music- introspection, authenticity, and storytelling, tied up with clear articulation. Kenny Mason successfully lays out life growing up in Atlanta, making a solid name for himself in the area’s hip-hop community and nationwide.

Kenny Mason Atlanta rapper top artists 2021

Remble

Toronto, Canada

Remble has been one of the most talked about emerging rappers of 2021. While mumble rap took reign a few years ago, Remble enters the scene with the opposite: clarity rap, which some have called, “rapping in MLA format.” He brings a distinctive style to the table, delivering lines that are enunciated and nonchalantly humorous.

After a slew of successful singles over the past few years, Remble released his debut album, IT’S REMBLE, earlier this year. The 13-track project features artists like Drakeo the Ruler and Mozzy and has been very well received.

Remble emerging rappers 2021

Jasiah

Dayton, Ohio

Though Jasiah would prefer not to be called a rapper, he certainly deserves a spot on this list. What makes the Ohio-raised artist an exciting name to watch out for is his remarkable delivery and range, spanning from his signature rowdy and piercing scream to more mournful ballads as well.

Jasiah had been making noise underground, mostly on Soundcloud, since he released his first project in 2016. Then in 2019, he started releasing music on major platforms, starting with his debut studio album, Jasiah I Am, which features Travis Barker, $NOT, Yung Bans, and more. That same year, he collaborated with Cole Bennett (aka Lyrical Lemonade) on a music video for his first major hit, “Crisis.” In 2021, Jasiah released his latest album, War, with hit singles “Break Shit” and “Surfs Up.”

Jasiah rising rappers 2021 also

Morray

Fayetteville, North Carolina

Morray proves that quality is more important than quantity. While he doesn’t have the deepest discography, every one of his songs presents quality further than most. His blend of rapping and singing shows his abilities as an artist and creates a unique soulful trap sound. Expressing his real-life struggles growing up in and out of trouble, you can hear the emotions in each verse.

His song “Quicksand” gained traction soon after release late last year, reaching over 130 million views on the music video. In 2021, he released his debut album, Street Sermons, which has seen a ton of love. Morray’s talent and hard work is paying off and it’s exciting to see him progress so consistently.

Morray hip-hop artist 2021 north carolina

Pooh Sheisty

Memphis, Tennessee

We can’t say Pooh Sheisty had an incredible year overall, but in terms of his music, things have been going very well for the rising artist. This past summer, Sheisty was arrested and has been in prison ever since on charges related to an armed robbery. Nonetheless, the Memphis rapper has still been on a steady rise with multiple hit singles like “Back in Blood” with Lil Durk as well as “SUVs (Black on Black)” with Jack Harlow. Additionally, Pooh Sheisty released his debut album, Sheisty Season, and the deluxe version this year.

Pooh Sheisty 2021 rappers also

GRIP

Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta native rapper GRIP has been steadily making a name for himself in his hometown and is now taking off beyond his roots. The budding rapper found himself a place as one of the most recent signees at Eminem’s Shady Records. With a legend like Slim Shady co-signing his talent, you know GRIP is the real deal.

Don’t expect the typical Atlanta hip-hop sound from him. You’re going to hear more 90’s influence in his music than local influences like Migos and Lil Baby. He uses his life experiences to tell his story of growth in a relatable way; all packaged in a witty and playful, yet assertive delivery.

GRIP atlanta rappers 2021

Tobe Nwigwe

Houston, Texas

Tobe Nwigwe is one of the most exciting rising artists out of the hip-hop hotspot of Houston, Texas. What makes him stand out amongst the oftentimes turbulent industry is his genuine positivity and graciousness. He proves that, on top of talent, authenticity will take you further than anything nowadays.

In 2020, Tobe Nwigwe released two albums, THE PANDEMIC PROJECT and CINCORIGINALS, which featured EARTHGANG, Royce Da 5’9″, Duckwrth, and more. Though he didn’t release any new albums in 2021, he dropped a handful of singles and multiple high-production music videos.

Tobe Nwigwe rising rappers 2021 also

Jalen Santoy

Charlotte, North Carolina

Though Jalen Santoy has been making music for long before, his 2020 track “Foreplay” truly put him on the map with well over 100 million streams. Jalen seems to impressively take influence from one of the best rappers to come out of NC, J. Cole, with well thought out lyricism and a steady flow that holds the track and enhances the beat. Additionally, his beats take influence from all over, from jazz to drill.

While his most popular track may be on the softer end, Jalen proves his energy and power in his track “Killa Season.” Jalen Santoy is the type of rapper that can hold himself, not needing features on his tracks to tie it all together. Though his 2021 didn’t consist of dropping an album, he released and featured on multiple fire singles.

Jalen Santoy rising rapper 2021 also

DaDa1k

Birmingham, Alabama

It’s not often that you hear a gritty voice with such soulful vocals. DaDa1k creates a style of his own, sticking out as one of the hottest emerging rappers coming out of Alabama. He shows his dynamic style throughout his whole discography, with techniques that cross limits. Some of our favorite tracks by DaDa1k are “War Ready” and “Bruno.”

His versatile style allows him to hop on any kind of beat. This gives him endless potential for collaborating with other rappers. It’s not long before rappers and hip-hop fans all over the country discover him.

DaDa1k alabama rapper 2021 hip-hop artist

704chop

Charlotte, North Carolina

704chop has created a name for himself in the city of Charlotte. While he takes obvious inspiration from fellow Charlotte-native rapper DaBaby, he still manages to create his own completely different style. His most popular track “Loyalty Means Everything” showcases a similar flow to DaBaby’s, but much more laid back and mellow. This is a sound we haven’t quite heard replicated in this way, and 704chop executes it well.

Growing up facing hardship after hardship, 704chop had to make his own way out and now dedicates his life to music. He truly proves that authenticity and hard work goes far. In 2021, 704chop released two albums, kicking off the year with Carolina Superstar and ending it with Broken Soul.

704chop Charlotte North Carolina hip-hop artist 2021

Hotboii

Orlando, Florida

Hotboii has been making major moves the past couple of years. The Florida rapper is arguably one of the most popular emerging hip-hop artists in the state right now.

His breakout single “Don’t Need Time,” released in 2020, has amassed over 70 million views on YouTube. Its popularity spawned a remix featuring Lil Baby. Also last year, Hotboii released two full-length albums featuring artists like Toosii and Lil Mosey. In 2021, he released his third studio album, Life of a Hotboii, with Kodak Black, Future, and more.

Hotboii up and coming rappers 2021 also

Nardo Wick

Jacksonville, Florida

Nardo Wick had a huge 2021 between a viral hit song and a debut full-length. Starting his career in 2020, the Jacksonville rapper blew up with his trending single, “Who Want Smoke?,” released in January 2021. This track quickly led way to a huge TikTok challenge that is infamous for getting over 50 kids suspended.

Then in October, G Herbo, 21 Savage, and Lil Durk hopped on the hit, propelling Nardo Wick’s career even further. This set him up for a successful debut album release, Who is Nardo Wick?, which released earlier this month.

Nardo Wick Who want smoke?? 2021 rappers

GANG51E June

Tulsa, Oklahoma

GANG51E JUNE is a rapper and producer from Tulsa, Oklahoma. During the beginning of the pandemic, GANG51E JUNE was working in Best Buy, about to lose his job. That is when he became incredibly serious about his music career. He started putting all his time and focus into his music, and out of nowhere, he started to blow up.

His consistency and focus are the keys to him reaching a ton of people. In 2020 alone, GANG51E JUNE released three hit singles: “Quarantine Dreams,” “The Hope,” and “C.O.D.” He also spends his time directing and editing his own videos, giving him a clear vision on what direction he wants to go in his career.

Issa Gold

Brooklyn, New York

Marlon Fung, better known as Issa Gold, is an American rapper, record producer, and songwriter from Brooklyn, New York. Issa Gold is one half of the hip-hop duo The Underachievers that was founded in 2011 alongside rapper AK the Savior. He gives credit to Lupe Fiasco and Kanye West for his music influence, stating that they were the reason he started doing what he is doing now. 

After a successful debut album in 2020, Issa Gold released his sophomore album, Tempus, in 2021. The 11-track album has seen consistent streams and is a solid stepping stone in Issa’s career.

Teezo Touchdown

Beaumont, Texas

Teezo Touchdown is a rapper from Beaumont, Texas. The rising rapper is a multi-talented, incredibly hard-working artist. He does it all from rapping to producing, recording, and editing on his own. He’s not only into music, but fashion as well. 

One of the biggest highlights of the year for Teezo is his feature in Tyler, The Creator’s “RUNITUP.” Furthermore, he’s released multiple other successful singles this year including “I’m Just a Fan” and “Technically.”

Teezo Touchdown Texas rising rapper 2021 also

42 Dugg

Detroit, Michigan

42 Dugg is an American rapper, singer, and songwriter from Detroit, Michigan. The rising artist is jointly signed to Lil Baby and Yo Gotti’s labels: 4 Pockets Full and Collective Music Group, respectively. In 2021, he became one of hip-hop’s hottest up-and-coming artists.

Back in 2020, 42 Dugg released two back-to-back hits with Lil Baby called “We Paid” and “Grace.” Ever since then, he has taken rap quite seriously and began spending time in the studio collaborating with local Detroit artists. He has continued to live his rapper dream, releasing music and collaborating with many thriving names. His fourth mixtape, Free Dem Boyz, was released in 2021 and made it to #8 on the Billboard 200. 

42 dugg detroit emerging rapper also

Shootergang Kony

Sacramento, California

ShooterGang Kony is an American rapper who has had one hot year. The up-and-coming rapper was born and raised in Oak Park, Sacramento and is a member of the ShooterGang music collective. His debut album, Still Kony, released in 2017 and he has since released eight more full length projects. His latest release is a 17-track project called Starshooter. He is most known for his hits, “Charlie” and “Skoompin’.”

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