There’s something about Florida that’s taking hip-hop back to its roots. In recent years, America’s favorite genre has continuously become more about beats and aesthetics than lyricism and rhyming. Not to write off any ‘new wave’ artists doing it big, but let’s just say when a tape drops with beats by Metro Boomin, I’m there for Metro.
Florida rap is different because it has garnered an underground scene that thrives by producing lyrical artists. This underground scene has recently been compared to that of Brooklyn’s in the 90s, where real, gritty, bar-for-bar rap is making a huge comeback. But to fully understand the difference between underground rap in Florida and mainstream rap from places like Atlanta, New York City, and Los Angeles, you have to know about some of the scene’s best —and most overlooked — artists.
You can’t discuss Florida rap without bringing up XXL Freshman Denzel Curry. Denzel began to establish himself in the new wave of underground hip-hop after Spaceghostpurrp created the group “Raider Klan.” Raider Klan never got the full attention it deserved, but it did put some promising MCs on the map before it fell apart, and Curry wasted no time growing a successful career of his own after the fallout.
His rapping style is experimental, to say the least; what stands out is that he is rapping. Imagery and wordplay alone could earn him recognition, but this isn’t what makes him stand out. He possesses the unique ability to turn rhymes on their heads in the blink of an eye. By quickly switching his densely narrated flows, Denzel throws curveballs at his listeners and accelerates his stories like no other modern MC. Listening to Denzel Curry is like enjoying a novel; you always leave with more than you came with.
Nell is another MC who emerged from Raider Klan’s underground presence. With a unique style based on straight up bar-for-bar rapping, Nell’s old school sound is not unintentional. Every track off of the mixtape “90’s Mentality” is just that — a throwback to the golden age of hip-hop.
Nell’s rap style is vintage yet progressive, tossing meaningful lyrics over rough, chopped and screwed instrumentals. Nell is essential to Florida’s underground scene because he’s making music that young and old Hip-hop heads can vibe with, together. The nostalgia associated with 90s rap has given a voice to MCs like Nell, who are focused on rapping ability alone, as opposed to fashion and money so distinctive to many mainstream artists.
Ski Mask the Slump God
Ski Mask the Slump God is making waves with his insane combination of new and old school rapping. He is one of the most notable young MCs — commercially — who tends to focus on rapping fast. Sure, a lot of new age rappers can go fast, but most separate their bars with an (aye) or (yea) whereas Ski Mask just can’t stop. The young rapper’s catalog is as diverse as it is consistent. Every song consists of wildly different sounds and subjects, but Ski Mask is always so addicting to listen to.
He also incorporates aspects of metal and hardcore rock in his music. If you listen carefully a lot of his songs sample bands like Drowning Pool and Slipknot, but even when he isn’t sampling it you can hear a standard rock kit somewhere in his beats. The rap/rock combo has been a historical part of Hip-hop; traveling down the stream from groups like RUN-DMC and M.O.P to bless modern Florida through rappers like Ski Mask the Slump God.
So maybe its the southern heat making everyone a little crazy, but something is making people want to rap in the Sunshine State. Trap music is helping expand Florida’s audience by drawing lots of attention to Miami with rappers like Lil Pump and Smokepurrp, which may help Florida’s underground scene grow in popularity. Denzel Curry, Nell, and Ski Mask the Slump God are just a few who are helping redefine what it means to be in the ‘new age’ of Hip-Hop.
All three of these artists have music available on major streaming services, but Soundcloud is the go-to place to hear their extensive catalogs. And if you are interested in hearing more of the Florida underground here are some artists you may want to check out: Pouya, Rell, Wifisfuneral, Robb Bank$, Yung Simmie, Lofty305, and Fat Nick.