Hip Hop is an ever changing genre. With each year comes a select group of new artists beaming with potential, ready to take their place on rap’s mainstage. In 2021, the rookie class was particularly loaded with rappers from across the country, from Memphis and Detroit to Los Angeles and Louisville.
The best new rappers included in this year’s rookie class span age and style, with some like Pooh Shiesty and EST Gee leaning into the rugged sounds of modern trap and others like Remble and Blxst redefining Los Angeles Hip Hop and R&B.
Proven in 2021 and poised to take 2022 by storm, these artists are some of the best new rappers right now and the future of the genre, so get used to seeing their names.
Review all of our award categories and nominees.
BEST NEW RAPPERS OF 2021 NOMINATIONS
The 2021 Hip Hop Rookie of the Year award goes to…
His rap skills may have been cultivated by big cousin Kendrick Lamar, but Baby Keem’s successes are the product of years of preparation and growth. The Carson, California rapper may have begun his career with the explosive “ORANGE SODA,” but 2021 marked his transformation into a genuine rap superstar with his excellent The Melodic Blue, an album ripe with bangers to please the old heads and new generation alike. From song-of-the-year contender “family ties,” to the Brent Faiyaz-assisted “lost souls,” no new artist pushed the culture forward more than Keem. The versatility of his expressive voice and cadence, explosive delivery and witty humor make Baby Keem an easy pick for this HipHopDX’s Best New Rapper.
Through songs such as “4 Da Gang” and Tyler, The Creator’s “LEMONHEAD,” 42 Dugg has continually stolen the show from his collaborators. His immediately identifiable voice, distinct knack for guitar-laden samples and ability to swap flows on a dime back Dugg’s bid to be one of the year’s best new rappers. His latest mixtape Free Dem Boyz, gave Dugg his first top 10 Billboard album ever, peaking at No.8 on the Billboard 200. Though only one year has past since his breakout track with Lil Baby “We Paid,” the Detroit rapper has already matured in leaps and bounds and there are no signs of his growth slowing any time soon.
The only rookie with a chart-topping album, peaking at No.1 on Billboard’s Independent Artist chart, Alabama’s Bleu took a strong hold of the melodic corner of the genre with his Moon Boy project which featured an all-star cast of guests from Moneybagg Yo to Drake. Blending crooning and hard raps, Bleu has ascended Hip Hop’s hierarchy and taken his spot among the best in the genre. Though he’s not necessarily brand-new to the game, 2021 served as Bleu’s most groundbreaking year to-date, as he continued to elevate his craft from his writing to his delivery.
None can deny the importance of Blxst in 2021. His emotive voice was present in every corner of Hip Hop and R&B, whether it be on Sixtape 2, his collaborative project with Bino Rideaux, or his featured verses on songs ranging from Nas’ “Brunch on Sundays” to YG and Mozzy’s “Perfect Timing”. Beloved in Los Angeles and beyond, Blxst is primed to become a regular fixture in the culture.
A street-centric rapper with an unrivaled gift for winding lyrical ballads detailing his journey from rags to riches, Morray is North Carolina’s beacon of rap prowess. Throughout 2021, Morray exhibited his booming voice, capable of delicate harmonies and hard bars alike. Morray’s already nabbed co-signs from elite rappers like J. Cole, so expect the growth to continue into the new year.
COI LERAY – Coi Leray knows how to grab attention and hold it, a skill she proved again and again through songs this year including “TWINNEM,” “Big Purr” and “No More Parties.” She may be in all the headlines, but the music also speaks for itself, putting Coi in position to reach the next level when her debut album drops in 2022.
EST GEE – Perhaps no new artist this year unveiled a better debut album than Louisville, Kentucky’s EST Gee. Bigger Than Life Or Death was a testament to Gee’s ability to translate his rugged aesthetics into accessible music for the masses, all while maintaining his authenticity.
PARIS TEXAS – Merging sounds of alternative rock, punk and Hip Hop, rap duo Paris Texas thrived in 2021, releasing their debut album BOY ANONYMOUS and the bite-sized EP Red Hand Akimbo.
POOH SHIESTY – Pooh Shiesty helped lead Memphis into an exciting new place in Hip Hop before he was incarcerated earlier in 2021. Though the year ended on a sour note, Shiesty Season and the various guest verses he contributed were important offerings for Tennessee and Shiesty’s still-burgeoning career.
REMBLE – Nobody in Hip Hop raps like Los Angeles spitter Remble. His constrained, stutter-step flow winds around beats with ease, dropping witty bars and villainous threats. One of the leading voices in contemporary L.A. Hip Hop, Remble’s ascent has just begun.
Be sure to check out some of our other Year End Award Categories, our previous year’s winners below and our 2021 HipHopDX Rising Stars:
Paragraphs written By: David Aaron Brake.