Over the years, the UK rap scene has risen exponentially in profile, producing some of the most talented and influential artists in the hip hop world.
With a vibrant music culture pulling in elements from various backgrounds and nationality, the UK hip hop world has a rich history of producing some of the greatest rappers to grace a mic. Whether it’s early grime pioneers like Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, and Kano or modern-day superstars like Stormzy, Skepta and Dave, there have been many British rappers who have contributed their own unique style and sound to the genre.
So without further ado, let’s get into it. Whether you’re a long-time fan of the genre or just discovering the UK rap scene, these are the artists you need to know. From Dave, Headie One, and Ghetts to Roots Manuva, Little Simz and Dizzee Rascal, here are the top 25 best UK rappers of all time.
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25. Lancey Foux
Discography: Pink (2015), TEEN SKUM (2015), First Day at Nursery (with Nyge) (2017), Too Far Alive (2018), Pink ll (2018), Friend or Foux (2019), Life in Hell (2022)
Although Lancey Foux isn’t the most well-known name in Britain, there’s no UK rapper quite like him, and for that, his placement on this list is well earned. His style borrows the messy, danceable elements of trap from the US – with the same liberal use of autotune and bass-heavy production – making each of his songs so catchy and unique compared to his contemporaries who focus on introspective lyrics more than head-bopping bangers.
Over the years, he’s began to fully hone his own sound, with a real confidence in his voice on 2022’s LIFE IN HELL, especially compared to his rustic debut Pink. He’s unapologetically unique, a rising star in the UK, and one of the best British rappers right now.
24. Unknown T
Discography: Rise Above Hate (2020), Adolescence (2021)
Drill music has dominated UK hip hop these past few years, and Unknown T is partly to thank for that. His debut single in 2018, “Homerton B”, was the first drill song to become certified Silver in the UK, helping push the sound further into the mainstream and defining T as a star from his very first track. Since then, he’s maintained fame with his mixtapes, most notably his explosive 2021 record, Adolescence.
Unknown’s lyrical focus is usually on how he deals with his enemies, but his delivery is the main appeal of his sound, with a deep, aggressive tone that makes every bar sound like a threat. The British MC’s rapping is as vicious as the heavy bass he performs over.
23. Bugzy Malone
Discography: B. Inspired (2018), The Resurrection (2021)
The sheer impact Bugzy Malone has made is enough to earn him a spot in this list. He’s the first grime artist from Manchester to achieve commercial success, and more importantly, he’s cited as one of the key artists who led to a ‘grime revival’ in the 2010s. The UK rapper’s style is as rapid as the electronic production he rhymes over, speaking about his struggles with crime and poverty.
It’s that balance of danceability and introspection that makes Bugzy so special – he can make a crowd move, and simultaneously, he can make a listener truly feel the pain he’s endured. From his debut EP Walk With Me to 2021’s The Resurrection, he’s proven his worth and longevity as an MC, and solidified as one of the best UK rappers in the game.
Discography: Close to Home (2022)
While many UK rappers tend to maintain a core fanbase within Britain, Aitch has gone beyond that, and is on his way to becoming a worldwide star. His 2017 debut EP, On Your Marks, defined his hard-hitting style with a balance of introspective and braggadocious lyrics and a cold delivery that allows him to dominate any track.
He’s such a versatile artist, which is clear on his debut album Close to Home from 2022. Aitch thrives on loud trap production, bright pop rap beats, and even boom bap, showcasing his talent to adapt to any style and proving his skill as an MC, never afraid to tackle a new sound or collaborate with an unlikely artist.
21. AJ Tracey
Discography: AJ Tracey (2019), Flu Game (2021)
When it comes to modern stars in the UK, AJ Tracey is up there with the best. After a series of mixtapes and EPs where he formed his sound, Tracey burst into the mainstream with his self-titled debut album in 2019, and his relevance hasn’t faded since.
The UK rapper’s style incorporates some of the dance elements of grime, but overall, he can’t be boxed into one genre, with a slick flow and swagger to his delivery which adapt well to all kinds of production. AJ’s hit “Ladbroke Grove” was inescapable when it first released, and he continues to dominate the mainstream with his latest record, Flu Game.
Discography: Nothing Great About Britain (2019), Tyron (2021)
With only two albums, Slowthai has asserted himself as one of the most creative minds in the UK. His debut, Nothing Great About Britain, is as ferocious as UK hip hop gets, with Slowthai making full use of his wild, animated style as he raps about his apathy towards his homeland.
By contrast, his next album TYRON is a completely different sound, with soft, gentle production and transparent lyricism from Slowthai about his mental struggles. In only two albums, he has proven himself a versatile rapper whose sound is ever-evolving, disregarding mainstream success in favour of keeping true to what he wants to make.
Discography: Psychodrama (2019), We’re All Alone in This Together (2021)
If you’re looking for a strong lyricist in the UK, look no further than Dave with his sharp sense of political lyricism. He’s won many awards for his work, including the prestigious Mercury Prize for Psychodrama, and that success is well earned. He’s a rapper with an understated style, prioritising dense rhyme schemes and political messaging over a bombastic delivery.
The UK rapper’s production choice, too, is often calm and sparse, allowing Dave to be the focus on every song. On Psychodrama and We’re All Alone In This Together, he never sacrifices his honest lyricism and sombre sound for a hit, but despite that, he’s still achieved tremendous success, showing not every rapper needs to make heads bop to become a star.
Discography: Gang Signs & Prayer (2017), Heavy Is the Head (2019), This Is What I Mean (2022)
If you asked anyone to list UK rappers, there’s no doubt Stormzy would be one of the first names they say, and that just goes to show his impact and importance to the UK hip hop scene. He’s a rapper who knows exactly how to make a hit, whether it be the hard-hitting “Vossi Bop” or the pop-rap fusion “Own It”, but outside of his biggest tracks, he’s still a consistent MC.
Stormzy’s 2019 album Heavy Is The Head shows off his aggressive delivery to the fullest, whereas 2022’s This Is What I Mean leans into more balladry, showing that the UK rapper isn’t a basic hitmaker but a confident MC who’s constantly challenging himself to evolve.
17. Wretch 32
Discography: Wretchrospective (2008), Black and White (2011), Growing Over Life (2016), FR32 (2017), Upon Reflection (2019), little BIG Man (2021)
While there are plenty of UK hip hop veterans who emerged in the late 2000s, few have had the longevity of Wretch 32. He’s dipped his toes into dozens of styles, and with the confidence of his delivery, it’s made for a discography as diverse as it is consistent. The UK rapper blew up in 2011 with the hit “Traktor” for his album Black and White, and this track encapsulates everything so great about his music.
It’s an abrasive blend of hip hop and grime with mainstream catchiness and gritty dance production, where Wretch 32 rises above the busy instrumental with an unforgettable bravado prominent in all his music. All his music is like this: catchy, substantive, and unforgettable.
16. Headie One
Discography: Edna (2020)
A pioneer in the drill scene, Headie One is a rapper whose influence precedes him, but that’s not to say his music isn’t fantastic. With a series of mixtapes he has defined his explosive drill sound, but he’s no stranger to other styles either, proving his versatility with the occasional pop rap or trap song.
Headie One’s lyricism can be violent and aggressive, but he doesn’t glorify such violence, standing against the agenda that drill music causes more crime in the UK. His debut album, Edna, is a tribute to his mother, showing off a more personal side to Headie One and proving to his critics he isn’t one-note, solidifying himself as one of the great UK rappers of his generation.
15. Loyle Carner
Discography: Yesterday’s Gone (2017), Not Waving, but Drowning (2019), Hugo (2022)
There aren’t many UK rappers as underrated as Loyle Carner. Loyle puts a real emphasis on hip hop, borrowing the jazzy punch of boom-bap and the lyrical precision of conscious hip hop to form one of the most mature and introspective sounds in the UK. Loyle Carner’s lyrics are brutally honest – whether it be about his upbringing, his politics, his struggles – and that transparency matches well with his understated delivery, contrasting against the upbeat instrumentals he rhymes over.
Though he may not get the same attention as UK titans like Stormzy, his sheer consistency is enough to rank him up there with the best, with Yesterday’s Gone being a cult classic among fans and 2022’s hugo further cementing his talent.
Discography: Council Estate of Mind (2004)
Skinnyman is evidence that you don’t need to have a lengthy discography to be considered a legend. He only ever released one album, Council State of Mind in 2004, proving his ability as an MC by painting a vivid picture of poverty in the UK with a quick-witted and distinct style.
Skinnyman’s not only legendary for his elite album and features, but for his sharp skill as a battle rapper, thriving as a freestyler and embracing all parts hip hop culture, regardless of how many people were there to hear it. Skinnyman is everything great about the underground, disregarding sales and numbers in favour of being true to himself and honouring the traditions of hip hop.
Discography: Famous? (2008), Blam! (2010), Integrity> (2015), Grime MC (2019)
There isn’t much to say about JME which hasn’t already been said. He’s an undeniable legend in grime, pushing the genre to new heights with his brother Skepta as they formed the grime label and collective, Boy Better Know, and went on to influence up-and-coming generations of UK rappers.
As an artist who made his start making mobile ringtones, JME is no stranger to quick and catchy electronic beats, and his music is full of them. From his rustic debut album Famous? to the innovative Integrity> in 2015, he continued to dominate grime and evolve the genre’s sound, with a vicious delivery to match the swift, unforgettable rhythms of his production.
12. Tinie Tempah
Discography: Disc-Overy (2010), Demonstration (2013), Youth (2017)
Tinie Tempah is an icon in UK hip hop, and with his elite skill as an MC, he deserves every bit of recognition he gets. He blew up in the early 2010s with his iconic hits “Pass Out” and “Written in the Stars” for his Platinum certified album Disc-Overy, and he’s maintained that success ever since.
Tinie Tempah’s style is jittery and quick, fitting so many rhymes into so few bars and matching the speed of the bouncy grime beats he raps over. The British MC pushed the region’s sound further into the mainstream, cementing himself as one of the greatest UK rappers ever for his profound impact on the sound and success of the genre.
11. Roots Manuva
Discography: Brand New Second Hand (1999), Run Come Save Me (2001), Dub Come Save Me (2002), Awfully Deep (2005), Alternately Deep (2006), Slime & Reason (2008), Duppy Writer (2010), 4everevolution (2011), Bleeds (2015)
There aren’t many UK rappers as important and influential as Roots Manuva. He debuted in 1994, but his first album wasn’t until 1999’s Brand New Second Hand, and his output has hardly slowed down since. Unlike other UK rappers whose influences stem from garage and jungle, Roots Manuva’s sound has a heavy emphasis on dub and trip hop, leading to these spacious, otherworldly sounds unique to his own brand of hip hop. He helped push forward UK hip hop to have its own identity separate from the styles of the US, and for that, he will always be legendary and cemented as one of the greatest British rappers of all time.
10. Melanin 9
Discography: 144,000 (2008), Magna Carta (2012), Old Pictures (2017)
Melanin 9 is proof that numbers don’t mean everything. With just three albums and two mixtapes, he’s quietly built one of the strongest discographies in UK hip hop, maintaining a core fanbase within the underground and never letting go of his signature style. His production choice is abstract and spacey with the occasional boom bap influence, whereas his rapping ability is just as cold and articulate as any UK legend. The UK rapper’s album Magna Carta is criminally underrated, up there with the best British hip hop albums of all time. So, while Melanin 9 may not have much to offer in terms of quantity, the quality of his catalogue is near unmatched, and for that, he’s deserving of praise and recognition.
Discography: Walk in da Park (2008), Let Em Ave It (2010), When Will It Stop (2013), Landlord (2016), Big Bad… (2019)
Giggs can’t be put in a box. Many have cited him as a grime rapper, but Giggs himself has disregarded that label, claiming his work falls in line with UK hip hop. In reality, his music borrows all elements from all over rap music, from the danceable rhythms of grime to the dark influence of trap.
It’s this variety, coupled with Giggs’s consistently cool, laidback performance that makes his catalogue so captivating. He’s also somewhat of an underdog in the UK, initially rising to prominence after his debut, Walk in da Park, won the Best UK Act category at the BET Awards – winning over much bigger names like Dizzee Rascal, thus asserting Giggs as a rapper not to be underestimated.
8. J Hus
Discography: Common Sense (2017), Big Conspiracy (2020)
No two J Hus songs sound the same. That’s just how diverse and creative his catalogue is, fusing elements of traditional hip hop with grime, dancehall and afrobeat into a summery sound with mainstream appeal which could never be confused with another rapper’s music.
J Hus’ music began to blow up with a run of singles and mixtapes in the mid-2010s, but it was his debut album in 2017, Common Sense, which truly cemented him as a star. Not only is the UK rapper admirable for his versatility and creativity, but his raw skill as an MC is elite, able to switch from a cool melodic rap to a ferocious, grimy performance in the span of two songs.
Discography: Arular (2005), Kala (2007), Maya (2010), Matangi (2013), AIM (2016), Mata (2022)
In a landscape dominated by men, M.I.A. gives a powerful voice to the women of UK hip hop, creating some of the greatest music to come out of the genre. To categorise her music as grime or hip hop would be too simplistic because M.I.A. simply can’t be labelled, with a style fusing elements all across the musical spectrum from electronica to pop.
M.I.A.’s undeniable hit “Paper Planes” is among the most iconic songs – not only in Britain, but across the world, bringing more recognition to the UK scene as its own entity. Her delivery is suave, her lyricism clever, and her production choice eclectic. She’s a creative mind with no limits, delivering excellent music from her debut to 2022’s MATA. Not only is she one of the best UK rappers in the game, she’s also one of the most influential.
Discography: Rebel with a Cause (2014), Ghetto Gospel: The New Testament (2018), Conflict of Interest (2021)
Despite not achieving the same mainstream success as his contemporaries, Ghetts has one of the lengthiest and most consistent catalogues in grime, and his reputation as a GOAT contender of UK rap is strengthened with each new release.
Ghetts boasts of a fiery, relentless delivery like no other, massacring any beat and always putting in his all. The UK rapper is a master lyricist whose complex rhyme schemes and flows are some of the best to ever come out of the region, complemented well by the loud electronic production he’s known to use. From his debut mixtape 2000 & Life to 2021’s Conflict of Interest, the passion in Ghetts’s music has never wavered.
Discography: Treddin’ on Thin Ice (2004), Da 2nd Phaze (2006), Playtime Is Over (2007), Grime Wave (2008), See Clear Now (2008), Race Against Time (2009), 100% Publishing (2011), Evolve or Be Extinct (2012), The Ascent (2013), Snakes & Ladders (2014), Godfather (2017), Godfather II (2018), The Godfather III (2020), Boasty Gang – The Album (2020), Anti-Systemic (2021)
Wiley is often called the “Godfather of Grime”, and that should be enough to know why he ranks so highly on this list. He was part of the UK garage group Pay As U Go, after which he helped form the crew Roll Deep and crafted the sound of grime.
Having a deep knowledge of dance music, it’s no surprise that his songs are some of the catchiest and most memorable in the genre, with a knack for picking earworm beats and an irresistible confidence with every verse. He’s made some of the most celebrated grime songs of all time like “Wearing My Rolex” and “Heatwave”, and his lengthy discography is more proof of his legendary status.
Discography: Greatest Hits (2007), Microphone Champion (2009), Doin’ It Again (2011), Konnichiwa (2016), Ignorance Is Bliss (2019), Insomnia (with Chip and Young Adz) (2020)
While legends like Dizzee and Wiley crafted the sound of grime, Skepta was among the stars to launch it into the mainstream. From the genre’s conception to its 2010s resurgence to today, he’s remained loyal to the UK sound and evolved alongside it. Skepta rapping style is fierce, with a witty sense of lyricism to contrast the intensity of his delivery. The UK rap legend’s 2016 album Konnichiwa was an immediate hit, as was Ignorance Is Bliss three years later, driving Skepta to even more fame and proving that grime wasn’t a fad of the 2000s but a unique sound here to stay.
3. Dizzee Rascal
Discography: Boy in da Corner (2003), Showtime (2004), Maths + English (2007), Tongue n’ Cheek (2009), The Fifth (2013), Raskit (2017), E3 AF (2020)
Dizzee Rascal is the face of UK hip hop and embodies everything brilliant about grime. His production choice is bright and summery, with heavy use of synths and bass to create irresistible party anthems and club bangers. His style of rapping is witty and enthusiastic, matching the wild energy of the beats he uses.
The British rapper’s debut album Boy In Da Corner is an undeniable grime classic, regarded by many as the best grime album of all time. Tongue N’ Cheek is similarly praised, with Dizzee showing off just how catchy grime can be. Critically acclaimed, commercially successful and deeply impactful, Dizzee Rascal is everything a grime rapper could be, and a contender for the UK’s GOAT.
Discography: Home Sweet Home (2005), London Town (2007), 140 Grime Street (2008), Method to the Maadness (2010), Made in the Manor (2016), Hoodies All Summer (2019)
Take a listen to one of Kano’s most popular songs, “P’s and Q’s”, and you will instantly understand why he’s as critically acclaimed as he is. With a quick flow filled with countless rhymes and references, he’s one of the most technically gifted rappers in grime, competing with the very best with his keen sense of lyricism and natural ability to flow over the wildest electronic production.
Kano’s debut album Home Sweet Home is a grime essential, setting the foundation for others to build on the genre he helped forge. Later in his career, his 2016 record Made in the Manor has received even more praise, proving his longevity is as great as his impact.
1. Little Simz
Discography: A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons (2015), Stillness in Wonderland (2016), Grey Area (2019), Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (2021), No Thank You (2022)
UK hip hop has seen countless changes since its conception, so for Little Simz to be at the forefront of yet another evolution of the genre goes to show her extraordinary creativity as an MC. Her style is full of witty wordplay but also deeply personal – almost confessional – songs, detailing her struggles over a unique brand of theatrical hip hop.
Little Simz’s sound is cinematic, with use of orchestral instruments and choirs to support her unpredictable rapping. Although her mixtapes date back to 2010, it’s her recent work which has cemented her as an undeniable master of her craft, like the instant classic Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, the quick-witted Grey AREA and, to strengthen her case even more, 2022’s NO THANK YOU. While the UK rap scene has undoubtedly produced countless talented artists, today we’re crowning Little Simz as the best UK rapper of all time.