While rap and hip-hop culture started as a distinctly American medium, the “boom bap” beats and dizzying wordplay has helped it to transcend language barriers and become a worldwide phenomena. So while Future and Kanye might be getting the spotlight, there are plenty of rappers cutting their teeth around the world that deserve recognition. Here are five rappers from all over the world that you should be listening to.
5. Keith Ape
Hailing from the neon lit streets of South Korea, this chrome-mouthed rapper might sound familiar to fans of the likes of Waka Flocka or Young Thug. Taking a page from the weirdo trap rappers of the South, Keith Ape spits hot lines in an odd mishmash of English and Korean, over warbling, creeping beats that sound like they were cut out of horror movies. If you’re a rap fan who enjoys samples of machine gun fire and screams mixed with meandering go-hard beats, Keith Ape will certainly speak to you, regardless of what language you speak.
4. Hocus Pocus
French is a very lyrical language, so it makes sense that there is a thriving French hip-hop community. While plenty of French rappers are happy taking cues from the top 50 rappers of the States, hip-hop group Hocus Pocus has a slightly more old school approach to the genre. Sounding like a French Jurassic 5, the rap six-piece spits rhymes over Jazz and organ-driven beats, alluding to rap luminaries such as Grandmaster Flash and his Furious Five. The group even teams with English-speaking act The Procussions, proving that rap works no matter what language you speak.
3. Huss Und Hodn
When someone asks you to name a pleasant sounding language, German likely isn’t the first language to spring to mind. But that hasn’t stopped the country from developing it’s own thriving hip-hop culture. One of the preeminent purveyors of so-called “Cologne Rap” is rap twosome Huss und Hodn. Much like Hocus Pocus, their approach to hip-hop harkens back to the heydays of the genre, opting to use jazz and funk samples to craft their beats. While the flow might sound kind of odd in the harsh German tongue, Huss Und Hodn manage to craft rhymes so sharp that it chops up other rappers like sauerkraut.
Over in Japan, the name on every hip-hop heads lips is KOHH. The tatted up rapper wears his American inspiration on his sleeve, but puts a distinctly Japanese spin on the genre. Like his American counterparts, KOHH raps about coming from nothing to being at the top, which is considered uncouth as discussion of money and social standing is frowned upon in Japan. But KOHH’s usage of rap to break down social barriers is attracting plenty of attention, and his flow and beats are ensuring that people have no choice but to sit up and listen.
1. Oxmo Puccino
For our final entry, we once again return to the French language, but this time in a distinctly different fashion. Oxmo Puccino hails from Mali, a West African country with French roots. French is still the national language, and Oxmo Puccino uses the lyrical language and his African worldview to craft utterly unique rap. With his meandering flow and toe-tapping beats, Oxmo Puccino sounds familiar, but still unlike anything you’ve ever heard before.