Cupcakke
Cupcakke
Courtesy photo

The Top Ten Underrated Acts at Rolling Loud 2018

Rolling Loud is a huge festival, and for proof, look no further than the massive lineup of artists. But south of the first two lines of names performing each day, it gets hard to find anyone recognizable. "Who the hell are these people?" you ask in vain. "Are they even any good? How can I tell the rap saviors from the clout chasers? Won't somebody help me?"

Don't worry. We've listened to every single artist on the Rolling Loud 2018 bill (except J. Cole — we're not masochists) to find the uncut gems that shine early in the day. Here are ten underrated acts worth seeing at the fest this weekend at Hard Rock Stadium.

1. Cupcakke. She's known by many names, including Queen Elizabitch and Marilyn Monhoe. Her Twitter feed is full of selfies in skimpy outfits and fluorescent hair, captioned with the foulest, proudest, bawdiest tweets. A sample: “I got to sit by the window with my legs open cause with these thick thighs my pussy like Jordin Sparks it gets no air.” Now, you might think her persona makes Cupcakke little more than a novelty rapper, right? Wrong. She can rap anybody at this festival under the table and equal 2 Live Crew in its prime when it comes to debauchery. Look out.

2. Key! God, we really hope Key! blows up this year. He’s long been a mainstay of the Atlanta alt-rap scene typified by Father and OG Maco, both of whom gave him big features — “Look at Wrist” and “U Guessed It,” respectively — way back in 2014. Obviously, things didn’t work out then. But Key! is not a quitter. He earned two guest spots on A$AP Mob’s Cozy Tapes Vol. 2 last year, and on his new single, “Love on Ice,” he totally switches it up. Gone is the goofy voice of years past, replaced with something far more sensitive and sweet. Someone call DJ Khaled — this Key! is about to be major.

3. Yung Lean. The Swedish rapper Yung Lean might have mixed feelings about returning to Miami. Three years ago, while staying in Miami Beach, he began a downward spiral of drug abuse that led to a breakdown and a stint in Mount Sinai Medical Center's psychiatric ward. Since then, he’s returned home to Stockholm, convalesced, and refined his cloudy aesthetic. His latest album, 2017’s Stranger, is his most accessible yet. It features blissed-out pop-rap hits such as “Red Bottom Sky” and off-kilter bangers like “Skimask.” His music might be sleepy, but don’t sleep on Lean.

4. Injury Reserve.This that raised by the internet, ain’t got no dad rap.” Straight from the mouth of MC Ritchie With a T on the breakthrough single “Oh Shit!!!," this lyric is the best approximation of Injury Reserve’s sound. The Phoenix, Arizona group — yes, apparently there is rap music in McCain country — has garnered a fervent online following thanks to the fierce rapping of Ritchie and Stepa J. Groggs, coupled with the eclectic production choices of producer Parker Corey. They’ve sampled everything from jazz to K-pop to Maori war chants and found a way to not only fit it all together but also make bangers.

5. Yung Simmie. It’s been a minute since Miami’s Raider Klan was up and running, but scattered members are still making waves on the rap scene. Denzel Curry is about to drop the project of the year with Ta13oo. Lil Ugly Mane is still releasing projects, and SpaceGhostPurrp is still being weird on Twitter. Also worth noticing is Carol City’s Yung Simmie. His best tracks feature dramatic orchestral samples and confident, speedy rapping, such as on “Shoot Da 3,” where he spars with the equally speedy Curry, and “Bucks,” the highlight of Yung Simmie's 2016 tape, Simmie Season 2.

6. $uicideboys$. Updating the Southern horrorcore aesthetic of Three 6 Mafia for the era of peak trap, the New Orleans-raised duo of $lick $loth and Ruby da Cherry has racked up millions of plays on SoundCloud and Spotify and toured the world. These guys are insanely prolific; they’ve released half a dozen albums and a series of 20 EPs, all titled Kill Yourself, and their songs rarely pass the three-minute mark. “Paris,” with its slasher-flick synth melody and macabre lyrics, is as good a starting point as any for the group.

7. Wifisfuneral. Last year, this budding Palm Beach rapper joined the company of Lil B as he became the latest to successfully dis the eternally washed Joe Budden. After the Everyday Struggle host made fun of Wifi for the infamous, caught-on-video beating he took at an XXXTentacion concert, the young MC released a song called "JoeBuddenProbablyThinksICantRap:(" which laid into the crotchety Budden. “I tried to kill myself three times/ Well, I guess that didn’t work, jerk,” he raps. “Labels wanna sign me now/I could give a fuck less.” The message is clear: He’s been through worse, and he can glow up anytime he wants. With more strong projects like last year’s Boy Who Cried Wolf, that time could come soon.

8. Valee. You probably don’t know Valee. He’s from Chicago. He’s 30 years old and owns three dogs. He does carpentry in his spare time. He’s less known for his Instagram profile than his New York Times profile. But Valee knows us. He named his debut single after the Magic City. “I took 20 thou’ and went to Miami,” he raps in a detached, almost bemused voice. “Went to club LIV and it came in handy.” This is a guy so utterly bored with the rap game he’s sure to conquer it. “I’m an old man,” he told the Times. “A big weekend for me is Home Depot and a Caesar salad.”

9. IndigoChildRick. There are more technical and lyrical rappers on the South Florida hip-hop scene, but IndigoChildRick prevails when it comes to production. His beats are downright bizarre, ranging from straight Miami bass on “Hush Dat A$$” to icy, glamorous synths on “4sho” to the distortion on “Back on the Block” to the weird, atonal melodies on “Poppin’ da Trunk.” Rick is clearly intent on drawing from every part of the city’s musical legacy, from the high-gloss '80s to the internet weirdness of Raider Klan to the current SoundCloud scene. Oh, and he’s a fashion designer too.

10. Sheck Wes. Watching Sheck Wes’ videos, you get the impression he doesn’t really take the rap game seriously. “Mo Bamba” sees him riding around on a Rascal while sporting a broken leg. “Live SheckWes Die SheckWes” features a snowball fight and a foreboding intro read by a British narrator about how Sheck Wes is the future of music in a dystopian society. It’s hard to tell if he’s joking sometimes. But even so, the talent and ability of the Harlem rapper and occasional model — he walked in Yeezy Season 3 — shine through. Is Sheck Wes the future? We can only hope.

Rolling Loud 2018. Friday, May 11, through Sunday, May 13, at Hard Rock Stadium, 347 Don Shula Dr., Miami Gardens; rollingloud.com. Tickets cost $393.99 to $934.99 via rollingloud.frontgatetickets.com.

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