The influence of Latino MCs has been a mainstay in hip-hop since its inception, from pioneers like Prince Whipper Whip and Prince Markie Dee to game-changing influencers like The Beatnuts and Chino XL to multi-platinum selling artists like Cypress Hill, Big Pun and Fat Joe.
As hip-hop continued to evolve so did the influence of Latino communities, as MCs were inspired to become the next in line to carry the torch.
A new generation of Latino MCs are leaving their mark on hip-hop. As the artists of yesteryear bridged cultural gaps present in hip-hop early on, this new bevy of rappers with Latin descent are reaching new territories in hip-hop with their music, leading the way for up-and-coming artists looking to follow in their footsteps.
Whether it’s pioneering the SoundCloud era of rap or breaking 20-year-old records, Latinos continue to influence the rap game in more ways than one. In no particular order, here are 10 of the hottest Latino MCs in hip-hop today.
Since arriving on to the scene in 2011 Kap G, born George Ramirez, has made waves in a low tide. Hailing from College Park, Georgia, Kap G is of Mexican descent. He’s collaborated with big-name artists like T.I., Wiz Khalifa, Jeezy and Chief Keef. He got his big break when he collaborated with Chief Keef on “Tatted Like Amigos,” which eventually led to a deal with Atlantic Records.
The work he’s put in caught the eye of Pharrell Williams, who provided production on Kap G’s mixtape Like a Mexican, and considers the Chicano rapper the future of hip-hop. Since then, Kap has been steadily on the rise. He received a nomination for XXL’s Freshman list in 2015, although he didn’t win a spot.
2017 emerged as his most successful year yet, since we saw Kap G finally fill a coveted spot on the XXL Freshman list. We were also gifted with a brand new mixtape: SupaJefe, with features by Chris Brown and Skateboard P himself. The future is bright for Kap G, as his buzz continues to grow well into 2018.
Lil Xan, a product of the SoundCloud rap era, is one of the newer faces in hip-hop. Born Diego Leanos, Lil Xan comes from Redlands, California and is of Mexican descent. He’s only been rapping for a short amount of time, but his buzz rivals many of his up-and-coming contemporaries. The Mexican-American rapper got his start in hip-hop by being the photographer for his rapper friends in a group called Low Gang. While attending a concert to shoot some photos, someone stole Lil Xan’s camera, and he was forced to make a choice thereafter: replace the camera or use the money he had to take a stab at music.
Xan chose the latter and his career took off. It was almost derailed by a prescription drug addiction, but he fortunately kicked the habit. In spring of 2016, Lil Xan dropped his first song “Xanny Montoya,” as well as “Wolverine” featuring Steve Cannon and “Been Bout It,” which garnered him 1.72 million streams on SoundCloud. He followed that with “Who Are You,” grabbing 3.59 million streams, and “Slingshot” receiving 6.71 million streams. His biggest hit to date came in August 2017 when he released “Betrayed.” The record was streamed 19.4 million times and has peaked at No. 69 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Lil Xan is getting ready to drop his debut album Total Xanarchy at the top of 2018. No matter how you feel about this era of SoundCloud rappers, the numbers don’t lie, and by those, Xan is easily one of the hottest new MCs in the game.
The “classic New York Boricua shorty” is a breath of fresh air in today’s generation of hip-hop artists. The rapper born Destiny Frasqueri is of Puerto Rican descent and is based in New York City. She represents a population of women that are more concerned about feeling comfortable in their own skin than fitting into societal gender norms. Princess Nokia identifies herself as a tomboy-ish, feminist, queer bruja that is attuned to her Afro-Puerto Rican heritage. That identity has defined her entire career, as the content that Princess Nokia raps and sings about tends to be of liberation, assertion and not giving a damn.
Princess Nokia first rose to fame as Wavy Spice, releasing several songs such as “Bitch I’m Posh” and “YAYA.” This garnered quite a buzz for the New York rapper, but it was nothing like what was to come. After releasing two projects, Metallic Butterfly and Honeysuckle, Princess Nokia’s mixtape 1992 put the young spitter on the map. The mixtape was followed by a world tour and 1992 Deluxe, a revamped version of the mixtape that served as Nokia’s debut album.
Princess Nokia made headlines recently when she threw hot soup at a man tossing the n-word at her and other people on a New York City train. The incident was posted on Twitter and garnered the MC widespread support in standing up for herself and others on that train. Her brash, raw and unorthodox approach to rap music has won over many and it’s establishing her case as one of the more talented artists in the game.
The fastest rise in hip-hop on this list most likely belongs to Lil Pump, who grew up as Gazzy Garcia in South Florida. The Miami-Dade County native started rapping in 2016, releasing songs like “Lil Pump,” “30’s,” “Elementary” and “Ignorant.” Each song on Lil Pump’s SoundCloud was streamed over one million times, and his buzz grew exponentially.
2017 was the biggest year by far for the 17-year-old rapper. Lil Pump’s singles “D Rose” and “Boss” combined for over 85 million streams on Soundcloud. The popularity of the songs led to a music video being shot for “D Rose,” which has over 92 million views on YouTube. By summer 2017, Lil Pump had signed a record deal — two months before his 17th birthday.
Lil Pump was set to release his debut mixtape in August, but instead released his biggest hit “Gucci Gang,” which has peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Pump’s self-title mixtape was finally released in October 2017 with a list of high-profile features, including Rick Ross, Gucci Mane and 2 Chainz. With so much done in such a short amount of time, Lil Pump has cemented his place as one of the faces of SoundCloud rap.
Smokepurpp, né Omar Pineiro, is from Miami, Florida by way of Chicago, Illinois. His mother is of Hispanic descent while his father is a mix of several backgrounds. He began his career as a producer using FL Studio and YouTube tutorials. It didn’t work out too well for him as no one wanted to use his beats. Smokepurpp then took the initiative and rapped over his own production, which worked out better for him. In the summer of 2016, Smokepurpp would release videos for “Ski Mask” and “WOKHARDT,” with each video garnering over one million views. More songs would follow on SoundCloud, and his work with Lil Pump would quickly make Smokepurpp a viral star.
Smokepurpp signed a record deal with Alamo Records under Interscope in early 2017, and scored his biggest hit “Audi” in May, earning over 31 million streams. His debut mixtape Deadstar dropped in September, appearing at No. 42 on the US Billboard 200 albums chart. Shortly after the release of the mixtape, Smokepurpp signed a deal with Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack Records. Despite being at the forefront of SoundCloud rap, Smokepurpp is creating a sound not quite like anything we’ve heard before.
The self-proclaimed Gangsta Bitch has become everyone’s favorite sweetheart. From her hilariously truthful Instagram videos to stealing the show on seasons six and seven of VH1’s Love & Hip Hop: New York, Cardi B is now a household name. Born Belcalis Almanzar in the Bronx, New York, Cardi B’s music career began in November 2015, debuting on the remix to Shaggy’s “Boom Boom.” She followed that with a music video to her song “Cheap Ass Weave,” but it wasn’t until mid-2016 that Cardi would reach mainstream fame.
Her first full-length project Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 1 was released in March 2016, spawning several street hits like “On Fleek” and “Foreva.” In the following year, Cardi released her second mixtape, which served as the second installment to the Gangsta Bitch Music series, and signed a deal with Atlantic Records.
The summer of 2017 saw the release of her breakthrough crossover hit, “Bodak Yellow”. The single hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making Cardi B the first solo female MC since Lauryn Hill to accomplish the feat. “Bodak Yellow” is also nominated for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song at this year’s 60th Grammy Awards. With all the success, all that’s needed from Cardi B is a debut album, which she says she’s taking her time on. Cardi B has been winning all year and it doesn’t seem like she’s going to slow down anytime soon.
Pouya, born Kevin Pouya, is of Cuban and Persian descent and he has been a force in the underground hip-hop scene in Miami for a few years now. Since emerging on to the scene in 2012, Pouya has released a number of mixtapes, along with a debut album Underdog Underdog, which reached the No. 2 spot on the iTunes Top Hip Hop Albums chart. Some of Pouya’s records were hits on the internet as well, including “Get Buck” and “Straight Up”. His smooth flow is reminiscent of 90s hip-hop, with just a touch of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, a group that the MC cites as an inspiration. He is mostly known for his collaborations with the $uicideboy$, his best friend Fat Nick, and Robb Bank$.
2017 was a productive year for Pouya, as he released several songs and projects, most of them hitting over one million streams on SoundCloud. Pouya’s most recent record “Daddy Issues” is another hit, as the record flexes his lyrical abilities, and has put him on the radar as a rising MC. His fan base also grew considerably as he toured with Fat Nick in support of their collaborative project, Drop Out of School. Pouya is looking to go into the New Year with two new projects in tow, the highly anticipated South Side Suicide 2 mixtape with the $uicideboy$ and his second untitled studio album.
Nitty Scott, MC
Nitty Scott, born Nitzia Scott, is a Brooklyn-based, Afro-Boricua rapper born in Michigan, but raised in Orlando. She began her career in 2010 rapping over Kanye West’s “Monster” instrumental, which went viral. She released several songs and three projects, one of them being her debut album The Art of Chill.
However talented and original, Nitty hasn’t quite gotten the recognition she deserves. The rap industry pushed Scott to erase her style and adopt the cookie-cutter identity that is present among the popular female rappers of her time, but she didn’t let up. It wasn’t until 2017 where Nitty would finally get some well-deserved recognition.
In the summer of this year, Nitty Scott dropped her second studio album Creature!, an ode to her Afro-Latina womanhood. The project was a rebirth of sorts, as Scott revamped her artistry and sound, delivering a project that was well received by critics. The project received the most praise out of all her projects, putting the MC in a whole new spotlight. That spotlight included complete control of her career (booking her own shows and scheduling her own interviews), as well as headlining tours overseas. If Nitty Scott is not exactly where she wants to be, she’s at least headed in the right direction.
The oldest member on this list is probably the most seasoned veteran. Bodega Bamz, born Nathaniel de la Rosa, has been tearing up the New York City underground scene since 2012. He is of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent and emerged with his breakthrough mixtape, Strictly 4 My P.A.P.I.Z. with features by A$AP Ferg, Joell Ortiz, Flatbush Zombies, and more. The mixtape, along with several other releases, helped build Bodega Bamz’s rep as one of the more lethal and respected underground MCs in the industry today. His Tanboys collective is one of their premier groups out of New York City, and they aim to unite and fortify the presence of Latinos in hip-hop.
2017 was a great year for Bodega Bamz, as he released more songs such as “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Young & Living Out of Order.” To celebrate the fifth anniversary of his breakthrough mixtape, Bodega Bamz re-released the project on all music-streaming services for the first time. He also released “Poof,” the lead single off his highly anticipated album P.A.P.I., due in early 2018.
However, the biggest move that Bodega Bamz has made in 2017 was his transition into acting. In November, Bodega Bamz made his acting debut on the Showtime comedy series SMILF. His time in Hollywood will only add to his already successful career, and it seems like the best has still yet to come.
Bianca Landrau, also known as BIA, is an MC straight out of Boston, Massachusetts. She is of Puerto Rican and Italian descent, and she wrote her very first raps at the age of 14, watching her battle rapper friends go up against each other in the studio. However, BIA wouldn’t make it known that she was writing rhymes until she was 18. She first made noise through her YouTube account back in 2014. Rapper Fam-Lay would discover her on the site, which eventually led to her getting signed by Pharrell Williams. She released her debut mixtape #CHOLASEASON in 2014, and followed that with a starring role on Oxygen’s Sisterhood of Hip Hop.
In 2016, BIA released the infectious “Gucci Comin’ Home” celebrating the release of the Atlanta rapper. The song brought a lot of attention to the MC, and she capitalized on it by releasing several songs throughout the year. Her biggest hit came on a collaboration with J Balvin in 2016, titled “Safari.” The video for the song has over 670 million views on YouTube, and BIA spit her entire verse in Spanish, showing the same flawless delivery she has rapping in English.
In 2017, BIA was nominated for a spot on XXL’s Freshmen list and she found herself on tour with Ariana Grande and released two singles, “Badside” and “Fungshway,” hinting at a new project in the works. Under Pharrell’s tutelage, BIA has the potential to be a major player in the industry, and is already a force to be reckoned with.