Onoe Caponoe
© Chris Killy

7 independent UK hip-hop labels worth shouting about

The underground British imprints ensuring homegrown rap remains a vital force.
Written by Ringo P Stacey
7 min readPublished on
Whichever way you look at it the last couple of years have been incredible for hip-hop in the UK. OK, the number of billionaires compared with the US scene might still be stubbornly low, but UK labels which a few years back were mere promising startups are now regularly putting out quality releases, and those imprints which were already on top of their game have become legendary.
Blah and High Focus remain at the head of the pack, but elsewhere competition remains phenomenally strong. A potent mix of new labels and old favourites – from Gold On The Mixer, to Mana to Boot, Daupe, Gourmet Deluxxx, Revorg, VRBL, First World, and even a revitalised YNR – are pumping out steady streams of quality beat-based entertainment for your listening pleasure.
Perhaps most exciting are all the minnows bubbling away, and promising even greater things over the next couple of years.
Here’s your rundown of the imprints to keep an eye (and ear) on.


For its growing legion of devotees, intercity powerhouse Blah is less of a record label, more a cult.
Most likely it’s always been that way but it’s been unavoidable since at least 2015 when label supergroup Children Of The Damned rebranded as Cult Of the Damned and proceeded to invert cult tropes and hip-hop clichés. “In exchange for salvation,” their website notes, “all we ask in return is for you to satisfy our need of eating good food and wearing gold chains.”
Now, people tend to be wary of cults – but given Blah’s recent run of form it might just be the right time to declare faith.
Hearing the impeccably sardonic Liverpudlian Lee Scott trade deranged anecdotes with psychedelic maestro Jam Baxter on 2019’s Happy Hour At The Super Fun Time Party Dome Megamix 4000 was special, and it’s been a great year for the label all-round with casual brilliance from the likes of Bill Shakes, Bang On, and the scandalously talented Kenyan rapper Nah Eeto with her debut EP 53.

Green Brick

Fans of Bristol’s boom-bap titans Split Prophets will know Green Brick supremo Res One from early appearances spitting fire through gap-teeth and promising to “develop my skill until it goes from big to king size” on intense debut Scribbled Thoughts back in 2011.
Eight years on, and with his promise more than fulfilled both as a solo act and in various configurations of Split Prophets, he’s ready to branch out – and Green Brick is the tantalising first fruit to bloom.
The label kicked off in style at the close of 2018 with Res collaborating alongside producer Illinformed, whose credits include Lee Scott, Verb T, and Jack Jetson, as well as US heavyweights like Jedi Mind Tricks and Rass Kas. He set out his stall on A Dog’s Dream, rapping “I do it for the love but really need the cream/I’m all about the real shit but really feed my dreams.”
Since then, the label has played host to beguiling R&B from Mac Lloyd and the soulful testimonials of Lazy Eyez' passionate Coastline To Cityscape EP. Both releases suggest Green Brick has a vital and eclectic future ahead.

Group BraCil

In times of trouble, fresh new label on the scene Group BraCil releases music to soothe weary hearts. This is music for when you’ve been laid up in bed all day, craving a little peace.
The label opened 2019 with an EP from Old Paradice showcasing the lyrical depth of Confucius MC alongside Morriarchi, and closes out the year with the poignant introspection of Verbz, who raps of being “a slave in this grayscale place of loss” and promises to “lay my soul on the page for the days I’ve lost.”
But what’s really impressed about Group BraCil's output has been its sheer breadth: from the heartbreaking R&B excursion of Morriarchi’s collaboration with Violet Springs on Maggie, to the creepy wonder of the visuals for Norm Oddity’s System Restore.

High Focus

Brighton boom-bap stalwarts High Focus enjoyed another banner year in 2019.
Looking over all the music they’ve released recently, what’s telling is you can’t fault any of it for sheer craft – from the sophisticated groove of Pitch 92, to the elder wisdom of Verb T, the depravity of Datkid, or the sheer abandon of CMPND. Dedication and passion shine through, and you begin to wonder if the label is capable of putting out anything sub-par.
Personally I’m rooting for the bad-trip giant-cat-god aesthetic of Onoe Caponoe’s Graveyard Funk. You may prefer the transcendental angst of Mr Key & Greenwood Sharps' spellbinding Green And Gold. It’s all good, that’s the point.

In The Balance

Given his track record over the last 15 years you could argue that Verb T has a deeper knowledge of independent UK hip-hop than any other artist. His career to date spans a debut album in 2004 on Low Life, through to his work down the years with Silent Soundz, YNR and of course most recently on High Focus – both solo and as part of peerless supergroup The Four Owls.
Over the last four years, with his In The Balance imprint, he’s used that experience in service of his ongoing quest to bring the finest in sharp-eyed melancholic poetry to the world.
The early 2019 label compilation In the Balance Vol. 1 demonstrated the depth of the ITB roster, but special mention must go to the grubby confusions of Rye Shabby, a man who can warn “don’t fucking speak unless you’ve got suttin’ for my medical needs” one moment and ask you to call him “Sir Shabbs” the next in such an assured way you know you’ve got no choice but to obey.
Also more than worthy of investigation are the mighty insights of Moreone’s single 3991, with his promise to represent for the label “until the day that I’m handcuffed on live TV.”

Potent Funk

It’s been hard to separate Potent Funk from the unstoppable, jungle-infused manic energy of its co-founder Dabbla, to the point where occasionally his magnanimity has threatened to overwhelm the all-round intoxicating glory of the label’s wider roster.
This year has seen the LDZ and Problem Child legend take a rare pause for breath, allowing room for everyone else to kill it on a more regular basis – crucially maintaining the label’s aura of exasperated, almost psychotic purpose at a slightly lower tempo.
Highlights include Problem Child and Pengshui’s Illaman bringing blunt introspection to creepy Norm Oddity beats, pondering his life on the super-dry Give Us A Smile EP (“I’m not sure I can handle it, I might just take my skin off”). See also the brittle psychedelic nausea of Baileys Brown’s star-studded Still Fresh album.


In a way it feels odd to be writing about Brighton boom-bap institution Yogocop towards the end of a year in which a bunch of artists who made their name with the label – Kemastry, Wundrop, Vitamin G – decided to join up as CMPND and sign to High Focus for a magnificent if slightly debauched LP, Eagle Court.
Perhaps it’s just a reminder of how deep the scene in Brighton is – how there’s room for everything including the big-stage presentations of High Focus, as well as the modest beauties of Yogocop. But you could just as easily argue the reflected shine lends sparkle to another solid year for the label.
From Harvs Le Toad’s delicious red-eyed lamentations on Chicks & Tika Naans, to a pair of occasionally creepy but mainly blissful beat-tapes of the highest order from Bo Bribery and Hank Hiller, it’s been a strong 12 months. And to round it off, Illiterate & Vitamin G’s Illitamin G was the soothing counterpoint to Eagle Court – the essential companion for anyone with a need to sit back and chill for a minute.