22 Tampa Bay rappers to watch in 2022

Vinny Virgo, who plays Hooch and Hive in Tampa, Florida on Jan. 14, 2021. - hydreams/Instagram (Design by Jack Spatafora)
hydreams/Instagram (Design by Jack Spatafora)
Vinny Virgo, who plays Hooch and Hive in Tampa, Florida on Jan. 14, 2021.
When the rest of the nation thinks of Florida rappers they may first point to the scene down south in counties like Miami-Dade and Broward. However, Tampa Bay's time to shine is long overdue. As this very special rap scene's emcees, producers and DJs continue to cultivate it, Tampa Bay talent has become increasingly diverse and distinguished.

The artists on this list all had different paths to the mic, and some of them even work in other artistic verticals (acting, tattooing for example), but as different as they are, one element brings them together: love for a metro they're helping put on the map in a big way.

Tampa Bay is a smorgasbord of incredibly gifted emcees and lyricists, and narrowing this list down was by no means an easy task. After hours of listening sessions, many video call discussions, and careful consideration, these are our picks for 22 Tampa rappers to know in 2022.—AP
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LaTheGoat   
Whether he's rapping about his come-up on a soulful sample, like on "You Wouldn't Believe Me," or making you want to dance on "Smooth Operator," there's no denying that LaTheGoat knows how to keep things interesting. The 26-year-old started really taking rap seriously around 2016, but before that he tried on many different hats. He studied at FAMU for a bit and even enlisted in the Army—when that didn't work out, he stayed afloat by working at call centers and warehouses. That didn't stick either, so he decided it was time to give music his all. In 2020, he dropped his third project, Goatmode, and that's when he got his big break. 
A single from the project, "8 Bands," racked up plays and eventually caught the attention of producer and rapper Jermaine Dupri. LA posted a freestyle on Instagram, where he was rapping over Dupri and Jay-Z's "Money Ain't a Thing." LA's followers tagged Dupri in the post, impressing the So So Def icon. While doing some more digging, Dupri stumbled upon "8 Bands" and couldn't get it out of his head. A month later, LA was signed to Dupri's record label So So Def and Def Jam.    
Last February, LA saw an extra boost in popularity after Dupri and Rick Ross hopped on the "8 Bands Remix." The official music video has over 400K views on YouTube. Then in September, he got the opportunity to join the Bucs' official DJ Ekin and Dupri at Raymond James Stadium for the Bucs home opener.   
LA recently dropped a November EP in November (813 Day) featuring  "Smooth Operator," "You Wouldn't Believe Me," the "8 Bands Remix." plus three new songs: a catchy club hit called "Bounce It," "Minimum Wage" and LA's favorite off the tape, "Shine In The Ghetto." He says he has a soft spot for the song because it "embodies Tampa and the aura of the city." He also shares that he definitely has plans to release more music this year.
Patrick McBride
LaTheGoat

Whether he's rapping about his come-up on a soulful sample, like on "You Wouldn't Believe Me," or making you want to dance on "Smooth Operator," there's no denying that LaTheGoat knows how to keep things interesting. The 26-year-old started really taking rap seriously around 2016, but before that he tried on many different hats. He studied at FAMU for a bit and even enlisted in the Army—when that didn't work out, he stayed afloat by working at call centers and warehouses. That didn't stick either, so he decided it was time to give music his all. In 2020, he dropped his third project, Goatmode, and that's when he got his big break.

A single from the project, "8 Bands," racked up plays and eventually caught the attention of producer and rapper Jermaine Dupri. LA posted a freestyle on Instagram, where he was rapping over Dupri and Jay-Z's "Money Ain't a Thing." LA's followers tagged Dupri in the post, impressing the So So Def icon. While doing some more digging, Dupri stumbled upon "8 Bands" and couldn't get it out of his head. A month later, LA was signed to Dupri's record label So So Def and Def Jam.

Last February, LA saw an extra boost in popularity after Dupri and Rick Ross hopped on the "8 Bands Remix." The official music video has over 400K views on YouTube. Then in September, he got the opportunity to join the Bucs' official DJ Ekin and Dupri at Raymond James Stadium for the Bucs home opener.

LA recently dropped a November EP in November (813 Day) featuring "Smooth Operator," "You Wouldn't Believe Me," the "8 Bands Remix." plus three new songs: a catchy club hit called "Bounce It," "Minimum Wage" and LA's favorite off the tape, "Shine In The Ghetto." He says he has a soft spot for the song because it "embodies Tampa and the aura of the city." He also shares that he definitely has plans to release more music this year.
Brilly Asher   
Asher has always been a Florida boy. Born in Jacksonville but raised in Tampa, he's well-known for his versatile style and trippy visuals. Music has always been his passion. Asher remembers his brother being the first to put him on to rap, suggesting artists like Kanye West and Jay-Z. They used to freestyle at the house, and Asher started writing his own raps at a young age. His rap name comes from his mom, who used to call him "Brilly Boy," a nickname derived from his real name, Gabriel. His mother passed away when he was 12 years old, which impacted him and inspired him to create music.    
Asher has been releasing music since at least 2016 but didn't start commanding attention until 2017 when he dropped his first official music video for "Toonami Flow." The clip opens with a fun track inspired by Asher's love of anime and cartoons. He drops witty lyrics throughout and references shows like "Pokémon," "Yu-Gi-Oh!" and "Dragon Ball Z." Halfway through the video, the colorful visuals and animated lyrics come to a halt as a second track, "Dead Ninja," seamlessly begins. Rapping against a red background, Asher spits bars about Black Lives Matter, police brutality, corrupt politicians, and more. Finally, the video closes with a montage of clips, both old and new, that show the continuing struggles of Black Americans.    
The video is powerful and impressive, especially coming from a young artist who at the time, didn't have a lot of music out. But Asher didn't take advantage of the momentum in the wake of the video. Instead, he stopped making music for three years. In 2020, he came back full force with "Traumatized," which explained to his fans that he had been in a consuming relationship for the duration of his silence. Since then, he hasn't stopped, crooning on his dreamy 2020 single "Moon and Back" and releasing two projects last year. He's already working on another EP, 3-P3AT, which will feature three new songs he hopes to release early this year.
Jocelyn Rose
Brilly Asher

Asher has always been a Florida boy. Born in Jacksonville but raised in Tampa, he's well-known for his versatile style and trippy visuals. Music has always been his passion. Asher remembers his brother being the first to put him on to rap, suggesting artists like Kanye West and Jay-Z. They used to freestyle at the house, and Asher started writing his own raps at a young age. His rap name comes from his mom, who used to call him "Brilly Boy," a nickname derived from his real name, Gabriel. His mother passed away when he was 12 years old, which impacted him and inspired him to create music.

Asher has been releasing music since at least 2016 but didn't start commanding attention until 2017 when he dropped his first official music video for "Toonami Flow." The clip opens with a fun track inspired by Asher's love of anime and cartoons. He drops witty lyrics throughout and references shows like "Pokémon," "Yu-Gi-Oh!" and "Dragon Ball Z." Halfway through the video, the colorful visuals and animated lyrics come to a halt as a second track, "Dead Ninja," seamlessly begins. Rapping against a red background, Asher spits bars about Black Lives Matter, police brutality, corrupt politicians, and more. Finally, the video closes with a montage of clips, both old and new, that show the continuing struggles of Black Americans.

The video is powerful and impressive, especially coming from a young artist who at the time, didn't have a lot of music out. But Asher didn't take advantage of the momentum in the wake of the video. Instead, he stopped making music for three years. In 2020, he came back full force with "Traumatized," which explained to his fans that he had been in a consuming relationship for the duration of his silence. Since then, he hasn't stopped, crooning on his dreamy 2020 single "Moon and Back" and releasing two projects last year. He's already working on another EP, 3-P3AT, which will feature three new songs he hopes to release early this year.
Mike Mass   
Mass has been cooking up heat in the 813 for years. Originally from Mount Vernon, New York and raised in The Bronx, the 32-year-old is an undeniably impactful force in the local Tampa scene, sharing his lyricist talents and helping other upcoming artists shine through his label and brand Wave Theory. Currently, the label houses 13 artists across different genres: there are DJs, R&B singers, punk rock bands, and other hip hop talents like Perception and K.III.   
Although he has yet to release a true solo project, Mass has made waves with the material he has released. He has four singles out on Spotify, the oldest one being "M.A.S.H." from 2016, featuring another rapper on this list, Vern Senior. The music video racked up over 2,700 views—easily Mass' first hit. The song has a luxurious vibe with a strong '90s influence; think slow, sultry beats with silky lyrics. Fans came to know Mass for this style; his New York flair is apparent in his songs as he plays with word choice and rhythm.    
But going even deeper than that, Mass truly has a way with words. He has always been a writer and was even a spoken word poet in middle and high school. When he decided to start adding beats to his poems, he looked to Nas for inspiration. The NYC rapper has long been known for his descriptive, impactful lyrics against mellow beats, and Mass followed the style while managing to make it his own.    
His talents really got the chance to shine on "Blood In the Water," a collaboration with singer J.T. Brown. The song arrived at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests that took over the world in 2020. It was released in November of that year and sees Mass rapping from three different viewpoints. Brown's idea was to have Mass rap from from the perspective of a slave, a civil rights leader, and a 10-year-old boy in today's age. Mass executed these POVs impeccably. In his third verse he passionately references some of the high-profile murders from years past: "Cause if I'm rockin a hoodie in the rain I could die for that/And if I pull out my wallet and behave I could die for that/...Imagine if we fight back, how the hell we surviving that?" The music video has over 6,000 views and tremendous feedback in the comments; it's Mass' favorite song of his to date.    
With so many supporters standing behind him, Mass knows there has been a demand for his first album. "I get asked a lot why I haven't dropped an album and it's because not only did I want to make sure the quality level was appropriate, but I wanted to make sure all of the Wave Theory artists had established individual identities and were prepared for bigger stage performances," he shares. Fans won't have to wait much longer though: Mass' long-awaited EP, Mad Love, will finally drop this year.
Javier Ortiz/Zitrovision
Mike Mass

Mass has been cooking up heat in the 813 for years. Originally from Mount Vernon, New York and raised in The Bronx, the 32-year-old is an undeniably impactful force in the local Tampa scene, sharing his lyricist talents and helping other upcoming artists shine through his label and brand Wave Theory. Currently, the label houses 13 artists across different genres: there are DJs, R&B singers, punk rock bands, and other hip hop talents like Perception and K.III.

Although he has yet to release a true solo project, Mass has made waves with the material he has released. He has four singles out on Spotify, the oldest one being "M.A.S.H." from 2016, featuring another rapper on this list, Vern Senior. The music video racked up over 2,700 views—easily Mass' first hit. The song has a luxurious vibe with a strong '90s influence; think slow, sultry beats with silky lyrics. Fans came to know Mass for this style; his New York flair is apparent in his songs as he plays with word choice and rhythm.

But going even deeper than that, Mass truly has a way with words. He has always been a writer and was even a spoken word poet in middle and high school. When he decided to start adding beats to his poems, he looked to Nas for inspiration. The NYC rapper has long been known for his descriptive, impactful lyrics against mellow beats, and Mass followed the style while managing to make it his own.

His talents really got the chance to shine on "Blood In the Water," a collaboration with singer J.T. Brown. The song arrived at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests that took over the world in 2020. It was released in November of that year and sees Mass rapping from three different viewpoints. Brown's idea was to have Mass rap from from the perspective of a slave, a civil rights leader, and a 10-year-old boy in today's age. Mass executed these POVs impeccably. In his third verse he passionately references some of the high-profile murders from years past: "Cause if I'm rockin a hoodie in the rain I could die for that/And if I pull out my wallet and behave I could die for that/...Imagine if we fight back, how the hell we surviving that?" The music video has over 6,000 views and tremendous feedback in the comments; it's Mass' favorite song of his to date.

With so many supporters standing behind him, Mass knows there has been a demand for his first album. "I get asked a lot why I haven't dropped an album and it's because not only did I want to make sure the quality level was appropriate, but I wanted to make sure all of the Wave Theory artists had established individual identities and were prepared for bigger stage performances," he shares. Fans won't have to wait much longer though: Mass' long-awaited EP, Mad Love, will finally drop this year.
Zhalarina   
A true Tampa talent and overall gem. Not only is Zhalarina a rapper, she is also a playwright, actor, music composer, and so much more. Being a creative has always been a part of who Zhalarina is—and where she comes from. Her mother is a writer, her father a visual artist, and her uncle a rapper. She developed an interest for the genre at a young age, having seen Da Brat and TLC on TV.    
Soon, the multi-talented artist wrote her first rap at 11 years old. As her writing progressed, she ended up entering a slam poetry competition and winning. This introduced her to a whole passion that she would not have discovered had she not taken that leap of faith. She soon learned about the University of Wisconsin-Madison's First Wave, a theater program that integrates hip-hop. There, she ended up creating The Light, with PBS Wisconsin, an autobiographical story told through three music videos. She wrote, acted in, and produced the whole show—and her hard work paid off. She ended up winning an Emmy in the Chicago/Midwest region.   
That's not the only acclaim Zhalarina received. For NPR's Tiny Desk Contest she submitted her song "Lala." Although she didn't win the contest, NPR highlighted her and her song as a "stand-out entry."   
Zhalarina's raps are witty, quick, catchy, and make you want to jump out of your seat to bop around. She likes to have fun with the content of her music and since is wildly imaginative—you never know what to expect. A year ago she released "Good Yawning," a song in which she impersonates 12 female rap artists and their respective styles. She nails the styles of MC greats like Queen Latifah, Missy Elliot, and Lauryn Hill, but also aces the new-age mic queens like Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, Chika, and Rico Nasty. Another impressive record was "Tampa," a bouncy 2019 hit dedicated to her hometown. Her confidence on the track helps to crack an inevitable smile, and her rhyme work is slick and smart, integrating a Southern accent and lyrics that talk about being from the "flirty dirty, that scurry dirty." The song has over 5,000 plays on Spotify.    
"It was my most ambitious song at the time—I got to celebrate women in hip-hop, past and present," Zhalarina says. "I shot, directed, and edited the music video myself. It was a passion project and I was proud of how it came out."   
She just recently dropped her first album, Again, which features the three mentioned tracks as well as 14 other songs. But don't think that that's all for the busy artist, she's eyeing a summer release for her second album.
Zhalarina
Zhalarina

A true Tampa talent and overall gem. Not only is Zhalarina a rapper, she is also a playwright, actor, music composer, and so much more. Being a creative has always been a part of who Zhalarina is—and where she comes from. Her mother is a writer, her father a visual artist, and her uncle a rapper. She developed an interest for the genre at a young age, having seen Da Brat and TLC on TV.

Soon, the multi-talented artist wrote her first rap at 11 years old. As her writing progressed, she ended up entering a slam poetry competition and winning. This introduced her to a whole passion that she would not have discovered had she not taken that leap of faith. She soon learned about the University of Wisconsin-Madison's First Wave, a theater program that integrates hip-hop. There, she ended up creating The Light, with PBS Wisconsin, an autobiographical story told through three music videos. She wrote, acted in, and produced the whole show—and her hard work paid off. She ended up winning an Emmy in the Chicago/Midwest region.

That's not the only acclaim Zhalarina received. For NPR's Tiny Desk Contest she submitted her song "Lala." Although she didn't win the contest, NPR highlighted her and her song as a "stand-out entry."

Zhalarina's raps are witty, quick, catchy, and make you want to jump out of your seat to bop around. She likes to have fun with the content of her music and since is wildly imaginative—you never know what to expect. A year ago she released "Good Yawning," a song in which she impersonates 12 female rap artists and their respective styles. She nails the styles of MC greats like Queen Latifah, Missy Elliot, and Lauryn Hill, but also aces the new-age mic queens like Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, Chika, and Rico Nasty. Another impressive record was "Tampa," a bouncy 2019 hit dedicated to her hometown. Her confidence on the track helps to crack an inevitable smile, and her rhyme work is slick and smart, integrating a Southern accent and lyrics that talk about being from the "flirty dirty, that scurry dirty." The song has over 5,000 plays on Spotify.

"It was my most ambitious song at the time—I got to celebrate women in hip-hop, past and present," Zhalarina says. "I shot, directed, and edited the music video myself. It was a passion project and I was proud of how it came out."

She just recently dropped her first album, Again, which features the three mentioned tracks as well as 14 other songs. But don't think that that's all for the busy artist, she's eyeing a summer release for her second album.
Jay Browne   
Born and raised in Tampa, Browne has an immense amount of love for his city and is known for his inventive flows and sharp lyrics. He even made a documentary about Tampa as an ode to the city and the people that make it. This pride is just as evident in his music. Whenever he can, Browne shouts out his hometown.   
His first album 1-800-813-4evr was released in 2019, and while he's since released three more albums, that first outing is still his favorite to this day. "It became the stepping stone for my music to the Tampa music scene. The versatility and concepts, as well as the lyricism displayed is at the very top of my musical work to date," Browne says.    
"Chop/Appetite" was the standout on 1-800-813-4evr, a song that splits into two different vibes as Browne raps about his lifestyle and loyalty to the people around him. It has over 1,700 plays on Spotify.   
His latest album, Draco Mercés, dropped last February and featured 11 tracks, with some looping in other local talents like 7inclair and The Black Ace. Coming up in 2022, Browne says he has multiple projects on the horizon. Given his proven work ethic, it's safe to say he might drop an album or two.
Ariyan Lennett
Jay Browne

Born and raised in Tampa, Browne has an immense amount of love for his city and is known for his inventive flows and sharp lyrics. He even made a documentary about Tampa as an ode to the city and the people that make it. This pride is just as evident in his music. Whenever he can, Browne shouts out his hometown.

His first album 1-800-813-4evr was released in 2019, and while he's since released three more albums, that first outing is still his favorite to this day. "It became the stepping stone for my music to the Tampa music scene. The versatility and concepts, as well as the lyricism displayed is at the very top of my musical work to date," Browne says.

"Chop/Appetite" was the standout on 1-800-813-4evr, a song that splits into two different vibes as Browne raps about his lifestyle and loyalty to the people around him. It has over 1,700 plays on Spotify.

His latest album, Draco Mercés, dropped last February and featured 11 tracks, with some looping in other local talents like 7inclair and The Black Ace. Coming up in 2022, Browne says he has multiple projects on the horizon. Given his proven work ethic, it's safe to say he might drop an album or two.
Big Baby Scumbag   
Perhaps one of the biggest modern talents to come out of Tampa Bay, Big Baby Scumbag has carved out a sound and aesthetic that resonates with his audience. With over 106,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, he truly has found his crowd.    
He has a trashy Southern aesthetic that his fans have come to love: think camouflage apparel, dirty Timbs, socks that say "Eat Shit," and plenty of cheap beer and Publix. His sense of humor and love of pop culture is another reason listeners can't get enough. Whether he's dropping a freestyle inspired by "Squid Game," Tom Brady, punching coronavirus in the jaw, or a fun single like "Trappin' Out the Krusty Krab," he always brings the energy and witty references to the table.     
Raised all of his life in Tampa, Scumbag first got into rapping through a friend from middle school. The friend had a rap group called Scumbag World and encouraged Scumbag to join it and rap with them. At first he was apprehensive, but once he started rapping he realized he had a knack for it. He dropped his first official song, "Tha Trenchez," in 2015 and received so much positive feedback that he was able to book tours and shows just off of the one song alone. Soon after was a song called "Jelly" and before he knew it he was performing at Rolling Loud in Miami in 2016.    
WorldStarHipHop would go on to debut numerous music videos of his around 2018, leading to even more of a boost in popularity. He has since released too many singles to count, more than a handful of entertaining freestyles, and six albums. His favorite work to date is 2020's Big Baby Earnhardt, named after NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt (Scumbag constantly rocks NASCAR apparel and has been a fan for years).    
"It's my favorite mainly because of the head space that I was in as an artist throughout the process of recording those songs. Also the stories and context of the songs," Scumbag says. "What artist do you know that has both Lil B and Project Pat on the same album?"   
Although he considers Big Baby Earnhardt to be a "perfect album" he says that he has plenty more exciting music on the way. He is currently working on a few projects for the upcoming year that will see him experimenting with new sounds and a "hell of a lot of collaborations." Can't wait to see what Big Baby's got cookin'—especially if it's in the air fryer.
Frankie Sanchez
Big Baby Scumbag

Perhaps one of the biggest modern talents to come out of Tampa Bay, Big Baby Scumbag has carved out a sound and aesthetic that resonates with his audience. With over 106,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, he truly has found his crowd.

He has a trashy Southern aesthetic that his fans have come to love: think camouflage apparel, dirty Timbs, socks that say "Eat Shit," and plenty of cheap beer and Publix. His sense of humor and love of pop culture is another reason listeners can't get enough. Whether he's dropping a freestyle inspired by "Squid Game," Tom Brady, punching coronavirus in the jaw, or a fun single like "Trappin' Out the Krusty Krab," he always brings the energy and witty references to the table.

Raised all of his life in Tampa, Scumbag first got into rapping through a friend from middle school. The friend had a rap group called Scumbag World and encouraged Scumbag to join it and rap with them. At first he was apprehensive, but once he started rapping he realized he had a knack for it. He dropped his first official song, "Tha Trenchez," in 2015 and received so much positive feedback that he was able to book tours and shows just off of the one song alone. Soon after was a song called "Jelly" and before he knew it he was performing at Rolling Loud in Miami in 2016.

WorldStarHipHop would go on to debut numerous music videos of his around 2018, leading to even more of a boost in popularity. He has since released too many singles to count, more than a handful of entertaining freestyles, and six albums. His favorite work to date is 2020's Big Baby Earnhardt, named after NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt (Scumbag constantly rocks NASCAR apparel and has been a fan for years).

"It's my favorite mainly because of the head space that I was in as an artist throughout the process of recording those songs. Also the stories and context of the songs," Scumbag says. "What artist do you know that has both Lil B and Project Pat on the same album?"

Although he considers Big Baby Earnhardt to be a "perfect album" he says that he has plenty more exciting music on the way. He is currently working on a few projects for the upcoming year that will see him experimenting with new sounds and a "hell of a lot of collaborations." Can't wait to see what Big Baby's got cookin'—especially if it's in the air fryer.
Nico Sweet   
Sweet knows how to draw listeners in. Her style can be compared to the likes of Tierra Whack and Rapsody as she raps with rhythm and precision over effortlessly chill beats. She began consistently releasing music in 2018 and has 17 singles available on Spotify. Although she has yet to drop an EP or album, her singles have been more than enough to get her noticed.   
Even fellow Florida rapper T-Pain came across two of her songs while on his Twitch livestream and loved them. The two songs T-Pain stumbled upon are some of her most popular to date. "Nah Nah" came out in 2018 and has over 11,000 listens on Spotify, while "Mmhmm" which debuted last year has over 7,000 streams.    
Sweet says "Nah Nah" is still her favorite song to date, adding that "The energy that track creates...people are always ready to scream back the hook! I love the fact that I have a song that can transcend over time. We have so many trendy, short-lived songs out today and that's dope—but for me, I'm blessed to say my music is more than that, does more than that."   
She doesn't have a project coming up yet, at least not at the moment, but Sweet's still been working at her craft everyday by "working on a lot of features, singles, and mini videos." She's also been performing all around Tampa Bay including local open mics.
Curtis Franklin
Nico Sweet

Sweet knows how to draw listeners in. Her style can be compared to the likes of Tierra Whack and Rapsody as she raps with rhythm and precision over effortlessly chill beats. She began consistently releasing music in 2018 and has 17 singles available on Spotify. Although she has yet to drop an EP or album, her singles have been more than enough to get her noticed.

Even fellow Florida rapper T-Pain came across two of her songs while on his Twitch livestream and loved them. The two songs T-Pain stumbled upon are some of her most popular to date. "Nah Nah" came out in 2018 and has over 11,000 listens on Spotify, while "Mmhmm" which debuted last year has over 7,000 streams.

Sweet says "Nah Nah" is still her favorite song to date, adding that "The energy that track creates...people are always ready to scream back the hook! I love the fact that I have a song that can transcend over time. We have so many trendy, short-lived songs out today and that's dope—but for me, I'm blessed to say my music is more than that, does more than that."

She doesn't have a project coming up yet, at least not at the moment, but Sweet's still been working at her craft everyday by "working on a lot of features, singles, and mini videos." She's also been performing all around Tampa Bay including local open mics.
Kent Loon   
Loon has an intriguing upbringing. Born in Bogota, Colombia to a Chinese father and Colombian mother, Loon ended up in St. Petersburg out of pure necessity. After his father's restaurant business began to take off, his family soon received violent threats from local guerilla fighters. Not wanting to risk it, a four-year-old Loon and his mother migrated to St. Pete. He didn't know any English at first but by the time he got to middle school he was rapping for fun. His initial introduction to U.S. culture was through Lil' Wayne music videos that would play on MTV and BET, starting a lifelong love of hip-hop. But it wasn't until he befriended fellow Tampa Bay artist Chester Watson in high school that he began to view music seriously.   
Watson is the founder of the Nü Age Syndicate, a group of hip hop artists that includes himself, Loon, and two others. Loon's first project, 2017's Stay Low, was largely produced by Watson, and saw him on a quarter of the songs. The two work impeccably together, complementing each other's energy and tone. For years after the debut, Loon released tons of singles, racking up plays on tracks like "Rome," which has over 1 million streams and sees him talking about his luxe lifestyle in his characteristic drowsy delivery. Another popular song, "Rax," off of his 2020 EP Endless Night," has been streamed more than 538,000 times.    
Loon's signature style—a nonchalant, vibey delivery over heavy bass-boosted beats—is at its best on his recently released debut album: Bittersweet. Released in October, the album includes 12 tracks, with features by Watson, but also by prominent hip hop artists such as Valee, 03 Greedo, and Yung Simmie. On "No Face," Loon hops on the mic confident and ready, spitting bars about jewelry, girls, cars, and his impact—typical trap shit, except Loon's delivery is undeniably his.   
His momentum will continue to roll as he has a deluxe version of Bittersweet scheduled for early this year, with some new features and tracks, plus an upcoming EP and a collab tape with Watson called Kush Hour. And don't miss the opportunity to see him live, as he's also planning a spring tour with his left-hand man, Watson.
nuagekent/Instagram
Kent Loon

Loon has an intriguing upbringing. Born in Bogota, Colombia to a Chinese father and Colombian mother, Loon ended up in St. Petersburg out of pure necessity. After his father's restaurant business began to take off, his family soon received violent threats from local guerilla fighters. Not wanting to risk it, a four-year-old Loon and his mother migrated to St. Pete. He didn't know any English at first but by the time he got to middle school he was rapping for fun. His initial introduction to U.S. culture was through Lil' Wayne music videos that would play on MTV and BET, starting a lifelong love of hip-hop. But it wasn't until he befriended fellow Tampa Bay artist Chester Watson in high school that he began to view music seriously.

Watson is the founder of the Nü Age Syndicate, a group of hip hop artists that includes himself, Loon, and two others. Loon's first project, 2017's Stay Low, was largely produced by Watson, and saw him on a quarter of the songs. The two work impeccably together, complementing each other's energy and tone. For years after the debut, Loon released tons of singles, racking up plays on tracks like "Rome," which has over 1 million streams and sees him talking about his luxe lifestyle in his characteristic drowsy delivery. Another popular song, "Rax," off of his 2020 EP Endless Night," has been streamed more than 538,000 times.

Loon's signature style—a nonchalant, vibey delivery over heavy bass-boosted beats—is at its best on his recently released debut album: Bittersweet. Released in October, the album includes 12 tracks, with features by Watson, but also by prominent hip hop artists such as Valee, 03 Greedo, and Yung Simmie. On "No Face," Loon hops on the mic confident and ready, spitting bars about jewelry, girls, cars, and his impact—typical trap shit, except Loon's delivery is undeniably his.

His momentum will continue to roll as he has a deluxe version of Bittersweet scheduled for early this year, with some new features and tracks, plus an upcoming EP and a collab tape with Watson called Kush Hour. And don't miss the opportunity to see him live, as he's also planning a spring tour with his left-hand man, Watson.
Junkyrd   
Not just a visual artist, Junkyrd is an all-around multidimensional talent. Whether he's creating album art for the likes of Pink Siifu, tattooing complex pieces at Tampa Tattoo Co. or crooning on layered tracks like "Save Me," it's downright impressive everytime.    
He first ventured into music in early 2021 when he released his EP Junktape 001. The tape only has two songs but within those six minutes, you'll encounter a experimental project that feels deeply intimate and passionate. There's a dreamy production on the first track, "Save Me," with Junkyrd rapping about how he's been there for others, while asking who'll be there for him. In the middle of the track a sample featuring a newsperson speaking about the CIA, LSD, and the Age of Aquarius fades in. Another dreamy looped beat pops on as Junkyrd continues to rap about family and hardships he's been through. On the second track, "Reasons," we get a moodier vibe as Junkyrd shows off his singing; on the second half of the song, he sings delicately against soft strums of a guitar. "I've got my lonely soul/ I'll find my way back home," he croons with a soft vulnerability. It feels personal, genuine, and spirited, all markings of a true artist.   
His most recent single, "Spice" debuted in October of last year, with some wonderful artwork to match. While staying true to the vulnerability and intimacy exhibited in his first two songs, "Spice" manages to give us something different at the same time. It's more upbeat, with longer verses from Junkyrd, who raps about his resiliency and carefree attitude. Junkyrd is preparing for a fruitful new year, sharing that he will be releasing some new projects soon.
Evan Cooper
Junkyrd

Not just a visual artist, Junkyrd is an all-around multidimensional talent. Whether he's creating album art for the likes of Pink Siifu, tattooing complex pieces at Tampa Tattoo Co. or crooning on layered tracks like "Save Me," it's downright impressive everytime.

He first ventured into music in early 2021 when he released his EP Junktape 001. The tape only has two songs but within those six minutes, you'll encounter a experimental project that feels deeply intimate and passionate. There's a dreamy production on the first track, "Save Me," with Junkyrd rapping about how he's been there for others, while asking who'll be there for him. In the middle of the track a sample featuring a newsperson speaking about the CIA, LSD, and the Age of Aquarius fades in. Another dreamy looped beat pops on as Junkyrd continues to rap about family and hardships he's been through. On the second track, "Reasons," we get a moodier vibe as Junkyrd shows off his singing; on the second half of the song, he sings delicately against soft strums of a guitar. "I've got my lonely soul/ I'll find my way back home," he croons with a soft vulnerability. It feels personal, genuine, and spirited, all markings of a true artist.

His most recent single, "Spice" debuted in October of last year, with some wonderful artwork to match. While staying true to the vulnerability and intimacy exhibited in his first two songs, "Spice" manages to give us something different at the same time. It's more upbeat, with longer verses from Junkyrd, who raps about his resiliency and carefree attitude. Junkyrd is preparing for a fruitful new year, sharing that he will be releasing some new projects soon.
Gat$   
Having endured many difficulties and challenges in his life, he just wants to rap about shit that matters. His style and lyrical content has made him well-known in not just the 813, but in all of Florida and even beyond. He's played nine stadium shows, having taken the stage for Rolling Loud in Miami, Oakland, and even New York.   
Gat$ has been creating music since at least 2016 and has yet to back down from talking about controversial topics. He routinely spits his thoughts on politics, social issues, systemic racism, and more. But that's not all the MC has to say: he's also vulnerable about his own thoughts and experiences. Having endured pain in his life, he has come to use music as his solace. In 2020, right before the pandemic hit, Gat$' older brother died from a heart attack. The two were very close, with his brother even lending his voice to Gat$' 2020 album Robbers. He says that album is still his favorite to date: "That was really a passion project with a lot of collaboration; and it was the last one my older brother was alive for and it means a lot to have his voice on it."   
Robbed is a deep and emotional record that confronts his own trauma as well as societal trauma head on. On tracks like "Human," Gat$ accepts his vulnerable position with ease, rapping "I ain't real, I'm just human." He's unlike other artists in the way that he allows himself to just genuinely be, without the fake "hard" exterior or the flashy items in the way.    
Fans looking for more of Gat$ won't have to wait too long. Three separate projects in the works for 2022, including a collab with producer Jordan Patrick and a follow-up to Robbed.
Bernard Alexander
Gat$

Having endured many difficulties and challenges in his life, he just wants to rap about shit that matters. His style and lyrical content has made him well-known in not just the 813, but in all of Florida and even beyond. He's played nine stadium shows, having taken the stage for Rolling Loud in Miami, Oakland, and even New York.

Gat$ has been creating music since at least 2016 and has yet to back down from talking about controversial topics. He routinely spits his thoughts on politics, social issues, systemic racism, and more. But that's not all the MC has to say: he's also vulnerable about his own thoughts and experiences. Having endured pain in his life, he has come to use music as his solace. In 2020, right before the pandemic hit, Gat$' older brother died from a heart attack. The two were very close, with his brother even lending his voice to Gat$' 2020 album Robbers. He says that album is still his favorite to date: "That was really a passion project with a lot of collaboration; and it was the last one my older brother was alive for and it means a lot to have his voice on it."

Robbed is a deep and emotional record that confronts his own trauma as well as societal trauma head on. On tracks like "Human," Gat$ accepts his vulnerable position with ease, rapping "I ain't real, I'm just human." He's unlike other artists in the way that he allows himself to just genuinely be, without the fake "hard" exterior or the flashy items in the way.

Fans looking for more of Gat$ won't have to wait too long. Three separate projects in the works for 2022, including a collab with producer Jordan Patrick and a follow-up to Robbed.
Vern Senior   
Senior is known not just an artist but also a producer and a sound engineer—and he's more than familiar with how to assemble a repeat-worthy track. He's been on the Tampa music scene since at least 2016, collabing with fellow local hip hop artists Mike Mass and Stoney Hoop, and dropping a few EPs and collab tapes along the way. His biggest endeavor yet was releasing two albums simultaneously in March of 2021: Vern De La Rosa parts I and II.   
He's not one to shy away from experimental beats, evident on tracks like "Darkside Moon," where a beat reminiscent of "Planet Rock's" futuristic spacey vibes is apparent. On "Get Yo Life" an infectious beat provides an ideal backdrop for Senior's boastful raps about living his life carefree and trying to find someone who can keep up with him.    
In 2019, Senior dropped a four-track tape called Yeadillac (Prelude) which featured old school vibes and chill beats. For summer 2022, Senior has plans to drop a follow-up, Yeadillac, which he says will be his "magnum opus."
Erika Schnur
Vern Senior

Senior is known not just an artist but also a producer and a sound engineer—and he's more than familiar with how to assemble a repeat-worthy track. He's been on the Tampa music scene since at least 2016, collabing with fellow local hip hop artists Mike Mass and Stoney Hoop, and dropping a few EPs and collab tapes along the way. His biggest endeavor yet was releasing two albums simultaneously in March of 2021: Vern De La Rosa parts I and II.

He's not one to shy away from experimental beats, evident on tracks like "Darkside Moon," where a beat reminiscent of "Planet Rock's" futuristic spacey vibes is apparent. On "Get Yo Life" an infectious beat provides an ideal backdrop for Senior's boastful raps about living his life carefree and trying to find someone who can keep up with him.

In 2019, Senior dropped a four-track tape called Yeadillac (Prelude) which featured old school vibes and chill beats. For summer 2022, Senior has plans to drop a follow-up, Yeadillac, which he says will be his "magnum opus."
Young 40   
Bringing "Cali Vibes" to the Sunshine State. With a poetic flow and sunny beats, 40's music has managed to snag the hearts of over 19,000 listeners, who tune in to his music monthly. At 19 years old, 40 says his life changed drastically when he found a loved one lifeless. This prompted him to take on a new perspective on life and his moving and heartfelt music soon followed.    
His lyrics paint pictures and help you to visualize what he's feeling and the scene he's trying to set. A great example of this is on "Blink," 40's favorite and biggest song to date (391,000-plus streams on Spotify, over 36,000 views on YouTube). He talks about life and how it can be cruel sometimes, sharing examples from his personal life. "Baby don't forget to breathe/ It's a f*cked up world, hope it change when you blink," he says in the song's chorus.    
"I recorded that song in 2018 and I'm thankful I held onto it until December 2020.  I knew what I was holding was special and I'm most proud of that," 40 says. As for what's up next for the laidback rapper, he says an EP is on the way very soon.
young40music/Facebook
Young 40

Bringing "Cali Vibes" to the Sunshine State. With a poetic flow and sunny beats, 40's music has managed to snag the hearts of over 19,000 listeners, who tune in to his music monthly. At 19 years old, 40 says his life changed drastically when he found a loved one lifeless. This prompted him to take on a new perspective on life and his moving and heartfelt music soon followed.

His lyrics paint pictures and help you to visualize what he's feeling and the scene he's trying to set. A great example of this is on "Blink," 40's favorite and biggest song to date (391,000-plus streams on Spotify, over 36,000 views on YouTube). He talks about life and how it can be cruel sometimes, sharing examples from his personal life. "Baby don't forget to breathe/ It's a f*cked up world, hope it change when you blink," he says in the song's chorus.

"I recorded that song in 2018 and I'm thankful I held onto it until December 2020. I knew what I was holding was special and I'm most proud of that," 40 says. As for what's up next for the laidback rapper, he says an EP is on the way very soon.
TTE Truth   
TTE Truth is about to make radio's next hit. With witty delivery, jazzy beats, and catchy flows, Truth knows how to construct a song that will stay on repeat in your head. Having released his first single in 2019, this artist is steadily on the rise, with stand-out singles like "Golden" and "Faith." His 2019 debut Da Truth Hurts was followed up by Nothing But Da Truth. Released on Dec. 17, the project features not just smooth tracks like "Down Tonight," where Truth raps about being grateful for life but also more upbeat hitters like "Liberty" where he spits about his upbringing in Tampa and navigating the challenges he faces as a Black man in the U.S. Truth says he has some projects and performances in the works.
lvalionlva/Instagram
TTE Truth

TTE Truth is about to make radio's next hit. With witty delivery, jazzy beats, and catchy flows, Truth knows how to construct a song that will stay on repeat in your head. Having released his first single in 2019, this artist is steadily on the rise, with stand-out singles like "Golden" and "Faith." His 2019 debut Da Truth Hurts was followed up by Nothing But Da Truth. Released on Dec. 17, the project features not just smooth tracks like "Down Tonight," where Truth raps about being grateful for life but also more upbeat hitters like "Liberty" where he spits about his upbringing in Tampa and navigating the challenges he faces as a Black man in the U.S. Truth says he has some projects and performances in the works.
Vinny Virgo   
This Friday, Vinny Virgo plays one of the most anticipated hip-hop shows of the year, and we're willing to bet that his new album, Thank You For the Inconvenience, will be pouring out of speakers well into 2023. Initially fascinated by both Kanye and Radiohead, Virgo's new album similarly leaps from away from categorization while also hanging onto old tenets of storytelling made famous by groups like Main Source; elsewhere it channels some of Virgo's other influences (Lil' Wayne, Andre 3000, Mos Def). Inconvenience is the most hands-on he's been on an album, with Virgo even adopting the "Pigsonvinyl" producer moniker while he spent three months in London working on the album. Virgo told CL that he's immensely proud to have worked with select producers (Bridget Perez, ORC, Nige) and engineers (Pirate Studios, Adrian Rice of the Mint Room) to complete a project of this scale without a management team or label to get them over the finish line. In the coming months, Virgo is working on a short film, production placements, NFTs and a lot of new production as Pigsonvinyl.—Ray Roa
hydreams/Instagram
Vinny Virgo

This Friday, Vinny Virgo plays one of the most anticipated hip-hop shows of the year, and we're willing to bet that his new album, Thank You For the Inconvenience, will be pouring out of speakers well into 2023. Initially fascinated by both Kanye and Radiohead, Virgo's new album similarly leaps from away from categorization while also hanging onto old tenets of storytelling made famous by groups like Main Source; elsewhere it channels some of Virgo's other influences (Lil' Wayne, Andre 3000, Mos Def). Inconvenience is the most hands-on he's been on an album, with Virgo even adopting the "Pigsonvinyl" producer moniker while he spent three months in London working on the album. Virgo told CL that he's immensely proud to have worked with select producers (Bridget Perez, ORC, Nige) and engineers (Pirate Studios, Adrian Rice of the Mint Room) to complete a project of this scale without a management team or label to get them over the finish line. In the coming months, Virgo is working on a short film, production placements, NFTs and a lot of new production as Pigsonvinyl.—Ray Roa
Pusha Preme   
On Sunday, you can see Pusha Preme twice—at a daytime Tampa Sneaker Convention near Town 'n' Country and again that evening at a warehouse party. If you haven't seen him before, get ready to play catch up. Every artist on this list works hard, but Pusha might have them all beat, and the elbow grease—including early sets at long-gone St. Pete DIY stronghold Venture Compound—paid off last spring when Money In the Grave, a compilation featuring the Preme track "Heaven At Night" peaked at no. 18 on Billboard's compilation albums chart. Last fall, Preme made a packed amphitheatre at Gasparilla Music Festival fall in love with his radio-ready melodic rap that's unafraid to go hard when it needs to.—RR
Marlo Miller c/o Gasparilla Music Festival
Pusha Preme

On Sunday, you can see Pusha Preme twice—at a daytime Tampa Sneaker Convention near Town 'n' Country and again that evening at a warehouse party. If you haven't seen him before, get ready to play catch up. Every artist on this list works hard, but Pusha might have them all beat, and the elbow grease—including early sets at long-gone St. Pete DIY stronghold Venture Compound—paid off last spring when Money In the Grave, a compilation featuring the Preme track "Heaven At Night" peaked at no. 18 on Billboard's compilation albums chart. Last fall, Preme made a packed amphitheatre at Gasparilla Music Festival fall in love with his radio-ready melodic rap that's unafraid to go hard when it needs to.—RR
Asaru   
DJ Sandman is undoubtedly a gateway into the local rap scene, but even the godfather of Tampa hip-hop needs an assist sometimes. That's what Sandman got from another emcee, Dynasty, when she hipped him to a gifted emcee still too young to get into a club show. Still, Asaru possessed a natural stage presence uncommon for someone his age. A true MC, Bronx-born Asaru writes from the heart and puts messages into all of his music. Sandman believes in Asauru's head-nodding, melodic rhymes so much that he's signed to the DJ's Illsboro label, which just released a new album, All Praises Due.—RR
c/o Illsboro Records
Asaru

DJ Sandman is undoubtedly a gateway into the local rap scene, but even the godfather of Tampa hip-hop needs an assist sometimes. That's what Sandman got from another emcee, Dynasty, when she hipped him to a gifted emcee still too young to get into a club show. Still, Asaru possessed a natural stage presence uncommon for someone his age. A true MC, Bronx-born Asaru writes from the heart and puts messages into all of his music. Sandman believes in Asauru's head-nodding, melodic rhymes so much that he's signed to the DJ's Illsboro label, which just released a new album, All Praises Due.—RR
Perception   
There's something special happening at Ybor City's Five 5 Studio (home to a 22 in '22 rapper Gat$, and Sam E Hues who arguably could've been on this list, too), and we're willing to bet that Perception is a part of it. His peers say there might not be a harder worker in the studio, whether it's his own project or someone else's on the clock. With a tough, laser-cut sound that can marry new jack swing to east coast aesthetics ("Audio Suitcase," "Balance"), Perception is poised to catch more ears in 2022 but also do his best to elevate everyone else around him at the same time.—RR
Daryl Bowen c/o Gasparilla Music Festival
Perception

There's something special happening at Ybor City's Five 5 Studio (home to a 22 in '22 rapper Gat$, and Sam E Hues who arguably could've been on this list, too), and we're willing to bet that Perception is a part of it. His peers say there might not be a harder worker in the studio, whether it's his own project or someone else's on the clock. With a tough, laser-cut sound that can marry new jack swing to east coast aesthetics ("Audio Suitcase," "Balance"), Perception is poised to catch more ears in 2022 but also do his best to elevate everyone else around him at the same time.—RR
They Hate Change   
When it comes to big news, no Bay area act had more to share than They Hate Change. After cutting their teeth in the DIY scene, Vonne and Dre eschewed traditional label deals to sign with indie stalwart Jagjaguwar, former home of Small Black, Bon Iver, Dinosaur Jr. plus dozens of others. The duo's love for Chicago footwork, ambient music and pull-no-punches lyrics has been on full display in a run of new singles ("1000 Horses," "Faux Leather"), and They Hate Change is booked on a North American tour with Shame, plus L.A.'s This Ain't No Picnic music festival along with The Strokes, Phoebe Bridgers, Kaytranada and more.—RR
George Goldberg
They Hate Change

When it comes to big news, no Bay area act had more to share than They Hate Change. After cutting their teeth in the DIY scene, Vonne and Dre eschewed traditional label deals to sign with indie stalwart Jagjaguwar, former home of Small Black, Bon Iver, Dinosaur Jr. plus dozens of others. The duo's love for Chicago footwork, ambient music and pull-no-punches lyrics has been on full display in a run of new singles ("1000 Horses," "Faux Leather"), and They Hate Change is booked on a North American tour with Shame, plus L.A.'s This Ain't No Picnic music festival along with The Strokes, Phoebe Bridgers, Kaytranada and more.—RR
Tom G   
Can you even have a list of Tampa rappers without Tom G on it? In 2004, the Blake High grad put Hillsborough County on the map with a club anthem "City Boy Wit It" that would have 100% gone absolutely viral had it been released in the TikTok era. Timing was never an obstacle for Tom G, however, as evidenced by appearances opening the 2019 BET awards and a loyal following that's picked up copies of his new book "Process & Purpose: Lesson Of An Underground Legend"—RR
TomG_813/Twitter
Tom G

Can you even have a list of Tampa rappers without Tom G on it? In 2004, the Blake High grad put Hillsborough County on the map with a club anthem "City Boy Wit It" that would have 100% gone absolutely viral had it been released in the TikTok era. Timing was never an obstacle for Tom G, however, as evidenced by appearances opening the 2019 BET awards and a loyal following that's picked up copies of his new book "Process & Purpose: Lesson Of An Underground Legend"—RR
Queen of Ex   
Like Mike Mass, Queen of Ex doesn't have a lot of recorded material online, but has cemented her place in Tampa hip-hop history on the back of a fierce live show and dynamic lyricism that makes you feel bad for anyone who has to hit the stage after the Queen—often backed by drummer Roger Lanfranchi—is done with it. Born to a drummer/guitarist father and music-loving mom, the Queen's been delivering ​​Black Thought,  Wu-Tang and  Lox-like rhymes since the early-'90s when she first jumped into neighborhood cyphers.—RR
Michael M. Sinclair
Queen of Ex

Like Mike Mass, Queen of Ex doesn't have a lot of recorded material online, but has cemented her place in Tampa hip-hop history on the back of a fierce live show and dynamic lyricism that makes you feel bad for anyone who has to hit the stage after the Queen—often backed by drummer Roger Lanfranchi—is done with it. Born to a drummer/guitarist father and music-loving mom, the Queen's been delivering ​​Black Thought, Wu-Tang and Lox-like rhymes since the early-'90s when she first jumped into neighborhood cyphers.—RR
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