Following on from the success of the first ever Raw Side Hip Hop Awards last year, we’ve been working diligently to bring you the 2021 instalment – and it’s been one HELL of a process. Last year saw some incredible hip hop music being delivered and that trend continued this year. Standing on the shoulders of giants, over 500+ albums / EP’s / projects were in the mix before we narrowed down the DOPE ASS DOZEN. Those were the 12 nominees for the 12 categories and you can peep that article here if you haven’t already.
But, having been able to show love to so many hip hop artists throughout the year, and to be able to narrow that down to just the nominees was only half of the battle. The next step was to determine just one winner in each category to be etched in the winners list for the Raw Side Hip Hop Awards 2021. Hip hop heads and artists know just how hard this is…. it’s a dope field, everyone is talented AF but we gotta get out there and make the tough calls! We trawled through our comments and posts on all social media accounts, we worked behind the scenes with our scoring spreadsheets using the same criteria that was established last year and now we can finally share the results.
Props to each and everyone repping the hip hop culture right now. There is a real comradery among most artists, plenty of collaborative efforts taking place and of course a heap of fans, groups, pages and sites who are celebrating the artists that the mainstream ignore. These awards are for all of us, they’re for the culture. So without further ado, let’s get to it! (Gentle reminder to acknowledge our awards are from November – November to allow time for these write ups and for the nominees and winners to get their shine within the calendar year)
ALBUM ART OF THE YEAR
Rigz x Futurewave – Substance Abuse
This is one epic piece of album art and the detail within, just adds that extra layer to the overall product. The album titles is hidden away in there, as are previous albums and projects and it’s all delivered in a super crisp manner. The hip hop meets comic-book artistry is something to really appreciate and enjoy.
VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Mount Westmore – Big Subwoofer
These ‘old heads’ are nothing new to the game but as a unit, they needed to really push the envelope and they did that with their stage presence but also through this incredible film clip for Big Subwoofer. There are so many elements of this video that are dope and it’s easy when you have a mega budget no doubt, but the quality and the tributes to some sci-fi classics like Star Wars, Total Recall, Mandalorian and many more, gives this one the nod.
DJ OF THE YEAR
How you can deliver such incredible work time and time again and be underrated is criminal, but Tone Spliff has been giving hip hop heads some of the best beats / cuts / scratches and features for the past couple of years. He has worked with some incredible artists and we are seeing a move within the culture to really start listing the producers and DJs as features so he won’t be underrated for long.
COLLAB OF THE YEAR
Rome Streetz x Ransom – Coup De Grace
It was really hard to go past this pairing. While the album Coup De Grace was always going to be eagerly anticipated, the build up from hip hop heads was huge. When you get arguably two of the best and hottest spitters in the game paired up and delivering a collab jawn on the back of extremely superb individual releases it needed to be something special. And it was. Beats were well delivered and the bars were white hot.
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
Having won the inaugural Producer of the Year award, Stu Bangas has backed up his 2020 title by taking it out once more in an even stronger field! This year we have seen / heard some brilliant work on the boards, but Stu Bangas (and his son, shout out to Young Bangas!) has this ability to carefully craft hard hitting beats that really work for whoever he gets them to. He also pushed the envelope with a number of his production credits and hip hop fans everywhere have enjoyed his work.
DUO / GROUP OF THE YEAR
The Grimewav crew deserve this award not just because of their versatility and body of work, but because they are a family. A movement. This is the modern day Wu or Lox kinda deal as each emcee brings their own unique style, flow and character to the crew. They dropped ‘Clockwork’ which was an underground masterpiece and numerous individual albums, EP’s, features and collaborative projects. Grimewav is in the midst of one hell of a takeover.
BEAT OF THE YEAR
Big Ghost LTD – “Kill All Rats” (Conway the Machine – If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed)
This is some kind of track. The song overall has arguably a number of the best verses of the year, but what Big Ghost LTD laced Conway with here was exceptional. It was dark, gritty, and that sunken reverb and guitar was a monster. Every time this track was played, a stankface was made and that is courtesy of Big Ghost LTD. The layers on this were well produced, well delivered and it crafted the perfect hip hop soundtrack for 2021.
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Ransom has an almost unrivalled work ethic. From his own projects, to his guest verses, Ransom was everywhere over the past 12 months and there was nothing mailed in. There were the Crime Scene projects with Nicholas Craven, his Se7en project, his collab with Big Ghost Ltd on ‘Heavy is the Head’ and of course the collab with Rome Streetz on ‘Coup De Grace’. It was a tough call and there were a number of artists who were as proficient and as stellar, but it was Ransom’s year.
LYRICIST OF THE YEAR
Lyrics have always been one of the most revered and respected elements of hip hop, and in 2021, that bar was raised across the board. Some of the very best wordplay has been delivered in the past twelve months, as we are getting back to the golden age of ‘lyrics matter’. Ransom has it all – the razor sharp pen, the depth and substance in his rhymes and the witty, clever wordplay that makes you shake your head.
SONG OF THE YEAR
Westside Gunn feat. Benny the Butcher & Conway the Machine – Hell on Earth, Pt.2
This is simply an iconic track. The new street style mixed with the 90’s golden era street style. Mobb Deep and Griselda would form the ultimate supergroup if our man Prodigy was still around, and the ability to recreate a vibe without it coming off as biting AND while making it modern and unique is something. Credit not just to Griselda who absolutely make a heat seeker with this joint, but to Sovren who produced one epic track for the Buffalo mic bullies to flow over.
VERSE OF THE YEAR
Black Thought – ‘When We Move’ (Common – A Beautiful Revolution 2)
You can’t talk lyrics or ‘best verses’ without Black Thought’s name coming up. While he wasn’t as prolific this year, he certainly continued to deliver razor sharp bars with surgical precision. His feature on Common’s track “When We Move” was nothing short of exceptional and is why it got the nod over some incredibly gifted verses and features of the past year.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Rikers Island Boxing School (Spit Gemz x Eff Yoo) – R.I.B.S
Spit Gemz and Eff Yoo teamed up to form Rikers Island Boxing School and they did so with damaging effect. Having two incredible emcees with such chemistry work together to sharpen each others bars, was akin to sparring with world champions. The result was the self titled project that featured track like ‘Martha‘ and ‘Ice Sculptures‘ among many others. This was a no skip album that raised the bar. The whole vibe from start to finish kept you hooked and immersed in the project, and it also separated itself through the varied production and moving in a slightly different lane to a lot of the boom bap, coke rap, dark street production other albums found success with. And for that, it is our Album of the Year.
Once again, we’d like to thank all those within the hip hop culture who are supporting and celebrating Raw Side Hip Hop, but each other as well. These awards only seek to highlight some of the exceptional hip hop being crafted and created by some very talented artists right now. Well done to all nominees and all winners, and we look forward to another year of dope music, dope coverage and your incredible support. PEACE!