Florida rap is having a resurgence. Whether it be through Kodak Black’s somber street tales or Denzel Curry’s galactic phonk, the Gunshine State is undergoing a renewal of musical spirit the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the late 2000s. That period found Rick Ross revitalizing the state’s rap scene with songs like “Hustler” and “Push It,” though he was simply the latest in a long line of rappers who helped bring fame to the peninsula.
Florida’s rich rap lineage stretches back to the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Uncle Luke and 2 Live Crew were Banned in the U.S.A., DJ Magic Mike was a “Speaker Terror Upper” and Uncle Al was Comin Thru. While giving birth to key regional acts like Poison Clan and MC Shy D, the defining Miami Bass sound soon gave way to the gangster leanings of Trick Daddy, who helped establish Slip-N-Slide Records as Florida’s premier record label in the late 1990s. That label would eventually turn other local acts like Trina, Plies and Rozay into national stars, while producers like the Drum Majorz crew, headed by Gorilla Tek, helped shape a modern new sound for the state.
Bruno Mali Kidd
Notable songs: “Golden Bottle Boys,” “Fly,” “HA”
Sounds like: The heartfelt delivery of Lil B with more lyrical focus.
Why you need to know him: It’s amazing Bruno Mali Kidd isn’t bigger than he is by now. He seems prepackaged for underground rap heads, complete with an emotional side that makes him more than a technical MC. Born in the Bahamas but raised in Lil Haiti, he has a worldliness about him that other Florida rappers might lack, and though he’s been widely ignored by media, his latest single “HA,” modeled after Juvenile’s classic, might finally break him into the blogosphere. He’s even been featured on the latest mixtapes from Zoey Dollaz and Ace Hood, signaling his burgeoning popularity.
Notable songs: “Full Metal,” Kill Bill,” “Don’t You Copy 2?
Sounds like: What Lil Ugly Mane wanted to be.
Why you need to know him: Like Denzel Curry, Simmie is a Raider Klan alum, and like SpaceGhostPurrp, he’s got a heavy Three 6 Mafia influence. But while Curry’s a rapid spitter, Simmie tends to lock into one deadpan flow and, minus a digression here and there, ride it out, creating a polyrthymic effect with his cadence against the beat. He’s been steadily building a loyal fanbase for years, and with the consistency of tape’s like 2015’s Yung Smokey and this year’s Simmie Season, he’s gaining listeners with every new song he drops.
Ice Billion Berg
Notable songs: “Don’t Fuck With Me,” “I Get So High,” “Dat Thang”
Sounds like: Underground MMG.
Why you need to know him: Ice Berg is probably the most established artist on this list. Around 2007, he joined Trick Daddy’s Dunk Ryders under Cash Money, but once they left C.M., Billion was at odd with Trick’s brother Charles Young Jr. and soon parted ways with the team. Since then, he’s blazed his own path, surviving with support from the streets despite being ignored by radio. His catalog is sprawling and he’s never compromised his sound, continuously gaining steam by staying true to a style that’s lyrically dense but accessible enough to have wide appeal. He was in negotiations with MMG for a deal at one point, and though it would make sense in terms of sound, he’s doing just fine with his own Live House movement these days.
Notable songs: “Shone,” “My Tears,” “I’m the Shit”
Sounds like: Z-Ro.
Why you need to know him: Ball Greezy’s been doing his thing for nearly a decade, garnering respect from as wide a range of rappers as Rick Ross and Flo Rida. His style is a gutter one, spouting from pain with a singing voice that’s used at just the right moments. “Shone” is his biggest moment to date, but his 2015 EP, Feel My Pain, was lowkey one of the strongest releases of the year, striking the balance between grit and vulnerability.