9 Artists Putting Austin Hip Hop on the Map

by Nick Hanover

Austin hip hop

Back in August, the Austin Chronicle put Quin NFN, The Teeta and Kenny Gee (now rebranded as WhooKilledKenny) on the cover, declaring the trio “the next generation of Austin hip hop,” celebrating them for their style and commercial prospects, as well as their ability to foster a scene of their own outside of the traditional Austin music community. This week, the top tastemakers at Pitchfork picked up that story, singling out Quin while offering a surface level exploration of Austin’s “emerging rap scene.” While the Pitchfork coverage is a major break for Austin hip hop, it barely scratched the surface of the exciting new wave of Austin hip hop acts, primarily sticking to other artists within that core trio’s community, and notably neglected to mention a single woman. This is why we’ve decided to offer up a primer of our own, adding to the artists the Chronicle and Pitchfork already mentioned in order to provide what we hope is a fuller overview of what has become one of the most exciting and diverse realms of Austin music, complete with a Spotify playlist for further exploration. 

LNS Crew

Comprised of Kydd JonesTank Washington, Cory Kendrix and producer Haris Qureshi, LNS Crew is one of the most promising collectives in Austin music period, taking a Wu-Tang approach to their careers as they join forces on group releases as well as solo material and side projects. Kydd is the most visible of the crew, a combination of RZA and Ghostface Killah, popping up on high profile tours with Chuck D and others, while churning out a remarkable amount of production work of his own. Tank occupies the Raekwon slot with incredibly strong, narrative driven solo albums while Kendrix, now based out of Denver, has evolved into a surprisingly adept electro R&B singer, consistently releasing solo material that positions him somewhere between Frank Ocean and the Weeknd. And Qureshi has become one of the most in demand producers in the city, providing beats for SertifiedAnastasia and outsiders like the LA-based Ike. With their ability to straddle classic and modern styles, LNS are perfectly situated for a major breakout.


Speaking of Anastasia (fka Anya), the absurdly talented emcee is long overdue for Pitchfork level coverage. With her bold style and unapologetically radical lyrics, Anastasia is in many ways a perfect foil for the hypermasculine club rap scene Pitchfork chose to single out. Equally capable of working in a throwback boom bap aesthetic, like last year’s “Capitol Bells” single, as she is with more synth and hook driven rap, such as on the superb “Black Girl,” Anastasia is a versatile and ambitious artist who has won over local critics and audiences at major festivals like SXSWSound on Sound and more. Listeners looking for the next Noname in particular should tune in.

Magna Carda

If you ask Austin audiences who comes to mind first when defining Austin hip hop, a large portion of them would likely respond “Magna Carda.” Austin’s answer to the Roots have built up a major fanbase both in the city and abroad with their thrilling live shows, an unrivaled combination of finely honed instrumental chops and verbal daredevilry courtesy of Megz Kelli. But as recent tracks like “Joccin'” prove, Dougie Do’s production is the group’s secret weapon, as likely to surprise you with sinister synth detours as it is to comfort you with jazzy expressionism. Perhaps more than any other local act, Magna Carda is the finest example of this city’s cornucopia of sounds.


The Blackillac moniker may be new but its core members Zeale and Phranchyze are longstanding veterans of Austin hip hop who have individually been held up as the next big things several times over in their careers. But Blackillac is the clearest distillation of their talents, pairing their unrivaled freestyle hardened flows with a radio ready sound that never forgets to bring the hooks. The recent “Pull Up” even partnered them with Zeale’s punk leaning project Blastfamous USA for an explosive single right in time for midterm elections, but it’s the hypnotic “Tesla” that perhaps best represents what makes Blackillac so irresistible– cheeky repartee between two of the most skilled emcees in the game over a devastating earworm of a beat.

Max Wells

Like Quin NFN, Max Wells is an incredibly ambitious and stylish young artist willing to do whatever it takes to make it big. Unlike Quin, though, Max Wells took the additional step of relocating to LA, where he has been merging the melodic club rap sound he perfected in Austin with increasingly more electro leaning production. Last year’s ThinkTooMuch EP was his big Austin sendoff, with standout single “Guidance” showcasing the dark, almost post-punk textures that made Max Wells stand out from Austin’s too frequently derivative trap hopefuls. But since the LA move, Wells has expanded his sonic palette to include more California sun, as is the case on his current, aptly named Soundcloud hit “Fantasy.” Austin has been dealing with California expats trying to take over our city for years, it’s about time one of our own went and did the opposite.

Abhi the Nomad

Finding success as an artist is never a matter of just making good music. The right story often opens more doors than musical ability, particularly when it comes to media attention. Luckily Abhi the Nomad has both nailed down. The Tommy Boy signed soon-to-be-star landed ample coverage towards the beginning of the year with his heartbreaking and topical story, concerning his need to be successful not just for the standard economic reasons, but in order to be allowed to stay in the country he called home through the fittingly labeled “Einstein visa.” Dan Solomon’s profile on the Indian born rapper, published amidst a breakout SXSW tour, paved the way for flattering coverage in national outlets like the Daily Dot as well as a coveted Daytrotter session. But even without the hook of his personal journey, Abhi was more than deserving of attention– “Sex n’ Drugs” is a blissful and charming slacker anthem, while tracks like “Guacamole” allow Abhi to showcase his flow and self-deprecating humor along with his vocal skills. Meanwhile, the mammoth “Somebody to Love” proves Abhi has a strong chance of being one of the rarest of Austin exports– a bonafide pop star.

Riders Against the Storm

It would be unreasonable to talk about the “next generation of hip hop” Chronicle cover without mentioning the fact that Riders Against the Storm landed a historic three straight band of the year wins at the Austin Music Awards yet have never been given a cover. The colorful and populist duo have been a major live attraction in Austin for years, particularly with their regular Body Rock events with DJ Chorizo Funk, yet for whatever reason the Chronicle has continuously overlooked them. Nonetheless, the duo persists with a steady stream of singles ranging from the ass shaking (perfectly titled standby “Booty Sweat”) to the ferocious (“Bulletproof“) to the surreal (Talking Heads flip “Same“). RAS may be perennial underdogs but what’s more Austin than being weirdo outsiders?

Mindz of a Different Kind

Like LNS Crew, Mindz of a Different Kind have found strength in numbers, coming together as a collective to release albums as MDK while also helping each other with various side projects, including the new transcontinental supergroup ByPassUnlike LNS, MDK’s music skews towards the cerebral and political, with last year’s laudable Borderlinez specifically examining the impact Austin’s changing landscape has on its own diversity. But tracks like “Go On and Cry” from 2016’s Foursight show the group is more than capable of crafting addictive, hard hitting singles you can listen to over and over. MDK are a quintessentially Austin act, holding court in the realm between the city’s turbulent past, awkward present and hopeful future.


If I was forced to pick a single artist that represented all facets of Austin hip hop, it would without a doubt be Sertified. A personable and charismatic presence who can morph into an absolute beast without breaking a sweat, Sertified is the secret MVP of Austin hip hop, embraced equally by the club rap usurpers and the hardcore traditionalists. Last year’s See Ya Soon mostly worked at building up Sertified’s pop potential, with moments like “On the Go” making a case for Sertified being the 21st century Austinite take on Biggie Smalls, the groundwork for which was established back on 2013’s more rugged, Kydd co-starring “Where I Live.” But Sertified is at his best when he’s in beast mode with a dusty, barbwire sharp beat backing him up, as on all-time classic “Back 2 the Block.” Austin hip hop has a multitude of faces but its big beating heart is Sertified.


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Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at  Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover