Italy is a beautiful, young (in terms of history) country with a lot of problems, run by old people.
It is currently undergoing a fragile, divisive political situation that sees young people fighting for their future against those who are desperately fearful of change, trying to chain themselves to the past.
All of these political issues have rarely been the direct subject of Italian hip-hop lyrics, but rappers have often included the personal struggles they had to go through because of certain political trends, such as living in crime-ridden council estates or being targeted by different forms of discrimination.
Italian Hip-Hop was born in the ‘90s. Rappers like Bassi Maestro, Kaos One and Neffa were among the first ones to produce Italian rapped records for the underground scene. Others, like Jovanotti and Articolo 31 were more successful at translating this genre of music for the bigger public and obtained a considerable amount of success with their rap debuts.
The Hip-Hop heads, however, knew that a great price would have had to be paid for the “success” of these commercial rappers: Italian people never truly learned or understood the history and culture behind black music, thus affecting the career of all the rappers that came after, in the new millennium.
The biggest rap names of the 2000s, like Fabri Fibra and Marracash, often had to fight with their labels to prove that their lyrics and music would have found success among the many ignored hip-hop fans of the “bel paese” (appellative for Italy, meaning the “beautiful country” in Italian).
Luckily, the newest generations steadily embraced the sounds of a world-conquering genre, and a great number of young rappers have since populated the Italian Hip-Hop scene.
This has forced the fat cats at the top of the pop market and mainstream radios to turn their heads to rappers in the attempt to understand their culture (and to profit off their groundbreaking success).
Trap stars like Sfera Ebbasta, Capo Plaza and Guè Pequeno have since toured all over Europe and collaborated with the likes of Quavo, Tinie Tempah and Rich the Kid.
An important movement of second-generation immigrant rappers has increased cultural diversity in Italy with ties to foreign languages and countries like Tunisia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
To almost unanimous consensus, Fabri Fibra is considered the best Italian rapper ever both for his rap versatility, thought-provoking lyrics and longevity (15 years of career at the top). He’s celebrated and well respected from both mainstream and underground hip-hop fans.
He’s considered by many as the Italian Eminem for his introspective and often psychotic lyrics. Never holding anything back, he spoke to the hearts of many teenagers around the country who needed to hear an uncompromised voice of anger, sadness and success.
Maurizio Pisciottu, a.k.a. Salmo, is Italy’s most successful rapper. He is the reason I started listening to Italian Hip-Hop in the first place.
He is also the only one who was able to come out of the Pop-Rap wave of the 2010s thanks to his magnetic online presence and with the efforts of a solid crew made of rappers, DJs, video makers and graphic artists. He was the first rapper to cross-over genres with dubstep and metal and the first to perform with a full rock band on stage.
Personally, I feel like his music has failed at keeping the bar high in recent years, but the numbers say the opposite: his last album went triple platinum in less than a year.
One of the most groundbreaking talents from the young core of Italian rappers, Tedua is a feisty and energetic voice of intricate, off-beat Hip-Hop. Son of a complicated family background, he grew up between the palm trees of the Genoese coast and the fat skyscrapers of Milan’s suburbs. Both have heavily influenced his repertoire made of seaside anthems and urban jungle poetry.
Of all Italian rappers, he’s the one who has most successfully turned his haters into fans thanks to his hypnotising style and captivating persona.
You can also listen to our “EXPLORE Italy” Spotify playlist here: