Exclusives 13 May 2023
Author: Oli Knight

Eurovision 2023: 11 UK & European Rap Link Ups

13 May 2023

The European and UK rap scenes have never been more connected. Historically, UK rap had been much more concerned with acquiring the respect and admiration of our transatlantic counterparts than ever looking East to the rest of Europe. 

The tides have been changing however, and today UK and European collaborations between different rappers feels commonplace. In the age of hyper social media that we live in today, it’s never been easier for bridges to be built and relationships to be struck up that can lead to the reimagining of what our musical relationship with the rest of Europe could look like. In 2023, we have artists ranging from countries such as Albania to Sweden flying the flag for their domestic scene and joining forces with some of the best talents the UK scene has to offer. Such a reality appeared far off just a decade ago, and as such the speed at which times have changed over the last few years is commendable.

Eurovision has been a pillar of force for European collaboration over the last 70 odd years, pulling artists from the most far drawn corners of Europe to come together both demonstrate their individual abilities and represent their cultures. With Eurovision happening this week, it felt only right to use it as the opportunity to examine the 11 best examples of collaboration between UK and European rappers, exploring how far we’ve come and asking how globalised our musical scene could become in the future.  

Zack Ink – “Trenches” Ft. Young Adz

Zack Ink has a demonstrated reputation as one of Rotterdam’s brightest talents in their domestic ‘trap rap’ scene. With multiple tracks receiving millions of views on YouTube, he’s one of the go to names you will hear when you talk to Dutch people about who from their nation is making noise within their domestic scene. With this in mind, alongside his particular penchant for autotune fuelled melodies, who better to collaborate with than Lewisham’s finest Young Adz? 

The track itself is classic Young Adz – syrupy lyrics evoking notes of pain, luxury, and achievement float over an elegant Serop produced beat. Asserting that “You can’t pay for a feature, it’s priceless” before beginning the song, Adz highlights how this is not some sort of gimmicky label-sponsored linkup, and instead is one which reflects genuine respect on both Adz’s and Ink’s sides. Zack Ink rounds off the song perfectly with his own take on the aforementioned ‘trap wave’ sound that DBE helped pioneer, interchanging between flows and melodies with ease and giving what was already a great song a sprinkle of international flair. 

Freeze Corleone – “Polemique” Ft. Central Cee

Freeze Corleone has been a constant force on the French rap scene for well over a decade now. Hailing from the northeast of Paris, specifically, Les Lilas, Freeze has always made music involved in the gritty realities of inner city experience. Early projects such as À la recherche de la daillance sew the foundations of modern French rap as we know it, and established him as a pillar of the domestic French rap scene. As a result, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Freeze’s recent pivot to drill music has been so successful, launching him into another stratosphere of global attention. 

Central Cee was a natural likely collaborator; Cench has been known to frequent Paris, as well as take a keen interest in the European rap scene and the trends taking place. With the success of Freeze starting to bubble over European borders into surrounding nations to France, it was only right that two undisputed titans of their respective country’s drill scenes linked up for a statement track. In this case, the result was “Polemique”, a straight-talking, braggadocious song dedicated to celebrating the individual successes of both Freeze Corleone and Central Cee across the world.

With the video situated around the premise of Cench traveling to Paris and then proceeding to link up with Freeze, it’s one of those examples of a well-executed video and track which just makes sense; particularly when the purpose of this was partially to illustrate the best of the French and UK scenes coming together. 

Obladaet – “David Beckham” Remix Ft. V9

If Freeze Corleone is the king of the French drill scene, then Obladaet must be the Tsar of the Russian drill scene. However, Obladaet and V9 coming together was different to how Freeze and Cench came together in the sense that Obladaet wasn’t the standout star of Russian rap at the time of recording (at least compared to the heights he has since scaled). Coming into the spotlight largely off the back of collaborations with other likeminded underground Russian rappers such as Rocket and Markul, the inspiration for tapping V9 for a Obladaet collaboration appears to be rooted in organic networking. 

In early 2021, Obladaet flew to London to record music, experience life outside of Russia, and perhaps most importantly, understand and experience UK drill music in person. The result was the forging of friendships with legendary UK drill producers such as Ghosty and Gotcha, who recorded with Obladaet, helping him create music that tapped into the true London sound whilst ensuring it retained a certain Russian essence.

The most notable result of these sessions is “David Beckham”, a track that seems dedicated to utilising UK tropes and cultural references, fusing his own experiences with his fascination with UK culture. It only made sense for a British rapper to jump on the remix, and who better than Homerton’s own V9, close friends with Ghosty and noted supporter of Obladaet’s music. The result is a mind-bending mix of Russian and English drillings, with an eerie Ghosty beat serving as the perfect platform to ensure their bars really hit. 

Skinny Flex – “Active” Ft. Bandokay and Double Lz

Skinny Flex may well be one of the most known European drillers that comes up on this list, but his first official collaboration with a British rapper only came out in the last couple of months. Tracks such as “Jordan Manchás” and “Trap Phone” made it clear that the Barcleona-raised rapper was destined for great things, and he soon made it clear he intended on doing so outside of just Spain. London particularly appeared to be a world he sought to break into, first having featured on the HB Freestyle series hosted by Joey Clipstarr about a year and a half ago, and going on to forge relationships with a slew of influential rappers and producers in the wider London scene. Essentially, he’s been actively interacting and engaging with the UK scene for a while now, but for some reason didn’t have an official collaboration with a UK rapper. 

There aren’t too many bigger names to start off with though than Double Lz and Bandokay. Together, the international trio collaborated to create a banger that feels like the perfect fusion of culture through drill. Rapping bilingually with ease, Skinny Flex takes center stage, making a case for his skill level to be comparable with some of the best in the UK scene. 

Stealth – “Adrenalina” Ft. Baseman

Most of these tracks so far have featured already cemented global drill stars coming together. “Adrenalina” is something wholly different, representing a more underground collaboration which exists more in the melodic trap world sonically. Whilst Stealth has millions of views on multiple songs rapping in his native Albanian, he ceases to have the sort of international mainstream presence that a lot of the other figures on here do; in fact he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page.

Baseman is not dissimilar; casual fans will know him for his hits such as “Bad Habits”, but he’s not necessarily a continental superpower. This is part of what’s unique about this specific collaboration though; whilst the other can at least partially be accused of taking place with some sort of potential commercial goal in mind, “Adrenalina” just feels like two chance friends coming together to create something for fun.

With the backbone of the track laid down by Stealth’s exquisite vocals, Baseman comes in perfectly, transporting you from Tirana to East London in seconds. For a more left-field collaboration between two less known pioneers, be sure to check out this “Adrenalina” below. 

Yasin x Pa Salieu – “Magazine”

Yasin has been a recent entrant into the European drill mainstream, with his cult-like domestic following and starring addition to Headie One’s No Borders tape earmarking him as one to watch. Taking in his craft, it’s not hard to see why – the young Swede has a deft talent when it comes to delivery and flow, often breaking into unique intricate rhyme patterns with ease. Couple that with a gripping image that has helped capture the minds further of his adoring audience, and a history with the police that (as drill music often does) has only pushed him further into the spotlight, and there’s no denying that Yasin is set for the global stage. 

However, it’s Yasin’s recent collaboration with Coventry’s finest Pa Salieu that actually feels like the most complete example of his talent via a UK collaboration.

Tapping into his melodic bag, Yasin illustrates how he’s not just your standard street rapper, and has a genuine ear for creating good music. Combined with a more than stellar verse from Pa Salieu, the listener’s experience is interspersed between Stockholm and Coventry to great effect. 

Central Cee – “Eurovision” Ft Rondososa, Baby Gang, A2Anti, Morad, Beny Jr, Ashe 22 and Freeze Corleone

There’s no way a list of the best UK and European collaborations to celebrate Eurovision could be complete without the presence of Central Cee’s own “Eurovision”. Boasting an all-star roster of different European talent, this track can be looked at as a landmark in Central Cee’s career, demonstrating to the masses his intent to bridge the gap between UK and European rap as much as one man possibly could. With features ranging from the likes of Rondososa to Freeze Corleone, international bars fly around at an almost neck-breaking pace. The fact that there are four different languages spoken in this one song accentuates the point of it being called “Eurovision” even further, and gives us fans some sort of picture of what a truly globalised drill scene could look like. 

“Eurovision” has over 50 million views to date on Central Cee’s own Youtube channel, and is one of his most streamed songs internationally to date. It’s the prototypical example of what can happen when some of the best rappers in Europe come together, and exists as a shining example of the benefits (to both the fans and artists) of such collaboration. 

Lucian – “West Connect” Ft. Central Cee

Whilst this list feels at risk of descending into what is almost a “Central Cee Greatest Hits” tribute, there’s yet another track worthy of this list that involves him. “West Connect” by Luciano and featuring Central Cee is the said track, and upon listening it should be obvious why.

The title is a nod to both artist’s origins being from the west of their respective cities – Central Cee from Shepherds Bush of course and Luciano from the Schöneberg area of West Berlin. However, there is little explicit detail provided about the environments they have come from, and instead, the track feels much more like a moment for both artists to stand back and appreciate where they are now. Both Cench and Luciano rap with conviction and swagger, openly flaunting their achievements and their extravagant lifestyles. 

Central Cee and Luciano have been spotted together numerous times across Europe, and as a result, there is hope amongst fans that what appears to be a strong working relationship will result in further collaborations. What is for sure though is that Luciano has the potential to have more and more successful collaborations with equally talented UK rappers. 

Headie One – “22 Carats” Ft. Gazo

We’ve already mentioned Headie One’s proactiveness to collaborating with other European artists – his No Borders tape alone is worthy of serious commendation for the roads it paved. As a result, it feels wrong to write this list without giving Headie flowers for one specific track, and the obvious one appears to be “22 Carats” with Gazo.

This is one of the most artistically intriguing tracks on this list, with Headie and Gazo taking turns to drive a stylish three-way production collaboration by Nardey, Scar, and Dreexys. What they do with the instrumental speaks to their own individual capacity for maintaining their own style throughout a collaboration; whilst Gazo is full of energy and injects an anthem-like quality to the track, Headie is poised and reflective, speaking on the nuances of his success and pain. 

This track is perhaps one of the most shining when it comes to replay value, and can’t be overlooked for more mainstream counterparts when discussing its quality. It’s clear that Headie is committed to building bridges between the UK and European scenes, and with the musical success of this collaboration, expect to hear more from this duo. 

Luciano – “Bamba” Ft. Aitch and Bia

Luciano is well deserving of a second addition to this list, particularly for a song of this magnitude. If “West Connect” was for the streets, “Bamba” is for the airwaves; but crucially, Luciano ensures that the track still retains an essence of his trademark grit. Tapping Aitch and Bia for a track always means it’s got the potential to be an international smash, and that’s exactly what happened with this song. Nevertheless, this track is undeniably Luciano’s. Rapping with aggression, belligerence, and effortless flows, he shells his chorus, setting the track off to a start of epic proportions. 

That’s not to say the features were disappointing though. Aitch floated on his verse, dropping signature double entendres and similes with ease. He even finds room for a Bundesliga reference, rapping “Brand new Balenci’ tracks, what I’m buyin’ my Munich ting”. Bia represents for the USA, adding her female flair to round off the track fully. “Bamba” is currently sitting on Luciano’s YouTube channel with over 45 million views, launching it into the conversation with “Eurovision” in terms of the impact of a European and UK collab. 

Tion Wayne, Russ Millions – “Body” Remix Ft. Rondososa and Capo Plaza

In 2021, Tion Wayne and Russ had the global drill scene in a chokehold with “Body”. From viral TikToks to arena performances, it is arguably the biggest drill song to date in terms of mainstream commercial appeal and reception. What also spawned from the aftermath of the song was a string of remixes released by Tion Wayne to celebrate the original’s success. One of them, of course, included ArrDee’s showstopping moment of “Have you seen the state of her body”, which recorded over 112 million views on YouTube. The other though, wasn’t too far off in terms of its success; Rondososa and Capo Plaza’s edition of “Body” has received nearly 90 million views on YouTube to date – and that’s without even filming a music video. 

Whether it’s creating their own viral-worthy moment with Rondo shouting out “Spaghetti Mafia” in the opening lines of his verse or the effortless switching between English and Italian, there’s no doubt that this track was another Rushmore moment in the ever-evolving history of UK and European rap collaborations.