Senior Editor and Researcher
While hip-hop might not be the go-to music genre for every fan, it has a huge, almost cult-style following. In the United Kingdom, that following has grown rapidly in the last few years.
In 2020, titles classified as rap and hip-hop accounted for around 22 percent of all singles consumed in the UK. That represents an all-time high for the genre.
When we switch to the digital landscape, the numbers are just as impressive. Hip-hop earned around 12.2 percent of the streaming market share in the same year.
Today, the demand for hip-hop is more than six times higher than at the start of the millennium. Looking at those figures, it’s little wonder that the number of radio stations playing hip-hop artists has also increased.
So, where can you find the latest hits and tracks on the UK airwaves? Today, we’re looking at some of the best UK radio stations known for playing hip-hop music.
The UK’s 9 Best Hip-Hop Radio Stations
As always, opinions of which channels should be classified as the best hip-hop radio stations in the UK will likely vary from one audience segment to the next.
Notably, most stations best known for playing hip-hop music aren’t tied to this specific genre.
As you’ll see from the top-rated options below, most radio channels produce programs with a wide range of content defined by the urban genre.
As such, your hip-hop tracks are regularly interspersed with R&B, rap, and underground music.
Still, if you’re looking for great options to get you into the groove, this list of exceptional radio stations will surely get you on the right track.
1. BBC Radio 1Xtra
One of the most popular online radio stations explicitly tailored to the urban genre, BBC Radio 1Xtra is a unique channel owned and operated by the BBC.
The channel focuses mainly on urban music titles from hip-hop and R&B artists.
Launching in 2002, the online station is among the most diverse on this list. Although most songs featured come from British, Caribbean, North American, and African artists, they can fall into various groups.
Alongside hip-hop, BBC 1Xtra also plays reggae, gospel music, soul, drum and bass, dubstep, and UK garage.
Unlike most online-only channels, 1Xtra boasts a fantastic lineup of presenters hosting regular shows between playlists.
Some of the best-known names on the channels include Trevor Nelson, Kenny Allstar, Nick Bright, and Tiffany Calver.
Frequency: Online Only
Website: BBC Radio 1Xtra
2. Rinse FM
Based in London, Rinse FM is an iconic community radio station. It’s well known throughout the UK landscape as one of the most influential pirate radio stations ever.
Rinse FM was London’s biggest pirate station for over 10 years before officially gaining a license in 2010.
The station has provided fantastic exposure opportunities for well-known grime artists like Wiley and Dizzee Rascal and a host of dubstep DJs.
Playlists on the channel cover various genres, from R&B to hip-hop, rap, and electronic music. There are even programs that showcase up-and-coming Latin artists.
Rinse has also been instrumental to the careers of some of the most prominent radio presenters in UK history.
The best-known DJs on the channel include names like Artwork, Benga, Caspa, and Dizzee Rascal himself.
Frequency: FM: 106.8 MHz
Website: Rinse. FM
Another popular youth-led radio station, Reprezent is a local network based in Brixton, South London.
Earning its community license in 2010, the station began broadcasting the next year with many fantastic playlists focusing on alternative music, hip-hop, dance, and grime.
More than just a platform for finding amazing music, Reprezent has made a name for itself as a champion for younger people.
It allows students and other artists from all walks of life to showcase their talents and share their issues live on air.
The station has more than 140 presenters and streams 110 radio shows. It’s also dedicated to producing original and unique content from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. every day.
Since every playlist is curated by its presenters, Reprezent always has something new and exciting to share.
Frequency: FM: 107.3 MHz
4. Capital XTRA
Another leading sister radio station from a well-known network, Capital XTRA, formerly Choice FM, is an urban music channel available on FM, DAB, and online.
The station began as Choice 96.9 in Brixton, London, Britain’s first 24-hour black music station.
In 2013, Choice was rebranded as Capital XTRA, following the same naming conventions used by the BBC for their urban channel.
On average, the station now earns around 1.4 million listeners weekly, making it one of the most popular radio broadcasts in the UK.
Capital XTRA broadcasts a variety of black music genres, including hip-hop, R&B, Afrobeats, and grime.
Programs on the channel also include a range of specialist shows and playlisted sessions hosted by well-known DJs and music experts, from Toni Phillips to DJ Semtex.
Frequency: FM: 96.9 MHz and 107.1 MHz.
Website: Capital XTRA
5. Kiss FM
Kiss FM is another exceptional radio station for anyone interested in hip-hop.
This versatile station, owned by Bauer as part of the Kiss network, made waves when it first launched in 1985.
Like many popular radio channels, Kiss started as a pirate station before becoming the UK’s first legal black and dance music specialist station in 1990.
Today, Kiss attracts a weekly audience of around 2.5 million listeners and focuses on the rhythmic CHR format. This means shows generally include various song styles, including R&B, hip-hop, rap, and dance.
Kiss has also been home to well-known presenters, including Bam Bam, John Digweed, Andy C, DJ Hatcha, and many others.
If you’re looking for even more hip-hop music from Kiss, you can also check out the online station Kiss Fresh.
Frequency: FM: 97.2MHz, 100.0MHz, 101.0 MHz, 105.6 MHz, 105.6 MHz, 106.1 MHz, 106.4 MHz, and 107.7 MHz.
6. Flex FM
Flex FM is a community-based radio channel in London. It is slightly lesser known than some of the other major hip-hop radio stations on this list.
It started as a pirate radio station before eventually earning its community license in 2017.
Flex broadcasts an eclectic selection of playlists featuring house, drum, bass, hip-hop, dubstep, and UK garage.
Some programs include reggae, soul, and old-school hardcore. MCs and artists to appear on the station have included DJ Cross, Andy Mills, Outlaw, and DJ Twiz.
Flex FM is a popular channel for local London residents, ideal for finding new and upcoming artists.
It also offers well-known shows, such as The Breakfast Club with Sebadee and the Drivetime with Charlie Brown program.
Frequency: FM: 101.4 MHz
Website: Flex FM
Mi-Soul is a digital-only dedicated urban radio channel playing a collection of soul music hits, R&B, house, hip-hop, reggae, and drum and bass.
The station was initially founded by Gordon Mac, known for his presence on Kiss FM and Colourful Radio.
After leaving Colourful in 2011, Mac launched Mi-Soul as an internet station shortly after, before beginning to broadcast on the Switch London 2 digital network in 2015. Presenters on the channel include some legendary names from the UK landscape.
Some of the best-known presenters include Greg Edwards, Jazzie B, Lindsay Wesker, and Natty B.
The group builds its playlists around several regularly scheduled shows, such as Mi-Mornings and The Soul Kitchen programs on Sundays.
Frequency: Online and DAB 12A
8. LDC Radio
Located in Leeds, LDC Radio is a community station with a dance and urban music format.
The name is an abbreviation for Leeds Dance Community Radio. This relatively new station officially launched in 2020 in collaboration with Leeds Beckett University.
LDC Radio’s programming consists mainly of urban and dance music, with a mix of genres provided across various daytime shows and specialist programming throughout the weekend and evening hours.
The station also syndicates a variety of well-known shows from big DJs overnights.
Alongside a great selection of music, LDC is home to some fantastic shows where presenters discuss local issues affecting young people. Well-known presenters from the station include Amber D, Carl Kingston, and Danny Malin, the YouTube personality.
Frequency: FM: 97.8 MHz
Website: LDC Radio
9. Kane FM
Another hip-hop radio station in the UK that got its start as a pirate station is Kane FM. This local community channel is based in Surrey and broadcasts online and on FM airwaves.
It first began airing programs in 1990 and earned a restricted license for a brief time in 2004.
Since then, the station has grown into a dedicated community station committed to benefiting the youth of the UK.
The station’s profits drive social gain for youngsters, and Kane even accepts donations on its website.
Kane FM’s playlists feature a combination of electronic dance music, trance, house, hip-hop, drum and bass, dubstep, and various other genres.
The station advertises local charity events, fundraisers, and prerecorded public service announcements between shows.
Frequency: FM: 103.7 MHz
Website: Kane FM
The Best Hip-Hop Radio Stations in the UK
Hopefully, this guide to the best hip-hop stations across the UK has inspired you to guide your next session by browsing the airwaves.
Although hip-hop might not be as popular as other music genres in the UK market, interest in the landscape is steadily growing.
The rapidly increasing listenership of some of the fantastic stations mentioned above shows how excited UK listeners are about the resurgence of the hip-hop era.
Don’t forget, you can also find a variety of unique hip-hop stations online to stream directly to your phone or laptop.