TOP TEN BEST NEW HIP-HOP ARTISTS
To all of the people out there who actually listen to hip-hop music and seek out good artists, this is for you. You do not know anything about hip-hop if you just listen to whatever is on the radio and that is it. Typically those are the people who give Drake, Nicki Minaj, Waka, Soulja Boy, etc. all of their views on youtube and comment on how they are talented. If you actually listen and know of all the great talented people out there, you wouldn't dare say that Lil Wayne is a great rapper. Before I hit you all in the head with my personal favorites, I want to say that I don't think that all the people I just mentioned shouldn't be making the music they are making, because there is a place for it and there are people who actually prefer that kind of sound. I don't agree with how major labels push that and only that for a quick easy buck. Music reflects life, and as we all know life is "simply complicated" and filled with endless possibilities. Music has always been free and explored all the different ways of the world. So why are companies trying to give us guidelines by only pushing one kind of artist. All of these artists are reflecting a mindless society of selfish partygoers who are blind to the current state of the world. I don't know where you live, but that does not reflect me and the world I live in. The people I surround myself with and the world I strive for consist of intellectual thinkers who want to grow as people and build a better society. Now on the other hand, I am not saying that everyone has to have positive subject matter. Like I said, there shouldn't be any guidelines to art. But no one should disgrace an art by dumbing themselves down and the "culture" of the art. Too many artist today are simply "copy and paste" artists who are only focused on making money. They do whatever is making money, no matter how idiotic or demeaning it may be. There is no true art in this. Learning from an artist and copying their style are two entirely different things. So, in order to wrap this up, I would like to conclude that art, in this case hip-hop music, should be free and full of variety and most importantly artists should always show respect for themselves and the culture by being true, having meaning, and always showing progression.
I would like to touch on 10, plus some, of my favorite new artist. They are only new because they have just started getting a buzz for them self outside of their community.
The brother from Mississippi, Big K.R.I.T has proven to be one of the most talented cats in the game. His lyrics are sharp and always from the heart. Something the south, in my opinion, is the best at doing. That being showing the listeners who they really are in their music. Whether that may be something ugly and pathetic, southern rappers never hide who they are. K.R.I.T.'s talent goes beyond lyricism and expands into making beats. He produces a lot of his own material, along with artists such as CurrenSy, Smoke DZA, and a few others. If you don't know of him by now, you need to go get Big K.R.I.T Wuz Here.
Speaking of Curren$y, if you don't know anything about The Jets then you need to catch a flight sometime. Curren$y, a New Orleans native, has been making straight bangers for the past few years. Killing the mixtape game, he along with several great artists, such as Smoke DZA, Nesby Phips, Wiz Khalifa, Ski Beatz, etc, have been making a solid name for themselves. People who knew of Curren$y back in his Cash Money days, would definitely agree that he got 100 times better when he got on his own and found his own style. See what happens when you get away from bubblegum artists like Lil' Wayne. For those of you who want to know where to get started, I would say get his first album, This Ain't No Mixtape. Great from start to finish and never gets old.
Stepping away from the south, only for a moment, I have to shine light on west coast artist, Blu. Blu is the pure definition of soul in hip-hop. Always bringing thought-provoking lyrics that reflect his personal life, Blu is always true to himself and hip-hop. He also is a talented producer, but better known for his skills as a rhymer. The best place to get started with Blu is to cop his album, Below the Heavens, which is a collaboration with producer Exlie. Blu has been slowly becoming more and more popular, and just last year he had two features on one of the best albums of 2010, The Roots - How I Got Over.
Another young emcee from the west is Kendrick Lamar. Probably the youngest out of my list, but definitely has shown to be a great lyricist. Not only is he a great lyricist, he knows how to construct great songs that stick with you. His energy is unlike anybody else in the game. Go cop his self titled EP, Kendrick Lamar.
Now being a southern rapper and following southern rap traditions can be a difficult struggle for some artists. Due to the large popularity of New York artist in early hip-hop and in the greatest era of hip-hop, the mid 90's, a lot of artists today grew up on BIG, Nas, Jay-Z, Guru, etc. While there were great southern cats out at that time doing big things such as Scarface, Outkast, Goodie Mob, UGK, 8 Ball, etc., the limelight was always up north or out west with Pac, Dre, Snoop, etc. So it is only natural for some southern cats to pick up on that style. But if you notice the ones who do so always rep where they are from and show respect by putting the south first in all of their songs. The two individuals that stand out when it comes to this is North Carolina artist, J. Cole, and New Orleans artist, Jay Electronica. Both of these cats have become the biggest new names in hip-hop and both of them are signed to Jay-Z's, Roc Nation. With southern swag and pride written all over them, they provide precise lyricism and styles that reflect up north emcees. Of coarse these talented brothers have adapted into their own and progressed into something new, but it is evident the type of artists that influenced them the most. This is something I hear people argue about whenever these two are mentioned. People act like since they are from the south they should be rapping a certain way. But if you listen to their body of work and see the progression they have made, you will notice that they have grew into their own and no one from up north sounds like them.
J. Cole is an amazing lyricist that takes you on a journey through his life as a struggling artist and young black male. By the time you get to the end of his mixtapes, you feel like you are right there with him and rooting for the underdog. J. Cole is best known for his two mixtapes, The Come Up and The Warm Up. Both are amazing bodies of work and J. Cole actually produces a lot of his own material. If you would like to see how well he progressed with his talents, start with The Come Up and then get The Warm Up. The Warm Up is definitely better and will go down as a classic in my book.
Next is probably my favorite artists out of them all right now. The free spirited and mind-blowing, Jay Electronica. A true radical that makes his purpose known on every track he is on. He is here to enlighten and build his listeners minds, along with his own. With that honesty that southern rappers are known for, Jay isn't afraid or ashamed to let his audience know that he was homeless and grew up in one of America's worst projects (which is no longer around). He takes a very poetic but yet aggressive approach to his lyrics. Jay Electronica is a positive voice of the people and his music will one day be on the soundtrack to the revolution. His greatness and influence is getting better and better with every new track. It is great to know that Lupe will not be the only one speaking truth in the mainstream world. All of his mixtapes are combinations of his old material with his new. You'll definitely be able to tell the difference, but even his old stuff is better than most of the stuff on the radio today. If you haven't heard anything, then go listen to Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge).
My other favorite, but unfortunately he isn't too popular in the US, is Canadian artists, Shad K. He has been making music for a while and currently has three albums. He is probably the most talented lyricist in the game when it comes to wordplay and attacking an instrumental. His subject matter is extremely relevant and needs to be heard. He also likes to be playful and enjoy himself on tracks too, which is a great mixture when you have songs as heavy as he has; such as I'll Never Understand. I love all his albums, so I would suggest starting with his first, When This is Over, and work your way up. You'll notice that the productions get better and better with every album. He also plays the guitar.
There are very few rappers that can lyrically match up to Shad. Another one of my favorites that I think is on Shad's level is Detroit's Elzhi. A legend in the game, known for being a member of the group Slum Village, Elzhi is definitely one of the best artists in hip-hop. He has been in the game for a while, but in my opinion his best solo work is the 2008 album, The Preface. Elzhi's wordplay and versatility is the craziest in the game. I don't think anyone since Pun has been able to use words as well as Elzhi. He definitely deserves more attention.
When it comes to putting the listener into another person's shoes and painting beautiful pictures of the world outside of the box most of us live in, no one does it better than K'naan. Most of us know who he is, but you will never hear his material on the radio...which is a shame. He has several albums, but my favorite body of work by K'naan is his collaboration with producer J. Period, The Messengers, a three volume remix project paying tribute to Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, and Fela Kuti.
Last but not least on my list is the brother from Gary, Indiana, Freddie Gibbs. One of the few rappers out there who say he don't give a f*ck and really means it. His music is full of life, always expressing to the listener the ups and downs of life in the ghetto. Gibbs can attack a beat with almost any kind of flow. He can break down a beat better than anybody in the game. Whether he goes hard, or chill and vibe with it, or chop it up going slow to fast. Gibbs mixtapes, midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik and The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs are the best places to start with this dude. You can ride through his mixtape without skipping one song. Gibbs will definitely become one of the leaders for conscious gangster rap (yes there is such a thing).
The first would be Corey Gunz, one of the craziest flows in the game. Main problem with him is that at times it is hard to understand what he is saying or what he is talking about. The other thing would be all of his talk about killing. I know he is capable of making a classic album, he just has to expand his subject matter, and being with Cash Money isn't going to help. I still ride with the dude though and I wish to see him get to his full potential. The next would be Alabama's Yelawolf. A style all his own and a very humble dude. Yelawolf had one of the most impressive mixtapes last year with his Trunk Muzik. His unpredictable flow makes him fun to listen to, but if you listen closely you can tell his lyrics need some help. Something that I am sure he will progress with as time goes on. The main thing that scares me with Yelawolf is how he seems to be open to anything. He is working with everyone, which is cool, but if the wrong project comes around, I'm not sure he would know when to turn it down. That is just my opinion. Just like Gunz, I wish the best for this brother and I am looking forward to his first album. Last on my list is Brooklyn's finest, Joell Ortiz. One of the sickest spitters in the game. Always bringing that perfect balance of classic and new school style. He is clever and always puts his whole heart into his music. Unfortunately, he has had some problems in the past with labels and it has hurt his progress. The Slaughterhouse project with Crooked I, Joe Budden and Royce was good, but it knocked down his ability to grow as a solo artist. Now when people think of Joell they think of Slaughterhouse, which automatically takes away from him as a single artist. I'm not sure how things are going to pan out for this dude, but hopefully he breaks through and make a more solid name for himself.
- Ryan K. Willis
More by this Author
Facts to know relating to poverty in America: 180+ out of top 500 richest people in the world are US citizens - (Forbes, 2010) US has a total 422 billionaires ranking top in world. Next is China with 66....