Rap is ever-evolving, but I’m sure you already knew that, the branches of hip-hop are longer and more expanded than ever before, but throughout the eras there’s always been pioneers, the longtime contributors to the game, the figures the rest of the scene look forward to and admire. In the 80’s it was the likes of Rakim, KRS-One and Public Enemy, the 90’s was dominated with Dre, Snoop, Ice Cube, Nas, Biggie and 2Pac and throughout my lifetime it’s been Jay-Z, Kanye, Lil Wayne and of course, Eminem. But where are we nowadays? The aforementioned among others are undoubtedly still the kingpins of the genre but post turn of the century, they don’t hold the world by the throat in anywhere near the same manner. Lil Wayne, Jay-Z and Eminem all dropped disappointing albums (in my opinion) recently with only Kanye really trying something new and refusing to let up, to me it seems the throne is more than vacant.
I was listening to Danny Brown’s Old the other day thinking ‘yet another young rapper making a name for himself’, there seems to be a overwhelming flow of fresh talent dominating rap at the moment, let me list some: Earl Sweatshirt, Asap Ferg, Childish Gambino, Chance The Rapper, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, Joey Bada$$, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, CyHi Tha Prynce, Vince Staples, Jay Electronica, Vic Mensa and Casey Veggies, I could go on but I won’t bore you. Many of the above released their debuts either recently or last year, and I can’t think of one that ‘flopped’, they’d either do well commercially- ScHoolboy Q’s Oxymoron went straight to number 1, or receive mass critical acclaim such as Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rap receiving 86/100 on Metacritic, despite only being a mixtape.
But it’s not just these incredible feats which rank these rappers as the next big things, it’s also outside of the music. Take J Cole and Mac Miller, of course J Cole’s pushing on 30 now and Mac Miller’s been around a while despite only being 22, but both had the audacity, the nerve and above all the confidence to take on the mighty Kanye West on the charts. Both opted to release there respected albums in and around the same time as Yeezus, and incredibly Born Sinner actually managed to knock Kanye off his perch at the top of the charts.
2013 saw Jay-Z buddy up with pop star Justin Timberlake and somewhat brashly sampled Nirvana for Magna Carta..Holy Grail, all the while allowing Samsung to dominate the marketing and release of the album with heavy, commercial sponsorship, something that rubs off as cheap and less credible in my eyes. On the other side of the coin, we see Action Bronson and Vince Staples dropping stellar verses on various guest spots, most notably Bronson’s contribution to A$AP Rocky’s 1 Train and Vince Staple’s addition to Earl Sweatshirt’s Hive, both are yet to make a studio debut yet here they are executing quality verses that boast lyrics such as ‘if this was ‘88, I would have signed to Ruthless, ‘94 would’ve had ‘em walking down Death Row’.
With Childish Gambino’s Because The Internet furthering the boundaries of how far an album’s concept can be taken, Earl Sweatshirt and A$AP Ferg’s posses echoing Wu-Tang in terms of cult following, and Casey Veggies furthering his image of himself through his Peas & Carrots Intl. brand, you can see that the young’ns are more than capable of swiping the limelight from the big honchos, especially if they’re not wiling to make music to the high standard of the youth.