So much of hip hop today has become too repetitive and gimmicky. Sometimes I feel like The Notorious B.I.G is rolling around his big ol’ casket when certain rappers come on. Look, I’ll be the first one to yell “2 Chainz”! at the top of my lungs and all that but when the likes of Young Thug and Rich Homie Kwan come on the radio I wish we could hear more meaningful or at least more insightful lyrics. Nothing against DJ Mustard and his repetitive clap tracks which has taken over rap in the past year, but a thinker like me longs for deeper meanings in music. Plenty of people can rap about a lavish lifestyle and drugs and women but to really tell a story is rare and special now a days.
Jay Electronica– Born Timothy Elpadaro Thedford in New Orleans now Electronica resides in London and has cemented his name in hip hop as one of the most conscious and reflective rappers. Electronica is the only artist on my list that has yet to release a studio album but is apparently working on releasing the second installment of his supposed trilogy set to be called “Act II: Patents of Nobility” which will succeed the “Act I: Eternal Sunshine” single from 2008. In 2014 Electronica released the song “Better in Tune with the Infinite” which opens with an excerpt from Professor Marvels monologue in the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz”. Notable lyrics in that song are “my feet might fail me, my heart might ill me, the synagogues and satan might acuse me or jail me, they might defeat the flesh but they could never ever kill me.”
Tech N9ne– Tech N9ne has a loyal following of underground rap fans but has managed to win over even the most traditional rap fans. He has managed to walk the line between underground rapper and mainstream artist which generate hits. In 2013 N9ne released his thirteenth studio album titled “Something Else” and was broken up into three segments of Earth, Water and Fire. The album was supported by two singles “So Dope” and “Fragile” which received considerable air time. In the spring of 2014 he started his “Independent Grind” tour. N9ne has established himself and his label Strange Music into one of the most lucrative labels in hip hop.
A$AP Rocky– Rakim Mayers was born in Harlem, New York in the late 80’s, a critical point in hip hop history. Rocky broke out into the scene in 2011 with the help of his popular party singles “Purple Swag” and “Peso”. In 2013 Rocky released his first album “Long. Live. A$AP”. Rocky made headlines for multiple reasons while in a relationship with rapper Iggy Azalea. The couple’s breakup was publicized and the two went their separate ways musically and romantically. Rocky is set to be finishing up his second album which is set to release in the beginning of 2015.
Childish Gambino– Donald Glover has earned substantial credibility under his stage name within the hip hop community. Glover appeared on the NBC show Community for several seasons as Troy Barnes and in 2013 he departed from the show to focus on his music. Glover released his second album titled “Because of the internet” almost a year ago and it received positive reviews from publications such as Complex which called it the most ambitious album of 2013. Singles from that album include “3005” and “Telegraph Ave”. Lately Glover has been working with Ariana Grande and Jhene Aiko. In the song “Bed Peace” Gambino’s verse expresses his desire to make a relationship work. “curled up with my head on your chest, is the best remedy for the pain and the stress, if the world doesn’t change then we’ll never get dressed.”
Big K.R.I.T– K.R.I.T like many before him was baptized in the waters of southern rap. On Nov. 10, 2014 K.R.I.T released his second studio album titled “Cadillactica”. The album shows K.R.I.T lashing out at personal issues on songs like “Mt. Olympus” and also tones it down and shows appreciation on a song called “Life” where he has a line that says “I found life on this planet, dammit, I’ve been damaged, but I won’t take this for granted”. K.R.I.T caught the attention of fans back in 2010 with his mixtape “K.R.I.T Wuz Here” and then his second mixtape “Return of 4Eva” in 2011 which was entirely produced by the Mississippi rapper himself.
Ab-Soul– Soul walks the tight rope between ridiculous and sublime like much of his Black Hippy crew members but in 2014 the west coast rapper explored his versatility and released his third album called “These Days” and it features label mates Schoolboy Q, Action Bronson and Jay Rock. The album may be a bit overwhelming for some listeners as songs can quickly transcend from showcasing a maverick spirit to a very machismo sound and feel. Soul has always had a knack for bringing different talents together and that’s exactly what he did on his latest album. Look for Soul and other Top Dog Entertainment artists to keep making moves to the top.
Kanye West– Well, much has been said about West, like him or not he knows exactly what he’s doing when it comes to music. Yeezy has remained relevant in hip hop and in pop culture because of his words. In 2004 people were still getting used to the sound and the conscientious lyrics delivered in the College Dropout album. In the song “New Slaves” West makes his title seem a little more literal and goes at the corrections corporation of America for locking up minorities because of racial disparities. “Meanwhile the DEA teamed up with the CCA, they’re trying to lock ni***s up, they try to make new slaves, that’s that private owned prisons get your piece today, they’re probably all in the Hamptons braggin’ about what they made.”
Drake– Since his touchdown in 2009 Drake has always expressed sensitivity and emotion other rappers would be hesitant to express. The Young Money artist has always embraced the tension that comes with going back and forth between singing and rapping but has managed to do it almost flawlessly. Recently Drake was touring with his boss, Lil Wayne, on the “Drake vs. Lil Wayne tour”. Drake got his first taste of fame as a kid when he was on the show “Degrassi” for several seasons. Drake’s intellect and confidence have been evident on all of his tracks since day one. Drake has mastered the use of hashtag flows and double entendres but that’s not it, he’s worked hard for years to improve his vocals and his singing and that’s something he continues to improve.
J. Cole– In 2009 and 2010 Cole gained mad fan support after his two successful mixtapes “The Warm Up” in 09 and “Friday Night Lights” in ’10. Cole is the type of rapper you want to listen to regardless of what he’s rapping about. His lyrics and storytelling ability form pictures in my mind and really make Cole that much more relatable. He has the ability to put listeners in a dreamlike state while listening to the proper song. Earlier this year his record label, Dreamville Records, signed a distribution deal with Interscope records. On Dec. 9 Cole will release his third studio album called “2014 Forest Hills Drive”.
Kendrick Lamar– King Kendrick, K-Dot, call him what you want but Lamar is the present and the future of hip hop. Lyrically there is no one out like Lamar right now. Lamar is a Compton native and began rapping at an early age and at the age of 16 recorded his first mixtape. Multiple mixtapes would follow and allow Lamar to become a house hold name. His first studio album titled “Good kid m.A.A.d city” is a narrative driven story of a well-intentioned young guy who constantly feels the pressure of his environment. Songs such as “The Art of Peer Pressure” and “m.A.A.d city” depict the constant struggle of living in Compton and avoiding the gangster lifestyle. Lamar’s next album was set for release in Dec. of 2014 or in early 2015. Currently Lamar can be heard on the radio with his newest single simply titled “I” and featured on Jay Rock’s song “Pay for It.”