I’ve spoken in the past about how I feel hip hop has gone stale and after the golden years of Eminem and his generation, the rap game has gotten too watered down and there aren’t many artists that could bring hip hop to the level it was in the 90s and early 2000s.
Luckily over the last year or so, I have started to see the tide turning and there are some really exciting young artists out there that are already so good and as the next decade comes around can lead hip hop into another golden age.
Proving that Southern California can still produce great MCs, Vince Staples is a great throwback to the So-Cal greats of old. He's even admitted to being involved in gangs earlier in his life. Releasing his first album at only 22 years old, I'm reminded of Nas and how at such a young age he had world wisdom in his lyrics.
Staples is definitely the Nas of this generation in that sense while his delivery reminds me of Jay Z in his earlier days. He marries East Coast realism with West Coast gangsta party style. I’ve only recently discovered Staples music and I'm consuming it like crazy as I'm really loving his style of hip hop. Plus, his lyrics and delivery are top notch.
Staples beats are another reason to get on board. I totally get that artistic hip hop feel like Frank Ocean. Although, where Ocean is on another level with his art style projects, Staples uses it to enhance his already gifted rhymes.
To get a start on Staples, check out Blue Suede and Norf Norf from his debut album as it's a great example of those cool beats. Staples just released his second album and it's just as great as his debut. No sophomore slump here as tracks like Big Fish and Rain Come Down show he is already growing as an artist.
Chance the Rapper
Chance the Rapper has been around for about 5 years or so and his star is only getting bigger by the day. This summer he has been co-headlining festivals, meaning promoters feel confident enough in him to draw fans. And draw fans he does.
What sets Chance apart from his contemporaries is that he creates music as a singer songwriter and not just a rapper creating rhymes over beats. One listen to Same Drugs and you'll understand what I mean. Releasing his first mixtape while suspended from college for marijuana possession, he drew attention to himself and then guested on Childish Gambino’s sixth mixtape, Royalty.
Chance then joined Gambino on tour and the rest is history. Since then he's released two more mixtapes and guested on tracks of other artists. Listening to Cocoa Butter Kisses, you get his R&B and Gospel influences which are a big part of his songwriting process.
Summer Friends off of his latest mixtape Coloring Book is a great example of Chance's style of rapping where it feels like he sings and raps all at the same time. To be honest, it's a pretty unique and cool way to drop lyrics. To get deeper with Chance the Rapper and his greatness, check out NPR’s Music Tiny Desk Concert for a real treat especially as he debits a poem, mid-set that he wrote on the way to NPR.
I think that at this point we all know who Kendrick Lamar is as he's now a massive star in the music world. I wanted to include Lamar on this list because I feel that he will eventually hold the place that Eminem does now and guys like Biggie and Tupac did back in the day. Releasing his first mixtape at just 16, Lamar is a hip hop veteran at 30 years old.
Furthermore, being from a hip hop hotbed like Compton is another feather in his cap. Lamar won a Grammy in 2015 for his single I and showed the world that he can make the critics happy too. I believe that 2017 was the moment that Lamar became hip hop royalty as he headlined Coachella in an epic set people are still talking about on the same weekend he dropped his latest album DAMN.
I think DAMN will be considered a hip hop classic in the future. Just one listen to songs like DNA, ELEMENT, and the amazing HUMBLE and you see that Lamar is on a whole other level. I think when we look back on hip hop in this decade and the following decade, Lamar may be the one we say was the best of his generation.
These three are just a taste of some new and exciting hip hop. Before I go, I just want to say, don’t sleep on the rap scene coming out of Atlanta. It is some of the best out there right now, but that is a story for another day.
For some classic hip hop by a group that changed the game, check out Wu Tang Clan’s 36 Chambers on vinyl. Or, recap our feature on why Eminem is a game changer, and why he is one of the best rappers of all-time.