01 May Top 10 Rappers of the New Era
For us Hip Hop old heads, the good ole days is something that’s hard for us to let go. It took me the longest time to warm up to some of the newer rappers and actually listen to the music. I spoke with many people on how they feel the New Era doesn’t stack up with the Golden Era.
The problem Old heads don’t get is that 90% of the time, the new wave of fans don’t want to think about the music, they just want to feel it. The fans pick the trends, dances and what’s hot and poppin’. They don’t care about our era of Hip Hop, they only have attention spans for what’s hot now and what’s hot right now is mumble rap. This is the era they are growing with so hate it or love it, for better or worse.
It’s not all like that though and we have several rappers who still rap coherently. Here is a message for the Old Heads, the old days are the old days, that era is never coming back, fortunately the New Era isn’t all that bad if you know your tastes and where to look.
My criteria for my top 10 is simple, it mixes old school principles with the new school landscape. Lyrics, buzz, relevance to Hip Hop, freestyle ability, catalog and record sales. Record sales has actually evolved now, including online streams. Not only is the music changing but the definition of commercial success is changing as well. I feel the frustration when people only equate record sales to skill but we have to be honest with ourselves. Music is literally free for decades now. To have your fans go out and purchase music takes some kind of skill and we can’t fault every rapper for building their fan bases. A lot of rappers use bullshit tactics to get the job done while others just let the music speak for itself.
Rap is similar to the NBA, most of today’s wave would have a hard time making it back in the Golden Era and all the rule changes have made the game a bit different. Ghostwriting, not being able to freestyle and biting someone’s style is apparently acceptable to new wave fans…
I used the XXL Freshman List as a guideline because they are one of the biggest publications for Hip Hop and it ties into the criteria of relevancy. Using the XXL FL, we can map out the early pioneers of the new school of today. In 2007 Saigon and Lupe lead the pack of that year, they were the only ones noticeably different from the rest of their peers. 2009 we have Wale and Kid Cudi.
In no way am I saying these rappers fathered anybody’s style but credit is due when we are talking about trendsetting. The rappers named above brought something new to the game. The rappers below are carving thier own legacy. The list would look different if it was purely about lyrics. If we analyze hits and numbers, there would be another shift. This entire list would have to be revamped if we boiled it down to simply buzz and who is hot right now. A true MC will be able to weather all these factors without compensating to much of one category. Here it is….
1. King Kendrick – With his last album, he is starting to solidify himself as one of the Greatest rappers of all time, forget about just the New Era. His creativity, bars and multiple flows just makes it clear that Kendrick is in his own lane and really just competing against himself at this point. All the talk about classic is to early, he still needs to stand the test of time.
2. Big Sean – A1 rapper who happens to be always one step behind Kendrick. The song Control, that Kendrick used as a stepping stone to solidify himself, will always be Big Sean’s biggest setback. Only way to put it : Kendrick is Goku, Jordan and McDonalds while Big Sean is Vegeta, Kobe and Burger King. Nothing wrong with each counterpart but one is always just a notch above.
3. J Cole – There is a lot of talk about how J Cole is “boring”. I really have no clue where it comes from because he delivers bars on a consistent basis and he has strong story telling skills. Maybe it’s because he is Canadian but whatever the case may be its holding him back from taking a higher spot and hurting his relevancy. Let’s put it this way, they considered Tim Duncan boring because of his simple game play and fundamentals (Not saying J Cole music is simple, quite the opposite) yet on paper Tim Duncan will go down as one of the best players of all time with the rings to prove it. The only problem is he won’t be talked about as much as the other greats with the years to come. I don’t think Cole world will suffer the same fate but this talk about being boring popping up time to time sounds like a case of the herps. You can’t go Double Platinum with no features and be a boring rapper. The last reputable album to go platinum with no fts is 36 chambers. The last solo album was Bigger and Deffer. There are plenty of rappers that could be called boring for the same reasons but everyone tends to pick on J Cole.
4. Joey Bada$$ – One of the biggest independent artists out right now. His buzz is not as strong because he is not in the media unless he is promoting his album. Rappers who stay in thier lane know how to work buzz to their advantage when it comes. 1999 will probably go down as one of the top 10 bodies of work for this decade. The production had that 90’s sound to it. His ability to spit a meaningful freestyle is what’s keeping his name relevant as he puts together his catalog. He is also part of New York’s current resurgence as a whole.
5. Vince Staples – Summertime 06 was enlightening to listen to after he made ignorant comments on Old School rappers. His views made him a bit of a problem child and I was a proud hater until I listened to S06. I couldn’t gloss over his album like it wasn’t fire. He would be considered a gangster rapper but he can switch up the content and get introspective when he needs to. He reminds of Beanie and Scarface in their prime, the way they can go from head banging to speaking on some real shit. They gave you hard hitting Bars while making you think about real life issues in between. Vince Staples is good with this kind of balance, which will take him far in the game in terms of longevity.
6. Meek Mill – Say what you want about Meek but we should be clear on why he survived the battle against Drake. He came up as a freestyle rapper, nobody can ever take that away from him when ever he visits a radio station. No doubt he fumbled with Drake because he tried to use social media instead of the booth. Shit was embarrassing and no one anticipated the new wave of fans not giving a flying fuck about ghostwriting. He is still putting out consistent, solid projects and his willingness to evolve his subject matter will be good for his growth. The only question is will the streets still fuck with Meek if he switches up his content to more social issues? For right now, he survived Drake and will survive the break up with St. Nick, his only battle is re-energizing his buzz and climbing the ladder.
7. Chance The Rapper – Chance is another example of keeping his own lane. Chance is able to stay creative and maintain his uniqueness as a rapper. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Gospel infused Coloring Book. Not because it was infused with Gospel but because I felt like it was lacking Bars. His stage name ends in “Rapper” so I felt like he could have come a bit more lyrical. I know his fan base appreciates his whole body of work but bars will always be important. I don’t care if you crossover to rock, country or blue grass just cross over the bars too. The album is no doubt musically enjoyable and I don’t doubt he can spit. His Business approach to the game shows he doesn’t want to deal with the politics. I respect him using his fame to make a difference in Chicago. Chance doesn’t rap for himself, his passion comes from his city and it’s easy to see. All these rappers spitting for only the material aspect can learn a thing or two from Chance. Stand for something or fall for anything.
8. ScHool Boy Q – ScHool Boy is not a top tier lyricist but sometimes all you need is style to deliver the lyrics. ScHool Boy Q delivers every time he rhymes. Evolving is one of his strong suits and growth is one of the most underrated things people look for in artists. He has been consistent with each solid album and one thing I can say is that he brings his A game and something fresh to each body of work. He was the most aggressive on his last album Blank Face, which was good for him to step out his comfort zone and that’s the problem with MOST rappers. They get to comfortable with the same formula, same styles of making music cause its guaranteed to make money. You can tell if a rapper is in it for money or music by how they try and outdo their older sounds. Q may not be the top lyrically but who knows how dope he’ll be in 5 years.
9. Dave East – Dave East is coming up, another freestyler among the ranks. Another player in New York’s resurgence lately and carrying the torch. His biggest challenge to come is finding room to grow at some point in his career once he success plateaus . For now, East needs to keep his name buzzing and drop that LP.
10. Drake – One of the only reasons why Drake is on this list is sales. Sales matter to a certain extent whether you believe it or not. Hip Hop was based off competition, other then sneak dissin, comparing sales is the only way to gauge rappers between each other to a certain extent. Granted, rappers have various different fan bases: the ladies, the streets, students, the little youth, the new wave and suburban wypipo. We can talk about him ghostwriting all you want but the lane he created with his vulnerable rap is what the pop fans got excited for. No matter who drops an album, they are compared and competing against Drake – sales wise. He could easily be top 5 if his pen wasn’t questioned but Drake is mos def top New Era pop artist hands down.
Wild Card: Young MA – MA is a wild card because she has the most potential to make the top 10 universally right now. The haters will get over it at some point. She is the only *new* female rapper to stay relevant and independent as well. MA is here for pure freestyle strength, you can’t call yourself a Hip Hop head and not like ANY of her freestyles. People need to stop hating and leave all that dyke shit alone.While everyone is to worried about the rainbow flag, the only flag she is waving is Red Lyfe. She has been given props by Funk Flex, Uncle Murda, Jada and Styles P so far. She can also whip up club bangers like Ouuuu and Hot Sauce so she can reach commercial success. She is crystallizing her voice and flow and has the right attitude when it comes to being the next one up. The current top 10 rappers is her current climb. Not to say that she needs to start beefin with these artists but she will definitely have to show everyone that she is more relevant and lyrical on her MC journey. She will need to move off the generic New York formula because MA and Dave East will out grow that formula. I’m not saying they should switch up and go conscious but there is definitely a shift in the way music is being made and consumed. They should stay true to themselves but find a way to spit different content. I could also be completely wrong about MA though because I have to factor in that she is a female rapper we haven’t seen before. If only females decide to fuck with MA, she will be good worldwide.
That’s all folks!
Peace and Blessings