In the past two years, the latest generation of rappers has completely flooded and taken over the culture in a way we have never seen before. The Internet era and more importantly the streaming era has led to viral hit after viral hit reaching Billboard charts over and over again, and as research shows: hip-hop/rap songs made up 30% of the Hot 100 this past year, higher than ever before.
Gone are the days of formulaic hit records, as today’s rappers are more experimental than ever, evolving the genre with each and every song they put out. Gone are the days of rappers on record labels to chase radio hits, as the rapper today builds their fanbase (a few of which are even cult-like) through their social media presence and their Soundcloud.
When looking at new rappers we have today, like the ones who appeared on the past two XXL covers for instance, I’m reminded of Jay-Z’s line from his NY Times interview a few weeks ago: “Would you rather be a trend, or you rather be Ralph Lauren?” It’s no secret that the old heads of the hip-hop industry can’t wait for the rappers of today to become irrelevant, but what if they’re actually here to stay?
Now there’s obviously cases like XXXTENTACION and Tay-K whose legal issues will likely keep them behind bars for an indefinite period of time, and so for them the conversation of whether or not they’ll maintain their careers probably isn’t applicable. But as for the new acts who are not in chains, it all depends on the strength of their fanbases coupled with their own potential…
When A Boogie’s “Drowning” arrived, it appeared as if he was all-systems-go towards taking the hip-hop by storm after having solidifying himself as the hottest young act on the East Coast and more importantly NY. He went on to put out his debut album in September and it did just as you’d expect numbers-wise, selling 67,000 copies on its first week. The Bigger Artist wasn’t necessarily a bad album by any means–some even playfully called it Take Care for scammers–but the feature-heavy project just didn’t have the same power A Boogie had with his previous efforts, especially the TBA EP.
In addition, whether you believe it or not A Boogie’s involvement in the jumping of Lil B will undoubtedly hurt him for the rest of his career. Lil B is seen as almost the patron saint rapper of this generation; his online support knows no bounds and while it isn’t cult-like whatsoever, his following and more importantly, his “Task Force” will absolutely protect Based God at all costs and forever throw hate towards A Boogie, regardless if all has been forgiven amongst the actual parties involved.
At the end of the day however what can’t be ignored is the fact that there just happens to be some aspect about A Boogie’s music that will forever evoke absolute passion from people when they sing his lyrics. Whether it’s because of his delivery or his subject matter, A Boogie has a fanbase that is here to stay, and with NY behind him they will definitely make sure that he’s here to stay too.
In terms of the support of his peers, Lil Yachty is perhaps the most well-liked of all the new rappers we see today. And while behind the scenes the possibility that Yachty is currently signed to a 360 deal may be concerning, the exterior surface of Yachty appearing to be the little brother of the hottest music group (not just rap group) right now in the Migos is definitely a situation that should bode well for him for at least the near future and possibly beyond.
As for his music, Yachty may have been experimenting a little too much on his last effort, Teenage Emotions, as the range of his fanbase didn’t necessarily support the project’s sales as expected. He may have just been struggling to search for his sound on Teenage Emotions, but Yachty needs to realize that he’s probably at his best when he leaves the Auto-tune and instead elects to rap with a sense of aggression, with or without having announced which alter-ego he’s chosen go under.
Yachty has promised that a collab tape with Lil Pump will arrive in the near future, and so long as it arrives sooner rather than later and so long as Auto-tuned vocals are left out, it will end up being a project which fanbases of both artists will appreciate.
As much as I’d like Kodak to last there’s definitely something to be said about how there was a period of time after the release of Heart Of The Projects where many felt as if Kodak was arguably the most talented of the new generation of rappers, at least in terms of rapping ability. Unfortunately that time is long gone, while Project Baby 2 (the first issue) was very impressive and better than his Painting Pictures album in my eyes, the hunger he rapped with that made his verses a must-hear has disappeared of late. Other than “Codeine Dreaming” there isn’t much worth hearing on the deluxe ‘All Grown Up’ edition of Project Baby 2; and out of all the people to do a collab mixtape with in 2017, Plies just isn’t the one.
When I hear Kodak now I think back to his “G To The A” remix from August with Jackboy (who is still incarcerated due to armed robbery charges he picked up later that month); as hearing Jackboy’s verse on that track is as if you’re hearing the Kodak of old, and then Kodak himself comes on and while his own verse wasn’t necessarily bad, you’re still reminded of how he’s fallen off.
At one point between the release of Savage Mode and the arrival Issa I actually had wondered if 21 Savage was leaning towards irrelevance; other than “Sneakin‘” with Drake the break between projects for 21 was full of insignificant features due to his insignificant verses. But he then went on to put out the biggest hit of his career thus far in “Bank Account” and I truly could not have been more inaccurate in my life. While Issa was really just a decent album overall, there were other records on there like “Thug Life” and “Baby Girl” which create a Chief Keef-like situation where now every 21 Savage album will have some fire on it, even if it’s just a few tracks. 21 probably did get washed by Offset on Without Warning, but his flows on “Mad Stalkers” and “Still Serving” are undeniable nevertheless, and so the Chief Keef/21 effect lives on.
21 is probably the one rapper on this list who’s really neither getting better nor worse, and so as long as Metro Boomin continues to provide him with the strongest of his beats, he won’t be fading away anytime soon.
While Playboi Carti fans will still claim that he has the ability to ride and effortlessly float on beats unlike any other artists, the point at which people get tired of hearing Carti verses which have more ad-libs than actual lines is definitely in the foreseeable future. Carti’s long-awaited debut project was undoubtedly a disappointment, as people realized that either all the snippets weren’t all they were cracked up to be or that he actually wasn’t about putting much effort into his music.
The light at the end of the tunnel for Carti however is his rumored collab tape with Uzi, which isn’t really a rumor as there’s definitely one on the way unless of for whatever reason the two begin to beef with one another. When that project will arrive is still unknown, but because of the chemistry that Carti and Uzi seem to have on tracks they’ve made together it will definitely be a must-listen when it does.
Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” is not only arguably the biggest record to come out of NY in over 5 years, but also one of the biggest female rap records ever. And when you couple her rise to stardom along with her genuine personality, any and all hate or shade thrown towards Cardi just seems outta pocket.
Cardi’s post-“Bodak Yellow” success is a testament to love overpowering the hate, as she’s now made Billboard history with each her first three singles (the other two being Migos’ “Motorsport” and G-Eazy’s “No Limit“) all reaching the top 10 on the Hot 100. It’s truly a cinematic moment seeing the way that people react to hearing the first seconds of the “Bodak Yellow” beat or the way people wait for Offset’s “Motorsport” verse to finish to hear Cardi’s. And so whenever it is that the heads over at Atlantic Records decide to get out of the way of her own next single, whether it’s the freestyle she previewed on IG live or the track she previewed while in the Netherlands, Cardi B’s fans will have it take off nevertheless.
The biggest asset which this new generation of rappers today have is their youth. It’s almost like the younger a rapper is, the more intriguing they seem to the fans. Whether it’s the rugrat-teens like Tay-K and Matt Ox, or the late-teens like YBN Nahmir and NBA YoungBoy, there’s buzz developed around a new teenager rapper everyday.
Such is the case for 17-year old Lil Pump, who has now seen his late-August Soundcloud release, “Gucci Gang”, rise to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 after its video (which now has over 300 million views) arrived on YouTube. The song’s meteoric rise, all due to it’s unbearably infectious hook, is unlike any we have ever seen before from any rapper who birthed their career from Soundcloud. But it’s probably safe to say that there’s a portion of new Lil Pump fans who are here for “Gucci Gang” and “Gucci Gang” alone, and when Lil Pump returns to making songs that aren’t “as catchy” as “Gucci Gang” they’ll leave and never return. And when you hear the details of the deal that Warner Bros. signed Lil Pump to, it’ll make any logical fan sick to their stomach. Hopefully he’s got a “Louie Gang”, a “Prada Gang”, and a “Burberry Gang” in the stash.
Lil Uzi Vert is inarguably the biggest and arguably the most talented artist of the new generation. Since the arrival of “Money Longer” Uzi has shown the ability to make hit after hit after hit, and his hits only seem to be getting bigger and bigger. Uzi changed his flow and went from bar-heavy to melodic with Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World, proceeded to make a song about the change of flow, only to bring his old flow back even harder in “For Real” and “Early 20 Rager” from Luv is Rage 2.
Uzi isn’t without criticism; while the first half of LUV2 was everything that Uzi fans had hoped for, the remainder of the album wasn’t all that memorable. In addition, as Uzi continues to put these hits out the concerns of “him making the same song over and over again” will arise. But the self-proclaimed rockstar has all the makings of a superstar, and as he continues to push open the boundaries of the genre it’s no telling if he’ll ever stop rising.
From the beginning of Urban Music until now, the evolvement of it has been never ending, with more appreciation for some eras than others. Will today’s era ever acquire the regard and validation as some of Hip Hops most valuable?