The most technically sound and versatile of the 3 Migos. Has the ability to flawlessly transition from flow to flow without missing a beat. Despite Quavo handling the brunt of the hook work, Take Off has shown to be capable of delivering catchy choruses in his own right on group works like “Fight Night” and solo ventures such as “What Move Would U Make.”
When this Chattanooga native first stepped onto the scene, many dismissed him as a Kendrick Lamar-lite. After dropping the critically acclaimed Cilvia Demo EP, it didn’t take long for people to realize that Rashad was an entity of his own within the TDE team. His melodic raspy delivery combined with his ability to shed light on his personal experiences and emotions in a consumable manner sets the foundation for a promising career.
Tyler will be the first to tell you that his energy is primarily and sometimes solely focused on his production, but even with his “i hate rapping” disposition he can deliver the occasional hot 16 and has displayed upper-echelon songwriting ability since he was 17 years old. He hasn’t released a guest verse let alone a song in over a year and as far as the public knows there are no upcoming projects from the Odd Future-founder, but his track-record alone has made him deserving of a spot on this list.
YG has the rare ability to say a lot without saying much. He’s never verbose. He gets his point across without hitting you over the head with a bunch of double entendres or metaphors and he does it consistently. This is the quality that made the late great Tupac Shakur such a renowned writer. With the help of DJ Mustard’s beat making, his sound has become one of the most influential in the rap game over the past couple years.
Rich Homie Quan is just flat out good. He’s good technically, he’s good at writing hooks, he’s got a good vocal presence, good flow, good delivery, good ear for beats and it all comes together in the form of a great rap artist.
Favorite Project:Rich Gang Tha Tour, Part 1 (w/ Young Thug & Birdman) (2014)
16. Meek Mill
Outside of Eminem, there isn’t a single artist who has made a more successful transition from battle rapper to mainstream hip hop artist. Meek has found a lane in the game and has driven in it for nearly five years of significant relevance. His formula is pretty straight forward, he raps for the streets and about the spoils he’s reaped since leaving the streets. There isn’t much that is unconventional about Meek’s artistry, but at the end of the day he’s a really consistent rapper and has a quality ear for beats.
When it comes to flowing over a beat, Sean Don is about as good as it gets. No matter if its a boom bap beat, some trap shit or a soulful Ye joint, Big Sean hops on the track and makes it his own. Another quality the GOOD Music star has that few of his peers share with him, is simply the ability to make rapping sound easy. When Big Sean raps he makes it sound effortless. Sean is only 26 and his trajectory is trending upward as he has improved LP after LP and mixtape after mixtape.
Music does not sound the way it does today without Lil B. Point. Blank. Period. Not only is Lil B the most influential artist on this era of music and hip hop culture, but he has been the most effective sociopolitical rapper of this generation as well. He has been the biggest force behind making hip hop more open to the LGBT community, he constantly sets the example for self-expression and he delivers his views and beliefs on the world in a really accessible manner. So many of these so called “political rappers” claim to be voices for the people, but continuously make condescending music that is primarily centered around displaying how much smarter they are than everyone else (looking at you, Mr. Fiasco). The Basedgod has taken the more Shakurian approach of leaving his ego at the door and providing works that are both provocative and entertaining for the masses.
He has proven time and time again to be one of the most versatile rappers of this generation. You want thought provoking joints that have a powerful message? He’s got that. You want a direct, no nonsense, lethal diss record? He’s got that. You want street poetry? He’s got that too. You want something that just obnoxiously knocks in the whip or some shit to get you hype before a game? He’s got plenty of that. You want some airy cloud rap? He startedthat. The only knock against Lil B is that he values quantity far more than he does quality and doesn’t put together many cohesive projects that you can play from start to finish. Even with that in mind he’s put out enough quality tracks to be considered one of the top rappers under 30 years old.
Rocky has a real knack for almost becoming one with his production. He’s not the most technically sound artist of his generation, he doesn’t have the most extensive subject matter, but he can ride the beat with the best of them. Contrary to popular belief, every beat does not…I repeat NOT need to be bombarded with multi-syllable words and punchline after punchline. Sometimes its the rappers job to simply embody the vibe of the instrumentation and thats what makes A$AP Rocky potent as an artist.
Soulful, introspective, honest, prideful, and dedicated are just a few of the words that come to mind when thinking about Big K.R.I.T. and his artistry. There isn’t a subject matter he hasn’t touched. Whether it be systemic racism, college loans, love, pimping or sub woofers, Krizzle approaches the topic with the confidence of a man who has seen it all and done it all three lifetimes over.
Prince of the City 2, How Fly, Flight School, Burn After Rolling, Kush and Orange Juice, Cabin Fever, Taylor Allderdice…the argument can be made that Young Khaliferman has the greatest mixtape catalogue of all time. He along with his big brother Curren$y changed the landscape of hip hop for the better nearly five years ago. Only a year or so removed from the ringtone rap era, Wiz Khalifa found the perfect combination of modern pop rap fused with elements of 90s influences such as Bone Thugs, Camp Lo and G-funk Snoop. This recipe Wiz concocted came together in the form of a unique style that many of his peers would become influenced by in one or another whether it be Domo Genesis, Mac Miller, Dizzy Wright or any of you soundcloud rappers reading this dropping sixteens about smoking loud over free Cardo and Johnny Juliano beats.
If we are all being completely honest with ourselves, Wiz has regressed over the past few years as far as his consistency with his rapping is concerned. There will be times where he sounds like a zombie rapping with no emotion or awareness of the repetitiveness in his subject matter. With that said for any weak Khalifa song you can find there are 5 or 6 amazing songs to negate it in his catalogue. When he wants he can still flow with the best of them, his ear for beats is elite and his infectious personality always comes alive in his work.
I’ve concluded that anyone who really dislikes Migos tends to be a pretty boring person. Migos music is audio adrenaline, antithetical to the sounds preferred by your average “you say Soulja Boy, I say Immortal Technique” professing real hip hop head. Although the group as a whole personifies consistency, provides the same level of intensity from intro to outro and oozes charisma, it is Quavo who ultimately stands out.
It seems like whenever Quavo is on the hook, a radio hit is imminent. His flow and delivery have been all of the rage for over a year now with seemingly every rapper in the game attempting to duplicate it. Quavo’s energy is simply unmatched, treating every track and every feature as if it is the first single of a highly anticipated LP. Quavo and the Migos gang have fed the streets a continuous stream of quality work dropping two group tapes along with two collaborative projects in less than a year. The Atlanta-trio has progressed mixtape after mixtape, broadening their beat selection along with becoming more refined in their songwriting and it is Quavo who has been the catalyst behind it all.
Schoolboy Q is gangsta rap. He’s blunt, his delivery is raw, his stories are vivid and everything about his aesthetic is authentic. When everyone seems to be scratching at the surface of a subject, Q is the one who is first to crack the exterior and really delve into the heart of the matter. Every rapper on planet earth will tell you how quickly they’ll shoot a nigga, but Schoolboy is one of the few who will tell you why he did it, when he did it, where he did it and how it made him feel five years after the fact.
2014 has been almost like a lockout season for Hip Hop music. Even with that in mind when you look at the numbers, Schoolboy has been one of the top artists in his genre this year from a sales standpoint and he did it without compromising his sound. For that, Schoolboy takes the number nine slot on this list.
Jeffery Williams is the closest thing we’ve had to Prime Dwayne Michael Carter Jr since Prime Dwayne Michael Carter Jr himself. Stylistically the comparisons are there as far as the insane output of music, the heavy auto tune use, melodic delivery, non sequiturs, etc, but what Young Thug truly shares with Prime Lil Wayne the most is the ability to steal the show on every song. Whether its “About the Money” with T.I., “Hookah” with Tyga or “Dresser” with 2 Chainz, he completely dominates the track while only being the featured artist.
Thugger is one of the few rappers whose approach to a song can’t be predicted before hearing him on it. He has one of the most spastic deliveries in the game, aimlessly switching between mumbles, whines, screams and whispers and he does it in a way that only works for him. Oh and did I forget to mention that he has the hook game on smash??!?!?
Favorite Project:Rich Gang Tha Tour, Part 1 (w/ Young Thug & Birdman) (2014)
7. Mac Miller
Four years ago I could’ve written a piece two times the size of this list as a whole on why no one in their right mind should listen to Mac Miller. Three or four exceptional projects later and Malcolm has turned into one of this generation’s best artists. This artistic shift occurred as he started spending more time with Odd Future, Brainfeeder along with other affiliates and realized that there was a need for growth in his career. He abandoned the frat-rap and began to make music that was far more risky. Mac prioritized his personal tastes over what was appealing to mainstream listeners and that evolution in his work has resulted in some of the best full length projects to be released in the past five years. It all started with Macadelic and his unique psychedelic airy aesthetic expanded as Mac began to adapt more and more into his new role to the point where he could release a steady flow of music without compromising a smidgen of quality. After dropping the critically acclaimed Watching Movies with the Sound Off, he released an unannounced mixtape shortly thereafter under the alias Delusional Thomas. The tape was dark and gritty both sonically and lyrically. Mac altered his voice, took full control of the production, shifted his subject matter to become more horror-themed…and it fucking worked. Mac Miller is now comfortable in his own skin and we as music listeners are the winners as a result.
Favorite Project:Watching Movies with the Sound Off(2013)
6. Vince Staples
Talent wise, there might not be a single better pure rapper in the game than Vince Staples. At this point in his career, Vince is damn near flawless as a rapper. The only legitimate knock you could’ve had against him was a narrow subject matter and he improved on that mightily this year on guest verses like “Kingdom” and the entirety of his latest EP.
Something that you can pick up from Vince Staple’s personality in various interviews which I think will prove to be his greatest asset as an artist, is the fact that he is never impressed by himself. He isn’t in this for the attention, he isn’t in this for the accolades, he’s doing this simply because its what the fuck he wants to do. That attitude comes with a vigor and an absolute lack of complacency that few of his peers can relate to. Vince Staples is the first rapper who I’ve heard proclaim that he wasn’t influenced by any other artists and I can totally believe him. You can make the comparisons all you want but his music is ultimately tied to his life experiences that no one else could share and that is why he is unique. His music is an illustration of the life he’s led and it stands out in a world full of artists who are fixated in carrying on tradition and conforming to the precedents. With Vince there are no antics, ulterior motives or anything else of that nature…theres just a dude who wants you to focus on his music.
Almighty Sosa is your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper across sub-genres. Kanye West is always eager to work with the fellow Chicagoan, Gucci Mane recognizes Keef as his heir apparent, Danny Brown has declared Chief Keef is his favorite rapper on a couple occasions and Earl Sweatshirt tweets his love for Sosa on an almost weekly basis. This is not to say that if you’re favorite rapper loves something you should love it too, it’s to say that people who make music for a living hold Chief Keef in a high regard and its not some three year-long running inside joke.
Let’s start with the most obvious of Keef’s attributes….he has sounded like a grown man since he was 15 years old. If you sing or if you rap, it is better for all parties involved if you have a tight voice and Keef has the voice of someone who was born to rap. From a technical standpoint, he’s one of the more underrated rappers in the game. His internal rhyming is effortless, his wordplay is subtle (which is a combination of some of his lines going over people’s heads and him just not pronouncing words with clarity) but effective, the tone in his delivery almost always seems to fit the beat and he raps with a sense of aggression and heartlessness that just can’t be duplicated.
There is this common belief that Keef has been on the decline since dropping Finally Rich and that is in part true. If you define success based off of popularity, earning power and mainstream appeal then yes Chief Keef has declined in all of the aforementioned fields. But if you want to talk about pure artistry, Chief Keef’s progression is undeniable. His beat selection palette is constantly expanding, his song structure is never stagnant and his vocals are always evolving from his delivery all the way to his ad-libs. Many artists find conformity to be a safe-haven, but Sosa’s biggest strength is that he is absolutely comfortable with experimentation and that is what makes him so special as a rap artist.
The Sweaty Man has everything you want on a technical level. His similes and metaphors are filled with wit, his wordplay is effortless, his take on braggadocio is unique and raw and he’s about as good as it gets when it comes to rapping about how good of a rapper he is. Earl has the rare ability to be complex yet still hold the attention of his audience. He rewards listeners even on their third and fourth listens, dropping double entendres that provide a sense of awe once deciphered.
When Earl returned from Samoa, he left behind his Infinite Em-reminiscent serial killer/serial rapist subject matter and really broadened the scope of his music for the better. On his debut album, he proved to be just as if not more well versed with broaching the topics of love, coping with fame and mourning as he once was about having a threesome with Pamela Anderson and Hannah Montana’s manager. Earl is continuing his maturation as an artist experimenting with different instrumentation, finding ways to execute a less monotonic delivery and most importantly aiming to make music that is just as emotionally evocative as it is technically impressive. He has the trajectory of a legend and I don’t see anything or anyone pushing him off of that path in the foreseeable future.
Chano has the smallest sample size of work out of any of the artists on this list, but his talent is just undeniable. No artist is better at channeling his introspection in a way that is thought provoking, relatable and entertaining. He has the most unique sound in the game taking influences from College Dropout-era Kanye, Gospel Music, Juke Music and stirring them all together to create what we now know as Acid Rap.
Chance the Rapper’s music is the most honest illustration of an individual’s humanity that you’ll find in the genre of Hip Hop today. He lets listeners know of his fears, he lets you know his loves, he readily acknowledges his hypocrisies, and he wears his flaws around his neck with pride as if they were a gold chain. He does this all in a way where not only do listeners empathize with him, but they can also use his music as a means to search for meaning within themselves. The fact that a cat who is only 21 years old can really exude such emotional resonance makes him one of the unquestionably elite rap artists of today’s generation.
King Kendrick coming in at number two is the only rapper on this list with two undeniably classic LPs. In an era when mixtapes are presented as a rapper’s most honest form of work, KDot has delivered with two albums that don’t compromise a smidgen of his artistic integrity. The cohesiveness of both Section.80 and Good Kid, M.A.A.D City are absolutely rare on a historical level. You’ve got two concept albums in which each song still finds a way to maintain its own personality.
From a technical standpoint he is second to none. There is nothing forced about his metaphors, his similes or his story telling. They all come from a place of seemingly innate talent and an unquenchable thirst for greatness. No words are wasted in a Kendrick Lamar song. Every bar is a piercing blow with the intention to inspire the minds of listeners and strike fear in the hearts of his adversaries.
To set the record straight, there isn’t a single Drake song on my iPod (yes, I still use one of those). I don’t consider myself to be a big Drake fan in the slightest and he has the tendency to be a cornball of orvillean proportions. With all of that said, he is the clear cut premiere rap artist of this generation as it currently stands and its damn near inarguable.
He has IT. He has an untouchable vocal presence. He has the ability to capture your undivided attention on a song even when you’ve made your mind up that you were going to ignore him. He doesn’t have to raise his voice, he doesn’t have to slap you in the face with a bevy of big words, he just is. I talked about it previously with YG and it applies to Drake tenfold, he doesn’t have to say that much to say a lot. The man isn’t featured or starring in half of the songs on the billboard charts on accident, he brings the same level of energy and dedication track after track despite his insane work output.
Skill wise he is the prototypical rapper. From his flow to his charisma, there are no overwhelming structural flaws in his rapping. There isn’t a single style of production that can render him a misfit as he is truly one of the most versatile artists in the history of the genre.
Waka Flocka Flame - If it wasn’t for the letdown that was Triple F Life along with a couple half-assed mixtape efforts he would be in the top 10. Flockaveli is arguably the best rap album of the decade. If he can come anywhere near that type of production again, he should be regarded as an elite artist.
Offset - He’s a member of the most dominant rap group in the world right now and he provides his fair share of contributions to every single one of their projects.
OG Maco - I’ve praised him on my tumblr page on a couple occasions. This dude really has the potential to be this generation’s Mystikal. I bring up the Mystikal comparison because of his ability to channel his aggression, effortlessly flipping back and forth between faint whispers and war cries. We just need a project from him where he really puts forth an effort on every track.
Goldlink - Promising young artist coming out of the DMV. Very unique ear for beats and a really energetic delivery. Just needs to find his individuality if he wants to progress from both an artistic and popularity standpoint as the Chance the Rapper void has already been filled…by Chance the Rapper.
Denzel Curry - N64 was one of the better rap projects released last year. I personally believe Curry fucked up by releasing N64 as an EP instead of a free mixtape, but I think the potential to permeate the mainstream is still there for Curry once he hones his songwriting skills.
Robb Bank$ - His super duper cool ass voice is both a gift and a curse as he sometimes gets lazy with his actual song writing knowing his vocal presence can carry him. I believe he has the ability to deliver catchy hooks better than most, he just needs to improve technically.
Jay Rock - Many people forget that Rock is the first of the TDE members to really get any significant recognition. Since dropping his debut album, nearly every TDE member has surpassed him in popularity and the majority of them have evolved far more than Rock has over the past four years. The good news is this dude has killed every feature he’s been on over the past two years and quite a few of them have been high-profile cuts. He has a solid single out with Kendrick now, hopefully he can carry on this momentum and put together a great album.
And that’s all I’ve got for now. I apologize for any grammatical or spelling errors, but not really though…only mark niggas have time to proof-read. If none of your favorite rappers ended up on the list then you’re probably a herb. Take that up with the god you worship and the parents that raised you.
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sidenote: I plan on making a best rap album of 2014 list by year’s end but don’t hold me to it
Carly Rae Jepsen and the Rise of the “Mindie” Artist
Just as major labels are trying to score hits, they are now also working harder than ever to preserve the unvarnished appeal of artists on the rise. In recent years, we’ve seen major labels sign a rash of independent artists and then deliberately obscure the trappings of a major-label deal (the ready-for-radio single, the high-budget music videos, access to a crew of star producers). This is an open-secret strategy with roots in hip-hop—Wiz Khalifa allegedly released his critically beloved 2010 mixtape “Kush and Orange Juice” after he’d already signed with Atlantic, under the guise of an indie rapper—that has crept into other realms, particularly the world of female pop.