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Pop quiz: is hip-hop currently seeing a “golden age”, or is it inauspiciously rolling deeper into a shallow grave? Though opinions on the answer are divided, a quick look at the rap landscape of today doesn’t do much to dispute Nas’ proclamation of it being “dead” six years ago. Although lyrical MCs exist in small clusters, it’s often the most ignorant and excessive rappers that get all the blog buzz and manage to steal collaborations with veteran artists who are looking to reheat. For every decent Atlanta rapper, there’s half a dozen one hit wonders (annually); for every east coast resurgence, there’s a French (Montana) revolution; for every Kendrick Lamar/Black Hippy, there’s a Kreayshawn/White Girl Mob. And while nobody is saying that these catchy swag rappers are in contention for the GOAT spot, their presence is noticeable. So what is a blossoming hip hop fan to do when the closest thing they have to Slim Shady is a man named Hopsin? They can learn to enjoy it.
Before you hate, you must understand why they’re loved:
Who: Chief Keef
What: a teenaged, angry hybrid of Waka Flocka and Souljah Boy
Besides having a name that’s really fun to say, Chief Keef rose to fame through the local high school circuit in a city that births “up and coming” rappers every week. In 2012 it should come as no surprise that YouTube had a hand in this too, with Keef’s low-budget music videos being watched millions of times, most notably 3Hunna. Chief Keef is dangerous. He is dangerous because his videos highlight the most dangerous areas in a city that has almost as many homicides per year as Canada, and he is dangerous because he air-shoots the camera in 90% of his on-screen time. But apparently danger helps, as Keef is applauded by blogs as the “next big thing” and is rumored to be working with Kanye West. Gangsta rap is supposed to be rebellious and dangerous and like Danny Brown said, “I believe a 16 year old kid would shoot me before a grown man would”.
What: autotuned-gargeler, all bedazzled everything
Because Atlanta needs its annual superstar; strippers need something to twerk to; and YC, Gucci and Waka are still making remixes of ‘Racks’. Future has a talent for turning jumbles of barely intelligible words into half-way-catchy hooks and was recently awarded a spot on the XXL Freshman list for his work. For those who have never heard Future, imagine that weird gurgled-autotune voice that Lil’ Wayne does at the start of Abortion. Now imagine that it never stops and records a studio album named ‘Pluto’.
Expect Future’s album to be a summer-time smash for about as long as it takes for the general public to decipher what he’s saying.
Who: French Montana
Where: New York
What: cocaine slinger, fur loving mumble rapper
Since New York desperately needs to put some local artists on the radio not named ‘Fabolous’ or ‘Red Cafe’, the torch was handed to French Montana. The torch was then promptly sold for blow and diamond money.
With an extensive catalog of mixtapes, DVD appearances and thinly-veiled double entendres about selling cocaine, French Montana’s four-year hustle was rewarded this year when he signed a deal with Bad Boy and landed on the XXL Freshman cover. Although neither of these things can be labeled “accomplishments” anymore, it’s still nice to see French demonstrate that you don’t need to be good at what you do in order to get ahead, you just need to do a lot of it (exhibit b: 2Chainz). And, since nobody in the industry can say that you’re garbage if you’re “real”, French Montana has been collecting accolades from his peers for the past year for his “catchy hooks” and an “ear for beats”, even though the other two words most often used to describe him are “sloppy” and “goofy”. Expect ‘Excuse My French’, Montana’s debut album, to come out this summer with hot anthems for your shady dealings.
Who: Lil B
Where: Bay Area
What: non-sensical lyricist/motivational speaker
When talking about “bad rappers”, the conversation will inevitably turn to Lil B. His discography stretches into the thousands and consists of over the top swag rap and nonsensical ad-libs about everything from celebrities to life advice. His cooking dance has caught fire with high-caliber socialites such as Birdman and his appeal with hipster blogs has secured him worldwide touring gigs, all while staying independent. Since speaking at NYU last week, BasedGod gained some disciples while waxing poetic about ant-colonies and seatbelts to a group of people who reported feeling better about their life for days after (source: Twitter). So while Lil B will never become a household rap name or maybe even put out another commercial album, he is becoming the vessel for positive change that he claims to be. His entire existence is a testament to never giving up, regardless of what millions and millions of people say.
So, if you’re a new artist trying to make it big just remember that the current formula rests on a triple axis of originality, sincerity, and local buzz. Lyrical prowess need not apply.Tweet