There’s been a rash of rising hip-hop artists on the verge of stardom this year. Despite the bevy of so-called future stars, only a handful of them will still be around to hold interest next year. Here’s a countdown of 10 hip-hop artists that made a big splash in 2010.
Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All is a rap collective out of California that has caught fire in the past few months. Led by the raspy voice of Tyler The Creator, the group consists of teenage skaters who kill things and happen to rap very well. Their vile rhymes about drugs, rape, and swastikas scare off plenty of people, but they have still managed to turn heads in high places around the industry. They were even featured in the Washington Post as a possible replacement for T.I. at the Virgin Mobile FreeFest. The depth of their roster is amazing, from the weed raps of Domo Genesis to the lyrical genius of Earl Sweatshirt, and without a weak link in between. With so much talent, and at such a young age, their potential is virtually limitless.
9. Nipsey Hussle
Nipsey Hussle looks like Snoop, sounds like Snoop, and uses every bit of it to his advantage. He was featured on Snoop’s latest album, and even found a way onto the ‘We Are The World’ remix for Haiti. Seriously though, I still have no idea how that happened. Regardless, with his first studio album on the way, Nipsey looks to step forward as the new face of the West.
This one was between Pill and Freddie Gibbs, two emcees with similar styles. Pill seems to be resurrected from Gangsta Gibbs is probably a better technical rapper, but he has a style that will make it hard for a major to sign him. And that is not a bad thing, but in this case Pill just has more mass appeal, especial when he’s carrying a deal with Asylum Records & Warner Bros in hand.
7. Jay Electronica
Jay Electronica is the only person who made this list pretty much based on a single song. His collaboration with Just Blaze, Exhibit C(lassic), has transformed him from a relatively unknown underground artist into somewhat of a mainstream name. He dazzled listeners with his combination of lyrical wonderment, profound thoughts, and rumbling flow, and left everyone wanting more. His tribute to Biggie ‘The Ghost of Christopher Wallace’, along with a few recherché guest appearances, have been mere teasers, building up even more anticipation for his album, Act II: Patents Of Nobility (The Turn). There have been rumors of it dropping before the end of the year, but don’t be surprised if the mysterious emcee has a few ‘unexpected’ delays.
There have been many comparisons of Yelawolf to Eminem, but any ‘writer’ who does so is lazy, probably racist, and should drop the pen immediately. Yelawolf is one of the most unique artists of this new generation, and his style is practically incomparable. Trunk Muzik has been one of the most popular mixtures of the year, but even it doesn’t fully expose all of his various talents. Rapid-fire raps, spoken word, and the ability to switch between flows in an instant, are just some of the tools on his belt. The only challenge that remains in his way is properly showcasing these skills on his album this fall.
5. Waka Flocka Flame
While J.Cole is one of the top new lyricists, Waka Flocka Flame is at the other end of the spectrum. He has more gunshots, yelling and… noises… than rhymes, but don’t mistake his lack of lyrics for a lack of intelligence. He openly admits in the face of all his critics that he is ‘not a rapper’, and he uses it to his full advantage. Flocka has yet to put out an album, but he has still built a strong following off of mixtapes and shows alone. His debut single ‘O Let’s Do It’ was remixed by countless artists, and a few of his other songs including ‘Hard In The Paint’ and ‘No Hands’ have turned out to be club bangers. Whether you like him or not, Waka Flocka Flame has been one of the most successful artists this year.
J.Cole’s mixtape ‘The Warm Up’ was among the top of 2009, but it was his feature on ‘The Blueprint 3’ that thrust him into the national spotlight. After Renegading Hov, he proceeded to do the same to B.o.B, Wale, and Talib Kweli on each of their own songs. He has tried to stay away from conflict, quickly refuting rumors of a rivalry with Drake, but hasn’t been able to keep everyone happy: Officials of his hometown high school denounced his video ‘Who Dat’ and called for it’s removal. Still, J.Cole is one of the smartest and most lyrical rappers in the mainstream today, and he is just getting started.
3. Nicki Minaj
With the most exciting flow since Marshall Mathers first emerged on the rap scene, Nicki Minaj is filling voids in hip hop that have existed for years. We have been without a female emcee that could compete with the male superstars ever since Foxy & Kim left, but Nicki has proven she is a force to be reckoned with. In fact, on Kanye’s recent remix of his song ‘Monster’, she eclipsed not only Yeezy, but also Rick Ross and Jay-Z, three of the biggest names in hip hop today. Like Kanye said, she could very well be the most dangerous emcee, especially in such a huge, untapped market.
2. Lil B
While he only saw mild success as a member of the group The Pack, on his own Lil B has grown into a star with his own cult-like following. He is an outlandish & eccentric character, often referring to himself as a ‘faggot’ and a ‘pretty bitch’. While other rappers are claiming to be drug lords and serial killers, he prefers to compare himself to people such as Oprah Winfrey, Mel Gibson, and of course Jesus Christ. In reality, he is more of a modern day P. Diddy, with many more memorable ad-libs than actual rhymes. Regardless, he is the prime example of how the music business is changing in the new Digital Age, especially through social media. Each song on his Myspace page has hundreds of thousands of plays, and his numerous YouTube videos have gotten over 7 MILLION views. At the age of 19, he has already written a book and been featured in The New York Times. With a little help from Soulja Boy, his Based movement has spread around the world, and has people cooking in pursuit of becoming Master Chefs.
1. Wiz Khalifa
Propelled into 2010 by strong sales of his album “Deal or No Deal”, Wiz definitely hit the ground running and has yet to slow down. This year alone he has performed at the SXSW Music Festival, appeared on the cover of XXL, and been offered a spot on tour with the pop-star Drake (which he turned down). His mixtape “Kush and Orange Juice” was the #1 trending phrase on both Twitter & Google, which was likely a contributing factor in him landing a major deal with Atlantic Records. Through his music, especially his work with Curren$y, Wiz has been able to successfully establish his image and build one of the most dedicated fanbases in hip-hop.
Honorable Mention: Big K.R.I.T, Cyhi Da Prince, Donnis, Freddie Gibbs, Vado, Fat Trel