We have all changed over the years, but the music that shapes us is timeless. Let’s see who carried us through the decade.
I first heard of Kendrick Lamar back in 2009 when I was searching through the popular hip-hop blog 2dopeboyz. Initially, I wasn’t paying much attention to Kendrick because I was still in my Golden Era phase. It wasn’t until 2011 that the Compton, California emcee became a favourite of mine. His “first” studio album Section.80 blew me away with the amount of creativity and thought he put into the music. As he progressed in the rap game my appreciation of his music grew exponentially. Kendrick had a tough upbringing in the streets of Compton and I relate that same struggle to certain aspects of my own life. As of 2015, Kendrick has released two major-label albums that have been critically acclaimed by both fans and music critics. His passion for his art is so admirable and I believe he’s already carved a path to greatness.
As a proud Canadian, I’m happy to say that I’m fully onboard the OVO spaceship. For the first time, in a long time, a fellow Canadian is at the top of the rap game. Born Aubrey Drake Graham, the 28-year-old Toronto rapper is already considered a modern day legend by his fan base. Drake’s ability to balance rapping and singing is an amazing feat, and he’s done a tremendous job. In the same vein as Kendrick Lamar, I wasn’t a fan of Drake at first. I absolutely despised his music and thought he wouldn’t be around in rap that long. I’m glad I decided to give his music another try because now he’s my favourite rapper. His music is very relatable to the average 20-year-old and that’s important. He’s not an in-your-face, street kind of guy. He’d rather take the subtle approach and maneuver smoothly. His detractors can say all they want about his rapping, but when it comes time to go in, he goes all the way in.
I can’t even begin to tell you how much I dig this guy’s music! I heard of him in early 2010 when his song “Hometown Hero” found its way into my ears. His voice was so unique and the production was so crisp. I noticed he used an Adele sample in the song, and I was instantly hooked. It was the first time, since Scarface, that I had a deep fascination with Southern hip-hop again. Born Justin Scott, the 28-year-old Mississippi wordsmith touched down into the rap game with such a huge force. His delivery with his words and the aggressiveness of his voice is like a perfect marriage. K.R.I.T. is also a great producer as he produces most of his own music. Unfortunately, a lot of rap fans seem to sweep K.R.I.T. under the rug due to his Southern allegiance. People tend to forget that many great emcees have surfaced from the South like Andre 3000, Scarface, Devin the Dude and countless others. K.R.I.T. lyrically precise whenever it comes to speaking about social change. He’s not afraid to speak his mind and that’s something I admire.
I never thought a 24-year-old kid from Gaithersburg, Maryland would creep up into my new favourite emcee list. Logic is a rapid-fire magician with flows that even Tech N9ne would be proud of. His ability to effectively use the difficult double-time flow is remarkable. I read somewhere that he used to smoke cigarettes and yet he can still pull off the double-time flow. Logic is the perfect example of a kid born in the 1990s who has deep influences from the infamous Golden Era of rap. Artists such as Wu-Tang Clan, Biggie Smalls, 2Pac and Nas have all influenced the Maryland spitter’s style and rapping ability. It’s been said that modern-day emcees who try to revive the Golden Era would fail miserably, but, in Logic’s case, that isn’t the case. He can create music that makes the listener think but can also satisfy the new age rap fan. Logic will be around for a long time.
I have so much respect for this man right here! Born Jermaine Cole, the 30-year-old emcee from Fayetteville, North Carolina has developed a successful career in the modern era of rap music. From his critically acclaimed mixtapes and albums, J. Cole has never sacrificed his integrity or his love of hip-hop just to become a worldwide phenomenon. When you listen to a J. Cole record, you’re going to be inspired in a good way. It’s rare to see an emcee with such love for the culture of hip-hop and still can put out amazing music for people to enjoy. He may not be as popular as Drake or Kendrick Lamar, but J. Cole has his core fans who will ride for him forever.
RUN THE JEWELS
The dynamic duo of rapper Killer Mike and rapper/producer El-P is such a wonderful mix of anarchy, anarchy, and more anarchy! Their music is a great concoction of boom bap rap and modern style trap with dope lyricism to match. Both Killer Mike and El-P experienced success in their own solo careers but the creation of Run the Jewels skyrocketed their popularity to new heights. With two critically acclaimed albums under their belt—Run the Jewels (2013) and Run the Jewels 2 (2014)—the duo plans to create the 3rd album in the trilogy with even more anarchy! It’s a joy to see two veteran emcees link together to create something special.
Meek is somewhat of a guilty pleasure selection for me. When I was a kid I used to listen to a lot of street rap like DMX, Beanie Sigel, M.O.P., and many others. Out of all the new school rappers, Meek is the only one that’s putting out street rap. The Philadelphia rapper is like the Energizer bunny; he continually keeps the energy revved up. Known for his unorthodox flows and gruff yet middle-toned voice, Meek is a fan favourite among a lot of modern day rap fans. He’s put out a critically acclaimed mixtape series called Dreamchasers and a studio album called Dreams & Nightmares. Both have seen success at an astronomical rate and time will only tell how Meek’s new solo offering will fare among the other hip-hop heavyweights of this new generation. With that being said, Meek Mill is still on a hot streak and his reign won’t end for a while.
I’d say Rocky is another guilty pleasure for me for the simple fact he’s a cool dude. The Harlem rapper isn’t just a musician, he’s involved in fashion too. A lot of people consider Rocky to be just as fashionable as Kanye West. Style is really important in rap and Rocky exudes it all. Lyrically, Rocky isn’t as suave as he dresses but his smooth voice makes up for the lack of any lyrical content. He released his acclaimed mixtape Live.Love.A$AP in 2011 and he’s been killing it ever since. Rocky is a New Yorker at heart but his music isn’t a typical New York sound. There’s a hint of the screwed up style that Houston, Texas is famous for in Rocky’s music and it’s perfect for his smooth, chill style. Every genre of music needs a person like A$AP Rocky. The world would be better.
Wale was the first emcee of the new school era of rap that I listened to. The Washington, D.C. lyricist rose to prominence with his numerous critically acclaimed mixtapes since 2007. Wale is a poet first and that’s evident throughout his music. Some of his songs feature Wale using spoken word to educate the listener on what he’s spitting knowledge on. It’s such a cool, creative way to keep the listener paying attention. Wale is also known for his ability create songs that are extremely relatable to young people all over the world. Although his signing to MMG turned off some core fans of his, he continually creates great music to keep the ball rolling.
According to Freddie Gibbs, he’s the only modern rapper putting out gangsta rap. In my opinion, I think he’s absolutely right. The Gary, Indiana emcee came out of the gate with an aggressive, fast-paced style of rap that had rap fans flocking towards him. His demeanour and image is somewhat reminiscent of fallen rap legend 2Pac. Freddie’s music is also similar to 2Pac’s in the way of talking about social issues that young black men in America face. Freddie is in your face all the time and he’s not a sucker for the soft stuff. With an impressive body of work ranging from his mixtapes to his albums, Freddie Gibbs is the answer for those who are not a fan of the sensitive side of rap. You’ll be glad if he finds his way into your music rotation.