It's hard to keep track of new rap in 2014. Artists are cranking out songs and mixtapes at the speed of light, and everybody is rooting for their own favorites. The sheer volume of modern rap releases makes it hard to track, organize and listen to. That's what we're here for.
Mainstream rap has seemed to slow down a bit so far this year -- with the exception of artists like Future, Schoolboy Q, and YG -- but there are a whole host of lesser-known artists that are making incredible music. Experimental rappers are pushing the boundaries of what we've come to expect from the genre, while others seem to be circling back to the story-driven raps that we love our legends for.
Below, we list five rappers we've been listening to a lot these days. Some are strange, some are straight to the point, but they've all got something unique to offer. Don't sleep -- you're gonna be hearing a lot more about these guys soon.
I started listening to DP because his name on Twitter is gatkingcole. If that name doesn't make you want to listen, I donno what will.
DP doesn’t just strangle beats – he pops their eyeballs out and bashes their heads in. He’s got a style like Vince Staples, rendering beats irrelevant with the slippery force of his delivery. He can rap over anything and make it compelling, but it helps that his production is phenomenal. He’s only released two songs so far this year, and they’ve both been dope enough to make him one of the best emerging rappers in recent years.
(Websites and people exaggerate this “best emerging rapper“ thing all the time but few rap like Vince Staples and if they do they’re probably better off for it.)
‘Jabar’ was first, pounding with West Coast bounce as DP darts all over it. ‘Glass Casket’ might be better, though – “Mind state structure crooked like it need braces / bro I need a mill to forget the ridicule and anguish.” ‘Glass Casket’ is produced by Sir Yogaflame, and they’ve got another song together on DP’s Soundcloud called ‘Last Meal’ that’s also nice. The kid can flat out rhyme. We need that ‘Designer Casket’ tape ASAP.
The internet was in a frenzy weeks ago over Your Old Droog and his uncanny resemblance to Queensbridge’s Finest, but don’t get caught up in the hype: Rast RFC is better.
You might call his style folk rap (Sacha Jenkins da gawd said it “felt like the blues”) - he’s got an intimate, down-to-earth way of rapping, like he’s pulled you to the side to spin stories amongst the confidence of an old friend. Droog dazzles with his mechanical skills but leaves you feeling cold. Rast is more obtuse and somewhat harder to get into – that’s what makes his style stick. Bonfire raps about past crimes. Dirt under your fingernails rap. We need this s—t.
His debut project ‘Across West 3rd Street’ is one of the most heartfelt rap tapes of 2014. You can be a sheep and go along with what everyone else is gossiping about, or you can pay attention to the best s--t out. You decide.
Chicago’s rap scene is proliferating faster than most can keep up with. Crews and solo artists alike are popping up with their own loyal following, but We The Guys are making some of the best music in the area while the belabored drill sound seems to be lagging.
Their most popular song, ‘Flee,’ falls in line with the newest Chitown musical trend of bop, fully packaged with the dance craze of the youth, but one peep at their Soundcloud (which only has three songs) reveals a group doing a lot more than bop. ‘Still Wanna Kill Sam’ is like a direct cousin of Public Enemy and N.W.A. Nothing with so much racially-motivated anger has been recorded like this in years – maybe even decades. Plus, it melds all these different sounds – it’s old school, reduced to drums and vocal effects, with a chunky snare hitting every now and then. It reminds you of the good old days when rap was actually scary. Cop their mixtape ‘IG:WeTheGuys’ (yes, the mixtape’s name is their Instagram handle) to sample their vast range of sounds. You don’t want to be late to this wave.
Everybody knows that cool fat dude with a loving spirit, a sharp sense of humor, a mild mix of self-deprecation, and a positive outlook on the whole thing. If that fat dude could rap his titties off, he'd be Mickey Christmas.
Mick is in a league of his own right now – his breakout project ‘Is This Art?’ plays like a day in the life, as we spend hours smoking weed, watching Dave Chappelle, and getting yelled at by mom alongside the Boston rapper, like a 2014 version of 'Friday.' He can be nimble with the syllables or drag his words out. He’s got concepts like ‘Overweight Drake’ and ‘Drunk.’ He’s the complete package, and you can tell he's an intelligent craftsman because ‘Is This Art?’ is so easy to listen to from front to back. Pop it in and play it through. You might end up rewinding it a couple times. Mickey is about to be a problem.
This dude is definitely not for everybody. Drug music might be an understatement, and just how much ILoveMakonnen is even “rapping” per se is debatable, but god damn, his music is addicting. There’s a reason so many people are talking about him.
Influenced by The Killers, Bloc Party, The Black Lips, and Sigur Ros amongst others, Makonnen is from L.A. but based out of Atlanta now. He’s friends with Lil’ B and works with Mike Will Made It, Metro Boomin and Sonny Digital, the last of whom produced the buzzing single, ‘I Don’t Sell Molly No More.’ Snobs may turn their nose up, but his music has a bliss that few other artists can capture. ‘I Don’t Sell Molly No More,’ as well as tracks like ‘Sarah’ on his standout ‘I Love Makonnen’ EP, are based on true stories, and the emotion of those experiences drips through his voice. You’re either gonna feel it or shun it, but you should at least give it a try; his music might be unavoidable in a couple months.