by Emmanuel Louis-Charles
Its all about balance
There is a lot of discussion surrounding today’s rap music. Artists like Yachty, Carti, and Uzi, and their droves of Soundcloud imitators have caused the “mumble rap” moniker to be created and hold a negative connotation among most circles. But I feel as though people have been so shocked and taken aback by the extreme sonic differences in the music of the new wave, that they have forgotten that we have been basking in near endless waves of awesome rap music since 2009. Almost every artist that is big or even mildly established, started their career when I started high school in 2009. While they do make mistakes, the XXL Freshman cover has a really good picking accuracy when it comes to selecting rappers who could be around for a while. It all started in 2009 when heavy hitters like Curren$y, Wale, and Kid Cudi made the cover.
This was just the beginning as they doubled down in 2010 and the cover hit a home run selecting, J.Cole, Wiz Khalifa, Freddie Gibbs, Jay Rock, Nipsey Hu$$le, and Big Sean. We all know how the stories of these rappers went and are currently going as they are some of the biggest in the game to this day.
So starting from 2009 and the beginnings of rappers building their own buzz on platforms like YouTube and the blogs we all read like NahRight, and 2DBZ, there are eight elite emcees that are still around today. Now lets move on to 2011 a very major year for new music.
This cover has multiple gods on it. Lil B, Mac Miller, YG, Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill, Big K.R.I.T. I dare someone to try and dispute the lyrical ability, cultural impact, or longevity of these six rappers. I remember 2011 being one of the happiest years of my life cause records like “I’ma Boss”,”Bitches Ain’t Shit”,”Suck My Dick Hoe”,and “Rigamortis” were all still new and amazing to me. Now we are at 14 really dope artists. Lets move to 2012. A bit of an off year lyrically speaking but still lots of talent.
French Montana and Future standout as the hit making titans on this list, (Macklemore and Iggy don’t count because they suck) MGK and Hopsin, have developed cult fan bases and kept their relevance high to this day as well. Danny Brown is one of the best rappers out. By 2012 there are 19 rappers that have classic capability. 2013 boasts the tagline “Best Class Ever?” and for good reason because it is one of them.
Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Joey Badass, Logic, Travis Scott , Action Bronson, and Chief Keef. Besides Sosa, and Travis who offer their own type classic of material the rest of these are traditional emcees who value lyricism, are all still poppin, and make undeniable music. So by 2013 there are 26 undeniably dope artists out, and all of them still very relevant today, but mumble rap is ruining hip hop? Lets look at 2014 my favorite cover.
Chance The Rapper (3 Grammy’s), Lil Durk, Vic Mensa, Lil Bibby, Isaiah Rashad, Kevin Gates, and Ty Dolla Sign. Are these guys still making music? Is it good? Probably not, mumble rap is so dominant (He typed sarcastically). 33 nasty artists. Now on to 2015.
In the last two covers you can see how hip hop has evolved and started to incorporate different genres like R&B and Punk Rock bending them into the framework of hip hop and creating new ones. From this list Raury, Vince Staples, Goldlink, Fetty Wap, Dej Loaf, Tink, and OG Maco. You can start to see the affection for bars and lyricism decreasing here and people valuing melody, quirkiness, and overall artistry. Things that the young art form of rap had neglected for a long time and ostracized those who attempted. We are now at 39. Lets look at the most recent cover 2016. The cover that started so many debates among rap fans and brought up the same old bullshit “hip hop is dead” conversation.
This cover started so much debate because so many hip hop heads said the majority of these people don’t even rap. I will make the argument that this is one of the most balanced covers ever. Desiigner, Yachty, and Uzi are in the high energy “mumble rap” lane. They aren’t really mumbling and you can hear them if you take your time. But their energy is bright, fun, and positive the main reason why so many young kids like them. Anderson .Paak is like the fucking rebirth of funk in hip hop. He’s like light skinned George Clinton. 21 Savage and Kodak Black are the new Jeezy/Ross/Gucci type characters. The real street niggas who tell their stories in simple ways but their charisma, character, beat selection and honesty make up for them not having mind bending bars. Dave East and G Herbo are from Chicago and Harlem two cities with storied hip hop backgrounds, and their affection for lyricism and painting pictures show that. And finally Denzel Curry and his ULT/C9 movement are going to be one of the main forces melding together hip hop and punk/metal sound.
There are still so many major people that I haven’t talked about like Drake, A$AP Rocky, and Ferg, Tyler, Earl and OFWGKTA. Groups like Migos, Flatbush Zombies, and Slaughterhouse. Not to mention the really new wave of internet kids like Playboi Carti, Uno The Activist, Thouxanbandfauni, Pouya, Fat Nick, XXXTENTACION ,Ski Mask The Slump God, Wifisfuneral and Suicide Boys. Add these and others and there are 50+ amazing solo and group acts that make every kind of hip hop you can think of. We are in the Second Golden Era and have been for a while.
I wrote this to remind people that Hip Hop is still a really young genre of music. Our culture has yet to experience the changes that other genres like Rock and Jazz have. Now that rap is the most popular we are witnessing it and to me it’s beyond exciting and nothing to downplay. I like “mumble rap” but I understand why some people don’t. But if you don’t like it don’t say that hip hop is dead, go listen to Ab-Soul, or Chance, or Cole. The internet exists. There is a rap song somewhere on it about how much a man can love his dog, his car, his feet, or any topic you can think of. (There is a rap remix of the Dora the Explorer map song that goes hard)
Just because something has gotten hot doesn’t mean its ruining the entire art form, the spotlight on “mumble rap” will pass. Until then I’m going to bump Yachty, Ab-Soul, Freddie Gibbs, and XXXTENTACION all in the same rotation, find your balance.