It was recently brought to light that some of the CH posters are interested in a musical post geared around rap/hip hop material. I, as a 27 year old middle class white dude straight out of the Twin Cities south suburbs, obviously listen almost exclusively to rap, so challenge accepted. Please note that the lyrics and videos in this post are by no means whatsoever safe for work. Logistics:
Rap/Hip Hop is an immense rabbit hole of a genre and there is absolutely no way I could do a post covering even 1% of the quality music floating around. I will stick to "contemporary" music from the last 3 or so years, and will also stick primarily to mainstream artists. I apologize if some of the material is already well into your music library, but I want to make this a bit of a training wheels session for those who have had little or no exposure to hip hop. Underground stuff (as well as the local Minneapolis scene) are deserving of their own post for a different day. Also, for the sake of organization, I will split this post up into a few more compartmentalized sub-categories. I'm really excited about this you guys.
The Heavy Hitters
Kanye West - There is no bigger current figure in the music world. There is no opposing argument to that statement. Love him or hate him, Mr. West is the most influential musical artist of the 2000s, some credit to which can be attributed to the rise of 'Ye coming in perfect unison with the social media age. The College Dropout was released when I was 17, and I don't think a single other CD was played in my car for a solid 6 months. Kanye has made a deliberate effort with every subsequent album to reinvent his sound, and he has yet to put out any objectively disappointing material (I will say Yeezus is my least favorite, but mostly just because it was just kinda weird for my tastes). This performance of Runaway on SNL a couple years back is quintessential Kanye - flashy, douchey, unnecessary pageantry, and yet breathtakingly beautiful at the same time.
Drake - Aside from 'Ye, Drizzy is probably the biggest name in the game right now. Drake gets a lot of flak, but the dude is an absolute master of crafting radio friendly raps with swooning hooks for the ladies. The half Jewish Canadian former tween TV star knows what he's doing, and he's probably laughing at those "Drake the type of" jokes right now on his way to go cash a million dollar royalties check. In any case, it's preposterous to even consider a discussion of modern hip hop without including this guy.
Kendrick Lamar - Kendrick is coming off a monster couple of years. His 2012 modern masterpiece, good kid m.A.A.d city, is one of the most critically acclaimed hip hop albums of the last 10 years, and was awarded album of the year by Pitchfork (side tangent - as much as Pitchfork sucks, they do a pretty good job with rap reviews). The album was totally snubbed at the Grammys, and the best hip hop album award was inexplicably given to effing Macklemore, who sucks. Kendrick then got all up in the world's grill with his infamous Control Verse. Kendrick got beef with everybody, but I got no beef with Kendrick.
The Young Guns
Chance The Rapper - Probably my current favorite. Following only two self-released mixtapes, Chance has taken the world by storm with his nasally melodic flows. The more recent release, Acid Rap, was received to universal acclaim, although I think his earlier 10 Day tape (which he made when he was 19) featured some of his more technically appealing mic skills.
Earl Sweatshirt - One of the youngest members of Tyler the Creator's hip hop collective Odd Future, Earl released his debut mixtape (cleverly titled "Earl") at the age of 16. Shortly afterwards, he went on an extended hiatus after being shipped off to a reformatory school in Samoa. He returned in 2012 and immediately got busy putting together his 2013 studio release, Doris, which is one of my favorite albums from last year. Earl has a poetic mumble to his flow, which he attributes to trying to emulate one of his idols, MF Doom. Earl's gonna get two entries on this list, because I think it's really amusing to see him basking in his debauchery as a high school kid vs. the introspective insight of his more recent, self-proclaimed "spiritual" state.
Danny Brown gets his own category. He's crazy, he's good, he's crazy good. I seriously love this guy. He can teeter on the brink of too ridiculous to be anything other than parody, until you remember that the dude is from the Detroit hood and is the absolute real deal. Danny is at the very tippy top of the list of people I would want to just shadow around for a day to see what the hell their deal is.
The Mixtape Wunderkinds
Action Bronson - Bronson is the personification of fun in the rap industry. I don't even know where to begin describing his awesomeness. I won't try.
Curren$y - Another one of my personal faves. A former member of Lil' Wayne's Cash Money lab and New Orleans native, Curren$y went his own way in the late 2000s, and since then has absolutely murdered the mixtape scene, releasing over 20 tapes since 2008 (including an unprecedented tare of releasing about a half dozen tapes at a clip of one per month). Seriously, the sheer volume of his catalog is impressive enough, but then you take into consideration that it is overwhelmingly comprised of free releases.....wow. My namesake also hails from a Curren$y track, so my loyalties are pretty firmly rooted.
Ladies Drink Free
Lil Debbie - The 24 year old queen of "ratchet" rap. Call it a guilty pleasure.
NoName Gypsy - an up-and-comer in the Chicago scene (she does not even have a proper release to date), I keep stumbling upon her contributions in other Chicago acts like Chance the Rapper and The O'My's. I like what I have heard from her, and anticipate that her debut will be a good listen.
While I usually don't get much out of the frat boy rap scene (Mac Miller, Sammy Adams, Spose, a million others) the upbeat catchy stuff has found an occasional home on my play list.
The "What the flynn?"
There is a lot of weird stuff on the rap internet. I won't say this stuff is good, but I can't say I'm not entertained...
Pitbull - I will not subject you to the nauseating sound hell that is a Pitbull song. I'm not an animal. Pitbull is everything wrong in the music world, and I have my suspicions that he is in fact is terminally ill, and the Make A Wish Foundation went really, really above and beyond to make his rapper dreams come true.
I guess that will conclude my list of mainstream material. Like I said, I might come back and put something together for some other categories like underground hip hop, local Minneapolis/Midwest scene, classic albums. Something, maybe.