**THIS LIST IS IN ORDER OF RELEASE YEAR, NOT WORST TO BEST**
**THE FIRST LIST IS PITCHFORKS, NOT MINE**
Scrolling down the TL a couple days ago, and felt the overwhelming need to make this list, ASAP (with the help of my Dungeon Twitter Family), after we were appalled at how trash @Pitchfork‘s “Top 50 Rap Mixtapes of the Millenium” list was……
Yeah, there were some gems in there, that are also repeated on my list. But for the most part, quite a few of these mixtapes are not top-50 worthy.
Before y’all try to unnecessarily come for me, The following list is in order of RELEASE YEAR (not exact date, and NOT BY HOW I RANK THEM).
50. 50 Is the Future – 50 Cent (2002)
49. S. Carter Collection – Jay Z (2003)
48. Get Well Soon – Kanye West (2003)
47. We Got It For Cheap Vol. 2 – Clipse (2005)
46. Da Drought 3 – Lil Wayne (2007)
45. The Mixtape About Nothing – Wale (2008)
44. A Kid Named Cudi – Kid Cudi (2008)
43. The Odd Future Tape – OddFuture (2008)
42. No Ceilings – Lil Wayne (2009)
41. So Far Gone – Drake (2009)
40. Long Term – Ab-Soul (2009)
39. Overly Dedicated – Kendrick Lamar (2010)
38. Friday Night Lights – J.Cole (2010)
37. Kush & OJ – Wiz Khalifa (2010)
36. More About Nothing – Wale (2010)
35. EARL – Earl Sweatshirt (2010)
34. The S.O.U.L. Tape – Fabolous (2011)
33. LIVE.LOVE.A$AP. – A$AP Rocky (2011)
32. Setbacks – ScHoolboy Q (2011)
31. What The F*ck Is a Jay Electronica – Jay Electronica (2011)
30. XXX – Danny Brown (2011)
29. 1999 – Joey Bada$$ (2012)
28. 4Eva N a Day – Big K.R.I.T. (2012)
27. Hitstory – HitBoy (2012)
26. Ivy League Club – CyHi Da Prynce (2012)
25. Detroit – Big Sean (2012)
24. Royalty – Childish Gambino (2012)
23. Amerikkkan Korruption – Capital STEEZ (2012)
22. No Idols – Domo Genesis & The Alchemist (2012)
21. The Abstract and the Dragon – Busta Rhymes & Q-Tip (2013)
20. Wrath of Caine – Pusha T (2013)
19. Acid Rap – Chance the Rapper (2013)
18. Come As You Are – Audio Push (2013)
17. Stolen Youth – Vince Staples (2013)
16. Young Sinatra: Welcome to Forever – Logic (2013)
What do you do when your school district is crumbling ?
What do you do when your people are being killed; and left for dead in the streets?
What do you do when you look outside and see nothing but an abandoned neighborhood that you are dying to escape?
You go in the studio to escape your reality; and simultaneously vent about it. You dedicate your life to these songs, until you no longer have to deal with walking past abandoned buildings and getting news about your dead homies. That’s what you do. And that’s exactly what we did onThe Infinite Project.
It all began when rapper, Big Sean, donated an Adidas-sponsored studio last Spring, to his Alma Mater, Cass Technical High School.
That upcoming Fall, a curriculum would be created around the studio; in which students would gain music-industry experience.
The industry program consisted of four categories: Songwriters, Artists, Executives, and Producers/Engineers. Many students signed up, but only about 40 students made the cut.
Everyone was so excited to begin their business venture until… The District put the program on hold. For months. Some students took their talents home, while others refused to let the studio become a museum; and recorded off-the-record music there after hours.
After a long battle, the studio would finally re-open for use. Students hurried back, not knowing what the future will hold, but only what the present brings – a mic, and a booth. Artist development expert, Brandon Smith, also played a huge role, as he was overseeing the program. Students worked non-stop until they had 13 tracks ready for Adidas to hear.
The Woman Behind the Label
When the program started back up in the Spring, Executive Shayla Card-Nowlin, was moved up to the CEO position. Her and other executives agreed to name their label “Elevated Records”. Shayla has been working in the businesses field since the age of 15; and has had a passion for music since she came out the womb. Even though she graduated High School in the midst of creating the Debut tape, she still returned to the school to make sure things were in nothing less than perfect order.
There were times where herself and other students would get to the Studio as early as 8 AM, and would be the last to leave. They were even having recording sessions on Saturdays. As CEO, Shayla sacrificed a lot to make the creative process possible for others; but she couldn’t have done it without executives Madison Kearney, and Erin Cross.
All three Executives collaborated in order to create a solid foundation for the songs; such as: Branding each Artist, Public Relations, Editing, Managing, and much more. They may not have photo shoots or songs, but they are still stars behind the scenes nonetheless.
The songs on The Infinite Project were written for and by High-School students, therefore you will hear the growing pains of love, loneliness, daily grind, and progressive activism.
One of the songs, titled “Last Words”, focused on the last words of victims of Police Brutality, and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The track was produced by Isaiah Pelt and Orlando Johnson, with the input of another producer known as TG. A piece written by Shayla is also included in the song.
“These are the last words, as blood soaked Philando’s white tee” is just the first line of her piece.
Another memorable song from the tape is “You Were Here” by God Aking Allah. God wrote about his father leaving him, yet returning once again, all while losing his Grandmother, who cared for him.
Everyone’s favorite track seems to be “Count It” by Fred B, as Micah Lee Morris blesses the song with her background vocals. “Count It” is really what Detroit is all about. The Grind.
Finally, Mariah has a laid-back, yet straight-up love song titled “Lie 2 Kick It”. This track also has a feature from Fred B.
I would like to thank everyone involved. After being cooped up in a Studio for hours on end, expressing ourselves, encouraging one another; we are no longer “business partners”. We are FAMILY. And I love you all.
I wish us all many more blessings. And to all those listening; there is more to come.
Although this police brutality and racism problem has been ongoing since before I was even born, recent events have sparked serious outrage across the Country. For those who haven’t heard, two more black men were gunned down in cold blood last week. Two more fathers, brothers, and sons, turned into hashtags.
Yes, there were others. A white man, four Hispanics, and five Dallas police officers. But the lives of the two black men being taken started it all. The Black Lives Matter movement has surfaced again, as it always does when more of our brothers and sisters are murdered by “law enforcement”. And just like last time the Black Lives Matter movement became relevant, the #AllLivesMatter advocates resurfaced as well….
Why is it so hard for people to understand the Black Lives Matter movement?
Why is it so hard to see an entire race suffering?
Saying “All Lives Matter” intentionally undermines the people of color’s effort, emotions, initiative, and completely ignores the poor treatment of African American’s across the U.S. Of course “all lives matter”, even the millions supporting BLM agree with that. But currently, people of color are being slain by the ones sworn in to “protect and serve”, at a disproportionate rate. Black people are being treated as less than human, quite honestly.
There was a video that surfaced last year, of a black male being shot several times on his front porch, in front of his family.
For one quick second, lay your white ideas and beliefs down, and tell me that’s okay.
How can you watch a whole race be treated as second-class citizens, and continue to press for white pity?
If white people were being treated the same way as blacks, there would be a WhiteLivesMatter movement, they would have rallies and protests. Instead, they create AllLivesMatter as a rebuttal, because God forbid people should be worried about any other race.
Black men and women have been hurting for hundreds of years, constantly being tormented by the government, racists, and just about everyone. And you still want to push aside their movement so you can get your two cents in?
This is bigger than just a problem with police tactics, or institutionalized racism. This is about LIFE. There needs to be change, and it starts within communities. The whole idea of “Race” was ignorant ideology created to distance and separate the Whites from all other minorities. What makes a white man so different from a Latino, or Indian, or Asian? Other than Skin color? (which there’s no “race” gene in your DNA for anyway).
Stop shouting that whites have it just as bad, because not once have I seen a white man murdered while selling CDs, or reaching for his I.D.
Enough is enough. Leave the AllLivesMatter bullshit at home, and support our brothers and sisters who are hurting right now.
There’s something quite magnificent about a record label leading a dynasty in Hip-Hop. For example, just flashback to the Wu-Tang Clan’s monopoly of the culture in the 1990’s to recapture this feeling.
Maybe it’s the Shaolin in me, but I can’t walk three blocks without noticing someone with a Wu-Tang symbol tattoo, or a black and yellow “W” across someone’s chest.
This sports-team leveled affection to the Clan was because, their symbolism was more than just the music. The martial-arts influences created a unique connection to their fans. RZA’s release of a personal favorite book of mine, titled ‘The Tao Of Wu’ taught me the life of a Wu, as well as the steps taken into becoming a 5%’er. Even Method Man had become an A-list celebrity, not only for his music, but for his work as an actor as well.
As it’s been over two decades since we’ve seen a true dynasty in Hip-Hop, I believe that we’ve all forgotten the impact it has on a culture. Just as I previously alluded to, the way you walk, talk, act, think, perceive things… The Wu had their fingerprints all over it. Hailing from the last name of Kanye, the West Coast Wu, otherwise known as Top Dawg Entertainment, are ready to roam rampant as emperors of the culture.
For the average fan of hip-hop, TDE is relatively ripe to the mainstream culture. They understand Kendrick and ScHoolboy anchor the ship, but are ignorant towards everyone else riding shotgun. According to Mika, ‘your #MCM still think Ab-Soul a workout plan’, and Jay Rock sound like the new drug on the corner these days.
Isaiah Rashad is particular with his features and hasn’t released a project in almost 3 years, and SZA is still an afterthought after RZA, GZA, and Smoke DZA to the mainstream culture. But, what the average fan still is yet to realize is that this team hasn’t even scratched the surface on their potential. It’s a team with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook… and four other elite talents that the mainstream media has yet to become familiar with. 2016, however, is the year that the TDE takeover begins:
With one album already released in Kendrick’s victory lap of ‘Untitled Unmastered,’ Blank Face is TDE’s 2nd album of the year.
Quincy’s ability to merge gangster rap and party music is like the peanut butter and jelly of hip-hop. ScHoolboy’s ability to inflict hostility and sheer grit into his voice, while simultaneously flowing greater than a lie detector has deservingly put him into most top 10 lists in our current generation. ScHoolboy Q can flow on literally anything. Put some Quincy over some Mozart or Sebastian Bach, and he’ll find a way to flow as wavy as Max B on it.
In terms of sheer rapping ability and matching rhyme schemes, you can make the case that Q is the best in hip-hop right now. Even in provoking emotion, ‘Gangster in Design’ or ‘What they Want’ are like a double shot espresso for me in the morning. As Schoolboy’s album has just released this week, we hear the evolution of the Blank-Faced Crip.
“Torch” guides us into the windows of ScHoolboy’s soul, gaining imagery of Q’s vision, over an Anderson .Paak cameo. As the project’s introduction, I’m immediately intrigued by the evolution of Q. The track had a much more jazzy feeling than anything in Q’s catalog. His story telling painted the picture of ScHoolboy’s unheralded ambition to reach success.
This track alone sums up my love for Q’s music. He’s the shot of HGH in your arm that instantly re-inspires you. His gritty voice, and fiery flow stimulates my mind.
“Lord Have Mercy” continues Quincy’s evolution, with a sharp pen game, Q reminisces over his past foolishness as a gangster, and how his determination catapulted him into success. Swizz Beats’ production on the track puts goosebumps on your back. Q performs admirably with tales from the hood.
“THat Part” Transitions into a much more melodic ScHoolboy. The harmonized flows and catchy hook forces me to start dancing whenever it’s comes on shuffle.
In the LP’s 5th track, we hear “Kno Ya Wrong” with a cameo appearance from Lance Skiiiwalker. This is Lance’s first feature as a signed artist to Top Dawg, and we begin to familiarize ourselves with his value to the label. In a raspy, baritone voice, a cold hearted Lance expresses his lusty infatuation for a woman in his past. ScHoolboy’s remained reminiscent in his first verse, until transitioning into sharing the same lust Lance shared for a woman. ScHoolboy, now enjoying the luxuries of life, wants to share it with a woman in his past. This track is a blueprint of ScHoolboy’s evolution as an artist, displaying the ability to rhyme over a more sensual jazzy track, with the assistance of Lance Skiiiwalker. Part of me believes that Lance’s an integral piece to Top Dawg because of his ability to be musically inclined. I can’t help but think Lance brought the best out of Q in a jazzy, sexual song.
I’m sorry, I had to skip right to “Ride Out,” as it’s gone Usain Bolt running away with the summer anthem gold medal. ScHoolboy and Vince should be illegal. Nah, that shit’s a drug. “I’M FROM THE BOTTOM, THAT’S THE TOP OF THE TOWN.” Sorry, had it in rotation and lost control. The crip-duo gave cryptic verses filled with anguish and animosity. This combo better than Curry and Durant.
“Whateva U Want” and “Overtime” will perform admirably as singles. Both songs have extreme potential in clubs and on radio.
“Blank Face” gives us an overview of what ‘Blank Face’ symbolizes. The Blank Face represents how Quincy has seen so much horror in his life, that he is unfazed by struggles. He’s overcome so many obstacles – from being forced to sell drugs to stay out of poverty, to seeing his friends die, that he’s become Blank Faced towards society.
The last song I’ll highlight is “JoHn Muir”. JoHn Muir takes us on a cruise through the streets of Figueroa. The eccentric sound to the track begins with Q, gritty as ever, telling tales growing up as a crip in the streets of California. This song reminds me why I love good gansta-rap so much. Visualizing Quincy “Running from the crash unit like I’m state farm” motivates me internally.
I admire the ambition Quincy had. You hear the honesty in his voice. His road was tougher than mine, and I have the utmost respect for it. You hear his hustle. His flawless ambition. His ability to make the best out of a bad situation from a young age. I admire it. As hip-hop has switched from drug dealing to drug taking, it’s certainly refreshing to hear Q speak about his struggles. How he survived, and catapulted himself into being one of the most beloved artists in hip-hop is rare, and it’s how I kinda view artists as superheroes.
All in all, this project familiarized myself with who Blank Face Quincy is more so now than ever.
The second domino begins with an artist that could battle 10 rounds, toe-to -toe, with anyone from the golden age of Hip-Hop. With slick similes throughout his thought provoking music, Ab-Soul’s “Longterm Mentality” lives on in the Summer of sixteen.
Although “These Days” received lukewarm reviews, people have forgotten that the project was mere satire of the shallow-watered culture of our society in 2014. This is the same man that dropped ‘Control System,’ which unlocked infinite square feet in compartments in his listeners minds. Ab-Soul, lyrically, is the closest thing that hip-hop has to Kendrick Lamar. (No, Jay Electronica, you’re -4 songs available on cassette tapes don’t count). However, the clear contrast between the two are styles, as people fail to point out that Ab-Soul is an anarchist, whereas Kendrick isn’t.
Ab-Soul’s fight the power philosophy may become the tipping point in TDE’s success. His albums are normally thought provoking, anti-government, and most of all, educational towards the real issues in society. If Soulo’s #DWTW project can reach its potential, this may become the project that defines TDE. The revolution of a nation makes this more than just rap, it’s the culture of hip-hop versus the system.
After not one, but two, pivotal releases this Summer forthcoming, Isaiah Rashad is set to release in 2016 as well. As Isaiah hasn’t released a project in over 2 years now, we’ve subconsciously begun to underrate the artist.
However, as “Smile” and “Nelly” have released as singles, we’re beginning to see a glimpse of an artist evolving. Going full charizard-mode, Isaiah has evolved and spitting more fire than ever. His sound sounds as crisp as a Brooklyn pie, and his melodies seem to have improved. Isaiah is the swiss army knife of TDE. His ability to snap at any given moment is matched with his uncanny ability to reel off some of the most rhythmic hooks in hip-hop.
His speaker-phone static sound matches perfectly with his ability to hold a note. Isaiah, from a mainstream perspective, has the potential to become TDE’s biggest weapon. An artist who can command radio play off his buttery smooth sound, while remaining conscious lyrically, and providing just enough grit for the hip-hop purist to approve of. Zaywop is the future.
Then, we have SZA. Kind of the oddball of the group (aside from the newest member, Lance Skiiiwalker), SZA possesses an absolutely stunning voice, which she has used to create her own sound as a Neo Soul artist.
Her voice is as soothing as a glass of warm green tea with lemon before bed. In a generation deprived of women R&B singers, SZA comes at an important time in our culture. A generation full of following bad bitches and petty queens, SZA is an independent queen with mystical deep lyrics, entwined with a refreshing honest perspective from a woman. It’s a sound this generation has been missing out on.
With ‘A’ on the way, SZA is in a unique position. As a part of TDE, she’s gained a plethora amount of fans that normally wouldn’t have intrigue in her genre. Honestly, I couldn’t see myself stumbling upon SZA unless TDE swooped her up. A diverse fan base with a co-sign from Rihanna equates to the future of SZA looking so bright, she might go blind if she blink twice.
Lastly, we have Lance Skiiiwalker, TDE’s newest member.
On May 11th, 2016, all of TDE’s members began tweeting question marks @ skiiiwalker’s account.
“The track is a raw, grimy piece of lo-fi funk that includes extended segments of heavy bass and rough static. A lighter melody begins to develop toward the end of the song, as Skiiiwalker softens his vocals. “Speed” is wildly different than most everything TDE has released, though it somehow fits into the label’s aesthetic, especially considering the more experimental turns its artists have been taking lately.” – HotNewHipHop
Most people found this video to be “weird” and “creepy”, but I just feel as if we should see the direction all of this is taking with Skiiiwalker’s debut project. Lance has also appeared Oxymoron (2014), Jay Rock’s 2015 Album 90059, Kendrick’a Untitled Unmastered 04, and on Q’s recent release, Blank Face LP, on Kno Ya Wrong with flawless vocals.
All we know as of right now, is that Rocket, Johnny Rocket, Lance Skiiiwalker and Lance Howard are all the same person. From the few songs we’ve heard from Lance now, we can tell his sound is extremely distinct. His baritone voice combatted with poetic lyrics and ear for production makes him the ultimate swiss army knife and the most underrated piece to the TDE. I can’t help but think that Lance is going to have his hands on most of TDE’s upcoming projects. Even if he’s not providing verses, his ear for music will be all of the production of upcoming TDE projects.
Although TDE’s potential may lie limitless, they are still faced with threats within the industry. In fact, it’s almost as if you can’t even spark the conversation of the greatest label without mentioning the Pablo of streetwear, and Picasso of coke-flipping references in the dynamic duo of Kanye and Pusha T.
Rightfully so, G.O.O.D. Music deserves recognition within this debate. With Big Sean’s rapid improvement in the past few years, and the likes of prestigious veterans such as Common and Mos Def on the label, it’s a roster that at first glance will make your heartbeat and imagination wander into the infinite capabilities that the roster holds.
However, from an outsider’s perspective, it feels less like a team united under one goal, and more like a collection of outstanding artists more involved in their individual careers. I feel as if the unearthly potential of this label has never quite materialized in reality. Yes, Kanye and Pusha have rattled off a few songs that can boost your testosterone in just seconds, but, there’s something missing within the roster, and that is unity.
Adding to that, Common and Mos Def are at the twilights of their illustrious careers, and the label has yet to do anything to help Teyana Taylor and CyHi Tha Prynce receive nation-wide respect. Adding to that, the newly signed Desiigner makes me question what Kanye’s motives were.
Will the “Can’t Believe It’s Not Future” artist be able to triumph into stardom with a collection of club bangers, or will he be just another one-hit-wonder whom we’ll vaguely remember when shuffling our Pandora playlist of ‘2010’s Hip-Hop’?
Although I may remain skeptical of the signing, time will reign as the chief answer in Kanye and Pusha’s plan for G.O.O.D. Music. Although there may not be friction or an Ether 2.0 brewing between G.O.O.D. and TDE, the competition will heat up as the dog days of Summer loom.
The battle for the throne will begin shortly, as five of the seven artists on TDE’s roster have yet to even release an album this year. ScHoolboy only has one (major) release to his name, which just so happened to get nominated for a Grammy last year. And even Kendrick’s rise towards true mainstream-media stardom only began last year, and still people are dissecting the depth in his heartfelt lyrics, and understanding the prophetic poet that is Kendrick Lamar.
They’ve yet to become acquainted with the rest of his friends, and five of those are releasing projects within the next 6 months. Hopefully a Black Hippy project is upon us as well. The TDE Takeover is upon us, and just like the Lakers of the early 21st century, be prepared for a dynasty.
A TDE versus The World monopoly.
I say this with an unapologetic confidence, because it’s going to be bigger than hip-hop. TDE is on the cusp of becoming a symbol for the culture, under the influence of HiiiPower.Just like Wu-Tang was for the children, TDE is for the youth.
Ab-Soul’s Control System had you looking at gender roles, and gang unity all while forcing you to research the Pineal Gland and the Bohemian Grove.
ScHoolboy and Jay Rock bring the street wisdom, energy, and most of all, GRIT, into your life. Gangster Hip-Hop is based off the recurring theme of grit.
According to a TED Talk on ‘Success’ GRIT was the main attribute that successful students, new professors, lawyers, and army veterans possessed. It’s bigger than hip-hop. It’s a revolutionary new soul, in a society utterly dependent on synthetic energy, oppression, and negativity.
You can easily make the argument today that Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, ScHoolboy Q are top 5 rappers in the game as of now. Even Isaiah Rashad and Jay Rock will pile up on most Top 10 lists, and even SZA seems to becoming elite in her genre. Get excited for the West-Coast-Wu, and get on the bus before the awaiting bandwagon fills up.
The following list (in no particular order) consists of a list of the artists that I feel are the most under-appreciated. Not just hip-hop, but in general.
There is also a list of more-than-honorable mentions at the bottom.
21. Ron Gilmore
Ron Gilmore is an in-house producer and artist with Dreamville, who produced the majority of Born Sinner, Last Winter, Too High To Riot, and even a couple tracks on 2014 Forest Hills Drive, (that album that went platinum with no features, lol). I watched last week as he opened the stage for the 1st night of the “Too High To Riot” tour here in Miami, and was immediately enraptured with his subtle, dreamy beats and smooth voice.
KA, from Brownsville, Brooklyn has been around longer than you think. This MC has been rapping since 1993. He teamed up with producer Preservation for their 2015 album “Days With Dr. Yen-Lo”. This album has a very MF DOOM-like vibe, with subtle beats, and almost a poetic, spoken-word like delivery. I highly recommend it.
Smino Brown proudly reps his city, St. Louis. Just yesterday, I was put on to Smino’s “Blkjuptr EP” and as bold of a statement as this is, he is already in my current Top 1o; purely based off of originality and content. Monte Booker producing, combined with Smino’s unique voice and flow, is a match made in music heaven.
“A lot of these industry people think I’m stupid. I’m a young black male; you can’t finesse me. We’ve been getting finessed our whole lives. We get that shit! That’s why the EP is called blkjuptr. Being a black man in America feels like you’re on damn Jupiter sometimes,” – Smino Brown (Pigeons & Planes interview)
Sylvan LaCue, formerly known as QuEST, has been dropping 20+ track mixtapes of straight heat since 2007. Native to my city, Miami, he began getting serious attention following his critically acclaimed mixtape, Searching Sylvan (2014); and more recently, for his debut album, Far From Familiar. Sylvan manages to enrapture his listeners (myself included) with his creative lyricism, and amazing story-telling techniques. He is rapidly approaching my tight-knit top 10.
Nick Grant, native to a small town in South Carolina that you’ve probably never heard of, is making a name for himself. On track 4 of his sophomore mixtape, titled ’88, he described himself as a “southern nigga with these up north flows”. When I first heard his tape, instantly thought he was from New York, and fell in love with his creative punchlines, entendres, and witty lyrics. He has also been cosigned by rappers such as T.I., and Young Jeezy; as well as Big K.R.I.T. and CyHi The Prynce, who both were featured on ’88.
Who is Jean Deaux? “Jean Deaux is a hip hop diamond in the rough. The soulful teenager from Chicago, IL is more than a pretty face gimmick. Jean Deaux’s music is an expansionary subgenre that infuses Amy Winehouse singing and Missy Elliot‘s innovative rhyme pattern.” – Jenesis Magazine
She has collaborated with Mick Jenkins, Isaiah Rashad, Pro Era, Donnie Trumpet, and more.
Dave East is the next hottest gritty, aggressive rapper coming out of New York. He’s been preaching some real shit since he released his first mixtape in 2010. The first project I heard by Dave was his 2015 album “Hate Me Now”. The first thing that crossed my mind was “hate me now? like the nas song on I Am?” Then I later learned that he was paying his dues thanks to the cosign he had just received from the GOAT himself – Nas.
Raury – a 19 year old Atlanta, Georgia native, is a rising innovator. He dropped his first project, labeled “alternative”, titled Indigo Child EP, in the summer of 2014. The same year, he signed his first record deal with Columbia Records. Raury was also featured on the cover ofXXL Magazinefor the 2015 Freshman Class.
Many have called him “the next Andre 3000” after listening to his self-produced, self-written debut album, All We Need. When I first listened to All We Need, I was blown away by the originality. And of course, the Big K.R.I.T. feature that I couldn’t help but get overly excited for. Raury also took part in the 2015 BET cypher, and effortlessly killed it.
“Describe who you are and what you do in one breath”:
“I’m an artist and I create hip-hop music, poetry. I’m black. I define my identity in being black. I’m weird, I’m awkward.” – Noname Gypsy (MSNBC Interview with Alicia Maule)
NoName is unique, to say the very least. Her voice is calm but hesitant, yet she simultaneously seems so sure of herself. Her poetic, spoken-word flow is soothing and freeing. NoName has collabed with Mick Jenkins, Chance the Rapper, Donnie Trumpet, Jean Deaux, and more. I am still impatiently waiting for her “Telefone EP”.
Check out her SoundCloud:
11. Bi$hop Nehru
Bi$hop Nehru is a 19-year-old rapper and producer, from Nanuet, New York. At age 13, Bi$hop began making jazzy beats and instrumentals. In 2013, he opened for Wu-Tang Clan’s 20th anniversary European Tour, and later that year dropped his debut mixtape, Nehruvia. On May 22nd 2014, it was announced that Bi$hop was one of the first signees to Nas’ Mass Appeal Records. Later on in 2014, an EP with Dizzy Wright titled BrILLiant Youth EPwas released, followed by NehruvianDOOM, a collab album with MF DOOM. I had the pleasure of meeting Bi$hop after Joey Bada$$ show in Ft. Lauderdale last October (2015). He’s definitely someone to look out for. His official debut album (that we’re still waiting on) is supposedly going to be produced by Nas. He also dropped a new mixtape last week titled “Magic:19”.
The Internet, a soul band consisting of previous Odd Future members Syd The Kyd (vocalist) and Matt Martians (producer), as well as Jameel Bruner, Patrick Paige, Christopher A. Smith, and Steve Lacy. They were formed in early 2011, and began releasing albums almost immediately. Their debut album, Purple Naked Ladies, was the first album released under Odd Future Records. Their second studio album, Feel Good, received more attention than their first, but nowhere near as much as their 2015 project, titled Ego Death. Ego Death was Best Urban Contemporary Album at the 2016 Grammy Awards, however the award was taken home by The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness. Ego Death was easily one of my favorite projects of 2015. From Syd’s vocals, to the contemporary soul/jazzy feel, to the mellow soft-rock vibe, it’s just one of those albums you can let ride from beginning to end.
Leon Bridges has completely immersed himself in soul. The 26 year old Fort Worth, Texas native has brought back that Classic Soul feel that I love so much. Listening to his debut album, Coming Home, brought me back to that happy place that I feel when listening to some of my favorite old school R&B artists such as Bill Withers, Otis Redding, and Marvin Gaye. His album was nominated for a 2016 Grammy, however the award was taken home by D’Angelo.
EARTHGANG, a powerful, unique, Rap-duo from Atlanta, Georgia, is making new waves in the Hip Hop culture. EARTHGANG is Composed of 2 wildly talented MCs, Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot. They released their first EP, titled “The Better Party” in 2010, and have consistently been releasing projects since. They recently dropped their second studio album, “Strays With Rabies”. The extremely original production, combined with innovative lyricism has made me an avid supporter of EarthGang and the SpillageVillage group. I was able to watch them open for the “Too High To Riot” Tour, and was extremely impressed with the energy and passion put forth in their performance.
GoldLink, a young MC from the DMV area, has recently been making waves. Starting out as just a soundcloud rapper on Twitter, GoldLink has successfully and flawlessly managed to combine electro-pop production elements, with Hip Hop and lyricism. He has recently became one of my favorite new artists. His first full length LP, titled “And After That, We Didn’t Talk” was released in 2014, followed by his most recent project, “The God Complex”. Both projects are laced with unmistakable originality, and pure greatness of combining genres. A lot of his production is done by KAYTRANADA, who just released a super dope album titled 99.9%.
SZA, a gorgeous Alternative R&B/Neo-Soul singer with unmistakably beautiful vocals, has been the leading lady of the Hip-Hop powerhouse, Top Dawg Entertainment. Home to Kendrick, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, Isaiah Rashad, and Lance SkiiiWalker. SZA’s music combines elements of Soul, Hip-Hop, and R&B. Needless to say, she is quite unique. She released her first EP, See.Sza.Run (2012), followed by S (2013), and then finally Z (in 2014, which was under TopDawgEnt). Now, we are impatiently waiting for her upcoming album, A. One of my favorite collaborations was SZA and Wale on “The Need To Know”, a track from Wale’s 2015 Album, The Album About Nothing.
Anderson .Paak, an Oxnard, California native, is Dr. Dre’s newest signee. He was featured on Dre’s album Compton, The Game’s Documentary 2.5, KAYTRANADA’s 99.9%, and much more. His soulful, raspy, authentic, passionate voice gives character to everything he does. His Debut album, Venice, was “too heavy for you frail niggas” as he said on a track from his most recent album, Malibu. He’s been making music since his early 20’s, and recently blew up – just like I knew he would. The first time I saw Anderson live was when he opened up for Earl Sweatshirt at his September 2015 show, alongside talented producer Knxwledge (the other hald of the NxWorries duo). I had the pleasure of meeting .Paak, and hearing a In January 2016 when Malibu dropped, I was immediately in love with the feel-good, soulful vibe. Highly recommended.
Donald Glover, best known by his rap name Childish Gambino, is modern day Quadruple (or possibly quintuple) threat. Gambino is a Rapper, Singer, Actor, Comedian, and who knows, maybe he can dance too? he showed us some moves in the “Sober” video. The first 2 tapes I heard by Gambino were “I Am Just A Rapper” 1 and 2. I loved his childish (no pun intended) take on rap, and that propelled me to look deeper into his projects. Doing so, I heard his beautiful cover of Tamia’s “So Into You” I immediately fell in love. He even has a TV show premiering this year. That’s when I knew he was a man of many talents, and deserves some more praise.
Mick Jenkins, an extremely talented, unique, young MC from the Southside of chicago, cannot be slept on. I had checked out some of his music last year and was very impressed, so when I heard he was having a show in my city, I made my way there, had a dope front row experience, and have been an avid supporter since. Mick is now a staple in my Top 5, and has restored my faith in this generation of real talented MCs. Usually when listening to an artists first tape, you can easily hear the progression they’ve made over the years. But when listening to the Mickstape, from 2012, it was clear that Mick started out insanely strong and is only getting better. I was also extremely impressed when I heard the track “Ps and Qs”, because it takes real talent to be able to make a whole song an alliteration. Needless to say, the anticipation for his upcoming album [T]he [H]ealing [C]omponent is killing me.
Pittsburgh native, Mac Miller’s arguably strongest aspects pertaining to his music career are 2 very important things. Progression, and improvement. As a rapper, producer, and a musician, Mac is a man of many talents, who has continuously delivered a different sound with every consecutive project he’s released, since his first drop, in 2007. At only 24 years old, Mac has developed an extremely impressive catalog, consisting of three albums, two EPs, and several mixtapes. He has numerous aliases under which he releases music, which is not uncommon in hip-hop. However, his originality is undeniable. In his jazz EP, entitled “You”, Mac introduced us to Larry Lovestein, the lighthearted lover who’s vocals lie nicely over soft melodies. This alias is quite in contrast to his Delusional Thomas character, whom’s lyrics consist of elements of sadistic and psychotic tendencies, infused with maniacal production – and not to mention the pitched voice, which adds to the delirious theme. Mac is also credited as a producer under the alias Larry Fisherman, with two instrumental tapes under a volume series known as, “Run On Sentences”. As a man of such a wide platform of talent and capability, Mac should be considered one of the most versatile artists in the industry right now. Although he has acquired much more attention since his earlier mix tapes, Mac still remains as one of the most underrated talents for the time being.
The Lyrical Genius, The man, Felipe Andres Coronel, better known as Immortal Technique, is an Underground Legend. Raised in Harlem, New York, his lyrical content deals in everything from controversial political issues, socialism, class struggle, poverty, religion, governments, to economics and racism. He doesn’t want to be controlled by a record label, he feels that these companies, not the artists, profit from mass production of music. In 2001, Immortal Tech gave us his first album, titled “Revolutionary Vol. 1” he produced this album with his profits from winning rap battles. This album had one of my personal top 5 songs “Dance With The Devil”. In 2003, Tech released his second album “Revolutionary Vol. 2”with the song “Industrial Revolution” being the most known on the album. He received “Hip Hop Quotable” in The Source for the song. Tech has worked with artists such as: Mos Def, Chuck D (Public Enemy), KRS-ONE, and Dead Prez. Tech is fluent in Spanish and English and has a few songs where he puts his bilingual abilities on full display. Tech uses his free time to do volunteer work in prisons, work with immigrant rights activists, help raise money for children’s hospitals overseas, and he has also created writing grants for high school students.
Chazmere just dropped his debut, self-titled Album yesterday, and I am nothing short of impressed. His album sounds like nothing I’ve heard before, which is what I look for the most in an arist. Originality. Soulful, funny, lighthearted, yet deep. This rapper/singer/producer from the Bronx is the music industry’s newest triple threat.
BJ, an extremely talented singer/songwriter (obviously from Chicago) is arguably the most slept on R&B singer of this generation. He has worked with Warren G, Kendrick Lamar, (and most of TDE), Freddie Gibbs, Big K.R.I.T., Anderson .Paak, Chance The Rapper, and even Kanye. His genuine, soulful voice is like no other.
TDE’s newest addition, (aside from Lance SkiiiWalker) is the insanely talented Isaiah Rashad. He shocked everyone when he dropped his 2014 Debut album, Cilvia Demo. Even though he had previously blocked me on twitter (no idea why), he unblocked me. So we cool now. Impatiently waiting for his new album.
Joey released his debut mixtape 1999 at just 17 years old, with beats by Chuck Strangers and a few other great producers. He has created a gigantic powerhouse of talent, PRO ERA. Part of the Beast Coast movement.
Chicago’s very own Vic Mensa. Best friends (hopefully still) with Chance The Rapper, Towkio, and a few other members. This EP touched my soul when Vic spoke out about the shooting of Laquan McDonald, the unarmed teenager who was gunned down by Chicago policemen. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, FUCK 12”
On the evening of May 12th, it seemed as if the whole world had shut down.
This was really noticeable in Chicago, hometown of esteemed musical artist Chance the Rapper, who just released his long-anticipated third mixtape, titled Coloring Book.
This might have been the most anticipated project of the year (sorry, Drake).
Chance and The Social Experiment dropped “Surf” exactly 1 year ago…
….But it had been three years since Chano’s last solo project, Acid Rap.
People were aware that some new Chance was coming, since all his previous projects dropped in the months of April through May.
Chance has also been dropping hints at a new project, such as this line from Ultralight Beam on Kanye’sThe Life of Pablo:
“He said let’s do a good ass job with Chance 3,
I hear you gotta sell it to snatch the Grammy,
Let’s make it so free, and the bars so hard;
That they’re ain’t one gosh-darn part you can’t tweet”
On April 30th, Chance released the “Chance 3” cover art, and started selling posters on ChanceRaps.com.
Soon after, posters of “Chance 3” were seen all over various cities in the country and even worldwide. In a way, Chance was coloring the world with his music. In Chicago, the posters were found on every corner, especially inside ad-spaces in CTA bus shelters.
Fans on Twitter even began jokingly Photoshopping chance 3 posters onto major landmarks:
The release of Coloring Book was a phenomenon in the city of Chicago. As soon as it hit 10 pm central time on May 12th, 2016, and word got out that the mixtape was available to stream on Apple Music, everyone in the city stopped what they were doing and got their headphones out.
Many people took to Twitter to voice their initial reactions. It seemed that everywhere, people were showing love to Lil Chano from 79th.
Chance the Rapper is beloved by many, because he is not an average Chicago rapper. He is going against the norm, and not utilizing the drill sub-genre, and living the life of gangs and violence – such as Chief Keef and similar artists.
Chance’s musical style is unique, to say the least – and has a lot of variety, allowing him to appeal to the general public. Overall, his music is extremely uplifting, and there are a few rap projects that have achieved that same feel-good effect.
As soon as the first song, All We Got opened up with Nico Segal’s trumpets, along with the iconic “And we back, and we back, and we back” vocals from Chano, bringing us back to those “Good Ass Intro” feels. Many listeners – myself included – were transcended into a musical high. There may have been tears of joy involved.
“All We Got” is a gospel rap song, similar to Sunday Candy and Ultralight Beam, featuring a hook by Kanye West and vocals by Chicago Children’s Choir. A few lines in this song are similar to Ultralight Beam. Chance’s line here “It was a dream, you could not mess with the Beam” is an allusion to “You cannot mess with the light, look at lil Chano from 79th” on Ultralight Beam.
“No Problem”is a warning to the “big fella”; which is a reference to record labels that want to sign Chance, who prides himself on his independent career. In other words, he ain’t havin it.
“If one more label try to stop me, it’s gon’ be some dreadhead niggas in ya lobby”,
Meaning 2 Chainzand Lil Wayne got his back. They have impressive features on this song. The amazing production by BrassTracks qualifies No Problem as a banger, and it’s tied as my favorite song on Coloring Book.
“Summer Friends”is a personal and melancholy song of Chance’s. It is reminiscent of tracks like Paranoia and Acid Rain – where he alludes to the hard-knock life, on the south-side of Chicago. Chance laments of how Chicago summers should be full of joy, but they are actually of despair, as overall violence increases in the summer. This song has vocals by Francis and the Lights and an outro sung by Jeremih, another Chicago local.
“D.R.A.M.singsSpecial”, which acts as an interlude – with a short, repeated, reassuring verse, by the Virginia rapper – that can be interpreted as a thematic sequel to Everybody’s Something from Acid Rap.
“Blessings”is the most religious song on Coloring Book, following a similar theme to Ultralight Beam andSunday Candyas well. Chance reflects on his devotion to God, and the blessings he has received in return. There also are personal lyrics about Chance’s daughter, as well as the Black Lives Matter movement. The hook features Jamila Woods, who collaborated with Chance on Sunday Candy.
This song premiered on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon:
“Same Drugs” is about Chance’s coming clean from using drugs when he became a father. There are numerous references to Peter Pan about growing up:
“Mixtape” is the banger of the album. Reminiscent of “Fuck You Tahm Bout” from Chano’s debut tape, 10 Day, Chance puts on a trapper-persona, as he discusses his use of mixtapes, and how the music industry is more focused on profit rather than art. Chance the Rapper invites Atlanta artists Young Thug, and newcomer, Lil Yachty, on this song.
Neither Thug nor Yachty have released an official album yet, but rather have a number of mixtapes out. This is related to the Grammy nomination system, where the album must be released commercially in order to be considered or eligible for a nomination.
Chance is against this, as he has promoted a petition to allow free projects (mixtapes) to be nominated for a Grammy:
On this track, Mixtapes, Chance calls out the flaws of the music industry, such as commercial artists claiming to be bosses, and masters of their art, when in reality; they are limited by their bosses – the record label.
In the line “We don’t know none of your words, ayy”, he takes a jab at how mixtape rappers are known for not rapping clearly. Potential shot at his musical guests Thugger and Lil Boat?
“Angels”is a song that premiered on The Colbert Report in October of 2015, and on April 7th, 2016, a music video with amazing visuals was released:
Here, Chano reps his Chicago upbringing, and reflects on his growth as an artist. Chano even shouts out the Chicago area’s Hip-Hop/Rap radio stations: WGCI 107.5 and Power 92.3fm. However, since Chance and fellow Chicago artist, and guest feature, Saba are independent artists, they get limited radio play.
“Juke Jam” is a ballad about the innocent relationships of Chano’s youth, and of the Juke party scene of Chicago. This song is reminiscent of the Chicago style slow jam (such as Birthday Sex by Jeremih). Towkio of SAVEMONEY performs the hook, which is an interpolation of Feelin’ On Yo Booty by Chicago’s own, R. Kelly, another famous juke song.
Musical guest Justin Bieber does an impressive job on singing the bridge, as well as the background vocals.
“All Night” is Chance’s reflection on one of the bad aspects of fame, where everybody wants to take advantage of him, instead of sharing his good vibes. Produced by KAYTRANADA, this song has an upbeat tempo, and a hook by Chicago local, Knox Fortune.
“How Great” continues the religious themes. Chance’s cousin, Nicole, samples gospel song “How Great Is Our God” in the intro. There is a guest verse by elusive Jay Electronica, who is considered one of the most lyrical rappers, despite having a very limited discography.
“Smoke Break” is exactly about what it’s titled after. Chance and musical guest Future are taking a smoke break, in the middle of their busy lives, since both of them are very accomplished artists. Chano talks about himself and his baby momma needing a break, but not when they have a baby. Future on the other hand may or may not have taken shots against Desiigner and Ciara…
“Finish Line / Drown” is another two-parter, reminiscent of Pusha Man/Paranoia. It continues the theme with God in both parts. In part 1, we follow Chance’s successes, which were helped by God; and in part 2, we follow Noname’s struggles, also helped by God. Eryn Allen Kane, Kirk Franklin and T-Pain provide vocals throughout.
The last song on the mixtape, is a reprise of “Blessings”. This song is about Chance’s rise to success, and where it has taken him.
His line “Kanye’s best prodigy, he ain’t signed me but he proud of me” reflects his relationship with the Hip-Hop icon. Kanye was first an idol to young Chance back in his 10 Day years. As Chance became more famous, Kanye trained Chance to perfect his art.
Now his art is so perfect, the learner is now the master. We still blame Chance for delaying The Life of Pablo, but it was worth it, so thank you, Chance.
Coloring Book definitely shows Chance the Rapper’s progress; not only in musical skills, but in his growth as a person.
On 10 Day, Chance was just a Chicago kid fresh out of high school, reminiscing on his youth and looking to the future and especially to the rap game.
On Acid Rap, he is well established off of his success, and more weary of the world, due to drug addictions.
On Coloring Book, he comes clean. He is now a father, a famous musician, and he has found God.
Yet throughout, Chance remains the same kid from Chicago who dropped out of high school, reps his hometown, and hosts open mic events throughout the city. As a Chicagoan, I can relate to him very well.
That is why when Coloring Book was released, the majority of Chicagoans stopped what they were doing and just listened.
With these songs, Chano touched the souls of so many of us, not only with his genius and relate-able lyrics, but with the phenomenal production that delivers a unique soul rap feel to Chance’s work.
I absolutely loved this mixtape. Chance wasn’t kidding when he said this will be better than his previous projects, even though we did not think it would be possible. We waited, and Chance delivered a masterpiece. I believe this is the best project of the year. And we’re not even halfway through 2016.
I knew Chance 3 would be phenomenal. That is one reason I did not buy into the VIEWS hype. To me it was just not relevant to begin with, seeing as Chance 3 was looming on the horizon.
Kanye’s The Life of Pablo, Kendrick Lamar’s Untitled.Unmastered, and Anderson .Paak’s Malibu are no longer my favorite projects of the year. They’re still amazing nonetheless, but now, Coloring Book reigns supreme.
The verdict: a solid 10/10
To all the haters out there, it’s a 9.5/10 in my unbiased opinion.