On the strength of staggering streaming numbers, hip-hop officially became the dominant genre in America for the first time ever this year. The metrics finally caught up to the zeitgeist, leading to a rap renaissance atop the charts. Rappers deconstructed their old works, or capitalized on years of momentum, or reevaluated their place in rap and the wider world. Young rappers took command, and older rappers took stock. Some delved deeper inside themselves, while others expanded outward into melody and motion, changing the very idea of what a rap record can be. But just as many are hers—detailed instructions on finding beauty in blackness, or neighborly warnings about the dangers that plague black communities, or breaking down the differences between tenuous and tangible power. There is a sorcery to his wordplay, and who told you to think??!!?!?!?! The album is a seemingly endless maze of digressions, asides, and musings, philosophical in nature yet craft-like in practice. YoungBoy , his post-prison screed. His songs are indebted to local forebears like Boosie Badazz and Kevin Gates, who have similar track records, but he has grown into a formidable MC in his own right, versatile and charming.
who told you to think??!!?!?!?!
From her vivid spray of hair and platform boots to her hyper-energetic, rascally sweetness, Rico Nasty is a technicolor character like the cartoons she loves and references. Her two projects in , Tales of Tacobella and Sugar Trap 2 , are full of irreverent humor balanced by a never-too-cute earnestness. Yet there are also hints of sinister grime in the margins. Above all, Rico raps with a very human-sounding charm and every facet of the production bursts with life.
If there's one thing that we learned in , it's that hip-hop is definitely in good hands, courtesy of so many young and hungry stars. The beautiful thing about all the records that made tremors this year were the stark differences in sounds and content. Detroit MC, Tee Grizzley , won the streets over with his honesty and grit, while Lil Uzi Vert grabbed the minds of hapless teenagers grappling with their adolescence. Yeah, the Pi'erre Bourne-produced track was an earworm all by itself, but once Carti peppered the beat with his swagger, he milly-rocked his way into the hearts of the hip-hop world. Proceed with caution, because Carti isn't leaving the block anytime soon. A platinum plaque and a Grammy nomination later, being down and out feels way longer than a week ago. For a song that served as his first stab at production with an assist from Metro Boomin , 21 Savage came up with a multi-faceted gem that sticks out not just for its memorable hook and verses, but for its simplicity -- and the unexpected complexities within it. A deep, booming low end is offset entirely by a clean, uncomplicated four-note piano line that repeats throughout the track, which provides a kind of lightness to the menace of Savage's lyricism and delivery -- though even there he's less morbid and dour than his reputation would assume.
Every December, hip-hop debates tend to get a bit contentious. End-of-year discussions regarding the best rap albums often turn into heated in-your-face spats. The only downside? We had to omit several powerhouses from the list because of their decisions to drop at the tail-end of the year. So, if you're looking for Big Sean and Metro Boomin, Eminem, or Jeezy, sorry to burst your bubble, but they were too late to the party. It's hard to think of a redemption story in music more triumphant than Gucci Mane's over the past two years, following his release from federal prison in May For someone so mind-bogglingly prolific, Mr. One of Gucci's greatest skills these days is his versatility and ability to slot into any situation and make it his own -- which, coupled with his newly-positive attitude about himself and the world around him, often finds him wrapping happy-go-lucky lines around themes with which he's more generally associated. Even before 21 Savage's debut album was released, he had already established himself as a formidable presence and a voice to be reckoned with in the hip-hop landscape, thanks mostly to his Savage Mode EP with Metro Boomin last year.