Sunday, January 1, 2017

6 Rappers I'm Finally Interested in Listening To

Better late than never.

So, there's 6 rappers I'm finally interested in listening to this year. I've taken in their music before: mainly the hits. Not to the mixtape level, or to the downloading-their-music level...just on an extremely surface in-the-club, or livestreaming-Atlanta-radio level. But it's finally time for me to really see what the "kids" out there are hyping up about.

All of the year-end hip hop music reviews have left me feeling like an old auntie in the dance. I started to realize that I had no idea who the majority of the new rappers were by face, or by voice recognition. While I've "heard" of dudes like Yachty, and Migos, 21 Savage, and Party Next Door...I really and truly couldn't identify them if I saw them walk by me at Scarborough Town Centre. I definitely wouldn't know their voice different from say a Drake, Kanye, Common, Nas, Q-Tip, or other age-appropriate favourites from my era/city.

But somehow, these past few weeks I've been re-stimulated by hip hop. Even though the release of Tribe Called Quest's album a couple months ago had me all, "new hip hop sucks...nineties forever," I started to really, really vibe to the sound. Forget the lyrics and the strangeness of them all (in comparison to the legends of my day, like my boo Nas)...there was just something very cool about the sound. With the sound, came my need to understand WHO these artists were as people, before I could really jump into the music. I started watching interviews. Reading stuff about them. Curious about what they represented...beneath the face tattoos.

I was pleasantly surprised that I really LIKED some of these guys as MEN. Definitely for different reasons, but it was their characters and their personal stories and dedication to "making it" that made me feel compelled to finally turn off the soca and reggae, and start to Apple Music and YouTube some new tracks. Some of it was fabulous...some of it trash, but I feel happy that I found 6 artists that I'll be taking the time to catch up on for the next few days, ushering in 2017 like a real, mature grown ass woman...blasting 21 Savage in my car.

1) GUCCI MANE - Definitely not a new artist, but also definitely not someone I studied in the past. Yeah, I've heard him on collabos I like, here and there...but I never really took him in as a man. I was never interested in his rapper beefs and Twitter wars, or in him getting incarcerated, shooting a man, yadda yadda yadda. When Gucci got OUT of jail now and dropped that "First Day Out Da Feds"...I was like...who's song in THIS?! Loved it. Enter Gucci Mane into my list of rappers with a huge body of work that I know nothing about...but will catch up on soon. Speaking of bodies...the weight loss may have also made me look twice. Just saying.

2) YOUNG M.A. - This Brooklyn native caught me with her song "Ooouuu"...especially because until I really, really took it in, I just assumed it was a dude rapping. Clearly, once listening to the lyrics I realized that she's gay and just happens to sound like a dude, but either way...I liked the song. Watching a few interviews with her, I also realized how much hip hop needs some more females in the mix. Not necessarily the fake booty girly-girl type of rappers either, but like a real hood chick dedicated to her lyrics and the craft. I hope she is able to excel at what she's doing, because a voice like hers is necessary. She's only 24, so she's got plenty of time to grow in the game. Also, because hip hop has traditionally been homophobic to a certain extent, it's cool to see someone openly be who they are sexually...without it affecting the quality or judgement of their music. Plus she's a Jamaican: bonus points.

3) CHANCE THE RAPPER - Had no idea this guy's family was so deep in the political game, and that he was so smart. So ridiculously early in his career (he was listed in XXL's Freshman Class in 2014), he's already been up in the White House and collaborating with Obama on his My Brother's Keeper initiative. Also in his own lane, he's been working towards eradicating gun violence in his hometown of Chicago. The game needs more leaders, and I think he's already well equipped to be a positive voice, with the ability to mobilize people for good. Along with the development of his rap career, I hope he never loses his political passions because his perspective is too important to overlook.

4) 21 SAVAGE - He's super duper hood, but really likeable and soft spoken. Such an interesting combination of characteristics that make him particularly appealing. His life story is tragic, with the loss of so many close friends and also being the victim of a shooting himself. Six bullet wound recoveries later, he was featured in XXL's 2016 Freshman Class, and he's already made an impression on the industry. I was shocked to see the views on his YouTube videos and wondered what rock I had to be hiding under to have no idea what was gwaning. He has a really interesting tone, and the vibe of his songs is grimy and wonderful. Love his sound...looking forward to seeing where it goes.

5) WAKA FLOCKA - He's been around for a minute, but I never cared to listen to what he was up to. I did kinda dig his song "Let's Do It" back in 2009, but other than that...didn't know what he was on. Again, it was his personality that drew me into him as an artist at this point. A 30-year-old Atlanta man, married to reality star Tammy Rivera, Waka seems particularly savvy and "woke" to me. Like he has an understanding of the industry that I can appreciate, and doesn't floss or promote too much of the visual bullshit. He comes across as a thinking man, and I like that. So apparently his wife and mom are both on Love & Hip Hop...can't say I'm about that, but I guess he's letting them live their dreams and get their own money. Whatever works.

6) J COLE - Another positive soul, this North Carolina native is 31, a graduate of St. John's University (I'm a sucker for a university-educated rapper), and has a youth foundation Dreamville that helps to inspire and develop. Plus he plays the piano and violin: I also default like any rapper who can play an instrument. He's been on the scene for a minute too, since around 2007, so I've always known he existed...just never really cared. This past December, however, I noticed a particular hype around his new album and knew that if he'd lasted this long in the game, then he was probably someone worth tuning in to. Is it bad that I can't name ONE of his previous songs/hits though? How did that happen? Even weirder...I Googled them and noticed that I've apparently been listening to (and liking) J Cole all along. Go figure.


07) 2 Chainz: I effing LOVE 2 Chainz
08) Emotionally Stable & Musical Kanye West
09) Nas, my eternal favourite rapper
10) Old School T.I...not new Reality TV T.I.
11) Eminem (where's he at?)

12) Kendrick Lamar (shame on me, I know)
13) A$AP Rocky
14) Travis Scott


15) Lil Yachty (I refuse)
16) Desiigner (is he serious?)
17) Meek Mill (lame)
18) Lil Wayne (gone too far)
19) Tyga (Kylie thanks)
20) Kodak Black
21) Young Thug
22) Future (I have a feeling I might like him, though)
23) Migos
24) Lil Uzi Vert (huh?)
25) Rae Sremmurd (but that "Black Beatles" is a banger, love it)

Regardless if I get around to all of their music or not this year, even just writing this has shown me just how many [relatively new] rappers there are out there, and that this is a musical force that will hopefully never lose its realness, and never lost its ability to impact, influence, and move generations. If rappers get it right, they will eventually, collectively, use their superpowers for the greater good. Organized. Fingers crossed.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

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