The intergenerational friction in hip-hop seems to have reached a fever pitch. Old heads label everything new as “mumble rap,” young rappers claim to have not listened to Jay-Z or say 21 Savage is better than Nas, everyone bugs out, rinse, repeat.
But the reality is that there isn’t a genre of music with more interesting, artistically progressive, and diverse sounds than hip-hop right now. And it’s not even a distinctly American phenomenon, hip-hop has now washed up on the far shores of countries like Iceland and Macedonia.
It is the most omnipresent and important style of music in the world today. That’s a wild fact in and of itself. The massive amount of rap music right now is a testament to how damn pervasive the style of music is.
With all of that said, I gathered a couple artists that I’m listening to heavily right now and I think that you should too. Consider it like my own little Freshmen list, although these artists are at various stages of their careers and all may not qualify for the “Freshmen” but whatever, it’s my list.
The Houston, Texas native Maxo Kream released his debut album Punken in January, confirming years of boiling hype after mixtapes in 2016 and 2017 had gained him a pretty intense following. “I bridge the gap between street n****s and the SoundCloud shit. I’m just a hybrid,” Maxo told Mass Appeal in a perfect encapsulation of his style.
Maxo is a breath of fresh air in the current hip-hop landscape. His deep, Houston twang voice sticks out in the era of ATL trap rap.
And while his content often touches on some of the most familiar themes of rap in 2018, he’s also an impressive storyteller of the Slick Rick or Nas mold. It’s the result of a broad set of influences ranging from Pimp C to Tupac to The Cool Kids to Gucci Mane.
Punken is full of Maxo Kream’s tales of gang banging and its discontents. While he’s making money on robberies and drug dealing, there are also corresponding consequences to these actions.
Maxo’s penchant for storytelling is all over tracks like “Grannies”, “ATW”, and “Janky” and makes him an extremely intriguing artist going forward. His music is fun, raw, and vicious all at the same time.
While he just released the (very impressive) Punken and it’s hard to expect more new music from the H-Town native soon, he’ll surely be dotting many of 2018’s most relevant hip-hop releases.
G Perico’s jheri curl, G-Funk delivery, and flanneled-out style all recall a bygone era, but he’s set up for massive success in 2018 with a huge West Coast-based following.
And while many G Perico tracks sound like they could’ve come out in 1993, he’s pushing the Los Angeles sound forward by returning to its roots, far away from trap rap.
He’s also one of the most prolific rappers in the game, dropping off a long series of mixtapes and albums. Perico often randomly drops off loosie tracks or “G-Style” remixes of classic tracks.
His most recent drop Really Livin had G-Style remixes of “If I Ruled The World” and “400 Degreez”. Perico’s combination of new school and old creates a truly compelling artist.
There will be some East Coasters who can’t stomach Perico’s voice, his West Coast accent is pretty intense, but if you’re willing to relax a little bit and try something made outside the Tri-State Area, Perico is a treat.
Dude is making moves.
Nudy’s Nudy Land was one of my favorite projects of 2017. The East Atlanta artist’s stream of consciousness raps recalled early Gucci Mane.
Teaming up with Pi’erre Bourne of “Magnolia” fame made up one of the wildest young partnerships in hip-hop.
After dropping a couple mixtapes over the last two years built up some buzz, last September’s Nudy Land cemented Nudy as one of the hottest names out of Atlanta.
Young Nudy, who is 21 Savage’s cousin, has a similar horror movie aesthetic of his cousin’s early releases as Chuckie imagery dots all of Nudy’s album artwork.
Nudy’s raps are a sort of confessional about what he had to do in order to survive growing up in extreme poverty. On Nudy Land‘s intro track “Judge Scott Convicted”, Nudy explains what he was up against.
“Did what I did what I had to n****
I done robbed a lot of niggas ’cause I had to n****
I ain’t have no food on the table n****
I ain’t have no motherfucking cable n****
Mama didn’t have no job, we wasn’t stable n****”
The rawness in Nudy’s subject matter makes for some compelling listening. After posting the artwork to Slime Ball 3 last week, it appears that Nudy is looking to keep his momentum going. He’s about to have a big 2018.
Drakeo The Ruler
I don’t even know if “rapper” is the right word for what Drakeo The Ruler does. Every Drakeo track starts with a brief monologue, which are full of ridiculous (and hilarious) boasts and putdowns.
These monologues often just sort of unfold into a verse as the beat tries to catch up with Drakeo’s LA accent. Suddenly we’re in the middle of the song, but Drakeo’s attitude remains the same.
His bars are full of brags about his own wealth and general bossness, mud walking (walking while on lean), and shitting on struggle rappers in both hilarious and menacing fashion.
Any “hip-hop head” will tell you that wordplay is dead, but one listen to Drakeo The Ruler reveals that just flat out wrong.
Dude takes wordplay to its most literal extreme, making up words (you’ll hear constant reference to “Flu Flamming” and “Big Bank Uchies”), naming his gun “Pippy Long Stockin”, and generally blending the line between just talking shit and rapping.
Drakeo’s been out here for a couple years now and he has a pretty loyal and intense fanbase around LA. His bizarre and unique style means that he’s also birthed a whole grip of imitators around the city trying to copy his laissez-faire monotone delivery.
After some legal issues put a brief pause on his output for most of 2017, Drakeo dropped his most recent project Cold Devil immediately upon getting out.
With legal troubles behind him, a seemingly limitless work rate, and a building fanbase growing beyond Southern California, Drakeo might just fuck around and take over.
Atlanta rapper Gunna describes his music as “hood melody”, which is a pretty perfect label as he sing-raps over trap production.
He sounds like a slightly less unhinged Young Thug, which isn’t a coincidence.
Thug’s YSL label has released three of Gunna’s projects to date and gave Gunna his first major feature on Jeffrey‘s “Floyd Mayweather”.
It’s been a quick rise for Gunna, who has released three of those projects in the last year, the most recent of which, Drip Season 3, came out on Friday.
Gunna’s clearly tapped into the fact that in this day in age listeners have a frustratingly short attention span, especially in Atlanta, where a new trap rapper pops up seemingly every day.
The Atlanta rapper has the individual style and people behind him to continue rising. He also has some great life advice, as he told The Fader about his life mantra:
“Keep going, grind for what you want, pray, listen to your mama.”