2014 is upon us, and this week we’ll be rounding up some of the acts we’re most excited about for the year ahead.
Last year, we waited until April to publish a guide to hip-hop for dummies; this time around, we’re getting an early start. Over the next 10 pages you’ll find our picks for rappers poised for a breakout in 2014, foregoing acts like Young Thug and Tink that have received plenty of plaudits, both here and elsewhere, in the last year.
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New York hasn’t exactly had an easy seat on the throne over the last few years, and last year’s bickering over the dominance of the South, the Midwest and, er, Kendrick Lamar hasn’t exactly helped matters. Saying that, A$AP Mob’s A$AP Nast made surprising moves to reclaim the city’s golden-era sound with the surprisingly excellent ‘Trillmatic’.
Let’s ignore the fact that the beat could have been snatched from Mecca and the Soul Brother for a second and concentrate on Nast’s deft lyricism – it’s retro, yeah, but manages to sidestep the aggravating backpackery of Joey Bada$$’s Pro Era crew as Nast twists his words with an ease and confidence that halts his better-known compatriots in their tracks. Seems there’s gas in the Empire State yet.
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Miami’s Denzel Curry had a banner 2013: he graduated from high school, left SpaceGhostPurrp’s Raider Klan collective, and quietly released one of the best rap full-lengths of the year. While Nostalgic 64 found the young rapper — like his ex-Klan-mates — relying on Three 6 Mafia as a touchstone, the album showcased a rapper with a surprisingly nimble flow and an ear for weird, uneasy beats.
Produced by fellow Miami underground dwellers like POSHstronaut, Ronny J, Nuri, and Lofty305, Nostalgic 64 refreshed the Three 6 formula and threw some other throwback influences into the mix: the spitfire ‘Parents’ and soulful ‘Like Me’ bringing some levity to a effort that is plenty ‘Dark & Violent’. Will his forthcoming Planet Shrooms EP follow the footsteps of Acid Rap as the psychedelic-inspired breakthrough of the year?
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Lil Bibby & Lil Herb
It’s probably not fair to lump Windy City rappers Lil Bibby & Lil Herb together, but since they’ve collaborated so much it seems as good a way as any to squeeze in another nod to Chicago’s ascendance. Bibby’s outstanding (and still massively underrated) Free Crack appeared at the tail end of 2013 and didn’t disappoint, while Herb’s Welcome To Fazoland is still in line to drop. Both rappers appear to be able to skate the line between thoughtful lyricism and aggressive, memorable one-liners, and both show a skill and knowledge well beyond their years – expect to see them to break down regional borders in 2014 with guest spots aplenty.
Check: ‘Play They Role’
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You can’t begin to talk about the last year in rap without giving a firm acknowledgement to Atlanta’s rubber-voiced breakout star Young Thug. Bizarrely though, Thug’s unmistakable warble isn’t totally out there on its own – his protégé and sometime collaborator Lil Silk is certainly in the same wheelhouse, even if he isn’t riding the exact same crazy train. Last year’s ‘Know Money’ and ‘I’m Geeked’ were slippery, smoked-out and borderline paranoid, and while the young rapper’s been putting in the hours since 2011 now (basically a rap lifetime) we reckon 2014 might be the year where it all starts to fall into place.
Check: ‘I’m Geeked’
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Sage The Gemini
It’s taken a while to grip the mainstream with both hands, but ratchet looks as if it’s finally here to stay – even Justin Bieber’s at it. Hell, Biebs even paid his respects to HBK Gang’s Sage The Gemini on a recent remix of the excellent ‘Gas Pedal’, proving either that Sage is perfectly at home dropping his silver-tongued rhymes with the kind of gloss usually reserved for Billboard pop, or that Bieber really is taking his new-found rap obsession seriously after all. Whatever the story, we’re predicting big things from Sage, with or without his most visible new devotee.
Check: ‘Gas Pedal’
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In the last year, the 21-year-old DC native shook off beefs with Chief Keef and Fat Trel to focus on his craft; judging by F*ck Rap, Law 2 and recent offerings like ‘Awwsome’, Glizzy’s hard work has paid off. With a melodic flow and nasal voice reminiscent of vintage Lil Wayne, the DC youngin tells street tales with enough touches of honesty and humor to separate himself from the pack. Glizzy has a new mixtape in the pipeline (Young Jefe) set to feature production from heavy-hitters like DJ Mustard and Zaytoven; he also says he’s working with Atlanta up-and-comers Young Thug and Peewee Longway. His 2014 could resemble the 2013 of contemporary and collaborator Kevin Gates: a few years removed from a jail stint and ready to take the rap world by storm.
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Sicko Mobb, comprised of brothers Lil Ceno and Lil Trav, have quickly emerged as the breakout stars of Chicago’s nascent bop scene with singles like ‘Fiesta’ and ‘Lamborghini Girl’, and their debut mixtape is loaded with similarly saccharine playground anthems that pair frenetic, high-speed drum patterns with trance-like, major-key synth melodies. On Super Saiyan Vol. 1, the pair position themselves as Chicago’s Next Big Things, recruiting the likes of Twista and Lil Durk, and tackling Chief Keef’s syrupy ‘Citgo’. Sicko Mobb could bring bop to a larger audience in 2014: they’ve already inked a deal with Sony/ATV imprint Stellar Songs/Water Music Publishing, the imprint of pop super-producers Stargate.
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Back in 2010, Vince Staples debuted via a guest verse on Earl Sweatshirt’s breakthrough rape-and-murder fantasy ‘epaR’. Like Earl, if you could look beyond the violent misogyny of the lyrics (no small task), it was clear that the kid could rap. Four years on, Staples has moved beyond his early indiscretions (like Earl before him), churning out alt-leaning West Coast rap for weirdos and stoners. Signed to Def Jam, Staples will release Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2 in 2014, a mostly-solo effort that just might see the 20-year-old move beyond second billing behind collaborators Odd Future and Mac Miller.
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;feature=player_embedded” target=”_blank”>’Guns & Roses’
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DC’s Yung Gleesh is a self-described shitbag, a proud beat-jacker, and — according to his latest mixtape — your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. He’s also the latest rapper to fuse Lil B’s nonchalance and Gucci Mane’s street-level nihilism with entertaining results. Collaborations with #sadboy Yung Lean and Yung Sherman aside, Gleesh has done his best work over Atlanta-styled beats by the likes of Zaytoven, bringing some gravity to Young Thug’s atmospheric weirdness.
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If you’re looking for attention, dropping two mixtapes on the same day should do the trick (just ask Gucci), and that’s exactly what Chicago’s ZMoney did in June last year. With the druggy Heroin Musik and the sparse Rich B4 Rap, ZMoney swiftly asserted himself in a scene that’s not short of a Chicago rapper or two, and offered his sound as a chilly alternative to the teenaged drug-rap of GBE or the psychedelic absurdity of Save Money.
Despite being only twenty years old and only having rapped for a little over a year, ZMoney not only managed to notch up a shoutout from ascendant city figurehead Chance the Rapper (who used ‘Want My Money’ as a trailer for his massively acclaimed Acid Rap mixtape) but also managed to find the time to start a restaurant. He’s clearly ready to put in the work, and with tracks as unfuckwithable as the Paris Bueller-produced ‘Let You Know’ and the icy ‘Ferragamo’ there’s a sense that the world is his for the taking.
Check: ‘Let You Know’
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