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.
On Tuesday we shone a spotlight on the rappers we’re most excited about in 2014, and we all know every rapper worth his salt needs a presence behind the boards to help things fall into place. It’s easier than ever to get into rap production – all you really need is a copy of FL Studio and a Twitter account – but in the deluge of identikit beats, it’s harder than ever to stand out from the crowd. We’ve tried to piece together a diverse as possible selection, and to cover some of the pervasive sounds in rap right now – the developments in Chicago, the South (notably Atlanta) and on the East and West coasts.
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The only thing the Atlanta scene churns out more reliably than streetwise rappers is producers with an ear for trunk-rattling trap beats. Boomin is one of the latest to crop up, breaking through with Future’s ‘Karate Chop’ and quickly collaborating with everyone in the Brick Squad universe. Still, the young producer has remembered to dance with the one that brought him, co-producing Future’s singles ‘Honest’ and ‘Maison Margiela’ with fellow ATL riser DJ Spinz. With the rapper’s album set to launch soon, Boomin might have attached himself to the right space cadet.
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HPG (Hoodrich Production Group)
If you’ve spent much time on FACT in the last 12 months, chances are you’ve stumbled across the HPG production crew before. Made up of DJ Spinz, C-4, DunDeal, S.O.S and Childish Major the group’s sound defined 2013 with a diverse set of productions, from Migos’ ‘Hannah Montana’ and Rocko’s ubiquitous ‘U.O.E.N.O’ to Kevin Gates’ ‘Strokin’ and Young Thug’s ‘Stoner’. The five producers have come to define the popular new Atlanta sound (along with Mike Will, of course), and in recent months appear to have gone some way to cleaning up some of the wreckage left in 1017 Brick Squad’s wake, smartly signing up PeeWee Longway and Young Thug.
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Lil Durk’s ‘Dis Ain’t What U Want’ was possibly Chicago’s bleakest and most honest breakout track last year, and part of its success was thanks to Paris Beuller’s dramatic, ominous beat. The BandKamp alum also managed to spray his signature tags on some of ascendant Windy City rapper ZMoney’s finest drops, notably the gritty, almost industrial ‘Let You Know’, and gives us hope that drill will continue to move in a grimier direction as 2014 ticks on.
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Listen to enough Chicago mixtape rap and you’ll become plenty familiar with the chipmunked “it’s a LeekeLeek banger” DJ tag. The producer/rapper has been a ubiquitous presence for the past couple years, crafting tracks for the likes of Chief Keef, King Louie, and Fat Trel, and while he’s certainly tried his hand at sparse drill bangers, his synth-loaded sound is well-suited for Chicago’s nascent bop scene. No matter what happens to Chicago rap in 2014, prepare to hear LeekeLeek behind countless tracks.
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We’ve been on the Nate Fox bandwagon for a minute now, and for good reason. Aside from crafting the smoothest, most soulful tracks on Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap, he’s also linked up with another iconoclastic Chicago up-and-comer, Lucki Eck$, and worked with Cleveland vocalist Lorine Chia. Landing the only original track on Lil Wayne’s Dedication 5 mixtape couldn’t hurt: 2014 will probably be the year that Fox leaves Pennsylvania (and his day job in construction) behind for greener pastures.
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You probably haven’t come across young German producer Bobby Johnson before, but that’s probably not going to be the case for long. He contributed standout track ‘Again’ to King Louie’s recent Drilluminati 2 mixtape, and showed a surprising aptitude for crafting beats as crushing and distorted as anything on Yeezus. Right now though, Johnson is quickly gaining traction for his neck-snapping beat to Que’s interestingly titled ‘O.G. Bobby Johnson’ which is currently blowing minds thanks to versions from T.I. and Tyga. Even Jay Z’s contracted ‘O.G. Bobby Johnson’ fever, so it’s not hard to imagine what’s likely to come next.
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Yeah, yeah, we’ve been banging on about suicideyear plenty at this point, but there’s a damn good reason. The Baton Rouge producer has managed to take the crumbled bones of cloud rap and cook up a sound that’s far more addictive than it rightly should be. So far his greatest achievements have been instrumental (last year’s Japan is a fine example) but productions for Little Pain and the majority of the cuts on recently-released remix compilation HAVEFUN 001 show he’s equally adept throwing down for emcees. We shouldn’t even need to mention the rumors that suicideyear has been spotted in the studio with some absolutely massive names, should we?
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While we didn’t think much of Jay Z’s
Samsung advert latest album, the inclusion of 16-year-old Ebony “WondaGurl” Oshunrinde in the liner notes certainly raised eyebrows. Mentored by Boi-1da, the Ontario teen had previously provided a beat for Travi$ Scott (‘Uptown’); in turn, the Kanye collaborator helped land her synth-laced trap track on Magna Carta… Holy Grail. After that, Oshunrinde teamed up with TDE singer SZA for the smoky (and appropriately-titled) ‘Teen Spirit’, demonstrating a lighter touch we hope to hear more of in 2014.
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At 30 years old, Dacoury “DJ Dahi” Natche may be a few years older than his peers on this list, but he’s quickly making up for lost time. Raised on Christian music, classical, and alt-rock, he was a latecomer to rap, discovering Dilla in college before getting into producing. His unorthodox background and musical prowess underscores his finest productions, including Kendrick Lamar’s laidback ‘Money Trees’ and Drake’s blustery ‘Worst Behavior’. As he said last year, “If you can have your own sound, people gravitate towards what you do.” We’d tend to agree.
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We heard plenty of ratchet music in 2013, and the sound shows no signs of abating in 2014. While DJ Mustard and IAmSu!’s HBK Gang continue to score most of the scene’s hits, those looking for under-the-radar talent should check out LA producer Larry Jayy, aka LarryOnDaBeat. We first heard him soundtracking Earl Swavey’s underrated Business Before Pleasure tape, and a bit of digging has unearthed gems for Earl’s Kioe Boyz compatriot Young Ace [above], among others. Larry just placed a track on the latest tape by resurgent crew Cali Swag District (‘Shake Somethin’), and he’s certainly one to watch this year.
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