It's safe to say hip-hop isn't going anywhere anytime soon. And thankfully it doesn't have to as there is plenty of talent out there to carry the game for years to come. In addition, there's always a slew of new talent cropping up in the scene. Be it due to hard work or going viral, dozens of fresh rappers are gaining exposure every year. Peep our list of the 10 rappers you probably don't know about in 2014, but will soon be seeing everywhere. Honorable Mentions: Sulaiman (Hook, Line, and Sinker), Cavalier (The Offering), Rast RFC (Across West 3rd Street), Antwon (Heavy Hearted in Doldrums), Jimmy Johnson (In God We Trust), GoldLink (The God Complex), Robb Bank$ (Tha City). Check out the full list after the jump.
1. Vince Staples The 21-year-old Los Angeles emcee first got his start on Earl Sweatshirt's “epaR” back in 2010 and hasn't slowed down since. He's already put out two stellar solo mixtapes as well as a few collaborative ones and is slated to debut his solo album on Def Jam later this year. His cold delivery and serious subject matter is sure to win over hip-hop fans craving gritty gangsta rap over the fun/party-seeking masses. Sounds Like: No-nonsense West Coast hip-hop; fearless, deadpan, and very, very serious. Project(s) to Check Out: Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1, Stolen Youth w/ Larry Fisherman, Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2 Upon First Listen: The cold steeliness of Ice Cube circa early '90s meets Odd Future's occasional spark of color and excitement. Notable Line(s): “Tools hit like pool sticks, the way I cue shit/ If this was '88, I would have signed to Ruthless/ '94, would've had 'em walking down Death Row”. Staying Power: As long as Los Angeles continues its winning streak Vince Staples can easily find himself at the forefront of the revived gangsta rap style.
2. Denzel Curry Hailing from Miami, home to Rick Ross, one might be quick to write-off the 20-year-old Denzel Curry. However, Curry, while possessing a rapid-fire flow similar to say, Migos, actually finds himself at odds with a lot of Southern hip-hop. For Curry “turn up” is merely an afterthought as his music is moody and austere. His Nostalgic 64 project from last year finds the young spitter truly destined for greatness. Sounds Like: Dark and violent '90s Memphis rap à la Tommy Wright III done in the contemporary airy cloud rap style. Project(s) to Check Out: Nostalgic 64, Strictly For My R.V.I.D.X.R.S. Upon First Listen: Highly aggressive, angry, and wordy. Spits with a purpose while retaining a keen ear for solid production. Notable Line(s): “Burn the fingertips off, replace the dental/ Left the golden bullet magic in his coofie, no his temple/ That’s engraved, leaving corpses in graves/ Glock 17 cutting fades”. Staying Power: Unique and talented enough that he'll have a comfortable place in the burgeoning underground/Internet hip-hop scene.
3. CJ Fly Member of the Pro Era collective, CJ Fly first made his splash as a guest on defacto leader Joey Bada$$' “Hardknock” from his breakthrough 1999 mixtape. Other than dropping more features and a solo mixtape (The Way Eye See It) CJ Fly hasn't exactly done a whole lot as a solo artist since. And while he sits cozy as the second best emcee in Pro Era he has enough lyrical power to propel him as a standalone artist. The question is when. Sounds Like: A young rapper from New York who is a big fan of old rap from New York. Project(s) to Check Out: The Way Eye See It Upon First Listen: Classic New York boom bap with some refreshing and odd sampling choices. Notable Line(s): “I'm still a bastard kid with blackened lips/ I'm still a Pacifist/ But if you ask for it, then I could pass a fist”. Staying Power: While CJ Fly is easily the second best rapper from the Pro Era collective (next to Joey Bada$$) it's still difficult to gauge what that really means as far as a future is concerned.
4. Your Old Droog Earlier in the year an enigmatic EP was released with little to no fanfare, however this was short-lived as speculation quickly grew that the EP was actually from Nas despite being credited to someone by the name of Your Old Droog. It wasn't unjust as the rapper did in fact strike a scarily similar flow and voice as the Queens emcee. Fast forward, Your Old Droog isn't Nas and actually stands on his own two as a solid overall rapper. Sounds Like: Nas. Project(s) to Check Out: Your Old Droog EP (or Nas' Illmatic) Upon First Listen: He sounds exactly like Nas. Notable Line(s): “2014 George Thorogood, thorough-good in any borough or hood/ Used to bag bitches from Murrow to Midwood/ Back when you was in the crib watching Squidward”. Staying Power: Sounding like Nas is something of a double-edged sword nowadays. And much like Nas' 20 year career, sometimes you hit it out of the ballpark and other times you swing and miss.
5. Raury 18-year-old Atlanta rapper Raury is sort of the odd man out on this list because he's not purely an emcee but a singer-songwriter, of sorts. His debut project Indigo Child serves as a collection of campfire songs that, despite their grandiose sounds, are heartbreakingly intimate. Raury is already generating a buzz and if he finds a way to organize his ideas into cohesion he will be a future threat in the music industry. Sounds Like: André 3000, Kid Cudi, and Frank Ocean thrown into a blender with some Bon Iver sprinkled on top. Project(s) to Check Out: Indigo Child Upon First Listen: A promising young rapper with a lot of interesting ideas who needs to tinker with and refine his sound. Notable Line(s): “I'll always be a nigga from the east side of Atlanta/ And just cause I got manners and speak with proper grammar/ Don't mean I'll ever think twice about slapping you with the hammer”. Staying Power: There's definitely loads of potential for Raury to stick around and his breakout YouTube hit “God's Whisper” hints at the wonderfully eccentric style he needs to commit to 100% in order to find his niche market.
6. Bodega Bamz While Bodega Bamz' name immediately links up with A$AP Mob thanks to his collaboration with A$AP Ferg, Bamz' music actually continues the long-standing tradition of great, stylized Harlem hip-hop. His “Latin trap” sound though sounds pretty ridiculous actually works well with Bamz steady delivery. His Strictly 4 My P.A.P.I.Z. mixtape offers some diversity as well and Sunday Service w/ The Martinez Bros. finds Bamz sounding exciting as he switches between English and Spanish. Sounds Like: Exactly the sound you think of in your head when you hear the term “Latin trap”. Project(s) to Check Out: Strictly 4 My P.A.P.I.Z., Sunday Service w/ The Martinez Bros. Upon First Listen: The Spanish Harlem equivalent of the A$AP Mob. Notable Line(s): “I use the ki's to get money now I'm kickin' down doors/ A drug dealing Robin Hood, my Civic touching the floor/ Your bitch ridin' my stick, so hard she blew my exhaust/ I made it flip like '96 Olympics Dominique Dawes”. Staying Power: The market for Hispanic rappers is looking as dry as the desert right now so Bamz has some room to work with for himself right now.
7. PeeWee Longway By now if you've heard one Atlanta trap rapper you've heard them all; for every Gucci Mane there are a thousand clones. But with the “New Atlanta” sound gaining nationwide traction trap rap looks as though it'll stick around for sometime. Thankfully there's some diversity in the fold with PeeWee Longway at times outshining some of the bigger names (Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan, Migos) with his intensity and seemingly blackout rage. PeeWee's got himself a comfy spot in the “New Atlanta” scene. Sounds Like: Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan's gritty cousin. Project(s) to Check Out: The Blue M&M Upon First Listen: Relatively rudimentary trap rap from Atlanta, PeeWee Longway's contribution to the current ATL scene can be attributed to his uncompromising intensity. Notable Line(s): “Hit a nigga ass up with the choppa/ Yellow tape, I'm at the doctor by my potna/ Giuseppe, he stepping at the murder scene/ Fresh as a bitch, cleaner than Listerine”. Staying Power: It appears as though the “New Atlanta” sound isn't going anywhere anytime soon so as long as PeeWee stays out of trouble he should fit in nicely in the cleanup spot in the roster.
8. Azizi Gibson There's a sea of rappers out there, practically everyone and their grandmother raps now. Azizi Gibson, a West Coast emcee, with quite a nondescript voice and flow who may fall into that sea, doesn't thanks to the smoothy and dense production that carries his music. He's signed to Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label so that gives us hope that future releases will be exciting to hear. Sounds Like: A smooth West Coast spitter; calm, cool, and collected. Falls somewhere between the psychedelics of The Pharcyde and label mates The Underachievers. Project(s) to Check Out: Backward Books Upon First Listen: A nondescript voice, Azizi Gibson's music is carried by the smooth, airy and dense production and delicate atmosphere. Notable Line(s): “While women do that nigga, I'ma divide chips/ Probably take over the universe with my dick/ And I can see the secrets through my eyelids”. Staying Power: Having been signed by Flying Lotus after meeting at the gym, Gibson has one of the best producers on his side. However, he's got some room to grow in terms of developing a more distinct voice.
9. ZelooperZ If Danny Brown, a Detroit rapper with a unique voice and style, made it big then ZelooperZ, another Detroit rapper with an equally offbeat delivery and deranged flow should feel pretty confident. Thanks to the powers of the Internet alternative rappers who otherwise would have no lane are finding their audience and ZelooperZ who may perhaps be one of the most difficult emcees to “get” yet will do just fine if he doesn't abandon his individuality and takes notes from Bruiser Brigade teamster Danny Brown. Sounds Like: Unpolished and unhinged delivery, totally deranged and punchy flow. Project(s) to Check Out: HELP Upon First Listen: ZelooperZ's flow and delivery is unique and entirely his own; there is nobody who sounds like him. An oddball in hip-hop for sure. Notable Line(s): “She bounce it like she trying to get my dick hard/ I'ma tear the pussy up like a bad report card/ Watch the booty cheeks bombard/ I think she's trying to get a nigga scarred”. Staying Power: Part of Danny Brown's Bruiser Brigade, ZelooperZ can take notes from the equally deranged Brown on how to jump start a career while still being true to his abstract/alternative self.
10. Saba I don't have to tell you that Chicago has been killin' it; over the last two or so years the hip-hop scene that had predominately become known for it's violent drill offshoot is changing the nation's perception of it thanks to alternative/abstract rappers like Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa. And fortunately for Saba, there's room for more distinct rappers. His precise flow and sharp lyrics/wordplay along with detailed production are a welcome addition to the Chicago hip-hop scene. Sounds Like: A comfortable pocket emcee with an engaging overall package of sounds. Project(s) to Check Out: Comfort Zone Upon First Listen: An enjoyable voice and flow complimented by intricate layered production. A surprisingly rewarding listening experience. Notable Line(s): "Like Cassius ducking the draft and now the fight is over/ The type to love from a distance not the type that told her/ Spent three days on the rap, trash it and type it over". Staying Power: Chicago has been churning out immense talent as of late and Saba has the same potential to make it big as Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa.