Welcome Back Hip-Hop: 10 Rap Artists of 2011

Over the last 2 years, a ridiculous amount of lyrical, prolific, musically inclined and, most importantly, entertaining Hip-Hop has been released.  I feel like we haven’t seen this out pouring of great Hip-Hop sense the “Golden Era” of 87-93.  Let’s look back, in the last decade we have more or less seen a small group of rappers control the Hip-Hop industry: Jay-Z, Kanye, 50, Outkast, Luda, T.I, Eminem, Foxy Brown, Lil Wayne…  And it feels like any other rapper emerging onto the scene, was just some cookie cutter version of their mentor: J.Cole, Big Sean, Alfamega, Guchi Mane, Royce Da 5’9, Slim Da Mobster, Drake, Nicki Minaj…It was like an annoying monopoly.  Once Rap started controlling the pop charts, the ideals behind rap music seemed to lose it self.  It seemed like few artists were doing anything innovative, the underground movement was lost and even Hip Hop’s Kings were releasing their worst material in years.  It made the early 90’s seem like a renaissance compared to the destructive and mindless output of mediocre Hip-Hop released as of late.

Is it just me or is everyone these days running around waving their hands in the air, proclaiming Drake is the savior of Rap. Really?  Drake?  I mean, he’s fine…but is he GREAT? Who does he speak to?  What does he represent?  Why should I care about him?  Here’s my opinion, I honestly believe that we have been deprived of quality Hip-Hop for so long that we don’t know the difference between what is good and what isn’t anymore.  Today, we accept and even find ourselves liking conventional music.  We go so far as to say, it’s good, in fact it’s AMAZING and put thoughtless Rap songs on our playlists and share them with our friends.  Well, I’m sorry to say, it’s not amazing as you think… in fact , it’s just some vanilla bull shit that’s easy to shake our asses to in the club.  And by all means, that’s fine!  I’m not sayin’ “stop makin’ Hip-Hop hits”, I’m just sayin’ “stop proclaiming it’s great music”, especially when in 2011 listeners were awarded so many distinguished Hip-Hop albums that went more or less went unnoticed because of artists like Drake, Wiz and Lupe controlled the airwaves.

So here I am, slightly pissed off with our poppy Hip-Hop world, but more excited for the underground Hip-Hop movement that seems to be growing beneath us.  We saw it start to happen last year with loads of D.I.Y. Hip-Hop crews and artists forcing their way into the world by being innovative, hard working and clever.  Creativity in Hip Hop is back, progress is back, poetry is back, backpacker beats are back…and hopefully with enough exposure the artists who carry the true Hip-Hop soul will out live these boring run of mill sell outs we’re forced to consume.  Here is a list of some of my favorite rising Hip-Hop acts of 2011.

**I failed to mention A$AP Rocky, BIG K.R.I.T, Shabazz Palaces & Curren$y because I’ve mentioned them a lot before in recent previous posts.  But if you haven’t heard of em, get to listening! **

This list goes out to Katee Hendrickson for allowing me to listen to all this Hip-Hop even when she never wanted to.

THE LIST:

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Soul Khan

Woodland Hills, CA

Soul Khan gained a large following by becoming one of the strongest battle MC’s of all time.  Today he is strictly focusing on making music that is classified as “Nerd Core” and is currently in the process of releasing a series of 4 EP’s that can be streamed and downloaded at his website.  Check out his  single “Speeding Bullets” from his April debut Acknowledgments.  Imagine Lil Wayne meets Paul Bremen meets Lord Finesse.

Green Ova Underground

Oakland, CA

It’s not just because I’m grew up in Oakland that I love Oakland Hip-Hop.  I love Oakland Hip-Hop because more than any other city they produce an overwhelming amount of fantastic underground Hip-Hop acts.  What the crew Green Ova Underground understands is that they don’t just need to make music that will live up to Hieroglyphics, Living Legends & The Soul Sides crews, but they need to make music that will continue to put Oakland in a league of their own when it comes to makin’ great Hip-Hop.  Check out their band camp…it’s chalked full of great mixtapes.  Bandcamp Link.

Nacho Picasso

Seattle, WA

There is an immense amount of promise in Nacho Picasso.  Not only are his lyrics clever and tied together with a ridiculous flow, but his choice of beats are from out of this world (mind you – no song sounds the same).  Once Nacho truly grounds himself, there is no doubt in my mind that he’ll be one of the most fierce rappers in the game. Check out his mixtape: Download Link.

Stalley

Massillon, OH

Some people have called Stalley, “The Bruce Springsteen of Rap”.  Sure, why not…I can get behind that.  Stalley is more than just a rapper with some stories and good flow.  Stalley has a way of conceptulizing the world that reminds me of Nas or The Roots.  His urban flourishes mixed with his American story telling geared toward blue coller workers makes Stalley’s 2011 release Lincoln Way Nights (Intelligent Trunk Music) an album any Hip-Hop lover can get around. Download Link.

Blu

Los Angeles, CA

All you need to know is that Blu got dropped from Warner Bros. because he said he wanted his next release to involve Flying Lotus & Samiyam productions and wanted to have “fuzzy distortion over formulaic pop-rap imprisonment.”  Straight up, this is some out of this world Hip-Hop that has a very rewarding finish if you put the time into it.  For fans of Ganja Sufi, Edan and Anti Pop Consortium.  Download his 2011 mixtape “NOYORK!” here.

Danny Brown

Detroit, MI

Danny Brown produces one of the most recognizable voices in Hip-Hop, ever.  When I first heard Danny flow, it reminded me of hearing Busta Rhymes for the first time on “Scenario” with Tribe Called Quest.  It was like, “who the fuck is this guy..?” If you don’t like Danny at first, I understand – I kind of see him as an acquired taste.  But once you get past the fact that it doesn’t sound like anything you’ve ever heard before, you’re well on your way to enjoying one of the wildest and most stylish rappers alive.  Download XXX here.

Schoolboy Q.

Los Angeles, CA

Maybe it’s because there’s an abundance of marijuana in California (you know, with it being all medical and shit) that we see so many California rappers not just write songs in dedication to their favorite stimulant, but we hear rappers who have clearly been positively inspired by the substance.  Schooboy Q, one of the many weed loving rappers out there, just seems to do it better than the rest.  Sit back, relax and throw on some Q. Download his new mixtape Setbacks here.

G-Side

Athens, Alabama

Every place has their story, but not every place gets their story told.  Some cities are lucky enough to have a singer, a politician, an artist or a songwriter that helps tell their story, that helps put their name on the map.  When I say Akron Ohio, what do you think?  When I say ATL, who do you think of?  What about Omaha Nebraska? Now…can you think of anyone that represents Athens, Alabama? It seems to me Athens, Alabama has never had its story told, until now.  Today we have G-Side, a very intellectual southern fried Hip-Hop duo who’s sci fi slow motion blunted beat approach is some of the most infectious Hip-Hop around.  Sound familiar? Let’s put it this way, you could either wait for Outkast to regroup or you can just invest in G-Side.  Check out their bandcamp where you download and purchase more music here.

Has-Lo

Philadelphia, PA

Has-Lo’s latest release Incase I Don’t Make It is that good old dark story telling that East Coast Rap is known for.   If you’re a lover of 80’s and 90’s Hip-Hop that spawned Nas, Boot Camp & Wu Tang, than this is a must spin.  Has-Lo does all his own production and writes all of his own music which makes the whole album and project feel complete.  The beats fit his emotionally backed lyrics, allowing you to feel his anguished stresses on a 54 minute journey into a beautiful dark world.  Check out the Mellowmusic Bandcamp where you can find more goods similar to Has-Lo here.

Kendrick Lamar

Compton, CA

Kendrick Lamar is already playing with the Big Boys.  In fact, The Game, Dr. Dre and Snoop have already crowned him the “New King Of The West Coast”.  Let’s just hope his new found fame doesn’t interfere with artistic output (i.e. The Game), because Section.80, Lamar’s debut full length, is the Hip-Hop album West Coasters have been waiting to rally around.  Can’t wait for more from this promising young kid.  Download his new album Section.80 here