Last week, I gave my predications for this year’s Bay Area Freshman 10. This week, we move up to my predictions on the national scene. As with last week, these are definitely not my 10 favorite up and coming rappers, but they are who I think best fit the criteria to make the XXL cover. Also, the videos included at the end are my guess at their most popular/well known tracks, not necessarily their most impressive, representative, or my personal favorites. As always, I strongly urge you the reader to prove me wrong, and let me know who you’re predictions are in the C section.
Kendrick Lamar: As my writing over the past year has shown, without question Kendrick Lamar is my favorite artist out of my predictions. Kendrick’s ability to constantly switch up his flow, and have some the best cadences in hip-hop, matched with his dedication and prowess in delivering meaningful and relatable lyrics, puts him in an elite category. While many thought (O)verly (D)edicated was one of the best projects released all year (it even got chopped and screwed by the Swisha House guys) probably the biggest acknowledgment of his talents came from Dr. Dre. Without any reaching out from Kendrick’s camp, The Good Dr. on his own found The Good Kid from Compton, and has invited him to be a part of the fabled Detox. Who knows if the Aftermath connection will actually lead to something, because they’ve been known to let everyone from legends to immensely talented up and comers wait in vain, but it’s one of many signs that there is practically no denying the quality of music made by Kendrick.
Most Known Song: Ignorance Is Bliss produced by Willie B
Big K.R.I.T.: If there was an underground project that got more praise in 2010 than Kendrick’s release, it has to be Big K.R.I.T.’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here. Coming out of nowhere, both figuratively and literally, this Mississippi native not only lyrically found the perfect mix of the pimped out braggadocios southern style with searing insight about the downfall of the African American communities in the U.S.’s lower region, but he did an incredible job self producing the entire album as well. So much so that his ability to flip samples gave 9th Wonder the chills.The successes of K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, got K.R.I.T. immediately signed to Def Jam and becoming a major part of Curren$y’s Smokers Club national tour. Not to mention a chopped and screwed version of the album by DJ Michael “5000” Watts, a spot hosting Johnny Shipes‘ Good Talk Volume 9. mixtape, and videos on MTV jams as well. With all that in mind, and a new and powerful movement towards supporting human music, it’s hard to imagine anything but success for K.R.I.T.
Most Known Song: Children Of The World produced by Big K.R.I.T.
Yelawolf: If anyone on this list is pretty much guaranteed wide spread success, it has to be Yelawolf. The cynics will say it’s because he’s white, but real listeners will know it’s because he’s lyrically crazy. His flow is out of this world, and his ability to balance harrowing descriptions of rural lives of poverty, with club bangers is practically unmatched. The fan support and critical acclaim of his free mixtape Trunk Muzik, gave birth to one of the best 2010’s for any rapper established or not. He got signed to Interscope early in the year, and they revamped Trunk Muzik , added some new songs to it, and released Trunk Muzik 0-60 in stores nationwide. He was a part of 3 videos on youtube that all hit over a million views: one for Trunk Muzik’s lead single “Pop The Trunk”, one for his collaboration with Gucci Mane on the lead single to Trunk Muzik 0-60 “I Just Want To Party” , and one for “You Ain’t No DJ”, which was his guest feature on Big Boi’s solo debut. Then add a spot on 2010’s Rock The Bells Tour, a freestyle spot on the BET Awards, and the coup de grace of signing to Eminem and Shady Records, and it’s clear Yelawolf is going is going to be a huge factor in the years to come.
Most Known Song: Pop The Trunk produced by Will Power
Danny Brown: Detroit is so ridiculously deep in talent, yet beyond Eminem there hasn’t really been anyone able to maintain and sustain a commercially relevant career. Last year XXL put their money on Big Sean as someone who could do damage.This year I think Danny Brown should be that guy. In 2010, for free, he dropped The Hybrid which got ridiculous critical acclaim, the instrumentals to The Hybrid, the leftover tracks from The Hybrid, Detroit State of Mind 4, and on Itunes he released a collaboration album with Tony Yayo entitled Hawaiian Snow. That Yayo album also allowed Brown the opportunity to soak up game from 50 Cent, and rumors have flown around that he is considering signing to be a part of G-Unit. This may come as a surprise to a lot of people, because his music seems to be far from commercially acceptable. Yet at the same time, I haven’t heard a rapper that could make me laugh like Brown since discovering Ghostface’s solo albums, Devin, Mac Dre, or even a young Em. That ability to put smiles on people’s faces goes a long way, and if he can continue to stay witty, regardless of whether he signs a major deal or not, he’s poised to build himself a serious cult following.
Most Known Song: “Greatest Rapper Ever” produced by Quelle
Vado: While 2010 saw a lot of hype around a Dipset reunion that will involve among other things, production by Dr. Dre, it could be argued that Vado’s rise to prominence, with the aide of Killa Cam, is what has gotten Dipset fans most excited in the past year. In my opinion, while he has less personality than Cam’ron or Jim Jones, he’s technically a much better MC than either of them. For one his lyrics are logical and make sense. Jae Millz bitched about Vado not being included on last year’s list of XXL’s freshmen, but he didn’t make the cut largely because he didn’t have the catalogue. This year in addition to his solo retail debut, Slime Flu, he drooped a retail collaboration album with Cam’ron in Cam’ron and The U.N. Presents Heat In Here 1, and released 2 free mixtapes with Cam’ron in Boss Of All Bosses 2 and Boss Of All Bosses 2.5. Add to that a freestyle spot at the BET Awards, inclusion on Kanye’s all star filled posse track “Christmas In Harlem”, and the full backing of the internet, and it looks as if 2011 could be Vado’s breakout year.
Most Known Song: “Speaking In Tongues” with Cam’ron produced by Sire of RMG
Dom Kennedy: Not since Snoop Dogg has someone’s style of rapping so perfectly embodied the feeling of Southern California. While we all know that LA is also rugged as hell, for the most part the first thoughts that come to an outsider’s mind when they think of the City of Angles, besides celebrities, are normally sun, the beach, beautiful women, style, and straight lounging with a cold drink and some dank herb. If you put all of those things into one rapper, you will end up with Dom Kennedy. He’s got one of the smoothest and effortless sounding flows (in a really good way) that I’ve heard in years. From top to bottom he makes feel good music aimed to put a smile on the listener’s face. While a lot of people thought 2010 would be the year he made the XXL cover, my guess is that he will not be overlooked in 2011. From The Westside With Love was one of the best free mixtapes of the year, he had ill features on 2 of Curren$y’s projects, one on Chip Tha Ripper’s mixtape, Kendrick Lamar’s tape, the best song on Pac Div’s Don’t Mention It, Terrace Martin and Devi Dev’s Hear, My Dear, and he stepped his touring up and did shows all across the country. Right now, no one can pull off that smooth shit like Dom, and that’s why I expect him to catch on even more this year.
Most Known Song: Watermelon Sundae (It’s a little old, but a fan favorite nonetheless)
Chip Tha Ripper: The other straight ahead feel good MC on this list in addition to Dom Kennedy is Chip Tha Ripper. The Cleveland rapper has a little bit of that midwest rapid flow, mixed with a confidence and light heartedness that could make him a big deal in popular music. For free, he dropped The Cleveland Show in December of 09’, then Independence Day and From Me, To You – Prelude To Gift Raps in 2010, all of which were really well done and well received. He’s also got a lot friends that are heating up the music scene as well, so 2010 found him on Kid Cudi’s album (they apparently are also planning on recording a group album), Freddie Gibbs’ EP, Pac Div’s mixtape, and Big Sean’s mixtape. The people in Cleveland seem to love him, as this video with Mike Posner clearly exhibits, and you got to give him credit for being able to make white girls scream like that. If Gift Raps, which is going to be completely produced by Chuck Inglish of The Cool Kids, slaps as much as everyone expects, he’s definitely going to be in a position to really expand his fan base.
Most Known Song: “Feel Good” produced by S.O.V.
Cyhi The Prince: With the 2010 that Kanye West had, it’s easy to imagine that XXL is going to show love to someone in Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music camp, and the only MC really eligible is Cyhi The Prince. By being a part of “Christmas in Harlem”, “So Appalled”, “Take One For The Team”, and “Looking For Trouble” Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Fridays have done a lot to put him in this position. Not to mention having a solid verse on the G.O.O.D. Music freestyle at the B.E.T. Awards. Add to all of that his free solo mixtape, Royal Flush, and it looks like he’s ready to step away from being the only artist on G.O.O.D. Music that most people have never heard of.
Most Known Song: “So Appalled” with Kanye West, Jay-Z, RZA, Pusha T and Swizz Beatz produced by Kanye West, No I.D. and Mike Dean
Tyga: This is when we get to the part of the list that’s for artists that I’m not really a fan of, but who’s recent success has put them in a position to deserve to be included on this list. Tyga is the probably the most popular non-superstar member of Young Money. December of 2009 saw him gain some notoriety from being on the Young Money album, including the ridiculously overplayed lead single “Bedrock” (over 54 million views on youtube!). 2010 saw him take advantage of his quality connects even more, as he released a collaboration mixtape with Chris Brown in Fan of a Fan, which was downloaded by a couple hundred thousand people, and spawned another smash hit in “Deuces” (11 million views on youtube!). He also dropped the Well Done solo mixtape with DJ Drama that got a lot of love too. With all of this success it’s hard to imagine him not becoming something big, but he’s going to experience some difficulty in getting the people at Cash Money to help him get a well promoted album out on the market with Wayne prepping for his come back, Drake getting ready for round 2, I’m sure Nicki Minaj isn’t stopping anytime soon, and Cory Gunz recently getting added to the label and getting the sole guest spot on Wayne’s latest single.
Most Known Song: “Bedrock” with Lil Wayne, Gudda Gudda, Nicki Minaj, Drake, Jae Millz, and Lloyd produced by Kane Beatz
Lil B: Some people might say Matt, isn’t it exciting that a rapper from The Bay is probably going to make the Freshman 10 list? My answer is that in this case it is NOT. While I love my home turf, I love quality music much more, and no matter what the millions of Base Heads rant about, Lil B does not make music anywhere close to being worth a listen. For one, he’s broken the golden rule that what makes rap, rap, is that your lines actually have to rhyme. Secondly, “I used to be a goon, but now I’m a pretty bitch”? “If Kanye West doesn’t acknowledge me over twitter and work with me on music, when I see him I’m going to fuck him in the ass”? I think y’all see what I’m getting at. Then he got his ass dropped by a 120 lb amateur interviewer, with out even an attempt at retaliation. I just can’t be a fan under any circumstance. Yet, I gotta give respect where respect is due, and he has converted a ridiculous # of people into his accolades. He’s graced the cover of magazines, newspapers (he even got a favorable write up in The New York Times), sold out shows in NYC and Atlanta, and dropped countless garbage mixtapes and videos that have way too many listens and views. His rise in popularity over the past year is actually pretty awe inspiring, and eye opening about how mentally slow and contradictory our society is, but it makes him a shoe in for being included on the list.
Most Known Song: I don’t know and I really don’t give a fuck.