Now, more than ever, hip-hop has become a dominant force in our modern world. From weaving its way into any genre, to curating cutting-edge fashion and streetwear trends, we’re seeing an uncontrollable rise from the genre that was once deemed the music of the minority. Hip-hop is everywhere you go, and its innovation and aesthetic has opened the door for plenty of artists to try their hand at renovating the traditional sound.
Here’s everything you need to know about 5 of our favourite hip-hop talents right now.
In his short musical career, Chicago rapper Juice WRLD managed to make quite the impression. Officially cracking into the mainstream in 2018 with his lead single ‘All Girls Are the Same,’ Juice WRLD immediately brought a fresh sound to hip-hop. Mixing elements of emo, punk and trap, the Juice WRLD sound became a genre of its own.
The star fell into the new rise of the ‘SoundCloud rapper,’ a movement that began to rumble in 2015 and aimed to incorporate emo and punk sounds to heavily digitised beats. This was the new direction of hip-hop, a mixture of everything the youth had grown up with and a new style of singing/rapping. In May 2018, Juice WRLD dropped ‘Lucid Dreams’ and the whole game changed. Jumping right up to second place on the Billboard 100 chart, and becoming one of the most-streamed songs on Spotify (it currently has over 1 billion streams), the world became obsessed with the rapper’s innovation.
In the span of a year, Juice WRLD would release two successful albums (Goodbye & Good Riddance and Death Race For Love) and come to be known as one of the most popular forces in the hip-hop world. After his unexpected death in December 2019, a number of posthumous collaborations were released, including his feature on Eminem’s ‘Godzilla’ (off his eleventh studio album Music to Be Murdered By) which peaked at number 3 on the Billboard 100. His latest album Legends Never Die is out now.
Still new on the scene, the North Carolina rapper became one of the biggest hip-hop acts of 2019 and continues to conquer the music world. His debut album Baby on Baby dropped in March 2019 and included a steady list of features from well-known acts, such as Offset and Rich The Kid; and jumped to 25 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. But it was his lead single ‘Suge’ that really helped kickstart things. Jumping from the bottom of the Billboard 100 to the top 10 in less than 2 months, the quick and menacing track put DaBaby front and centre of a new obsession; one that mashed up influences of both Eminem’s parody and Lil Wayne’s lyricism.
Riding on the high of his newfound success, DaBaby dropped his second album Kirk at the end of 2019, and it instantly topped the albums chart. His name was floating around both for his solo work and his collabs, and he closed the year off by having 22 entries on the Billboard 100; the most for any artist that year. Now, in 2020, he continues to rise to the top. ‘Suge’ has been nominated twice at the Grammys, his latest album Blame It on Baby, released earlier this year, has earned him another album chart topper, and his lead single ‘Rockstar’ has become a viral sensation. An undeniable force, DaBaby is one of the hottest flames of hip-hop right now.
Scoring a co-sign from Lil Xan and joining the likes of YBN Cordae and Juice WRLD on tour, the now 18-year-old Seattle rapper was only 15 when he started out in the game. His 2017 debut hit ‘Pull Up’ reached over 25 million views in the first year of its release and paved the way for a new prodigy following in the footsteps of Lil Yachty and Lil Xan.
A few months later, in 2018, Lil Mosey dropped ‘Noticed’ and really kickstarted his musical success. In just a week, the song racked up four million streams on Spotify and the music video saw just short of 10 million views within the first two weeks of its drop (it now has over 200 million views and 400 million streams). His debut album Northsbest came at the end of 2018 and saw a feature from BloccBoy JB. The album was praised by critics and earned an entry on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
The end of 2019 saw the release of Lil Mosey’s latest album Certified Hitmaker (which was then reissued in February 2020), which included features from Gunna, Trippie Redd and Chris Brown. Lil Mosey’s lead single ‘Blueberry Faygo’ became the rapper’s highest-charting hit yet, landing a spot in the top 10 of the Billboard 100 chart and becoming a viral success (it now has over 400 million streams on Spotify). And the star only continues to rise. At only 18, Lil Mosey represents a new generation of hip-hop and incorporates viral Internet sensations into his brand (such as Tik Tok). He’s definitely one to keep an eye on.
Atlanta-bred rapper Lil Baby officially made a name for himself with his string of mixtapes in 2017. After the success of his 2017 hit ‘Freestyle,’ he worked on his debut album Harder Than Ever which later dropped in 2018, with singles ‘Southside’ and ‘Yes Indeed ft. Drake’ piquing the world’s interest. Already having a significant pull (enough to land Drake on your debut hit), Lil Baby quickly rose to the top of the charts for his Young Thug-esque sound and mellow trap beats. ‘Yes Indeed’ landed at number 6 on the Billboard 100 and Harder Than Ever landed in the top 3 of the albums chart.
From there, Lil Baby teamed up with fellow Atlanta rapper Gunna for their collaborative mixtape Drip Harder, which dropped at the end of 2018. Drake joined other high-profile features such as Young Thug and NAV and the lead single ‘Drip Too Hard’ became Lil Baby’s most popular single, going on to score a Grammy nomination. A month later, Lil Baby’s second mixtape Street Gossip dropped with more features from Young Thug and Gunna, and some new friends consisting of Meek Mill, Gucci Mane and 2 Chainz. Lil Baby seemed to be the air hip-hop breathed, and he didn’t show any signs of slowing down.
At the beginning of 2020, Lil Baby released his latest album My Turn and it saw a whole new incredible lineup of features including Young Thug, Future and Lil Wayne. It jumped straight to number one on the album charts and put 12 of its tracks on the Billboard 100; earning Lil Baby a career total of 47 songs to enter the charts, a feat only Prince and Paul McCartney have achieved. Amid the Black Lives Matter protests earlier in June, the rapper released the political track ‘The Bigger Picture,’ an emotional message much different to anything the star had released prior but one that earned him his highest-charting song to date. It was praised for being one of the most powerful tracks of the year, and only boosted Lil Baby’s reputation as a modern hip-hop leader.
The New York rapper only had a year to achieve musical success before he was fatally shot earlier this year, but he left behind a legacy that only continues to grow. Dropping his debut single ‘Welcome to the Party’ in 2019, the lead single off his mixtape Meet the Woo, he instantly made a name for himself as a new and powerful force in the industry. With a dark and low grumbling rap sound, Pop Smoke’s approach to hip-hop was heavily UK-drill and grime inspired.
His debut posthumous album Shoot For the Stars Aim For the Moon just recently dropped (July 2020) and includes an incredible lineup of features from Lil Baby, DaBaby, Quavo, 50 Cent (who also helped produce the album), Tyga and Future. The album debuted at number one on the album charts, making Pop Smoke the first hip-hop act to have a posthumous debut album do so and joining The Notorious B.I.G, Tupac and XXXTentacion as the only acts in hip-hop history to have a posthumous number one. The album was praised for its talent of uncovering different genres and for only scraping the surface of the potential the rapper had. All 19 of the album’s tracks landed on the Billboard 100, earning Pop Smoke the record for having the most songs simultaneously on the charts posthumously, and the hit single ‘For The Night ft. Lil Baby and DaBaby’ has become the rapper’s highest-charting track. A short but powerful career, Pop Smoke’s flame continues to shine on.