The main doll, the most visible of them all, is Arkeisha Knight. Revealed through a remix of Tinashe's "2 On", and then through her take on AV's "Run Me My Money", she was seen alongside people from her own city, Detroit, like Icewear Vezzo and FMB DZ, but she also worked with more famous people, like B.O.B. and Trina, who featured on Keisha Vs. Kash Doll, her first mixtape after she joined BMB Records. Later on, she also collaborated with Drake, Metro Boomin and Big Sean. She was also supposed to feature on a YG song, before that one, "She Bad", went to Cardi B. This ignited a short conflict between these two ladies, though they had much in common: both of them had been strippers, before they turned into rappers.
Queen Key is the embodiment of rap's specific take on feminism. Instead of desexualizing women, she talks about her lust, loudly and proudly. Her approach, however, is different from the one CupcaKke, her Chicago colleague, opted for. Ke'Asha McClure is not that frontal and pornographic, she goes the humorous way, with a raspy voice that sounds older than she is. To male rappers who like to say "suck my dick", she answers Eat my Pussy with her last EP, the very project aimed at accelerating her career, now that she joined Machine Entertainment Group.
This is a new trend with today's rappers: they want to be rock stars. Though their subject matters – sex, drug and money – remain pretty much the same, their nihilist attitudes and imageries are heavily influenced by hardcore punk. See Playboi Carti's Die Lit cover art, for example. And the same goes with Rico Nasty on her latest mixtape, the first since she joined a major label. Nasty, indeed, his full of angry songs, blended with abrasive voices and furious guitars, like "Trust Issues", "In the Air", and the one summarizing it all: the outstanding "Rage".
It's been a while since a buzz started around OMB Peezy. Originally from Mobile, Alabama, but settled in Sacramento since he was 12, he featured since 2016 with the likes of Nef the Pharaoh or Yhung To, and he attracted the attention of a few others. E-40, indeed, invited him to join his Sick Wid It label. And he is also part of Lyor Cohen's new stable, 300. It took time, though, before he recorded a proper project. Heralded for months, Loyalty over Love was released only now. Prior to it, he only had side-projects: an average Humble Beginnings EP, produced by Cardo, and earlier this year, Young and Reckless, a mixtape with Sherwood Marty. This teamwork with the Baton Rouge rapper, though, was more than just an appetizer.
The feminine quota in the last Freshmen was represented by Stefflon Don. Though she has the particularity of not being American – she is a Brit who grew up in the Netherlands – this choice is not a total surprise. Stephanie Allen, indeed, has been making her way for a while, in the hip-hop world. She even integrated the influent Quality Control Music stable (Migos, Lil Yachty, etc.) last year. Having collaborated with French Montana and Future, as well as, more expectedly, with Skepta, the Londonian is representative of the growing convergence between America's hip-hop and UK's grime. Even if she is a Brit, her posture is the same as most female rappers, on the other side of the Atlantic ocean : she is a sexy doll and a dominatrix. The cover art of her next mixtape, Secure, shows clearly that her main influences come from the States, since it is copying Lil' Kim's The Notorious K.I.M.
By 2011, just when his regional musical style started buzzing outside of Chicago, BlockOnDaTrack, a drill music beatmaker, decided it was time to offer a feminine voice to this virile and aggressive hip-hop subgenre. He convinced his cousin Kiara Johnson - a student trying to make a living out of a waitress job at McDonalds, who had never thought she could be a rapper - to record a song with him. This would result into "I Need a Hitta", a success with the local Chicago youth, and it would lead to another one, "Ridin' Around and Drillin'", which caught the attention of King Louie. Subsequently, the drill music veteran asked the young woman to join his own Lawless Inc. imprint, and he participated to her most famous and defining banger : "Pop Out". Thus started the career of Katie Got Bandz, who released afterwards a series of mixtape, and became the undisputed queen of drill.
At first glance, this mixtape was some pure Los Angeles material. A few local rappers featured on it, like YG, Problem, and Joe Moses, and it was produced by the D.R.U.G.S. crew, later known through its association with Ty Dolla $ign. But its main player rapped with an accent and a style originated from the Dirty South. Iggy Azalea, though, was neither from California, nor from Georgia. She was even not an African-American, but a white, blonde and Australian lady. Fascinated by US rap music since she fell in love with 2Pac, Amethyst Kelly had flown before the age of 16 to the country of her idols. She had lived in Miami, Houston, and Atlanta, before relocating to the West Coast, per her label's recommendation.
The new fad with silly rappers; the weirdness of artsy hip-hop, mixed with the most extreme offenses of gangsta rap; the confessions, the vulnerability, the thugs with bleeding hearts; the confusion between mixtapes and regular albums; web marketing, and its role in the advent of new talents; and the atmospheric sounds tagged as cloud rap. These trends have defined rap music, in the 2010's. And one man, in the late 2000's, heralded all of them; or at least, he represented them. This man, was Brandon McCartney, a.k.a. the BasedGod, a.k.a. Lil B.
Jeezy's glory days happened by 2005, no doubt. During that year, indeed, he released his (classic) mixtape Trap or Die, a record from his band, Boyz n da Hood, and also his (classic, again) solo album, Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101. By then, he was just the most important rapper on Earth, period. But the following years have been good ones as well, especially when, from 2009 through 2012, from Trap or Die Part 2 to It's Tha World, he released some of his best mixtapes. Among those, the two editions of The Real Is Back, released respectively in May and September 2011, and produced essentially by Lil Lody, deserve to be mentioned. Originally aimed at heralding a new album, Hustlerz Ambition, the last of the Thug Motivation trilogy, they proved, over time, to be significantly better.
A close look at the main rappers in the early 2010's, will show that all were not newcomers. The obvious example, of course, was 2 Chainz. Tauheed Epps had to pass his 30th birthday, indeed, to become a hip-hop figurehead. But prior to this, he had a career. He'd been part of Ludacris' label, Disturbing tha Peace, as one half of Playaz Circle, a duo with his friend Dolla Boy. These two even had some success around 2007, with the single "Duffle Bag Boy", featuring a Lil Wayne in his heyday. After two albums, however, their days came to an end, and 2 Chainz had to reinvent himself as a solo artist. And he did it smartly: he chose a new alias, the previous one, Tity Boi, being a bit embarrassing; he used his address book to collaborate with first-class rappers; and he became one of the ambassadors of trap music, displaying a rather generic kind of it, but in a pleasant and goofy way.
There's always a time, for any kind of music, when people get conscious about their heritage, and when everything needs to be defined relative to the past. As far as rap music is concerned, this phenomenon is far from new, but it got amplified when, by the beginning of the 2010's, a new generation took control; when, for the first time, rap had no competition anymore, and was delivered by people whose parents themselves were fan of the music. One of the best illustration of this new era was the revivalism promoted by the Raider Klan. The only female rapper in that crew, Amber Linwood, a.k.a. Amber London - or Vmber London, per the singular calligraphy these guys opted for - demonstrated that on her 1994 EP.
By the end of the naughties, almost two decades after the beginnings of his own Three 6 Mafia, and after the career apotheosis his Academy Award and the success of "Stay Fly" had been, Juicy J decided to focus on his solo career. He released a few albums, like Hustle Till I Die in 2009, and Stay Trippy in 2013, but also several mixtapes, including both editions of Rubba Band Business, two collaborative works with Lex Luger. By requiring the help of a producer sixteen years younger than he was, the guy behind Waka Flocka's and Rick Ross' latest bangers, the Memphis veteran surely wanted to demonstrate that he was aging well; and indeed, he was.
MikeWiLLBeenTrill was not the first mixtape from Mike Will Made It. In the two years before, he had released all three volumes of his Est. in 1989 series. But in 2013, the Atlanta producer was at the apex of his fame; he was now notorious much beyond the (t)rap universe he had originated from. Around a dozen of that year's hit singles, were produced by him. And a few weeks before this new release, he had executively produced Miley Cyrus' Bangerz album, and signed a large part of its music. While the Disney star collaborated with this beakmaker from Atlanta's trap music scene and turned into a nasty girl, Mike Will expanded his aura to a large audience. As a matter of fact, more than his previous releases, MikeWiLLBeenTrill demonstrated that his collaborators were getting more diverse.
There was a time when, by the end of the naughties, rap music seemed to turn into the new international pop. It was mixing more and more, indeed, with other genres like rock, or electronica. A few notorious rappers were leading the trend, like Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and later on Drake; and of course we could talk about the hit machine Black Eyed Peas, originally a pure hip-hop band, had turned into. Another man went into that direction, though in a more hipster way. With his fashion victim looks, Theophilus London, a New-Yorker of Trinidadian descent who would be actively sponsored by Kanye West, actually looked like a hipster fantasy: as a matter of fact, the 2011 edition of the Cannes Film Festival would love him.
The best time in Alley Boy's career was 2011. Taking place between his first steps as a rapper, in Gucci Mane's shadow – he had featured on Chicken Talk 2 in 2008 – and The Gift of Discernment in 2012 – his most exposed and visible project, at least here in France – that year had been some kind of turning point. In 2011, indeed, the Atlanta rapper had released two great mixtapes: the second edition of Definition of F#ck Sh*t and, a few months before – but much later after it had been heralded – Purgatory: The Story of Judas, a collaboration with DJ Drama.
When people who experienced the beginnings of rap, in the late 70's and early 80's, are asked about them, many confess that they hadn't realized, at first, that this was a brand new kind of music. What they heard sounded like a declination of funk, or disco, not a musical genre per se. And nowadays, it seems that rap itself has reached the same point. Now that it is giving way to sing-song, especially in Atlanta, its current capital city, some wonder if rap should still be called the same. Listening to artists like ILoveMakonnen, indeed, this question sounds legitimate.
Like it or not, but please admit the following: in the 2010s, Nicki Minaj is the number one female rapper. The Trinidadian New-Yorker inherited everything from the ladies who paved her way: she has Lil' Kim, Foxy Brown or Trina's gift of the gab, and the same explicit lyrics or posture; she has Missy Elliott's eccentricity and creativity, both visually and musically. And in addition, she knows how to play with her physique, which is a critical asset, in a world still requiring this from female artists. Last but not least, she knows how to rap, and her ease with the mic puts her on par with – or even above – most of her competitors, either men or women.
The dozens are an old African-American tradition. It goes back to the times of slavery. Since the work the poor fellows were condemned to, in the cotton fields, was not exactly a pleasant and distracting one, some slaves killed times with spoken words contests, consisting in insulting the other participants. This practice, it is known, survived in rap music. Knowing about these roots is understanding why outrageousness and insanity are so central to it. It is all about competition and playfulness. Ignoring this, means misunderstanding hip-hop, approaching it through the wrong way and, many times, being horrified by it. This practice, of course, started in the South. And it is still there, that it is the most vibrant and extreme; in New-Orleans, for example, where it is know as "rib", or "ribbin'", a discipline Samantha James became an expert at, while she was still a schoolgirl.
Exalted being the third collaborative mixtape from Nacho Picasso and Blue Sky Black Death released in a few months, it was somehow expected that, at that stage, the Seattle rapper and the two producers would get a bit less relevant. But actually, it didn't happen that way. Released not long after Lord of the Fly, this project was, in reality, the best of the trilogy. It was also the first they didn't release for free. They might have assumed that, by then, their fans and listeners had become so addicted to their music, that they would be willing to pay for more.
Projects are, in the US, an equivalent for the French HLM. They are large real estate schemes, launched by the public authorities, and aimed at the poorest; and quite often, they end up being no-go areas, where criminality is the only alternative to poverty, and where violence and drugs reign. Of Haitian descent, Dieuson Octave grew up in one of these places: Golden Acres, in Pompano Beach, North of Fort Lauderdale. And most of his inspiration is coming from there, judging by the titles of two mixtapes he released while he was still a teenager: Project Baby, by the end of 2013, and the excellent Heart of the Projects, one year later.
« previous entries - page 1 of 3