In the beginning, the creation of Hip-Hop was a simple endeavor. It’s humble beginnings of spinning records and looping drum breaks have grown to encompass so many different sounds and styles, so many unique perspectives with their own story to tell. While today’s hip-hop has been divided into classic boom bap sound vs. the trap 808 motif, a number of artists across time have sought to push the envelope even farther with their own brand of unique influences. Mixing in different elements, playing with unique production, and placing emphasis on overall artistry has allowed a new breed of artists to breathe new life into Hip-Hops culture and showed there’s so much more depth to it. Below are 5 artists that strive to be different, and express themselves through their own means.
The home of Kanye, Chicago’s rich history and culture have given at least some degree of influence to a lot of artists that hail from it. Songstress Rayvn Lenae’s is no exception, her distinctive voice and eccentric production making her stand out in an already colorful atmosphere. Her smooth, sweet singing is automatically recognizable and unmistakeable, and her production choices mesh indie pop and hip-hop in a way where each element comes through super clear. A member of the Zero Fatigue collective along with fellow artist Smino and producer Monte Booker, the signature soundscape Lenae has built echoes along to the other members. She’s been getting a lot of clout as of late, currently opening on Noname’s Telefone tour, and dropped her Midnight Moonlight EP just a few days ago, which if definitely worth a listen along with her 2016 project Moon Shoes.
I’ve been a fan of Alex Wiley, another Chicago native for a few years now, and it seems and every year he pushes himself further and further as an artist. His first project, Club Wiley, had undeniable promise, showcasing strong talent as a rapper and featuring the track Spaceship II, which is a sequel to a Kanye West track off The College Dropout. It was his sophomore mixtape Village Party that catapulted him into the industry as a playmaker, and 2 EPs and 2 albums later his artistry continues to push forward. His latest, Village Party III: A Stoner Symphony, features a blend of House and electronic elements and has quietly been one of the better projects of 2017 already.
I know what you’re thinking. The weirdo, rich kid, twitter philosopher (ole water phone headass)? There’s no way he can spit! As a matter of fact, Jaden Smith is lowkey one of the best rappers out right now. While he definitely didn’t get his dads acting skills (After Earth was trash, tbh), he actually grown to be way more developed of an artist than the Fresh Prince. When he’s not tweeting philosophical paradoxes, he’s actually dropped a ton of quality songs that showcase his smooth flow and top notch writing skills. Songs like Beast Mode and LaborV2 prove he’s up to par with a lot of today’s rappers, and that could easily take aim at the crown if he dropped a full project. The fact that he pretty much only drops something when he feels like it and it always bangs makes him all the more interesting.
Reppin’ St. Louis to the fullest, Smino‘s creativity and desire to push the culture forward is making him a serious problem in the game. He’s been on a pretty steady rise from the jump, his first single 3M being released a little over a year ago. Fast forward to now, with his debut album blkswn dropping last week, and Smino shows no signs of slowing down. With producer Monte Booker behind the boards for most of his work, the combination brings out the best in both sides. With a core sound and a serious passion for the mic, Smino is making a stake for longetivity.
When I found out about Kevin Abstract, I was had just started college. He was living in San Marcos, my college town, at the time, and I somehow ended up following him on twitter. I didn’t think much of him at first, but as years have passed he grown a lot as a musician. What separates him is that he incorporates a lot of folk and acoustic elements and explores lyrical themes that go outside the norm. His latest work, American Boyfriend, is highly acclaimed by his fanbase, and discusses a lot of relationship problems and life situations as from a gay male perspective. In a world ruled by misogyny and a patriarchal system, it’s nice to hear and underrepresented voice.