Last September, Complex did their ’20 Best Rappers In Their 20s’ list and as is often the case with a Complex post, it caused a few controversies. Inclusions of the likes of Lil Uzi Vert and Swae Lee seemed just as odd as their choice to put YG and Meek Mill above A$AP Rocky and Travis Scott and it has prompted me to do my own list. I’ll also shoutout Liam Jones who did this post first and added fuel to my fire in terms of wanting to put out this list so check that out too. Links to both lists will be at the bottom of the post. Without further ado let’s get into the list.
DISCLAIMER: ARTISTS SUCH AS DRAKE, CHILDISH GAMBINO AND SCHOOLBOY Q ARE 30 OR OVER SO CANNOT BE CONSIDERED FOR THIS LIST. LIL YACHTY IS 19 SO HE IS TOO YOUNG FOR THE LIST.
20. Mac Miller (25 years old)
Mac Miller has been a rapper that I have struggled to get involved with and enjoy previously, but with the release of his latest album ‘The Divine Feminine’ he silenced critics and proved his credentials as a great artist. Mac has also had a lot to say about Donald Trump and much like fellow rapper YG, has written a song about his shortcomings if he were to be elected as President (which he has in case you lived under a rock). I like his suave style over a beat and the beats themselves are soulful to the core.
19. D.R.A.M. (28 years old)
The happiest man in the world, I have never seen a man love his dog quite like D.R.A.M. does. After being turned down for the 2016 Freshman list, he could have stopped and thought it would never happen, but no. He kept going and now has a Grammy nominated song to his name with ‘Broccoli’, which also happens to be the greatest song of all time believe it or not. His self-titled debut is feel good and above all it is bloody good too, I hope we hear more from this loveable man and I also hope we see him with more dogs.
18. Noname (25 years old)
A complete unknown at the start of 2016 but look at her now. Noname made just about everyone’s albums of the year list and she was in the top 10 of mine with her smash debut ‘Telefone’. Chicago has been on the up for a while and we are now starting to see this in action with the likes of Noname, Vic Mensa and Chance The Rapper becoming big names in the genre. With a very limited number of talented female rappers in today’s rap scene, perhaps Noname has what it takes to become the queen, she has Nicki Minaj to topple first, though…
17. Vic Mensa (23 years old)
More proof that Chicago is having a honeymoon period of music at the moment, Vic Mensa has taken 2016 as an opportunity to speak out on major issues with Chicago, mainly police brutality and the effect it has on the local people. His ‘There’s Alot Going On’ EP was brilliant and it raised a lot of issues, opening a lot of eyes to the current state of America’s police force. His flow and cadence is something we are used to, with previous releases ‘U Mad’ and ‘Down On My Luck’ remaining bangers to this day.
16. Meek Mill (29 years old)
You could excuse people for calling Meek Mill a bit of a banter artist given his well documented feud with Drake which resulted in Meek falling flat on his face and becoming a laughing stock. This papered over the fact that Meek Mill has actually been moving very well musically in the past couple of years and he followed that trend on in 2016 with his DC4 mixtape which featured some of the game’s hottest artists and as a result we got banger after banger. His work ethic can’t be questioned and if he carries on like he is, the Drake feud will be a thing of the past.
15. Denzel Curry (22 years old)
The coldest flow in the game at the moment, hands down. Denzel blows my mind on a regular basis and it all came about from ‘Ultimate’, his biggest track and the soundtrack to the bottle flip challenge. The meme that became of it threw quite a lot of shade on it as a track which is a shame because it is genuinely incredible the way he keeps the track flowing at such a high tempo. He is full of energy and talent, as seen in 2016’s ‘Imperial’ album which was one of the better releases from a Freshman last year. If Denzel can carry on at this rate I honestly think he could be one of the greats.
14. YG (26 years old)
YG seemed like a bit of a joker when he released ‘My N****’ in 2014 but the way he has responded has been very impressive indeed. 2016 was a very busy year for the Compton rapper as he released two projects, ‘Still Brazy’ and ‘Red Friday’, the former of which was absolutely fantastic and made my albums of the year list. His political side has also shone through this year, most notably his ongoing feud with Donald Trump and the message he sends in his ‘FDT’ track. YG has bounced back from being a meme artist and is now one of hip-hop’s truest speakers.
13. Tyler, The Creator (25 years old)
Tyler is as creative as anyone in this list, his mind goes way beyond that of hip-hop and it is very refreshing to see. Odd Future’s ring leader has now moved onto become a fashion guru as well as an award winning solo artist and a TV personality so it is clear to see why he is so well loved by so many people. Sticking with his music, however, Tyler is undoubtedly controversial, that much is a stone cold fact, but his controversies often help him shine and create his best music. 2016 was fairly quiet for Tyler, with us only getting a couple of A$AP Mob collabs and a remix of Zayn Malik’s hit ‘Pillowtalk’. The remix is absolutely stunning and the feature tracks are just as good so the future is bright for Wolf Haley indeed.
12. Joey Bada$$ (22 years old)
One of hip-hop’s wittiest and talented MC’s, it is an absolute criminal offence how underrated Joey Bada$$ is. ‘Paper Trail$’ is one of the best hip-hop songs I have heard in years and it doesn’t stop there. Every track Joey does has his stamp on it, a stamp of phenomenal flow and expressive lyricism from the very core. 2016 has seen Joey plotting a comeback with tracks like ‘Devastated’ and ‘Front & Center’ being released and prompting mass excitement for his new project, particularly after the success of ‘B4.DA.$$’. Joey Bada$$ has a huge future and his new album will be fire, if it isn’t I will eat my shoes.
11. 21 Savage (24 years old)
In his own words, he makes “murder music” and he couldn’t be more correct. 21 is actually an incredibly clever man who has clearly learnt an awful lot from his traumatic experiences on the streets of Atlanta. From gun violence to out and out murders, 21 Savage raps from the heart and tells us all how it is, no sugar coating or stretching the truth. He is one of my favourite artists from the 2016 Freshman list because of how unique he is, sounding like a possessed middle aged man with a death alibi at the best of times but I just can’t explain how it sounds so enjoyable, it just does. Listen to his ‘Savage Mode’ mixtape and you will soon realise what I am talking about.
10. Quavo (25 years old)
Best known as a part of rap group Migos, Quavo has enjoyed a huge 2016 and it has come from a lot of groundwork with Migos, working hard to get commercial success and be recognised by a wider audience. They did that with ‘Versace’ but after that they struggled to hit those heights again. Well, ‘Bad & Boujee’ came out in 2016 and the rest is history, Migos are now a household name and have a song with over 150 million plays on Spotify, not bad going. Quavo himself has also dominated on features with Travis Scott, G.O.O.D. Music and Post Malone, making him almost impossible to ignore.
9. Earl Sweatshirt (22 years old)
Earl truly is like gold dust when he hops on the microphone and gives us some bars. Two releases into his solo career, Earl Sweatshirt has demonstrated that he is far more than one of Tyler, The Creator’s friends from Odd Future; instead he is actually the best MC OFWGKTA have to offer, including Tyler himself. Both ‘Doris’ and ‘I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside’ are prime examples of the raw talent he possesses as a songwriter, rapping about his life and the struggles he has faced, from depression to drug addiction. For such a young man he is incredible and with an album predicted to be released this year, I cannot wait to see what is next.
8. Vince Staples (23 years old)
Vince goes hard, talks hard, and lives hard. 2015’s ‘Summertime 06’ album made him one of hip-hop’s biggest names instantly because of it’s boom blast emotion and the anti-gangster rap mentality he has preached for so long. His rise from Long Beach to the golden sands of fame continued in 2016 with his ‘Prima Donna’ release which was a solid follow up to one of hip-hop’s modern smashes. If you think you had it tough, listen to ‘Norf Norf’, a banging track with a hardcore message about the streets of California growing up as well as the growing unrest between police and black civilians. He has a banger with Australian producer Flume as well so his diversity knows no bounds.
7. Big Sean (28 years old)
Like him or not, Big Sean is one of the most well-known rappers around and that has to stand for something. At the beginning of his career he really struggled to release a good enough quality album to be recognised widely but ever since 2015’s ‘Dark Sky Paradise’, Sean has gone from strength to strength. A couple of huge features on DJ Khaled’s album, particularly on ‘Holy Key’ and the best of the bunch on G.O.O.D. Music’s ‘Champions’ single have seen the Detroit born rapper taken very seriously indeed in the genre. His name hasn’t faded either thanks to the release of album ‘I Decided’ at the start of 2017 as it really looks like Sean has turned a corner.
6. Logic (27 years old)
A white guy with great flow and a name that isn’t Eminem? Surely not? Well think again because Logic is the best name underground hip-hop has to offer for a very good reason. Incredible speed on his bars as well as a positive attitude gives him a very devoted fan base and even if he isn’t hitting the mainstream audiences, Logic is turning heads in the depths of rap and has soared towards the absolute best in the business after his fantastic ‘Bobby Tarantino’ mixtape. Oh, and he can freestyle while doing a Rubiks Cube without looking, so he is basically the coolest guy in the world.
5. A$AP Rocky (28 years old)
Rocky is one of rap’s biggest names, with two commercial hit albums to his name and a rockstar lifestyle which varies from his music to his fashion, both of which he is exceptionally creative with. It is his music we are discussing here, though, and he hasn’t been hugely involved this year. Yes we saw an A$AP Mob album but that seemed fairly half-hearted to me and only told us what we already knew, that Rocky was comfortably the best artist there. Even after this year he makes the top five because as an entity he never seems to fade, with his music always standing tall and blasting through speakers on a regular basis. A big year next time round and he could be a contender for top spot.
4. Young Thug (25 years old)
Hands down the craziest man not just in hip-hop, but in music in general. Thugger has built up his popularity through his incredible work rate and the staggering amount of music he releases. He has been quoted to say that he only listens to his music and nobody else’s but if I was as good as Young Thug I would probably do the same. All of the ‘Slime Season’ mixtapes have been fantastic but Thug really outdid himself on the third, which was released early last year. ‘JEFFERY’ was another success story and gave us perhaps the best music video of all time in ‘Wyclef Jean’. The tracklist was consisted of his influences and I feel like he is close to reaching some of their levels. Also, Elton John compared him to John Lennon while Wyclef Jean himself called him this generation’s Tupac, high praise for a high flyer of the industry.
3. Travis Scott (24 years old)
The king of hooks, Travis Scott is yet to release a song I have disliked, genuinely. That is including songs he features on, his ability to create catchy hooks on top of booming beats is truly one of a kind; whether it be the psychedelic clicks of ‘Goosebumps’ or the feelgood bounce of ‘Apple Pie’. Just listen to the chorus’ on ‘Pick Up The Phone’ and ‘Champions’ and tell me Travis Scott isn’t the first name you’d go to when writing a trap song. His ‘Rodeo’ album is a classic I don’t care what anyone says, and 2016’s ‘Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight’ has simply solidified his place as one of rap’s biggest superstars. Trust me on this, LA Flame has more greatness coming, I am sure of it.
2. Chance The Rapper (23 years old)
Chance has soared from underground success to being arguably the most talked about male artist around at the moment. He started the year with one of the features of the year on Kanye’s ‘Ultralight Beam’ and went on from there. His third mixtape ‘Coloring Book’ was the best one yet and as a result he went to the top of Billboard’s charts and even won three Grammy awards; and the best part of all of this? Chance is an independent artist, no label, completely self-controlled. He has shook the world with his accomplishments and he is sure to become the new king of hip-hop in the coming years. His beautiful mixture of gospel and hip-hop is infectious and it is his faith that has made him so passionate, long may it continue.
1. Kendrick Lamar (29 years old)
Simply unstoppable. Luckily for everyone else in this list, Kendrick turns 30 this year so he won’t be able to top this list anymore and we might be able to see some fresh blood take the lead. It is fairly self-explanatory as to why Kendrick Lamar remains the number one MC in the game, whether it is his classic discography which just never seems to grow tiresome or the brilliance of his guest features, just witnessing Kendrick’s influence is enough to tip you over the edge of hype. He is more than just a rapper, he is a wordsmith, a poet and a prophet of our times, a man we should feel luckily to breathe the same air as. All hail the king.
Complex’s top 20: http://uk.complex.com/music/2016/09/20-best-rappers-in-their-20s-2016