The entire EMCEE team got together to rank the top 50 most relevant rappers of 2017. Tell us your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter, @emceenetwork.
Behold our consensus below.
Kendrick Lamar’s rise to the top has been at least a half-decade in the making, climbing the competition one level at a time. Kendrick earned his way to placing #1 on our list by consistently putting out the highest quality music in all of rap. DAMN. continues to stay in rotation, led by timeless tracks in “HUMBLE.” and “DNA.”. While other top artists in the game have strayed from rap to create a more all-encompassing sound, Kendrick has remained a rap purist, and as a result has taken the rap game to unseen heights — as rap officially became the most popular genre of music for the first time in history — only a month after the release of DAMN.. Ten years down the line, we have no doubt Kendrick will continue to be viewed as one of the greatest of all time, and now is his rightful time on top.
If you asked him he’d tell you he should’ve been #1. For Jay-Z, staying relevant is basically his M.O. His influence on the culture is so powerful everyone becomes attached to his every move.
This summer, Jay and wife Beyoncé were seen “Shining” on Khaled’s “Grateful” as the single showed his bars are still razor sharp. ‘The Kalief Browder Story‘ honcho apparently will not talk about Trump—he’d rather be making history “Biking” with Frank Ocean and Tyler the Creator. The father of twins (Sir and Rumi) somehow had time to produce his 13th Album 4:44. The now 810 million dollar man had the world buzzing following 4:44’s release—ironically charged by controversy from Bey to Ye. From now on let’s assume Jay-Z will continue to stay relevant in hip-hop; on purpose or by accident. “Who you know fresher than Hov? Riddle me that.”
You can’t possibly have a list of most relevant rappers without giving Drake a top spot on the list; not just for 2017, but any year in the last decade. In fact, Aubrey has the longest standing streak being on the Billboard top 100, racking up a crazy 431 consecutive weeks, which just came to it’s end this August. While More Life came out in 2016, songs like “Fake Love”, “Blem”, and “Passionfruit” lasted well into the summer. Drake flexed his acting skills this year as well, making hilarious skits for the NBA awards, which he also hosted, as well as the quirky commercials he made with his Dad for his whiskey brand, Virginia Black. It’s safe to say, Drake is a superstar that will always be relevant and on top.
Wherever there is a rapper, there is a collab with Gucci Mane.
One of the most iconic rappers straight out of Atlanta, Gucci is most famous for being one of the pioneers of trap music. After recently serving a prison sentence, he is back out and stronger than ever before.
So far this year, Gucci has dropped mixtape Droptopwop featuring some of the hottest names in hip-hop like 2 Chainz, Metro Boomin and Offset, been nominated for several awards, published an autobiography, and is in the works creating a collab with social media star Jake Paul. Therefore it’s no surprise Gucci Mane earns himself a comfortable spot in the top 5 on our list.
2017 has been one of the most notorious years for hip-hop, and a lot of that notoriety is contributed by the biggest trio in the rap game: Quavo, Offset & Takeoff, aka Migos. The North Atlanta superstars began a resurgence in the spotlight on Halloween of 2016, when Migos released “Bad & Boujee”, featuring one of hip-hop’s next rising power hitters Lil Uzi Vert. But the track became a defining hit in the group’s biggest success to date after a surge in sales following Atlanta native Donald Glover’s acceptance speech at this year’s Golden Globes in January. That catapulted the record to rack up over 400 million views and sell more than 4 million copies in 2017. Culture, their sophomore album, debuted at number one in the same month. Off of the strength of heavy hitting singles “Bad & Boujee”, “T-Shirt” & “Slippery”, the album went platinum within six months.
As the year picked up, so did the Migos momentum and that of those who followed them. All eyes on them, they also had all of our ears. The trio together and separately was featured on tracks with Katy Perry, Gucci Mane, Calvin Harris, Travi$ Scott, Big Sean and even Kevin Hart. Their fan-chosen leader Quavo led the pack on the Billboard charts this summer with 10 songs on the Top 100 simultaneously with Takeoff and company contributing to one of the country’s favorite meme’s, “Do It Look Like I Was Left Off Bad And Boujee?”. Quavo and Offset reeled in some high-profile celebrity partners Karrueche & Cardi B. Each member checkmated every style trend that has phased throughout 2017 so far, garnishing them all front row views at fashion meccas such as the Met Gala, Yeezy Season 5 and nearly every New York Fashion Week event. It truly has been the year of the Migos.
2 Chainz released Pretty Girls Like Trap Music right before the summer solstice. His elaborate first-of-its-kind marketing strategy included turning an Atlanta house into a bright pink “Trap House”. Sparking more media frenzy, 2 Chainz turned the house into a “Trap Clinic” for a day offering free HIV testing for the community. The album debuted at No. 2 on the US Billboard 200 chart in its first week. On September 12th, the album was officially certified Gold.
To further his publicity this year, 2 Chainz broke his leg days before he was set to go on tour. Instead of canceling he decided to sport a pink wheelchair on stages across the country. Concert recaps, reviews and fans all say he did not disappoint despite his setback. Pretty Girls Like Trap Music came in 6th place on Billboard Top 10 Albums of the Summer, which ironically is where he landed on our list. A well deserved Top 10 spot.
7Tyler, The Creator
Tyler Gregory Okonma is a one-man traveling circus. With an always entertaining Twitter account and radio station, Wolf Haley stays on pop culture’s conscious mind.
Tyler started off the year ripping the scene at the second annual Yams Day show in Madison Square Garden in January. Then in April he appeared alongside Jay-Z on Frank Ocean’s “Biking”. Throughout July, Tyler released several songs on YouTube counting down mysteriously. That countdown led to the July 21 release of Flower Boy.
In August, the first episode of his new TV show ‘Nuts and Bolts’ on ViceLand channel aired exhibiting Tyler’s curiosity in the world. The maestro of the theme to ‘Bill Nye Saves the World’ proved he doesn’t stay still. On October 22nd, he’s premiering his new animated comedy ‘The Jellies’ and on October 28th he’s debuting the first annual Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival
Ten years in, it’s clear Tyler, The Creator has made his own world out of this one that he will always be relevant in.
8Lil Uzi Vert
Lil Uzi Vert is…a Rockstar. With full blown stage-diving stunts and jewelry that costs more than most people get paid in a year, Uzi does whatever he wants and everybody loves it. He started off this year by dropping “XO TOUR Llif3” in the spring, indisputably one of the hottest songs of the year. “XO TOUR Llif3” went triple platinum with 1.3 billion streams, earning a spot in the Top Ten on Billboard Hot 100 and awarded Best Song of the Summer by MTV. If that’s not impressive enough, his long awaited album Luv Is Rage 2 dropped in August and went straight to No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200. It doesn’t seem like Uzi is slowing up either. Since his album release just last month, he’s already mentioned upcoming collaborations with Marylin Manson, Playboi Carti, and Chief Keef, as well as teasing on his Instagram that Lil Uzi Vert vs. the World is to come. While he’s riding his own wave, we are all going to be shoulder shimmying and eye rolling our way into 2018 along with Uzi.
One of the biggest names in rap, Travis Scott, also holds an undisputed claim for putting on one of the littest shows in live music. For the past couple of years, Travis has constantly had a hit out, be it “goosebumps”, “Anecdote”, or most recently, “Butterfly Effect”. Having already collaborated with most of the biggest names in the game; Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Rihanna to name a few, Travis has clearly come into his own as an artist and gives off a truly unique creativity and ambition. With the impending release of a collaboration project with Quavo of Migos, we’re convinced Travis Scott will only continue to rise on our list.
10Chance The Rapper
Rounding out our Top 10, Chance The Rapper started out this year with 7 Grammy nominations and walked home with 3 of the most coveted awards in music. Coloring Book was still on fire from it’s release in 2016, which was stacked with features from basically everyone. From Kanye, to Lil Yachty and Young Thug, to Justin Beiber and Jay Electronica, Chance brought something to the table for everyone to like on the album, which is why people are still listening to it over a year later. On top of the success of his album, Chance became the youngest person to make Fortune’s 40 under 40 list. He also took time to give back, using his celebrity for good. This year he raised over $2 Million for school systems in his hometown of Chicago, as well as donating 30,000 backpacks to kids, which earned him the Humanitarian Award at the BET Awards this year. Not only is Chance making music everyone loves, he’s being a good person, and it doesn’t get much better than that.
Young Thug has been in the game for a hot minute but in 2016 his fame skyrocketed when he released an androgynous photo of himself in a dress as his mixtape cover for Jeffery. After the mixtape released, it was successful enough for Thugger to buy his very first home in September 2016.
Some of his notable press appearances in 2017 have included donating all the proceeds of a sold-out concert to Planned Parenthood, gifting his mother $50k on his own birthday and when he tweeted the day after the MTV Music Video Awards after winning Best Editing for “Wyclef Jean” and said, “So no one was going to tell me that I won an award??”
This year Thugger has hit the studio with artists including Chance The Rapper, Nicki Minaj and Future. He released a risky and experimental mixtape Beautiful Thugger Girls, which was executively-produced by Drake. Most recently, Young Thug dropped a mixtape with DJ Carnage.
Still sitting on his collaborations with Minaj and Future, we’re pretty sure there will be lots more hype around him coming soon. As one of the most eccentric and unpredictable rappers in the game, he earned his respectable placing of #11 on our list.
2017: The Year that Cardi B exploded. You can’t go anywhere now without hearing her Kodak Black-inspired banger, “Bodak Yellow”, where she lets you know she’s the hottest in the rap game. In one bar she says “Dropped two mixtapes in six months, what bitch workin’ as hard as me?” and the answer is no one. Many people don’t realize that since 2016 Cardi put out Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1 & 2, her first projects after leaving strip clubs and Love and Hip-Hop behind to pursue her music career. “Bodak Yellow” is currently sitting comfortably at #2 on the Billboard Top 100, and Cardi continues to make headlines outside of music, recently stunning everyone with her style in the front rows of NYFW as well as on the red carpet at Rihanna’s Diamond Ball. Not to mention she has all eyes on her relationship with Offset, who has also made our list with Migos at number 5. Even Janet Jackson has recently hopped on the Cardi train by remixing “Bodak Yellow” into her dance set while on tour- to which Cardi tweeted that this was “the type of shit you can only dream of.”
With two straight major releases, 21 Savage continues to be a defining figure in our current rap scene. 21’s biggest hit off Issa Album, “Bank Account”, has become increasingly defining for Savage’s discography. Not only has Savage dominated to airwaves, he’s been all over the media thanks to red carpet appearances and his highly publicized relationship with Amber Rose. With a sound and character that feels true to himself, 21 Savage has rightfully eased his way into an established field of trap rappers.
In the Future nobody’s safe. The ‘Free Bands Gang’ Leader has never stopped grinding, and it’s something fans have come to expect. He would release Future his self-titled fifth album in February, which included the mega smash “Mask Off”. What came as a surprise was one week later to the day he would give the world ‘HNDRXX’ becoming the first artist to debut two albums at number one at the same time on the Billboard 200 and Canadian Albums Charts. His ‘Nobody Safe’ Tour followed in May. He had time to stop in Los Angeles sharing the stage with surprise guest Kendrick Lamar at the BET Awards in June. Future’s hard work in the past has aided him in staying relevant and it will be no different in the, well, future.
Whether it’s his album going platinum without any features, again, or making political stances on police brutality and the mistreatment of those who speak out, Jermaine Cole has certainly been making all sorts of headlines throughout the year. The 32 year old North Carolina emcee is as much a press star as he is a mumble rapper, but he has found a way to stay on all of our minds. Without having to do a string of interview stops and little to no machine promoting, it took only a month for J Cole’s fourth studio album 4 Your Eyez Only to be certified gold and five months to be certified platinum. The album garnered nominations for the 2017 Billboard Awards and the 2017 BET Awards and 2017 BET Hip-Hop Awards.
Let’s not forget about J Cole’s moves behind the scenes that have rap fans excited. As Founder & CEO of Dreamville, this year he has signed two of Atlanta’s next promising and eccentric rap stars, J.I.D. & EarthGang. Beyond the music industry, J Cole has been in the activist spotlight, from producing a documentary with HBO to accompanying the story on his album of his home being raided by SWAT because of racial profiling, to him using select stops on his 4 Your Eyez Only Tour & his set at Made In America to speak on the injustices of the nation, and to bring out other key factors in this new age movement for civil rights, such as Colin Kaepernick. No matter if it’s through his art or through his genuine acts of humanity, J Cole is proving that he is here to last.
Here is an artist who has built his career out of an aesthetic; trippy vibes, slow chopped & screwed vocals on a dark and smooth soundtrack. This creative collaboration is something the rap game isn’t used to, giving A$AP a unique platform from which to showcase his art.
He has been a major contender in the game for several years now, and continues to stay relevant in the game by dropping recent collabs with trending artists like Playboi Carti and DRAM. He also just announced a partnership with Under Armour, with which he will produce his own clothing line and collaborate on philanthropic endeavours like building more community centers for at-risk youth. He has a lot of forward momentum going into the second half of 2017, solidifying him a Top 20 spot on our list.
Big Sean: Sean Don rarely seems to leave the conversation in the Motor City, but this Detroit native has also been known to make waves on an international scale and this year is no exception. Between the February 3rd release of his latest album I Decided, dropping 180k on a new neck piece, and his ongoing relationship with the inimitable Jhene Aiko, Big Sean has been getting a lot of love from the press this year. Combine that with his work with G.O.O.D. music and his continued tension with Kendrick Lamar, and it’s no surprise that Sean is well within our Top 20.
XXXTentacion has an impressive story of going big behind bars after he was arrested on robbery and assault charges. While in jail, X fans were quick to hold him down when they heard a song snippet Drake released and accused the superstar of biting X’s flow. If people didn’t hear X’s “Look At Me” by then, they were about to.
Two months after his release, X embarked on a national tour which turned out to be more eventful than anyone had imaged—full of publicity and viral-ability. While on tour, XXL announced that the Broward artist had landed the 10th Freshman spot. Soon after, “Look At Me” went Platinum. Finally, XXXTentacion released his debut studio album 17 in August, which shot to the top of the charts peaking at No. 2 on the US Billboard 200.
X’s year has been controversial and politically charged. His trial on the alleged felony charges is set to begin in October and if found guilty he could spend a lengthy sentence in prison. Everyone has something to stay about the 19 year old artist—and with the trial coming up, we don’t see that changing anytime soon.
With a co-sign from Kendrick, you might have thought X would be higher on our list but he secured his Top 20 spot, even before the Queen of Rap herself, Nicki Minaj.
At just the age of 27, Logic is showing that he is a timeless artist and big brother to the youth this year. A rap world full of hot heads and quick judgers, Logic chose to drive down a lane that would get most rappers shelved by the fans. He dared to be straight edge and living a healthier lifestyle. Not only that, he double dog dared to promote it in his art and personal life. His third studio album, Everybody, debuted at number one in May of 2017 and sold over 500,000 copies as of today, led by three powerful singles; one promoting feeling (“Black Spiderman”), one promoting togetherness (“Everybody”) and the later, and most successful, addressing mental health issues and suicide prevention (“1-800-273-8255”). These are a few things that seem to have become rather unpopular to discuss in today’s society.
Following the few weeks after the release of “1-800-273-8255”, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s calls rose 27% and their website visits rose 33%. But later in the year as a result of his tear jerking performance at this year’s MTV VMA’s in August alongside Alessia Cara, Khalid & Kesha, Logic’s performance helped surge the calls to a 50% rise and gained him his first Top 10 hit on Billboard’s Top 100 charts, doing a great job at being the catalyst to push the narrative of mental health in our communities. Continuing his work promoting self health and wealth, the Baltimore native is leading the anti-tobacco campaign for “truth”. His attitude towards life seems to lift everyone’s spirit who encounters him, although a few rappers like Joyner Lucas view it as corny. But that barely made a dent in his armor. With his push to organically rewire minds and the success of “1-800-273-8255”, Logic has steadily been staying in the limelight as he has more than a few eyes watching his every step now.
Nicki Minaj is the best-selling female rapper of all time, often referred to as the queen of the rap game. Numbers don’t lie, and with her impressive resume and constant output she proves she has staying-power in the game.
Some might expect Nicki to be higher on this list, but in 2017 there are several other strong female artists looking to dethrone her, most notably Cardi B, and with Nicki dabbling more and more in the pop scene, it feels like she is starting to abandon the culture that cultivated her career.
She continues to dominate the collab space by releasing several popular collaborations this year including one with Drake and Lil Wayne that has over 100M plays on YouTube, but her own music dominance is slipping. This year she lost the BET award for “Best Female Hip-Hop Artist” to Remy Ma, one of her primary rivals, hinting at a possible downtrend in her career. If she wants to hold onto the crown, she needs to step up her game.
With Playboi Carti’s eponymous debut album (really a commercial mixtape, but we’ll let you try and explain the difference), Carti finally unveiled what his sound is all about. Spawning a massive summer hit with “Magnolia”, Playboi Carti’s freestyle-superstar sound is becoming increasingly appreciated as it’s own lane of rap. As Carti evolves over time, we’ll see if he can maintain his mystique and stardom.
Joey Bada$$ is an artist who doesn’t really fit in the mainstream category or the underground category of rap, which sometimes leaves him overlooked. But in actuality, we should be listening to everything he says. His album, ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ was a powerful, political commentary where he talks about the struggles of the black community and preaches peace and unity in “Amerikkka”. On his track, “FOR MY PEOPLE,” he spits, “music is a form of expression, imma use mine to teach you a lesson.” He does exactly that throughout the album, while funk-inspired, feel-good beats play under his words about the troubles in our country and the need lift up the black community. While making powerful statements with his music, Mr. Badmon has also had one foot in the fashion industry, announcing in August that he has a sneaker collaboration with PONY in the works. Joey couldn’t be a more perfect representative for the “Product Of New York” brand, as he is exactly that, born and raised in Brooklyn. From the message in his music, to the personal connection he has with his shoe project, it seems everything Joey Bada$$ does is authentically, genuinely, him, and we are all for it.
Rae Sremmurd: Coming off of their SremmLife 2 release in the later half of 2016, lead by the insanely popular “Black Beatles” which won them “Top Rap Song” and “Top Rap Collaboration” at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards, Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi were inevitably a hot topic to kick off 2017. However, this year has been less about music and more about social media controversies and false break-up rumors, along with a water bottle lawsuit, but if “Perplexing Pegasus” is any indication we can expect new music and less gossip soon, hopefully.
One of the freshest rappers to pop out of the Detroit scene, Tee Grizzley is living up to his name and making noise.
People love a story and Tee Grizzley has one to tell — after a failed jewelry heist in Kentucky, he served 3 years in prison. Shortly after getting out, he dropped the music video for “First Day Out”, which has been met with several million plays on YouTube.
Since then he has been on the rise, getting signed to 300 Entertainment in early 2017. He also has released major collaborations such as “From The D To The A” with Lil Yachty and “Beef” with Meek Mill. He was also featured in an instagram post from LeBron James, which reportedly tripled his album sales. Possibly one of the best current examples of being “on the come up”, Tee Grizzley earns a solid spot at #24 on our list.
While Vince Staples may not be as mainstream as some others in the Top 25, he certainly has caught the attention of hip-hop heads this year. With the release of his album, Big Fish Theory, everyone got a glimpse of his unique sound that separates Vince from the rest of hip-hop. A true creative, he spits bars over polished euro-inspired electronic sounds mixed with hard beats and several of samples to make his sound stand out. While he shook the hip-hop world with this originality this year, he also got to have a little fun with Sprite’s “Summer Cold Lyrics Series,” an ad campaign he’s included in with other rappers. The campaign kicked off with a funny commercial featuring Vince and customized sprite cans with lyrics from each of the rappers involved in the campaign, his coming from his banger, Norf Norf. This list is coming just in time to mention Vince’s tour kicks off in Las Vegas today! Go cop tickets for what is sure to be an electric performance from our #25.
Denzel Curry, the 22 year old Floridian is arguably the most underrated rapper on this list. Already two albums deep, The 2016 XXL Freshman as of publishing this is cutting his teeth on tour. The Illegal Civ Cinema Tour will put Curry on both the East and West coasts. In between shows the Thrasher interacts with his followers on Twitter staying fresh on the radar. Denzel has proven to utilize his Soundcloud account to release exclusive music to his fans leading up to his second EP, 13, in June and the upcoming third album, Taboo. With his eclectic style, and fan base “Zeltron 6 Billy” will remain relevant for some time.
In 2016 Lil’ Yachty would have been higher on our list—he made the XXL Freshman list, walked as a model for Kanye West, and followed that with a Sprite commercial that turned his song “Cold Like Minnesota” into “Cold Like Sprite Soda”.
At the very beginning of 2017, big news hit when Lil’ Yachty was announced the Creative Director of Nautica. In May, Yachty released “Teenage Emotions” which debuted at No. 5 on the US Billboard 200. Since then the buzz has died down but Yachty still shows a consistent work ethic with features on songs by Macklemore, A$AP Mob and Calvin Harris, hosting the VMA’s pre-show and debuting his Nautica collection during NYFW. With Lil’ Yachty’s Pizzeria Pop-Up, it’s possible Yachty and his team realized the steam had run low and initiated this idea for the sake of publicity.
Lil Boat deserves to stay in the Top 30 for now but depending on what moves he makes in the coming year, we’ll see if he keeps rising or sinks down. With ‘Lil Boat 2’ on the way, we’re hoping for the best.
This year it seems that every new young rapper is coming out of Broward County, FL, and Kodak Black was the first one of these newcomers to really make a scene. While he made the XXL Freshman list in 2016, 2017 was really the year that Kodak made his mark with his album Painting Pictures, including his Billboard charting single, “Tunnel Vision”. On the catchy hook of his “Tunnel Vision”, Kodak sings “Lil Kodak they don’t like to see you winnin’, They wanna see you in the penitentiary,” which seems to be the case for the 19 year old as he has had plenty of legal troubles, the most recent incident in February of this year, where he landed himself back in jail for violating house arrest. Even while in jail, Kodak’s presence in hip-hop remained while his fans and several main stream artists could be found tweeting or shouting out #FreeKodak at shows. Despite his legal troubles, he remained relevant throughout 2017, being featured on the hit song “Drowning” with A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie and recently releasing his second album this year Project Baby 2. Whether it’s the way mumbles his bars, or the hook he’s on that you can’t help but love, Kodak Black made himself known this year and earned his spot on our list.
29Ski Mask The Slump God
Ski Mask The Slump God made a gradual rise to fame this summer. He started the summer off on the Revenge Tour with XXXTentacion and Craig Xen. Since then he released his debut album ‘You Will Regret’, a song with A$AP Ferg and Lil’ Yachty, and two Cole Bennett-produced music videos. His video for “Catch Me Outside” caught the attention of Missy Elliott who cosigned the artist on Twitter saying, “Oh he rode the heck out of this Fiyah. Big up.”
Most recently, Ski Mask previewed a new song produced by Timbaland. It’s safe to say that Ski Mask is now on his own—no longer needing the cosign from his friend and Members Only leader XXXTentacion. We believe Ski Mask The Slump God is here to stay and that is why he deserves a spot in the Top 30. As of now, it seems the artist is already on his way to breaking his record for next year. We’ll see.
Breakthrough rap group BROCKHAMPTON have had a historic year in 2017, heavily reminiscent of the Odd Future movement of the early 2010’s. BROCKHAMPTON even have their own series on Viceland, just like Tyler, The Creator now has. The collective as a whole is huge, currently larger than 10 members, with Kevin Abstract having the most established name and presence. With albums SATURATION and SATURATION 2 already hitting their mark and delivering a progressive sound for rap, we’ve yet to see if BROCKHAMPTON will stick the landing on their third release of the trilogy, SATURATION 3.
This year Vic Mensa finally dropped his long-awaited debut project, The Autobiography, where he told stories from experiences in his own life, over polished beats produced by No I.D., Pharell, and 1500 or Nothin. The album charted in the Billboard Top 200 and in typical Vic Mensa style, covered heavy issues like drug addiction, depression, infidelity, and gun violence.
Outside of his album, Vic got a lot of attention when he came onto Complex’s online show, Everyday Struggle and called out DJ Akademiks for sensationalizing and joking about the violence on the streets in his city, Chicago. Vic came on the show and called Akademiks “a bitch” and said he wanted to slap him in his face. This caused a lot of hype online, giving Vic a buzz just a month before his album dropped. On the more professional side of things, Vic also partnered up with Sprite to be apart of their “Summer Sprite Cold Lyric Series,” where custom sprite cans were made with his cold-themed lyrics for the campaign. To top off a good year for the young lyricist, its was just announced that he’ll be touring with Jay-Z on the 4:44 tour. As he says on the first song of The Autobiography, “didn’t I tell you this was the new birth of The Roc?!”
This trap soul artist has used his voice to capture your heart and spit bars that make you bop your head and bring out your best stank face. Bryson Tiller is talented in both dimensions, and this year he proved that with his sophomore album, True To Self, where he raps about his successes and his journey in the game, while using his silky-smooth voice to tell you about the relationships in his life. Not only did he put out his second project but he joined two of the biggest artists in the world on the hottest track of 2017–Tiller lit up DJ Khaled’s song “Wild Thoughts” with his steamy verses to match Rihanna’s sex appeal in the song which hit #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 this summer. He also recently collaborated with Jazmine Sullivan to create the theme song for season 2 of HBO’s hit series, Insecure. Outside of the music world Tiller stayed faithful to his hometown and the “502 come up,” by teaming up with Nike to provide new basketball courts in his old neighborhood in Louisville. All around young Tiller was doing positive things this year which secured his spot on our list.
If you’ve heard of Lil Pump, you’ve probably also heard someone yell “ESKEDITTT” at one point or another. For Pump, this was a signature of his personality that worked so well for him it became a nation-wide calling. At 17 years young, 2017 has been filled with viral and even reckless moments for the rapper that have kept him relevant in the minds of the youth. From crashing his newly purchased Porsche to starting his second national catchphrase “Fuck J Cole!”
On September 19th, the Florida artist debuted on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart with his song “Gucci Gang” at No. 81. Whether you love him or hate him, he deserves a respectable spot on our Top 50 list and we expect him to remain on the list in the years to come.
GoldLink is joining the group of eclectic artists popping out of the DMV area. His music is elegant, trendy, and feels like the vibe to a New York fashion show. The sound radiates warmth and fans are starting to feel the blaze. He is still relatively unknown however, recently mentioning that some of his family and old friends don’t yet know about his career.
After securing a spot in the 2015 XXL freshmen class, he continues his stride as a soulful and spiritual vibe in hip hop. This fall he is doing his At What Cost tour showcasing his debut album across the country, playing shows in several venues across the US and Europe. This artist on the rise is surely one we will hear about in the future, and for that we give him a respectable spot on our list at number 34.
We must protect him at all costs. Lil B the leader of the “B” Mob has been the crown jewel of the underground for some time. 2017; he dubbed “The year of the cutie” has been nothing but “Based” Lifting and putting down his famous “curse” on athletes, continuing to follow of a million people on his Twitter account. The “Based God” has been hard at work through Twitter recently- promising the victims of hurricanes in each affected city free song features. Lil B is also in the middle of touring, but he had time to make a memorable appearance at the 2017 VMAs; even briefly on camera in an unforgettable outfit. His Black Ken mixtape soon followed at the end of August with a plethora of songs. Lil B’s dedication to his music and fans have gotten him this far- to the point where even his haters might say “Thank You Based God.”
Perhaps the person with the oddest name in rap right now–Ugly God–makes the list as this was his breakout year, where even though his songs have funny names like “Beat My Meat,” the rap community took him seriously. His song “Water” blew up on SoundCloud and is what propelled him into the limelight and onto the XXL Freshman list, where he was named the “quirkiest rapper they’ve ever had in a Freshman class.” Following the buzz he had from XXL, Ugly God dropped his first mixtape in August, The Booty Tape, which he produced most of himself. Following his suite of erratic behavior like putting lizards on his face and shouting out Lil’ Dick Clique, the album has songs where he holds nothing back called “I’m A Nasty Hoe,” and “Bitch!”. The freshman also did a bold thing this year that no rapper has every done: make a diss track about himself, titled “Fuck Ugly God.” It will definitely be interesting to see what the freshly-turned-21 year old will do next, but for now we can just say “thanks Ugly God!”
When you mention the youth, you have to mention Smokepurpp. The year of 2017 has been beyond generous to Smokepurpp, even today, as he just embarks on the Stoney Tour with Post Malone. As one of the leading gatekeepers of this generation of lo-fi trap rap that they deem as “ignorant”, alongside his best friend Lil Pump who, when together, seem to set the internet ablaze. It seems as if every teenager that walks on this country are throwing their heads and screaming “Esketit” since releasing the multimillion streamed hits “Glock In My Benz” & “Audi”. Those two tracks combine to make over 30 millions streams on Soundcloud. Not to mention that out of the dozen or so tracks that he has in his catalogue, he only has one song that hasn’t reached a million plays, yet.
His debut album DEADSTAR is one of the internet’s most anticipated albums of the year, as fan DMs and tweets rack up by the thousands on a day’s average. This cult-like following is a major key to his success. As his plays begin to increase, so does his show capacities, selling out shows from LA to Miami. Not only did his loyal fan base grow, so did his online influence of over 800 thousand Instagram followers, who seem to turn every move that he makes into a viral moment for them to enjoy and bring awareness to Smokepurpp.
After bursting onto the scene in early 2016 with “Uber Everywhere,” MadeinTYO changed his mind by proclaiming “Lyft Everywhere” in 2017 following Uber’s various scandals. In any case, the song as well as his collaboration with Big Sean “Skateboard P” were enough to land him a spot on the 2017 XXL freshman list, a tour with Sean supporting I Decided, and eventually new EP of his own in the form of True’s World, named after his son. Listen here to True’s World, here.
You’d swear he wasn’t a rapper—an actor, maybe; but G-Eazy is one of the most relevant emcee’s in the world today. Contributing pulsating verses to “Fate of the Furious” or dropping four new songs as a birthday gift to himself for G-Easy “It must be nice.” Enthralled with creativity G-Eazy combined his efforts with L.A. based DJ Carnage to bring Step Brothers EP in March. G.E. proved the grind never stops by beginning work, and announcing on Instagram his third Album The Beautiful and Damned is due out later this year. Eazy has spent some time this year touring overseas; even stopping in the Netherlands for the Woo Hah Festival in July. Whether it’s the U.S.A or elsewhere, G-Eazy is a sure fire artist to watch.
This has been quite a year for the young rappers out of Florida, especially for power lyricists like the 20 year old Wifisfuneral aka Lil Jeff Hardy out of West Palm Beach. The young rager made headlines early after signing to Alamo Records and then shortly after starting his 2017 tour stint for getting jumped in Houston during XXXTentacion’s Revenge Tour. The video of the incident went viral, spiraling the internet into a week’s worth of memes based on the rapper’s demise. But along with a critically acclaimed mixtape from the underground When Hell Falls, that got him featured on to sites such as The Fader, Wifisfuneral’s name began to be mentioned everywhere following the incident. Immediately after, he was featured on Complex’s popular show Everyday Struggle, wherein both Joe Budden and DJ Akademiks made fun of the situation and even questioned his rap ability. In response to the mayhem, Wifisfuneral gained a lot of respect and power in the situation when he released “Lil Jeff Hardy” and “JoeBuddenProbablyThinksICantRap :(“, an onslaught aimed at his naysayers that now is another one of his 1 million stream tracks.
He is using every bit of the negative press to bring him to places like Hot97, XXL & MassAppeal to discuss not only the dramatics of the tour life, but shedding a mainstream light on the Florida underground and how it has birthed the rap game’s next stars with XXXTentacion, Ski Mask The Slump God and himself. This year alone, Wifisfuneral racked up over 15 million streams on his Soundcloud and has toured all around the country twice, so far, including two historic performances for the young emcee at the last rap show at Webster Hall in New York City alongside Action Bronson. He also played a show in his home state of Florida at the 3rd annual Rolling Loud Festival in Miami, where he performed in front of over 15,000 people.
Kyle Thomas Harvey has arrived. The 2017 XXL Freshman and Atlantic Records signee has already made a great first impression. His single “I spy” featuring Lil Yachty proved to be a huge hit. The success of the record led to more eyes on SuperDuperKyle and MTV took notice. For the month of June, Kyle was named MTV’s artist to watch. Performing at the 2017 Video Music Awards the success of another record “Nothing to lose” has the 24 year-old on the minds of many. Time will tell how far he ascends into stardom but for now “…He’s doing good, how bout you?”
With his latest album, 2016’s Atrocity Exhibition, Danny Brown cemented himself as an art-rap mainstay. The Detroit rapper is no stranger to media hype, and this year was no different: rumors circulated that he smoked Dave Chappele under the table, made a music video directed by Jonah Hill, headlined a stage at Detroit’s 2017 Movement Festival, landed a feature with and toured with Gorillaz for their album Humanz, and most recently fixed his iconic gap tooth. These headlines may not compare to the one from 2013, but nonetheless it’s been an interesting year for the (self-proclaimed) Black Brad Pitt.
Don’t call him “Rick Ross”. Rozay appears on this list as an O.G. Though far from his “Hustlin” days, the “Bawse” according to some outlets has the best project of 2017 so far. Rather You Than Me is his ninth studio album and was released in March. Hosting the MTV Woodies was also a good look for the “Teflon Don” as he continues to test the pulse of the fans promoting his latest album. Just like the Rozay, we know it wasn’t long after that he informed the world Port of Miami 2 is on the way. With a brolic work ethic that we’ve known Rick to have, Rozay staying relevant is as good as guaranteed.
Amine has touched down. The 2017 XXL Freshman is an underground and commercial success. Inspired by the 2000’s era of rap, the twenty-four year old has released a great body of work this year on his own Vevo channel leading to his debut album Good For You in July. Stemming from Amine’s mainstream popularity, he appeared on Late Night With Seth Meyers to turn in an engaging performance of “Wedding Crashers,” featuring Offset from Migos. Present day Amine is trekking around the United States on his Tour entitled ‘Tour for You.’ Judging by the co-sign of music elite on his debut album, Amine will not be a flash in the pan.
A$AP Ferg has undoubtedly held the spot of “second most popular A$AP Mob member” for nearly his entire time in the spotlight — not a bad thing at all given the superstar that is A$AP Rocky. With A$AP Ferg’s most recent album, Still Striving, Ferg once again failed to deliver the feeling so many of his fans loved on Trap Lord. Ferg will always be a unique character, but hitting #45 on our list, A$AP Ferg really would need to make some significant moves to continue holding a spot.
Action Bronson still feels underappreciated for both the character and the extra-curriculars he adds to both rap and his aligning cultures. Blue Chips 3000 is a really enjoyable project that was partially drowned out by other major releases happening at the same time. If Bronson continues carving out a certain niche for himself and finally releases the masterpiece project his fans have been waiting for, he very well could rise to the next level.
47A Boogie wit da Hoodie
One of A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s biggest moments of 2017 was making it onto the 2017 XXL Freshman list which were the results of his 2016 moves. Those moves included making it on the Forbes up-and-coming rappers list, opening 3 dates for Drake and Future’s Summer Sixteen Tour and signing to Atlantic Records. He has yet to release a debut album but is scheduled to do so on September 29th 2017 featuring guest appearances from Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Kodak Black, 21 Savage, PnB Rock and YoungBoy Never Broke Again. His lead single for the album ‘Drowning’, which was released in March, featured Kodak Black and peaked at No. 38 on the US Billboard 100 chart.
A Boogie humbly made our list at #47 because his year has been on the quiet side but we have no doubt that this artist will make his rise in the coming year.
Noname, formerly ‘Noname Gypsy’, is an amazing rapper from Chicago entirely deserving of making our top 50 list. Influenced by hometown legends like Kanye West and Chance The Rapper, Noname is taking queues from the greats. Noname is also in the middle of an awesome conscious movement bubbling in Chicago, working with artists such as Mick Jenkins, Saba, and theMIND to craft a sound all her own. Not only did Noname co-write the song “Finish Line / Drown” on Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book, she released one of the best underground hip-hop projects of 2016 in Telefone. Noname has proved herself as an extremely talented and exciting artist capable of doing great things — and she needs to be on your radar if she isn’t already.
Robb Banks has recent collabs with wifisfuneral and Jace that have done some numbers on streaming platforms, so he is very relevant and continues to make music since his 2013 hit “On Me”.
Earlier this year, it was announced by Birdman of Cash Money Records that Robb Banks would be the newest member of Rich Gang, one of the label’s subsidiaries, but Robb later clarified by stating that he is nevertheless an independent artist, causing some confusion about his exact presence in the game. Since then he has released two singles “Falconia” and “Ask Questions Later”, gaining momentum for his next album release entitled TC2: Falconia (release date TBA).
We see a lot of potential in him as he gains momentum, so we can’t leave him off the list, but his presence seems a bit unpolished and unstable, edging him toward the bottom of our top 50 at spot #49.
He doesn’t get tired. We can see why he’s stayed fresh in hip-hop banter throughout 2017 despite his legal battles. With several songs charting with various artists, his strong fan base has kept him relevant all on their own. While incarcerated Gates released the visuals to “What if” which served as an open letter to his loyal fans. It was so powerful it will stay in hip-hop’s conscience until Gates releases more music. One things for sure nothing will stop Kevin Gates from making history.