Hip hop has changed drastically over the last five years or so. Jake Carroll has compiled a list of five artists who are responsible for different shifts in style and flow, and who have been a huge influence over hip hop during this internet era.
Lil B ‘The Based God’ is the God of internet rap, in the most literal sense of the word. One of the most interesting characters in hip-hop today, Lil B brought a culture of distributing rap music across the internet to a whole new level. He was responsible for rappers promoting themselves on websites like MySpace and datPiff.
This new wave of mixtape promotion brought songs like ‘Crank Dat’ by Soulja Boy to the top, and saw a new lane of music promotion on the internet. Lil B is also responsible for the popularisation of words like ‘swag’ and ‘based’ and the creator of the cooking dance.
He also can be credited with popularising goofy adlibs after each line, and the modern ‘trap’ flow.
Lil B is one of the most consistent rappers in the world at the moment, and is constantly uploading more and more music onto the web. He released an 855-song mixtape once and has released over 50 albums since 2009. These are achievements that no other rapper can even come close to comparing to. He is also the first rapper to ever write and publish a book at nineteen years old. At 27 years old, the Based God has an astonishing amount of achievements. With a ten year stamp in the hip-hop scene, Lil B has left a permanent mark on the face of the rap game.
Chief Keef, or Sosa is one of the most controversial rap artists of the last few years. Hailing from O Block on the South Side of Chicago, Keef is a product of gang violence. He is heavily associated with the Black Disciples gang.
At just 16, after recording in his mother’s house whilst on house arrest, he released ‘I Don’t Like’ featuring Lil Reese. The song was remixed by Kanye West and other G.O.O.D music artists. He followed this up with ‘Love Sosa’ which peaked at 56 on the Billboard Top 100.
Chief Keef is a superstar. In 2013 he signed a $6,000,000 deal with Interscope Records. However, Keef is a wildcard and lives on the wrong side of the law. With a long history of legal trouble, Interscope were almost forced to drop Keef in 2014. Despite all of this, it’s hard to not recognise him for the revolutionary artist that he is. The adlibs, the production from Young Chop, the ruthless lyrics disrespecting late rival gang members and the overall distinct sound is incredible. At only sixteen, Keef and his friends created the ‘drill’ genre that was to be stolen by almost every trap rapper for years to come. Everybody was screaming ‘gang gang’ and ‘squad’ and acting as if they too were born and raised on the mean streets of Chiraq.
‘I Don’t Like’ was played at every house party and caused people to mosh and lose their minds globally.
Even after being dropped from his major label, multiple legal issues including armed robbery and a decline in bandwagon hype, Keef has managed to retain a cult following that obsess over his every move. Sosa continues to develop his sound and wide range of flows. With Dancehall tracks like ‘Can I Be Your Friend’, and romantic tracks like ‘Slow Dance’ it’s clear that Keef is much more than just a rapper, he is a truly ground-breaking musician.
When Yung Lean emerged into the hip-hop scene wearing a bucket hat and armed with Arizona Ice Tea, people were rightfully confused by the Swedish kid who had gained a cult following across the web.
At just 17, Lean and the Sad Boys collective had made their own path on the internet and changed the face of music online. The weird and unique sound is hard to describe – and thus ended up as being categorised as multiple genres and subgenres.
‘Unknown Death 2002’ was the soundtrack to the lives of Tumblr’s Fiji water drinking teens. This was Odd Future for the weird white kids who were obsessed with graphics and technology from the 1980s.
Yung Lean is a perfect example of how hip-hop comes in many forms, and is much more diverse than the drug-dealing, gang violence lyrics we see from Chief Keef. The fact that the sound came from within the Sad Boys group made everything so much better. Yung Gud’s unique style of production, clashing vaporwave sounds with trap gave Lean an edge that made him stand out. Lean’s monotone voice and Swedish accent over these strange beats gave a completely individual sound that cannot be replicated. A weird combination of ‘cloud rap’ and ‘vaporwave’.
The Japanese writing in distorted fonts gave a recognisable mark. The group’s sense of style was unique too. Bucket hats, sailing jackets, work pants. Being an ‘emotional shawty’ became a trend for every girl on the internet. The word ‘aesthetic’ began being thrown around, and words were s p a c e d out.
Overall, the fact that Yung Lean & the Sad Boys were able to establish such a clear image and sound they were able to conquer the internet and become pioneers of a new wave of music. Their mark on the hip-hop scene is clear and certainly a defining moment for rap music in the last few years.
Thugger is easily one of the most talked about rappers in the game at the moment. From mumbling words to wearing dresses, Thug knows how to get people talking. Thug’s strange slurred voice gives him a unique sound when rapping. Working with producers like London On Da Track and Metro Boomin, Thug is an artist who is never afraid to break boundaries both musically and socially.
He uses a wide range of flows and styles to keep his music constantly changing. Every single project he has released has a different twist to it and you can hear his progression as you listen to each record.
Thug is often held responsible, along with the Migos, for starting the ‘mumble rap’ style. Many conventional hip-hop heads find fault with this new wave of rap that focuses on catchiness rather than lyrical ability. Thug is often seen as a father figure to newer rappers who see him as a pioneer of the new style in rap. He is also heavily associated with the infamous Gucci Mane who also helped popularise this style. Mixing high notes and seriously diverse flows over trap beats, Thugger is in a league of his own. He truly has changed many peoples styles and is at the forefront of a whole new approach to rap music.
Young Thug has never been afraid to challenge the social norms of masculinity. His outlandish antics often challenge boundaries on the social norms of what a ‘man’ or even a ‘thug’ should look or act like. On the cover of his 2016 album ‘Jeffery’, Thug wore a dress. This caused serious division within the hip hop community. The rap world can often be cruel and unwelcoming for those who are not straight. With an impeccable sense of style, an eccentric sound and ground breaking ideologies, Young Thug has made a name for himself as a leader of a completely new style of rap music. Thug is definitely one of the biggest figures that we’ve seen come out of rap music in the last five years and is certainly worthy of a feature on this list.
Odd Future are easily one of the most interesting groups ever to rise to fame hip-hop. Their ‘don’t give a fuck attitude’, unique sense of style, radical sound and amazing group dynamic set them apart from the rest of the hip-hop scene.
The front man of it all is Tyler, The Creator. He caused controversy with homophobic slurs and lyrics about rape and murder at the beginning, which resulted in him being banned from the UK. For many, Tyler looked like he was the new Slim Shady.
He is an extremely talented producer who from the very beginning has had his own dark sound that is completely recognisable. His lyrics matched this sound. Tyler created a whole storyline of conflict between his different alter egos within his albums. The progression of his music is also a spectacle, if you listen to each project one after another you can literally hear how his string sections improve, his lyrical ability increases and he grows up. You can follow Tyler’s life through his music, and that is true artistry, being able to really watch someone grow through their music. It’s amazing to see on his latest album ‘Cherry Bomb’ how he’s finally happy with his life and how the old lyrics about rape have been replaced with talk of McLarens and spreading love. Tyler has truly progressed as an artist and he is only improving. At just 26 (as of yesterday), his latest album has features from Kanye West, Pharrell, Lil Wayne and Roy Ayers.
Live performances fed right into the whole image. Tyler’s stage presence is insane. Inciting riots at SXSW, and going so crazy that he broke his own leg, Tyler has brought the rock & roll show style back to hip hop. As soon as Tyler hits the stage, moshpits emerge and people lose their minds. He knows how to control a crowd and with songs like Sandwitches, Run and Radicals, it’s hard not to wild out.
He hosts his own annual ‘Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival’ festival which saw one of the best lineups of last year including A$AP Rocky, Chance the Rapper, Lil Uzi Vert, Joey Bada$$ and the return of his duo with Earl Sweatshirt – EarlWolf.
Tyler also ran his own TV show on Adult Swim called ‘Loiter Squad’ with the rest of Odd Future. The style of the show was somewhat similar to the awkward styles presented by Eric Andre, but also was just in a league of its own. Parodying popular shows like Storage Wars and Beyond Scared Straight.
As well as all of this, Tyler currently runs his own brand called ‘Golf Wang’. The ‘Golf Pride Worldwide’ shirt combined neo-nazi symbolism and the LGBT flag to promote an anti-homophobic, anti-racist message. You can watch Tyler’s growth through his brand as well. From cats with satanic crosses on their foreheads to striped dungarees, Tyler’s fashion sense is incorporated in his brand, and you can see how his style has grown alongside his music. He also runs an app called ‘GOLF Media’. The app is a platform to Tyler to share his weird and wacky ideas. It hosts numerous TV shows, podcasts and even has it’s own cartoon called ‘The Jellies’. The brand and the app are clear examples of how Tyler is a true creative and has used his success to make his own little world.
Odd Future is one of the most influential groups of the decade, full stop. Odd Future houses superstar Frank Ocean, The Internet who were Grammy nominated, Earl Sweatshirt (one of the best rappers of the past decade), producers like Left Brain, Domo Genesis who rose to acclaim in 2016, Mike G and Hodgy. Each member of the group is extremely successful in their own right, and all of them have a huge influence on youth culture. No other group in hip-hop today or in the last considerable time period has been so influential and managed to grab such a hold over the world.
From his production, to controversial lyrics, insane concerts, TV shows, his own brand, it’s difficult to say that Tyler isn’t one of the most influential artists of the last ten years.
A$AP Rocky: Rocky did not fit the bill for the usual Harlem rapper when he first came out alongside the late A$AP Yams. Dressed in skinny jeans and Raf Simons, Rocky’s sense of style was unmatched in the rap scene. Brands and designers like Palace, Supreme, Raf Simons and Rick Owens were all popularised by Rocky amongst rappers. Rocky, like Young Thug, challenged the idea of masculinity, and was also ridiculed for ‘dressing gay’. He took it all and is now regarded as one of the best dressed men on the planet.
Migos: Migos helped to popularise the ‘mumble rap’ flow which is used by the vast majority of ‘trap’ rappers. The trademark Migos flow has been adapted by almost every rapper in the game including hip-hop giants like Drake, Kanye West, J Cole and even Young Thug.
Joey Bada$$: Joey Bada$$ and Pro Era can be accredited with bringing the conventional hip-hop sound back to life at a time when lyrical ability has been scrapped for catchiness and hard beats. Bada$$ hasn’t shied from away from controversy either, recently saying “I already know I’m a better rapper than 2Pac” in an interview with Genius. He was nominated for BET Hip Hop Award for Best Mixtape. His impact on hip-hop over the last few years is undeniable.
Lil Yachty: Lil Boat caused absolute uproar in the hip hop community since he first broke out into the scene. Yachty first blew up after being played on OVO Sound Radio and featuring as the main model in Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 3 show. Yachty’s unique voice and ‘bubblgum trap’ style continues to cause controversy in the hip-hop community, but he has hugely influenced many upcoming rappers’ style.