It seems like just yesterday that hip-hop possessed a beat and flow that was raw, authentic and lyrical. We had Pun, tongue twisting listeners in, ‘Twinz’ with his infamous, ‘Dead in the middle of Little Italy, little did we know that we riddled some middleman who didn’t do diddily’. The word play during this era was stimulating and intense; a constant delivery of rhyming metaphors and punch lines that had us memorizing every word with attentiveness and caution, in order for us to follow along with their flow as their voices blared through our stereos.
Moving into hip-hop’s revolutionized era, we have a variety of artists in the game that lack just that-variety. And it isn’t that artists such as, Drake, Future, or Wiz Khalifa aren’t gifted and talented in their craft- that would be a blatant lie, but when it comes to their lyricism it falls short or flat of what authentic hip-hop heads bump their spirits to.
I once heard if we love something we should let it go if it comes back to us it’s ours, if it doesn’t, it never was. Luckily for the hip-hop game and its’ listeners we have a list of established and rising emcee’s whose flow has made its way back to that neo-90’s style we grew up on.VYB3 has got its’ authentic hip-hop heads covered; I have compiled a list of my ‘top five’ choices of current emcees delivering an underground flow and sound in their music.
1) Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar AKA K-Dot attracted major recognition in the hip-hop scene in 2010 with his ‘Overly Dedicated’ mix tape. Ultimately the young emcee secured a recording contract with Aftermath and Interscope Records in 2012. What makes Kendrick Lamar unique is his versatile flow; one minute he can have you bumping more than just ya’ head the next he has you caught, sitting in deep and conscious thought.
The word play in his flows are intense and poetic similar to the late legend, Tupac Shakur. What pushes the envelope even further with Kendrick are his lyrics and how he wraps them around a consciousness of social and political issues. His lyrical style brings listeners back to what hip-hop used to be while still implementing some of the newer and modern trends in today’s revolutionized sound; such as the composition of a beat. He engraves messages throughout his albums and their playlists in hopes of uplifting his listeners through his music, from the day to day struggles some encounter living life on the streets in not just his home city of Compton, California but from one coast to the next.
If you’re new on the K-Dot wave then here are five tracks I highly suggest you take in to get a grip of this talented stars style:
- M.a.a.d City
- B**** don’t kill my vibe
- Money Trees
Jermaine Cole a.k.a J.Cole was a fresh face in the hip-hop scene back in 2007 when he dropped his mix tape, ‘The Come Up’ which resulted in a major wave of attention. His mix tape release left an impression on listeners from all angles of society especially amongst famous rapper, Jay-Z, who would later sign Cole to his record label, Roc Nation in 2009.
Besides being a recording artist Cole is also a record producer which adds to his multiplicity in the hip-hop game. His flow is dirty and uncensored; a master of unique metaphors that leaves you astonished like, ‘Oo he said that!’ what adds to his artistry is his bass dropping beats that tunes you in and captivates your attention.
His lyrics, personally, remind me of rapper Nas; their flow is embedded in unique metaphors and hard hitting punch lines. Cole has a way of telling his listeners a story that is personalized, authentic and relatable amongst his fan base. His music is distinctive because he wraps his musical platform around themes that are real life circumstances to those in the struggle; he lets his listeners know that he’s lived through evictions, single parent households, the losses of loved ones and more. In a nutshell, he’s deep and real with his lyricism; no gimmicks this is, Jermaine Cole love him or hate him.
Now for all the new comers, cole world welcomes you! Be sure to rock ya’ ears with VYB3’s list of ‘top five’ songs by J.Cole:
- Can I live?
- Dead Presidents I&II
- Dollar and Dream I&II
- Lost ones
- Sideline story
3) Lupe Fiasco
Wasalu Jaco a.k.a Lupe Fiasco made noise in the hip-hop industry back in 2006 with his debut album, ‘Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor’ after meeting with rapper Jay-Z, who helped him sign with Atlantic records. Ironically, at first Lupe was not a fan of the hip-hop genre due to its use of vulgarity and misogyny but sure enough here he is flowing and rhyming.
Lupe’s flow is inimitable in many ways; his musical platform is molded around social and political concerns but it’s his direct and opinionated message to the industry and system that gravitates listeners to his music. Lupe possesses a special talent in piecing together rhyming analogies to illustrate the realities of today’s society and the world as a whole. He can also transition his flow into softer themes with smooth delivery and stands for something bigger than just hip-hop.
What I dig about Lupe as an artist is that he remains true to his beliefs unapologetically, on and off the beat; this is something I can respect in an industry where censorship seems to be a dying necessity for records to sell. He teaches his audiences about realities and truths through educated type sonnets, much like rapper Talib Kweli.
Now I must warn you Lupe’s flow is not always a soothing cup of tea, sometimes it is similar to a shot of Henny, so consider yourselves warned. Here are my ‘top 5’ song choices from the young and talented emcee:
- Hip-hop saved my life
- Kick push
- Words I never said
- Prisoner 1 & 2
4) Joey Bada$$
Jo-Vaughn Scott a.k.a Joey Bada$$ gained recognition in the hip-hop game starting in 2012 with the release of his mix tape, ‘1999’; he is also a co-founder of the hip-hop group named, ‘Pro Era’. Joey took the hip-hop scene by storm shortly after his mix tape release with his debut album ‘B4. DA. $$’ in 2013.
From his flow, to his beats and to his lyrics everything about this emcee’s style brings you back to the era of Wu-Tang, Pun, Biggie and many more. He has the ability to dominate the mic in more ways than one, whether he is reciting one of his songs or spitting off the top of the dome in a hip-hop cipher. What I dig about Joey is that his style as an artist is reflective of not just hip-hop the name and genre but its’ culture as well. Furthermore it’s reflective of an era of hip-hop that existed before his time, which he has managed to bring back during a time and space reserved for mainstream and commercialized hip-hop.
Moreover, he lives out that era by dropping freestyles on radio shows, online channels, etc., something not many artists are pushing themselves to do or that sadly, are not capable of doing. Joey makes me remember the days when Nas and Biggie, would be on the streets of their city with a boom box, a beat and their off the head lyricism; I appreciate an artist that is above the trend, and shows respect to the culture. Once upon a time, you needed more than just a hot produced beat to be labeled as an ‘emcee’ and that’s the truth!
Now call me crazy but Joey’s skills remind me a bit of Method Man; they both are creative in their lyrical word play, which is an in-between of either direct or in direct revivalism and practicality. Their flows are youthful, artistic, and seasoned with a little attitude making their listeners hear what they’re really spitting at them.
If you think an artist like this is too good to exist VYB3 has a list of songs you need to listen to immediately … like now. Here is my list of ‘top five’ songs by Mr. BadA$$ himself:
- Paper trails
- Christ conscious
- Survival tactics
- Killuminati part. II
I saved my final spot for an upcoming artist established out of Los Angeles; a rookie you can even say, A-F-R-O (All flows reach out). Discovered by emcee R.A The Rugged Man, after entering a freestyle contest on YouTube hosted by the former emcee. The tone of his voice adds a strong bass to his flow and what makes it distinctive is that he can deliver it at different tempos flawlessly.
It is a mixture of his flow, rhymes and delivery that manages to knock you over as he echoes through your headphones. His flow is a combination of the microphone slayers before his time; such as Rakim, Chuck D and even Busta’ from my personal point of view at least. He has a poetic style to his raps which mimics the golden years of hip-hop. What adds to this insanity is that this young prodigy is only 17-years old and has only been flowing since he was 11. He blends syllables, metaphors and rhymes beautifully, all of which are fed to listeners at different speeds.
So for those of my viewers who are scratching their head and asking themselves, ‘Who is this kid?’ VYB3 has a list of tracks that you can wet your feet with.
- Definition of a rap flow
- Dark energy
- A lotta dark overtones
- Get to the point
Truth is, there is a ton of other emcee’s I wish I could have listed here who continue to elevate hip-hop’s history. Emcee’s like the ones mentioned above and even the ones not mentioned such as: Logic, Dillon Cooper, Bishop Nehru and others, breathe life into the culture behind hip-hop. Although, these emcee’s are a rare breed they are not non-existent; their contributions to the game are appreciated, refreshing, and similar to an answered prayer. In the words of Young Sinatra a.k.a Logic, ‘hip-hop heads never die, we multiply and dominate!’