From the wavy beats of Blaze Kidd to Jay Boogie’s genre-blurring universe, here are the next wave of radical rappers
It’s been nearly two decades since a (then) 17-year-old Biggie Smalls was filmed freestyling in a rap battle on a street corner in New York City. Little did he know that years later, long after his death, the grainy VHS-filmed clip would be used as a bench mark for pure talent, his loose, easy flow perfectly encapsulated in those pre-fame 60 seconds.
These days, however, hip hop has changed completely, and the next generation of rappers look and sound nothing like the teen Biggie of the late eighties. Street corners have become Soundcloud links, female and LGBTQ rappers have also made their mark, and musical genres have bled into each other, so that the word “rapper” no longer brings a singular image to mind. To celebrate a radical new wave of upstarts, here are five emerging rappers who are taking a classic genre, ripping it up, and sticking it back together to make new and unexpected shapes.
You might not have heard of Kevin Abstract yet, but you’ll surely be hearing him everywhere soon. With his barbie-pink hair, melodic sing-rap drawl and predication for blurring genres, the creative Texan rapper isn’t just talented, but intriguing too. The 19-year-old is also part of collective Brockhampton, a group of producers, rappers and visual artists who refer to themselves as an “All American Boyband” despite being nothing like one. Abstract’s upcoming project They Shoot Horses (the follow-up to last year’s MTV1987) will be released early next year.
Cult Atlanta label/collective Awful Records is the undisputed home of hip hop’s biggest misfits, and their newest signee Tommy Genesis also happens to be our newest musical obsession. “Big ass flipping those bubbles down the drain pipe, grow up smelling like that cotton candy kush ripe,” she raps at 100mph in “Execute” (below), her words bouncing over each other like a lyrical game of leap frog. Combining warped, DIY beats with a Tumblr-fied aesthetic, she describes her sound as “Fetish rap”, but we describe it as straight-up brilliant.
South London-based Ecuadorian rapper Blaze Kidd first made our ears prick with Exclusivo, a ferocious debut mixtape that stitched his spitfire Spanish bars over grime, reggaeton and kizomba production from Palmistry and Dazed 100 alumnus Lexxi. Merging an honest, emotive energy with dirty, gritty beats, Blaze Kidd’s music makes you think that the UK and Ecuador might not sound so different after all. “Reggaeton is a massive scene in Latin America,” he has commented. “We love how it sounds, so we make our own stuff out of it.”
“I’m just a black American princess stuck in the early 2000s with a long squared tips and lashes,” said New York rapper Jay Boogie, effectively stating the exact reason we fell for him. Emerging from the same downtown underground queer scene as HBA designer Shayne Oliver and rappers Le1f and Mykki Blanco, Jay Boogie blends the vogue house sound of the club with an early-00’s hip hop style reminiscent of Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott. Listen to his new mixtape My H.O.E, released last week, here.
Hailing from the DIY hip hop scene in Milwaukee, 19-year-old IshDARR first shook everyone awake with Old Soul, Young Spirit, a debut mixtape that showcased his effortless technical and lyrical abilities alongside melodic, soulful production. “Prolly’ smoke with my friends again, cocaine come right through in a Benz,” he raps in druggy party anthem “Too Bad” (below) over an uber-catchy, thud-heavy backbeat.