To be he honest, this has been the best year that hip hop has seen in a long time. Hip Hop has come along way from Nas' declaration of its passing a couple years back. With the Blueprint 3 reaching number one on the billboard charts in a manner of minutes, the not so subtle "war" the hip hop community has taken against autotune, the Roots continuing presence in mainstream culture via Jimmy Kimmel, and a plethora of new talent emerging this year: hip hop seems to be digging itself out of the artistic pit created by an over abundance of snap hop, Soljha Boy, and white tees.
Because of this I think its time to lead a discussion on the "freshman" of 2009. XXL a couple of months ago coined a term that seemed to stick with 10 new artist that reach relative popularity this up coming year. Not all of them made a splash as many hip hop theorist (these means niggas with blogs like me) predicted. So I am going to focus on the ones that did: Kid Cudi, Wale, Asher Roth, and of course Drake.
Kid Cudi: Alternative hip hop, back pack hip hop, skater hop, or stoner hop, what ever you call it, each member of the freshman class seems to embrace this section of hip hop culture. However none can be consider a purest (if there is such a thing) then Kid Cudi. Kid Cudi in his subject matter and style reminded me allot of a darker, less intellectual Lupe Fiasco (with the exception of the weed references). This is not taking away from Cudi, but he fits that mold pretty perfectly, and many Lupe fans have gravitated toward Cudi with Lupe's absence from the hip hop community this year. His style is skater: skinny jeans, graphic tees, and chucks. His first single penetrated the hearts of lonely stoners every where, much to the annoyance of their girl friends. His production quality is very vibrant and laid back. The apathy that he speaks of seems to resonate with young male black intellectuals, which is why I believe that them and college white boys who took African American studies courses, seem to enjoy Cudi so much. Like Lupe, Cudi is gaining a very committed following, though I doubt it will reach the cult like stasis that Lupe has manage to gather. Achievements: Second Stage in the Roots Picnic, a feature on the Blueprint 3 and appearance on Jay-Z's Madison Square Garden performance, Man on the Moon peaked at 4 on the billboard charts.
Wale: If I was giving out awards, I would have to give Wale the hustler award amongst the freshman class. This brotha was everywhere. I couldn't look up hip hop news without Wale showing up. Wale blends Kid Cudi's back pack hip hop, with Drake's more pop hop, though not quite as successfully in some cases. He cant really escape his DC sound, which is why Wale always seems better suited for heavy percussion in his productions and less experimental beats. Which is a shame, because he has one of the most creative musical minds on this list. Mix tape About Nothing and Back to the Feature are absolute genius, and two of the greatest Mix Tapes ever created. Wale himself is gaining a definite following, which is almost to cult like proportions. He sinks within people who consider themselves "hip hop intellectuals". Many of them have given Wale an almost messiah like quality, hoping that he will save hip hop from its own implosion. Unfortunately, Wale is not commercial enough to achieve pop status, and "redeem" hip hop for pop culture. Nor does he want to be . His debut ablum is very much, unapologeticly Wale, which is what we have always loved about him. Achievements: Two critically acclaimed Mix Tapes, The "house band" for the VMAs, Peek at 21 for his ablum in its first week, first single featured lady gaga who is pop musics hottest acts right now.
Asher Roth: Asher Roth was gathered allot of excitement around him when he first appeared on the scene. The last white hip hop artist was the phenomenal Eminem, so allot was expected of Roth. Ill give the brotha credit, he did not succumb to Eminem dense shadow. Instead he forged his own path, that is almost anti-Eminem in many was. I would actually compare Roth to the Beastie Boys more than anyone else. He focuses on the mundane of middle class life, a risky topic mainly because hip hop is so rooted in low income culture. However Roth stays true to himself and doesn't attempt to "go hard" by any stretch of the imagination. I consider him the frat boys MC, mainly because his songs don't really extend outside of his middle class bubble. His niche is college hip hop, and his followers tend to be followers of mash ups, and rock. Like the Beastie Boys before him, he is a nice bridge between pop and hip hop. He is very much hip hop, however his audience tends not to be the kind of people who listen to hip hop very much. Achievements: Second Stage in the Roots Picnic, album peaked at number 5 on the billboard charts, nominations at the VMAs.
Drake: If any of these artist were the luckiest it was Drake. The prodigy of Lil Wayne, Drake immediately was upheld as the second coming of Lil Weeze, and his successor. But Drake surprised allot of people. Wale makes songs about women, Kid Cudi whines about women, Asher Roth dreams of women, but Drake makes songs for women. This difference gets him money, boatloads of money. Drake has the light skin celebrity style: sistas love dark brothas, but they lust after light skinned ones, and this little fact Drake (knowingly or unknowingly) exploits. He is Lil Wayne with out the rambling, and with out the drugs. So his flow is clear, though less experimental then wayne's. Drake also tends to be less political, which might hurt him in the long run. One of the reasons Lil Wayne is so popular is his political side, which Drake lacks though he tends to mimic much of Lil Wayne's style. Drake has the most potential of pop success, which is a double edge sword. He could imprint himself squarely in hip hops identity, or he could fade fairly quickly.
Everyone has there favorites, who do you think made the biggest impact this year?