Hip hop evolved quickly over the last decade. Modern MC’s could bury Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC, 2Pac, even the early days of Jay-Z and Eminem. You may not like the direction of the industry, but I love it.
We’re at a point where hip-hop artists of all styles are pushing the sonic boundaries of the art like never before. Wherever the industry goes from here, these ten emcees will have an audience as long as they’re willing to bless the mic.
Having dominated battle rap longer than Slim Shady hated him, Canibus made a name for himself in the underground beef circles. If Eminem were black, instead of everything he spit on the Sticky Fingaz track, he’d be Canibus.
Solo albums recently include Lyrical Law (2011) and Fait Accompli (2014), along with HRSMN and other collab projects remove old school rappers Bus rips jackers. On top of all this, Canibus’s upcoming Rip the Jacker II: Infinity should be fire.
Canibus spits a non-stop arsenal of lyrics, spanning a breath of subject matter and philosophies you can’t help but enjoy. Bis doesn’t always pick the best beats, but his lyrics are incomparable.
Behind the zany accent and bonkers techno beats are gritty street lyrics spit in a sing-songy manner Drake should be jealous of.
Like rock-and-roll before it, Iggy Izalea is The Beatles of a British invasion of the U.S. Dizzee Rascal is the Rolling Stones.
Luda’s southern drawl, witty lyrics, and animated verses will stand the test of time longer than your favorite MC. Cris spits classic, and his flow is both memorable and catchy.
He may not have the greatest albums, but never underestimate the ability of Ludacris to spit a radio-friendly guest verse.
The self-proclaimed Elvis Presley of rap beat addiction and became more of its Jerry Garcia (as prethumously pointed out by Proof).
Obsessed with his image and pandering to fans in his later career, Marshall Mathers is still capable of destroying your favorite MC.
Eminem is the king of rap in nearly every form, opening doors for white rappers from Asher Roth to Macklemore, Machine Gun Kelly, and even his protege Yelawolf.
Anytime you’re hearing Shady lyrics, whether over an anthem, a freestyle beat, or a cappella, you know you’re getting quality.
Slug spits passion, poison, and puts his heart into every line he records. Backpackers live for Atmosphere’s jazzy sounds. Slug is who Kanye, Yeezy, and Yeezus wish they were.
This is what Eminem should’ve evolved into. Slug discusses adult problems and paints the same pictures of failed relationships, but with a softer tone.
5. Brother Ali
Brother Ali’s songs sound different every time he performs them, and he’s become a popular staple along college crowds. Ali sings songs Jay-Z would’ve done had it been profitable.
Exploring the sonic boundaries of rap, Ali can slay you the same way Slug and Eyedea can, except he’ll do it like a southern preacher.
Hopsin is an internet sensation, and he’s blowing up for a reason. Aside from getting on major tours and showing up on radio stations for insane freestyles, Hop is defining hip-hop and raising the bar behind him.
With a large following, Hopsin will soon have more paper than any rapper on Cash Money, Young Money, or anywhere in between.
Continuing another Shady-like musical trajectory, Hopsin knows visuals, has heat on stage, and can ruin an empire with his lyrics and verses. Just ask Eazy-E’s widow if you ever find her.
Not many people can slay Eminem on a track – even fewer ever came close on his albums. Kendrick Lamar buried the blond bombshell of rap. He bodied the rap God in his own style on his own album. It’s like knocking out Ali in his prime.
Not only can K-Dot flow like Em, he does it like Common, Pharaoh Monche, or even Rakim. Not only that, he can rap unlike
anyone anyone else.
A conscious Eminem – a Macklemore with skill. Kendrick Lamar put West Coast rap back on the map.
2. Lil Wayne
Critics call Lil Wayne shallow, but he’s certainly proved himself more legendary than your favorite 90’s rapper. Lil Wayne is the bar every rapper behind him either emulates or hates.
Responsible for auto tune, glamour rap, retrospective lyrics, witty puns, and vocal control that’s out of this world, Weezy is the Peter Frampton of rap, the Chuck Berry, and the David Bowie. It’ll be decades before they forget Wayne.
He may be a paper chaser, but until his dying day, Tunechi will be capable of a comeback verse that redefines the game.
1. Tech N9ne
For nearly two decades Tech N9ne has not only redefined the sound of hip-hop, he created a new lane in independent music. Strange Music is the most successful independent label in history, it’s riding on the back of Aaron Yates’s vocal skill.
The best conceptual artist in the game, Tech is no slouch with production, creating some of the best music in the game today. Even old school Tech N9ne sounds new today, something few artists ever could say.
If Eminem is the Elvis Presley of Rap, Tech N9ne is the Muddy Waters. We’re all indebted to Tech N9ne for proving beyond any shadow of any doubt that flowing takes skill.
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, freelance writer, and troll. Penny has been featured on Huffington Post, Lifehack, The Street, Cannabis Now, and Hardcore Games.