At the end of every year, the team at HipHopDX likes to review and recap the most important things that happened in our culture. We look back at the beefs, the best social media moments, some of the best rap lyrics in the game, as well as recognize the overall best. So check all that happened in Hip Hop in 2019 or click here if you want to see the full list of Hip Hop Awards, nominees and winners.
Over the past couple of years, Hip Hop has asserted itself as the most dominant genre in music. With that type of exposure comes many different voices, styles and influences all seeking to carve out a distinct sound. There’s also plenty of trend seekers resigned to chasing social media fame to make their songs blow up.
As we enter the new decade discerning which rappers have the staying power past a viral meme or Tik Tok isn’t the simplest task, but sometimes there are certain qualities about an artist that makes their place in the culture secure. Yet even when someone has all the tools for success, nothing in the game is guaranteed.
This list isn’t just a prediction of what breakout rappers will take over, but also which established rappers will continue to stay on top. We’re also focussing on predominantly rappers. Crossover players will be considered, but someone so deep into pop like Drake, Lil Nas X or Lizzo isn’t making this list. Neither are R&B acts like Frank Ocean or Snoh Aalegra. We’re also not going to consider genre-enigmas like Brockhampton or Tyler, The Creator because who knows if their music will even sound like rap as they continue to evolve.
Finally, any artist featured must have dropped a project in the past two years, so that means Isaiah Rashad isn’t eligible. With the rules set, let’s take a look at our prediction for which rappers will lead the next decade of Hip Hop.
The trophy holder for rapper that everyone says not to sleep on but isn’t actually slept on, Curry continued to delight fans and critics coming off 2018’s Album of The Year candidate TA1300, dropping the follow up album a year later, his personal ode to Miami, Zuu. Met with favorable reviews, the Aquarius’Killa further experimented with his sound, brightening up the production and injecting his latest record with hometown sunshine state flair.
Since then, his popularity has skyrocketed with his viral Rage Against The Machine cover of “Bulls on Parade,” his involvement with the WWE’s NXT TakeOver and his connections to rising artists like J.I.D, Rico Nasty, IDK, Guapdad 4000, among others.
Combining his willingness to experiment, growing marketability, technical skill on the mic and pen game, Zel possesses all the tools and influence necessary to lead the next generation of Hip Hop.
Megan Thee Stallion
Armed with charisma, wit, catchy flow and sex appeal, Megan Thee Stallion’s seismic rise comes from an undeniable swagger that will carry her into the 2020s. The Houston rap empress captured the attention of listeners with singles like “Hot Girl Summer” “Big Ole Freak” and “Cash Shit,” while also dropping off her well-received mixtape Fever, a clinic in flow, bravado and sensuality.
The current college student is one of those once-in-a-decade level talents that has every quality needed to become a superstar.
While she still has plenty of room to grow, Hot Girl Meg’s ascent will only continue as the safe bet would be to crown her the next leading lady of Hip Hop going forward.
As the decade wound down, the rise of melancholic SoundCloud rap coupled with the growing oversaturation of Atlanta trap brought the genre into a slowed down, drugged-out state. It also didn’t help that some of the brightest young stars and veterans of the game died tragically, leaving plenty of what-if questions and untapped potential.
But even with all the gloom and doom, one rapper’s breakout showed that at its core, even when times look rough, Hip Hop is still fun. North Carolina’s DaBaby was the Batman of rap as the decade came to a close. HipHopDX’s pick for Rapper Of The Year, DaBaby’s mix of rapid flow, light-hearted sense of humor, fun music videos and commanding charisma catapulted the 28-year-old into superstar status.
Stereo shattering singles like “Suge”, “Babysitter” and “Bop” made the Charlotte-raised rapper a household name and a favorite for everyone’s turn up playlist. The need for lively and upbeat Hip Hop should keep him relevant throughout the 2020s.
For all the detractors arguing “lyricism doesn’t sell,” the popularity of J.I.D shows wordplay can still capture the attention of the masses. The Dreamville rapper has continued to build off the initial excitement of his debut studio album, 2017’s The Never Story, finishing 2018 with the excellent sophomore effort DiCaprio 2.
Although he didn’t release a project this year, his performances on Revenge of The Dreamers III and notable features on projects by Ari Lennox, IDK, Rapsody and Boogie kept his name high on everyone’s radar. Blessed with breathtaking flow, jaw-dropping wordplay and a thoughtful pen, the Spillage Village member’s profile continues to soar.
His sheer talent makes him a shoe in to not only stay relevant in the next decade but potentially drop a defining piece of work that solidifies him as a Top 5 rapper in the game.
The California singer-rapper fusionist exploded in 2019 with his knack for ear-worming melodies, combined with songwriting prowess and adaptable versatility to all the hottest flows. Normally, being able to mimic what’s trending would make the Compton crooner seem disposable, but there’s more than meets the eye to the 21-year-old.
His vocal range is impeccable, hitting the notes only Young Thug could successfully pull off. He can also craft a compelling song about his struggles in Compton, just as well as a catchy club banger. His momentum is only increasing as his debut album Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200 Album Charts.
It doesn’t matter what direction Roddy chooses, he’s got the talent to thrive in any facet of the game.
The king of Hip Hop isn’t going anywhere. The world is still waiting to see when K Dot will surface to drop his thoughts on the culture and the state of politics, race relations, economics and pretty much anything he wants to talk about.
Easily the most dominant rapper of the 2010s, many fans have already started speculating that 2020 will feature a return project from cornrow Kenny. A follow-up to 2017’s DAMN will come eventually, but even if it takes years to hear a new Kendrick record, the rapper’s ambitiousness in all forms of media will keep him in the limelight.
All it takes is one single for the whole world to stop in its tracks, which makes Kung-Fu Kenny a lock to keep his crown for the foreseeable future as we transition into the next decade.
La Flame is the glue that puts it all together. The Houston jack-of-all-trades continues to take over the Hip Hop world with his legendary live spectacles, growing recognition of his Astroworld Festival, blooming record label and the ability to get some of the biggest names in all genres together to collaborate on his albums.
Scott has the visionary qualities of old school Kanye West but stays true to his roots with a production style mixing elements of dance, trip hop, R&B and trap bathing in Houston’s chopped and screwed sound.
A former protégé of Ye, it’s unclear what direction Cactus Jack will take his music, but there’s an obvious craving for his infectious wild bangers and dynamic stage presence, two distinct offerings that make him indispensable to Hip Hop.
In a year where the “Middle Child” didn’t drop a solo project, it felt like he was bigger than ever. His Grammy-nominated, larger than life posse cut album Revenge Of The Dreamers III ruled the first half of the year, while his A+ features on projects by Gang Starr, Young Thug and 21 Savage showcased his superior technical ability and commentary skills.
But maybe his biggest contribution was the continued success of his record label Dreamville with the growing profile of the aforementioned J.I.D., Earthgang and Ari Lennox.
In all aspects of the game, Cole has proven his worth and it’s a given the Fayetteville lyricist will continue to drop heat with his follow up to the critically-acclaimed KOD potentially coming next year and build his Dreamville empire into the next decade.
It’s hard to imagine that at one point, Cordae was only the second most notable YBN, coming in behind YBN Nahmir. However, the DMV rapper has risen to a whole new level after showing flashes of brilliance with his viral singles, the head-bopping flow fest “Kung-Fu” and the more lyrical thoughtful call for old head and new head alliance “Old N****s.”
His Grammy-nominated debut album, The Lost Boy proved the HipHopDX Rookie Of The Year could put together a cohesive project, maintaining the quality seen in his past singles.
Still raw at the young age of 22, Cordae has an excess of potential and the attention of some of the biggest names in rap. Going into the next decade, the sky’s the limit for the lost boy.
The artist formerly known as Jay IDK has ignorantly been delivering knowledge since 2012 but didn’t start turning heads until 2015 with his Sub Trap mixtape, parlaying that attention into getting the chance to open for Isaiah Rashad in 2017. After further success with 2017’s IWASVERYBAD and rising recognition stemming off his viral bar-filled trollfest “Trippie Redd’s Freestyle,” IDK made some noise in 2019 with his existential questioning of a higher power Is He Real?
Coming off a headlining nationwide tour, the 27-year-old’s arsenal of creative storytelling, high-caliber technical ability, marketing savvy, growing stage presence and tireless work ethic has the Maryland musician poised to keep turning heads come 2020.
Tierra Whack is defiantly weird and god bless her for it. The Philadelphia rapper has become an ambassador for the odd and off-kilter with 2018’s breakthrough album Whack World, a 15 minute LP of rapidly shifting tone with songs lasting only one minute each. Her profile continued to grow in 2019 after securing spots on some of the biggest music festival cards coupled with her wacky theatrics on stage and affinity for anti-humor.
The singer-songwriter’s unique perspective and approach to Hip Hop has built a loyal fan base and receive critical acclaim. Her eccentric personality, sometimes sounding straight out of an old school Adult Swim sketch, helps her do something many rappers struggle with — stand out.
Combine that distinctness with a great sense of humor, pen game and a wordsmith level of rapping ability and you get an MC that’s only scratched the surface of her potential.
We guess this could be considered cheating because it’s multiple rappers, but it’s impossible not to recognize Griselda’s hard street raps taking it back to a time where gangsta rap wasn’t considered fun, it was a way of life. The trio of Westside Gunn, Conway The Machine and Benny The Butcher have all showed out, with Benny in particular receiving high reviews for both his Tana Talk 3 and The Plugs I Met projects.
Conway and Gunn have kept pace, each dropping solid solo projects of their own. But the pinnacle came when the Buffalo collective combined to release their posse album WWCD, a project reminiscent of old school New York rap packed with cocaine slinging bars and cold-blooded flow as icy as the city they’re from.
Flaunting a distinct sound and a ravenous fan base, it’s only a matter of time before Griselda becomes the new kings of the underground.