The Top Ten Rap Artists of the Decade

By: Akim Hudson

Disclaimer: The term “best” is subjective, so if you disagree with the list, it is completely expected and justified. Also, the list is in no order and has nothing to do with skill and everything to do with influence on the culture of hip-hop. 

  1. Drake

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    PC:Billboard
  • In 2009, Drake made everyone aware that he wasn’t emerging, but he was here. His critically acclaimed mixtape, So Far Gone, was the beginning of Drake’s mainstream career. After the release of that mixtape, there was no looking back for Drizzy. Throughout this decade he released an array of albums that all have went platinum within days upon its release. Drake exudes an aura much greater than being a rapper, in fact, he was one of the originators of the era of rap singing. Drake is a true hybrid and became a household name, his fame and notoriety are ubiquitous, and is clearly a top ten rapper of this decade.  

Notable Discography: Take Care (2011, Grammy Award for Best Rap Album of the Year), Nothing Was The Same (2013, Grammy Nominated), If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (2015, Grammy Award for Best Rap Album of the Year).  

  1. Kendrick Lamar 

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    PC:Forbes
  • The one and only King Kendrick, Kung-Fu Kenny, a true wordsmith whose pen is unmatched by many rappers,not just of his era, but all time. In 2011, Lamar released the mixtape, Section.80. with tracks that indicated the motifs of the rest of his discography up to date. Lamar, with Aftermath Records by Dr. Dre released his debut album, good kid m.A.A.d city. With tracks like “Sing About Me”, “I’m Dying of Thirst” that detailed the multifaceted institutionalization of Black people within the United States. It was an instant classic that consists of little to no skips, each track potent in great diction, multiple perspectives, subjectivity, and vulnerability. In 2015, Lamar went on to drop To Pimp A Butterfly. This is my personal favorite K. Dot album. He described it as an album to lift the black artists and not the whack artist. TPAB was one of the more intricate albums of its time, along with each track is snippets of a poem that Lamar wrote, that concludes after the final track “Mortal Man”, in which he had a discourse about revolution and reform, Marxism-like reflections on socioeconomics with the late great Tupac Shakur. His last release came in 2017, the Pulitzer Prize winning album, DAMN. Not much to say about this masterpiece. A detailed introspection of oneself again, an insightful elaboration about the trauma of blacks in the United States, and so forth. Lamar is amongst the most respected in hip-hop history and has many years of dominance left in the tank.  
  • Notable Discography: good kid m.A.A.d city  (2011, Grammy Nominated for Rap Album of the Year, Grammy Nominated for Album of the Year), To Pimp A Butterfly (2015, Grammy Award for Best Rap Album), DAMN. (2017, Pulitzer Prize winner, Grammy Award for Best Rap Album).  
  1. J. Cole

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    PC: Billboard
  • The one and only Jermaine Cole, perhaps the most vulnerable, versatile, and one of two skilled rappers of his era, yet criminally underrated. To be honest, although he is my favorite rapper out now. Cole starts the decade with Cole World: The Sideline Story in 2011. Ambition was the main theme of this album, and the audience can feel the young bright-eyed ambition of Cole on the majority of tracks on this album. By 2013, Cole released my favorite, Born Sinner which was really Cole’s coming out party. That chip on his shoulder grew bigger, Cole was ready to wage war with the legends with this release. Cole and Lamar’s comparisons were one of the biggest enigmas of the decade to me. They go hand and hand, but Lamar only had more accolade than Cole. The amazing feature that Cole accomplished this decade, was three consecutive platinum selling albums with no features, but he had nothing to show for this amazing feat. Cole was snubbed every year from winning a Grammy. He has a chance to win a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album with his collaboration album, Revenge Of The Dreamers III. Cole is amongst the best rappers of the decade due to his ability to do everything your favorite rapper can do, but just a bit better.  

Notable Discography: Born Sinner(2013), 2014 Forest Hills Drive(2014), 4 Your Eyez Only (2016), KOD(2018).  

  1. Meek Mill

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    PC:CNN
  • King of Philly, Meek Milly. More than likely faced the most adversity than any other rapper this decade, but that isn’t why he is amongst the top ten. Meek Mill is from humble beginnings, but always divulges “f*ck being humble”, due to how everyone turned their back on him during his times of somber and melancholy. In 2011, Meek Mill lands a hit single “I’m A Boss” featuring his record label owner, Rick Ross. Along with “I’m A Boss”, drops Dreamchasers, one of four fan favorite mixtapes which gave hip-hop fans the nostalgia of gangsta rap from the 90’s and 2000’s. Then fans got a double whammy, Dreamchasers 2 and “Dreams and Nightmares” both released within 2012. The intro to “Dreams and Nightmares” is still Meek’s anthem and perhaps song of the decade. Meek’s legal issues is the highlight of his career, going in and out of jail frequently throughout the decade, each time dropping quality music upon his release. The most notable album upon his release was Championships, the 2018 release has been revered by the masses as his best album, hence why it is Grammy nominated. Since Meek’s release he has become the poster child for prison reform and unjust incarceration. Meek is on a roll still and has shown no signs of slowing down. We all love an underdog, and hope Meek can continue to stay on track.

Notable Discography: DC4 (2016), Dreamchasers(2011), Dreamchasers 2(2012), Dreamchasers 3(2014), Dreams and Nightmares(2012), Dreams Worth More Than Money(2015), Wins and Losses(2017), Championships(2018) 

  1. Nicki Minaj
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    PC: Billboard
  • The Barbie herself, perhaps the most dominant female figure in hip-hop history. Minaj came to fame under Young Money by Lil Wayne. Her debut, Pink Friday won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, on her debut she earned a Grammy, impressive for anyone, but since there hasn’t been a woman in hip-hop history to accomplish such a feat adds on to the magnitude of the highest merit in music. Her album sales are the highest of any female in hip-hop history as well, 100 million units overall. Some may believe she is the greatest female emcee, I beg to differ, I say MC Lyte, but that’s a different discussion for a different time. The Barbie started a wave that produced talents such as Cardi B, who now has the torch.  

Notable Discography: Pink Friday, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, Pinkprint.  

  1. Future

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    PC:Pitchfork
  • Hendrix, the father of all mumble rapping, Percocet popping, lean sipping, dread headed trap rappers. Only thing I need to discuss in Future’s decade, was his undefeated run, lasting from 2014-2018. Look at the discography in that span, Honest (2014), Monster (2015), 56 Nights (2015), Beast Mode( 2015), Dirty Sprite 2 (2015), What A Time To Be Alive (2015), Purple Reign (2016),  Evol (2016), FUTURE (2017), HENDRXX (2017). This sort of eminence speaks for itself.  
  1. Chief Keef
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    PC: NBC News 
  • Chief Sosa, The Godfather of drill music. Straight out of Chicago, Keef birthed a new genre of hip hop. On the surface, the subject matter may be the same as the typical gangsta rap, but this was more of a gang banging type of rap. a Rap derived from the gang culture within Southside Chicago. 2012 Keef blew up and took the rap game by storm. He opened the door for G Herbo, Lil Durk, Lil Bibby, Lil Reese, and other Chicago rappers of the modern day. 

Notable Discography: Finally Rich(2012) 

     8. Lil Uzi Vert

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PC: Rolling Stone 
  • There wasn’t anywhere you can go in the summer of 2016 where you didn’t hear Uzi knocking from someone’s speaker. Luv is Rage had everyone in a frenzy, his melodic flow of music is irresistible to dance and vibe to. The magnitude of Uzi’s star power was utterly ridiculous. When he was going through label issues, millions of people were in anticipation of a “Free Uzi”. Anytime he released a new song the masses would be enthralled just from his presence alone. I consider Uzi to be a predecessor to Future and Young Thug. 2020 should be a good year for Uzi, gaining momentum from his latest release “Futsal Shuffle 2020”.  

Notable Discography: Luv Is Rage, Luv Is Rage 2, Uzi vs. The World, The Perfect Luv Tape 

  1. Kanye West 
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    PC: Billboard
  • Yeezy is a top five producer ever, and one of the greatest musical geniuses ever. To kick the decade off, Ye dropped My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, arguably album of the decade. Literally with no skips, great production, lyrics and subject matter. Yeezy himself may not have directly dominated the 2010’s, but his eminence did. He influenced every facet of hip-hop from production and auto-tune, to fashion and subject matter. Not to mention that he released The Life of Pablo, Watch The Throne, Cruel Summer, Ye, and produced many hits this decade. I didn’t like Yeezus, but it has been believed to be one of his better albums. Ye will continue his legendary career in the next decade.

Notable Discography: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010), Yeezus (2013), The Life of Pablo (2016), Jesus Is King (2019).  

  1. Tyler, The Creator

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    PC:Pitchfork
  • Tyler, The  He bolstered emo rap into the mainstream audience early on in his career, bringing a no holds barred style of authenticity. His subject matter was matched by no other and was fairly controversial at one point in his career. In his debut album, Goblin in 2011 detailing the dark introspective thoughts of Tyler. He was rather explosive and quarrelsome, with his“horror core” style of music. But he would evolve into a vulnerable and romantic type. His two latest releases, Flower Boy and IGOR, depicted the growth of Tyler, and IGOR is Grammy nominated. His musical genius is only expanding and gaining fortitude and versatility. He created Odd Future, and empire that fell apart but in its prime was in a class of their own and have been dubbed the modern-day Wu-Tang. Tyler is still very young and will continue to drop classics.  

Notable Discography: Goblin (2011), Wolf (2013), Cherry Bomb (2015), Flower Boy (2017), IGOR (2019).  

 

Honorable Mention: A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, 2 Chainz, Rick Ross, Young Thug, 21 Savage, Pusha T, Jay-Z, Chance The Rapper, Migos (disqualifies because they are a group), Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka Flame, Kodak Black, Freddie Gibbs, A Boogie, Tory Lanez.  

 

“Hollywood’s Bleeding” has new twists that will excite listeners

By: Matthew Stasiw

Post Malone’s new album, “Hollywood’s Bleeding”, brings an exciting-new mix to the table, and reveals more about his lifestyle than ever before.

The album has been long awaited by fans and critics alike.  With the teaser songs of “Wow.”, “Sunflower”, “Goodbyes”, and “Circles” sparking interest in what was to come next, Post Malone delivered. The new songs on the album bring back everything fans were craving to hear.

It’s obvious Post Malone incorporated a new vibe into this album.  When listening to the songs, a higher focus in instrumental reinforcement and a classic OG feel makes every song a rock session. For example, “Take What You Want” proves Post can master any genre of music.  By featuring Ozzy Obourne and Travis Scott together, fans get the collaboration we never knew we needed.  A classic rock feel and sick guitar solo will have anyone jamming in the car.

“Staring At The Sun”, “Circles”, “Allergic”, and “Sunflower” takes the slower pace in just the right way to deliver a more classic pop vibe.  Post Malone’s roots of inspiration flourished throughout the album.

Fans might also find themselves respecting Post’s new attitude.  Through songs such as “Enemies”, “Saint-Tropez”, “I’m Gonna Be”, “Myself”, “Internet”, and “A Thousand Bad Times” Post seems to understand where he is in life.  Instead of dwelling in past depressions, like the songs of “I Fall Apart” and “Stay” in previous albums, Post throws the sadness behind him and is now looking forward.  Upon examining the lyrics, Post knows he can no longer deal with the drama in life.  He knows he is talented at what he does, and he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks about him.  It’s clear he had a fun time making this album, and he did it for himself.

When looking for songs to vibe to in the car with be sure to make “Enemies”, “Allergic”, “Circles”, “Take What You Want”, and “Staring At The Sun” the top five songs to add to any playlist.

What more can be said about this album?  Besides the fact that it’s a 12/10, nothing much.  Post Malone truly delivered with this new album, and he gave the fans what they were looking for.  Name one bad song by Post Malone.  Trick question, you can’t.

Mac Miller: One of the Best Artists in the Game

By Meghan Hall

Contributing Writer

“RIP Mac Miller.” The sentence feels too hard to write, too surreal to be a phrase floating around on my Twitter timeline. Mac Miller really was one of those artists that grew with you and became part of life through good times and bad.

A wordsmith with his lyrics, Miller’s career truly took off at age 18 with his fourth mixtape, K.I.D.S.After the record put him on the map, his hip hop career soared, creating insightful, thought-provoking records that proved his ability to relate to an audience that stuck with him all the way through his latest release, Swimming.

His fanbase looked forward to the relatable, transparent records he produced. Showing his roots, his outlooks on life and his struggles, he bared his soul to a world that accepted it. Never ingenuine, always pushing forward, Miller’s music became better with time.

Unlike many artists, Miller’s need to succeed persevered and furthered his need to produce meaningful sound that would garner positive reactions and reviews. As we grew up, Miller grew with us, becoming more refined and always pushing to be the artist he’d dreamed of as a young Pittsburgh teen. The 2018 release Swimming proved Miller’s prowess. Leaps and bounds ahead of his initial albums, Swimming was a culmination of the untapped potential Miller had saved, yet he still relied on his roots.

Miller’s fanbase fell in love not only with his clever, eclectic music, but his reputation as the “nice guy” in an industry filled with iconic artists whose songs were a façade for their poor attitudes. Mac Miller was real. He was candid, open with his struggles, humble. He was human—the game now is filled with artists who enjoy the status of being “untouchable.” Miller never looked for that. Sure, his initial climb to fame was riddled with a bit of glory-seeking, but whose isn’t? Once Miller made it to the top, he stayed there gracefully, recognizing that all that he had could just as easily be taken away.

The fear of losing his status never seemed to bother him, though. His 2011 single “Donald Trump” was one of his top hits, one of his signature claims to fame. However, that didn’t stop him from voicing his opinions on Trump’s presidency. Recognizing the hatred and divide that Trump has caused this country, Miller shared his thoughts on the Trump administration without hesitation and without fear of what would come next. Miller easily could’ve lost some of his fanbase to the comments, but the thing about Miller was that candor came first.

Collaborating with countless other powerful artists inside the hip hop sphere, Mac Miller became a name that any rap fan knew, and knew well. Sure, not everyone liked Mac Miller’s tunes, and not everyone understood the important impact Miller had on the hip hop industry, but there was never a shortage of respect for Mac Miller.

When we remember Mac Miller, it’s hard to get over the fact that his life was cut short by drugs. Mac Miller fans, fellow rappers, music critics and casual hip hop listeners alike mourn his death and lament the fact that his enormous potential was severed so early.

But more than Miller’s drug addiction, it’s important to realize that in less than ten years, he changed the music industry forever. It’s important to remember the smile that persisted through the hard times. It’s important to recall the way he treated the world—with respect and love.

So today, I mourn Mac Miller. But I look forward to the recognition of his contribution to this world, in terms of music, and in terms of humanity. And so, although it still seems surreal to type these words… Rest in Peace, Mac. We’ll miss you.

Alt-pop singer Amir Miles embraces and rejects the come up

By Josh Svetz

Uncensored version published on https://wsbufm.com/

Amir Miles believes he’s the next great pop star. This thought doesn’t come from a point of arrogance; he just knows that to survive in the ever-evolving music industry, you must believe you’re up next.

“In the local scene, I’m no Jimmy Wopo or Hardo, but I’m not a no-name,” Miles said. “I’m just confident in my abilities and my team.”

Miles, 22, is just one of many hopeful musicians trying to catch their big break in the business.

The Pittsburgh singer has already hit several milestones. In the past two years, the alternative-pop singer opened for GZA, Oddisee and Migos just to name a few. He also reached over 800,000 plays on Spotify for his song “Bad Habits.” And on June 6th, he’ll finally get to open for a singer that’s much closer to his music scene than a Migos when he warms up the crowd for Kali Uchis at Stage AE.

But to get to the come up, Miles had to make a lot of mistakes.

Born in Chicago and raised by a single mom, Miles moved to Virginia at age 11 where he began to take interest in music, forming a band with his friends in junior high school for simple reasons.

“We thought it’d be sick to play shows and get girls,” Miles said. “That’s what you expect to happen when you’re a kid.”

What came from that experience would act as the building block to his career in music. Miles played bass guitar and eventually transitioned into vocal work. The band itself disbanded after a year, but he continued to play bass and sing on his own. He started by playing covers of songs he knew, gravitating to rock and R&B music. But after not wanting to be a “copycat,” he started to play chords and make his own lyrics, changing his inflections and words depending on what the melody sounded like.

While the building block to his career laid in place, Miles didn’t believe he could make it as a musician. He originally attended Pittsburgh University to learn business and economics. He figured that getting into the world of music marketing or being the band manager would give him a good chance to get involved with the industry.

Fate had other plans.

His freshman year, he won a rap battle contest along with his resident assistant, Tory Hains, securing an opportunity to open for Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco. He then started to make songs like “On a Dime” and the musician bug bit him fully.

“People were just f****** with it,” Miles said. “And I enjoyed making it. I was set—I’m going to be a musician.”

As he continued to grow as an artist, his grades slipped. He felt misery every time he went to class. School just didn’t feel like the right path. So, he dropped out.

Returning home to Virginia, he struggled in the job market. After receiving two consecutive pink slips, Miles found a home at Zara, a retail company that he described as a European H&M. There, he met his current producer Nxfce (pronounced ‘no face’) and nothing would ever be the same.

Nxfce and Miles talked music regularly on the job, but Nxfce had reservations about working with Miles until he showed him his music. The first studio session, Miles said they didn’t get anywhere. The second studio session, they made “Bad Habits,” Miles’ most popular song to date and a turning point in his career.

Soon after, he returned to Pittsburgh because of the youthfulness of the city and already having a fan base intact.

Originally, he mirrored acts like the Weeknd, Frank Ocean and Miguel. Now, with Nxfce’s more dance-infused and rhythmic beats, he began to cultivate his own sound.

Trying to describe Miles’ sound would give even the greatest music critic problems.

At times, he brings an energy and vigor reminiscent of Michael Jackson. Not to say he matches the king of pop, but when listening to the opening of “Neon//Love,” it’s hard to not hear the inflection of late ‘80s MJ. On “Fade” he sounds like a more exuberant and upbeat Chet Faker. On “Bad Habits,” he inflects the soul of a Sampha, with the vivacious catchiness of “Can’t Feel My Face” Weeknd. No matter what track you play though, he keeps an atmospheric and sexy vibe intact, reminiscent of Ginuwine and Usher.

All these comparisons have one thing in common: it’s music that makes people move. It just so happens that Miles’ biggest concern when he makes music is if it makes people move or not. He used Drake as an example.

“People hear ‘God’s Plan’ and they’re willing to give themselves up (to the song),” Miles said. “They sing, dance, act a fool, because they know the song. They trust the song. They know where it’s going.”

While he may not be Drake, Miles’ recognizes that the buzz he’s obtained from projects like Faceless has made people more comfortable with his music. In turn, he’s starting to get the action he desires from the crowd — dancing.

“That’s what I get most excited about before I go on stage,” Miles said. “Watching people bop, jump, get rowdy. That’s what I love about making music.”

Of course, he’d be the first to tell you that there’s a love/hate relationship with the live show, especially as an opening act.

“Sometimes it sucks,” Miles said. “Yeah, you get to open for these great acts and be like, ‘Yo, I’m a part of the show, I’m a part of the experience.’ But, you’re usually performing for people that don’t know who you are, don’t know what you’re about, don’t care what you’re about and don’t want to learn what you’re about in 30 minutes. They just want to see the main act.”

Miles said he believes this mindset has spread due to the internet.

“I feel like in the ‘90s and ‘00s, people were more artistically curious at live shows because that’s how you found new music,” Miles said. “But now you find music on Spotify, so if you go to a show and haven’t heard the opener’s music on Spotify or SoundCloud, you’re less likely to care about their music.”

But Miles’ biggest concern comes from capitalizing during the come up. He knows he has buzz now and reflects on how people are watching him. Before the come up, he could do whatever the hell he wanted. Now, he has labels making decisions about distributing his music, concert venues considering if they should book him and most of all, people waiting for him to fail.

“It’s do or die,” Miles said. “The next singles have to hit, because if not, then there’s stagnation and that’s the kiss of death in the music industry.”

Again, Miles said the internet has changed the time window. The turnover rate due to social media has become so fast that you need to find a way to stay relevant. Otherwise, people forget you exist.

That’s just the double-edged sword of the modern music industry powered by what’s shareable and viral.

Miles obsesses over music. He soundtracks his life with Gus Dapperton and Rex Orange County. He sings when he gets ready to go out. Hell, even as he’s brushing his teeth, he’s working on his craft.

His conversation topics always include music. One minute he’ll talk about the intricacies of Migos, explaining what creates the draw to the triplet flow. Another he’ll dive into the mystery of Frank Ocean and why his aesthetic matches his art.

The unwind period for Miles comes from watching anime and being around people. He has a complex of wanting to be liked but doesn’t work hard to please. Genuinely, he just wants a good energy and for people to enjoy themselves.

In his dingy, lowly-lit apartment Miles plays Madden as he reflects on his career. He’s using the Seahawks, his favorite Madden team. In the time we’ve talked, he’s won one game but lost the other off a two-point conversion against the New England Patriots, of course.

Unlike the Seahawks though, he sees the end zone.

He’s planning to move out to Los Angeles next year to push his music more and work with other artists. He also plans to write for record labels. Going to LA may lead to one of his biggest fears: fame.

“I’m worried about turning into a commodity,” Miles said. “I don’t want to lose myself. I’ve seen enough people crack. One slip up and people pounce. They’re waiting for you to fail.”

He also worries about his relationships if he indeed becomes famous.

“They’re not going to be natural,” Miles said. “They’ll always be skewed, and people have agendas. Like, do they f*** with me for my music, for me? Do they want something? Do they truly just want to connect? That’s always going to be in the back of my mind now.”

Miles still has a way to go before reaching that point, but it still scares him. He’s not in the business for the money or the fame, or even the girls. He just wants the experience few will ever know.

“When I’m on my death bed and I think about where my life went, I’ll be able to say it went everywhere,” Miles said. ”I’m here for the adventure. I want my life to be a f****** movie.”

Check out Miles at Stage AE June 6th when he opens for Kali Uchis. Tickets are available here: https://www1.ticketmaster.com/kali-uchis-pittsburgh-pennsylvania-06-06-2018/event/1600546DDA6EB60E