Friday, December 2, 2011



10. Kanye West & Jay-Z, The Joy (feat. Curtis Mayfield)
Are these two 'macro-rap' kingpins now undeniably mainstream? Yes. Has Kanye West gone from Chicago-bred backpacker-made-good to one of the most consistently self-aggrandizing and over-the-top characters in the rap game? No question. Did their Twin Tower collaboration, Watch The Throne, catch a fair amount of heat in industry circles for its Hermes, Maybach, and Gucci-laced approach to their self-proclaimed LP of 'Luxury Rap?' Yup. Does any of this change the fact that Jay and 'Ye are still at the absolute top of the heap in terms of rhyming and producing, respectively? Me thinks not. All you need to hear is West's return to his College Dropout-era roots with his sped-up-and-re imagined sample of Curtis Mayfield's The Makings of You.  Add to this the fact that the track is co-produced by beat making virtuoso Pete Rock, and its hard to deny that the Hip-Pop Throne is safe in the hands Misters West and Carter.

9. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis,  Make the Money
He may be just the latest in a string of 206-based emcees that seems poised to achieve national stardom (and never does), but there is plenty of evidence to the contrary ; his bone-jarring appearance alongside Wiz Khalifa at September's Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival, where he whipped 15,000+ (many of whom seemed perched to see him and nobody else) into a sweaty, hand-bobbing frenzy ; his continuing musical fellowship with producer/musical alter-ego Ryan Lewis (the pair are reportedly working on a full-length follow-up to their acclaimed Vs. EP) ; and perhaps most importantly, his current national tour, where he his selling out not just the familiar Northwest-college-and-club circuit, but venues like Slim's (San Francisco), The Troubadour (Los Angeles), Drunken Unicorn (Atlanta), Lincoln Hall (Chicago), and just last night, New York's Bowery Ballroom. Add to that the fact that his stage show includes the use of live strings, horns, and backing vocals, and there seems to be a higher ceiling for Sea-town's latest rap challengers. Need proof? Here you go:

8. Big K.R.I.T, Dreamin
With an eighteen-month run that's included two independent, self-produced releases, opening and co-headlining slots on two major tours, and a signing ceremony with iconic rap label Def Jam, its surprising that the 24 year-old native of Meridian, Mississippi has snuck up on anyone. Also surprising to some--especially in light of the Wayne-dominated ranks of Southern rap of late--is his allegiance to the Scarface/Outkast/8Ball & MJG-led movement of the 1990's. Dig a little deeper, and you discover that K.R.I.T. (short for King Remembered In Time), cites the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Bobby Womack, and Willie Hutch as his musical influences, and pretty quickly you have all the earmarks of a measured, thoughtful, and textured artist that is poised to produce loads of great music that is mature beyond his years.

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