This is one of my favorite lists. Watching new talent blossom into national brands is a reminder of the transformative power of hip-hop. I go to bat for these guys not with the expectation that they'll sell millions of records or fill arenas or win Grammys, but with the awareness that they should. This year's class crackles with promise and diversity, from Inglewood to Ireland. Friends, I give you the super-talented rookie class of 2013.
© Roc Nation
Casey Veggies epitomizes how to build a career from the bottom up. Veggies, a founding member of Odd Future, dropped his first mixtape at 14. He broke away from OF in search of his own sound. Then, the Inglewood rapper applied himself to his brand, quietly and steadily burrowing his way out of the underground. It's a testament to his work ethic that he's improved with each subsequent release. Six mixtapes and an album later, the 19-year-old is rolling. He now enjoys a Roc Nation management deal and runs his own imprint, Peas N' Carrots International (PNCINTL). Veggies is good for your health.
© Def Jam
Love him or hate him, Gunplay is one of the most entertaining members of Rick Ross' Maybach Music camp. Last year, his legal battles
overshadowed his music. If Adolf Sniffler can somehow manage to tame his demons this year he could become MMG's next breakout star of 2013, alongside Rockie Fresh.
Rejjie Snow (p/k/a Lecs Luther) is a 19-year-old emcee from Dublin, Ireland, that hotbed of hip-hop. Regional limitations aside, Snow (born: Alex Anyaegbunam) has the chops to rock the stage anywhere on the map. He's already logged opening slots for Kendrick Lamar and his idol DOOM. Despite comparisons to Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt, Snow is carving out a distinct sound that drapes complex, DOOM-esque free associative rhymes over jazz samples.
3D Na'Tee may be hip-hop's best kept secret. Straight out of New Orleans, Na'Tee is everything you want in a potential star: smart, confident, versatile. Her music moves seamlessly from heart-wrenching vignettes to anthemic, early-2000s hip-hop, gaining a modern sheen from the Dirty South-inspired production. She remains unsigned, however, despite praise from Trina, Missy Elliott and Timbaland. It's not just the music; Na'Tee also hopes to change the game with her BMB brand ("BMB" is short for "Business Minded Bosses"), which she describes as a mantra for those "less concerned with being Barbies and more concerned with owning Matel™."
© Chance the Rapper
Chance the Rapper has a hell of a story to tell. Suspended from high school for 10 days, the Chicago rapper used that time to work on music. He went on a recording tear, which culminated in his 10 Day
mixtape. Chance has since graduated, but he's still telling tales his former peers can relate to, which makes him easy to root for. His music is devoid of pretension, yet rich in insight. Nostalgia, family, school, loyalty, and Spongebob Squarepants are all things he's comfortable rapping about. His signature is an off-kilter flow that splits the difference between rapping and singing. Chance is doing something different and doing it well.
© All Day
If you've been taking your vitamins, eating your vegetables, and reading this site daily like mama said, then you're already familiar with AllDay
(not to be confused with Purple Jesus
). Tawn P and Preemo have an unbending passion for hip-hop that shines in their music. They have a real talent for tunes that make you want to rip the top of your ride, hit the highway, and crank the system to the max. The Houston duo is prepping a debut album, Everyday
, due sometime this year.
DeLorean enthusiast Rockie Fresh is on a fast track to success. He started out touring with the Fall Out Boy, which led to a friendship with the likes of Patrick Stump and Good Charlotte's Joel & Benji Madden. The 21-year-old Chicago native also picked up a fondness for alternative-rock, which largely influenced the production on recent mixtapes Driving 88
and Electric Highway
. And, despite his access to the MMG roster, Rockie prefers to ride solo. Rockie is seasoned and ready for takeoff.
© Republic Records
Angel Haze is insanely talented. Haze (born: Raykeea Wilson) is fierce, charismatic, hyper-articulate, transparent, and, occasionally, transcendent. Her 2012 EP, Reservation
, spawned two choice cuts in "New York" and "Werkin' Girls." Having already entertained us with her Azealia Banks disses earlier this year, the 21-year-old has now turned her focus back to music — and that's great. Expect some beautiful genre-bending music from her Universal Republic debut, tentatively set for Spring.
When you subject a rebel to a process meant to sanitize and he still cuts deep, there's more at play than just the words. Earl is a poet first. He's found new ways to flex since returning from the Coral Reef Academy. Just check the intricately woven, occasionally reflective rhymes on his show-stealing "Oldie" performance. And the momentum seems to have carried over to his upcoming Sony debut, Doris
. Lead single "Chum" easily made everyone's "best of" last year, setting up a perfect start to Earl's 2013 campaign.
He looks like a young Pete Rock, rhymes like a teenage Nas, and radiates the confidence of a veteran. Meet Brooklyn's Joey Bada$$ (real name: Jo-Vaughn Scott). The 17-year-old's dusty, expertly styled debut mixtape, 1999
, caught the ear of several labels and heralded the arrival of one of hip-hop's most exciting new talents. Joey Bada$$ is the real deal.