Spunky, Harlem-born rapper and singer Azealia Banks grew up on musical theater. “I was supposed to be on Broadway. If I didn’t get a record deal, I probably would still be going on auditions,” she says. After releasing mixtapes she made mostly for fun, she sought out producer/DJ Diplo until he took notice of her work. Banks channels that persistent personality along with rage (and a great sense of humor), into her songwriting about past relationships, resulting in rapid verses enveloped in wit, sarcasm and empowerment.
16-year-old rapper and producer Bishop Nehru is a quick study of a sharp young mind that knows, instinctively, what makes music work: his power is being able to flip that knowledge around and re-present it in a format that’s both nostalgic and - we hate to use the term but it’s true -refreshing. Wu-Tang Clan already took note of it last year when they brought him on their 20th anniversary tour. Stream and download his strictlyFLOWz mixtape here.
With her 2012 verse “Cleaning Out My Closet,” Angel Haze debuted her arresting talent in a gut-wrenching confessional about dealing with sexual abuse. Then, her debut album Dirty Gold was leaked for a brief second before being sucked back into pre-release hiding by Island/Republic Records. Don’t let this eye-rolling dispute discredit Haze as an angry, unrestrained rapper. Haze may be angry and a fighter, but with every right to be - and when she marries her battles to her music, the next big thing to hit rap is made.
You may know Vic Mensa from his appearance on Chance the Rapper’s acclaimed 2013 album, Acid Rap, and the Chicago-based artist has appeared on a slew of mixtapes in recent months as well. But our personal favorite by this upcoming rapper? His Nickelodeon homage to Kenan and Kel, a track lovingly titled “Orange Soda” (listen below). This year, he will be supporting Danny Brown’s European tour.
This 20-year-old rapper from Crown Heights, Brooklyn grew up on heavy rock, teaching himself songs like “Back in Black” on the guitar. While majoring in guitar performance at Berklee College of Music, Cooper began seriously rapping and developed his head-turning flow, drawing from a confluence of 90s hip-hop artists and rappers like Whiz Khalifa. His first single, “Shadows” came out in 2012 and the mixtape “Cozmik” (download here) was named after a best friend who was killed in high school. Hear and download it here.
Rich Homie Quan
Atlanta rapper Rich Homie Quan’s distinct flow is apparent even in conversation - an eloquent lingual two-step that stays with you after hearing it. Check out his mixtape here.
On his single “Show Me,” L.A.-based rapper Kid Ink showed off his mellow, over-easy flow that garnered the nation’s attention even more than Chris Brown’s presence on the track.