After inking a deal with Warner Bros. in 2010, The Kid With The Green Backpack is gearing up to release his debut album in 2011. It's kind of unjust to place him on a freshman list considering the 1st time I heard him was in 2006 on his Complex album. And back then, these was just this dope kid from Kansas who drew comparisons to Jay & Kanye. After paying his dues, it seems as though 2011 (or 2015 on Squaria) will be the year Vizzy becomes a household name.
No stranger to the blogosphere, Theophilus London has already managed to gain quite the international following. With each release more successful than the last, Theophilus has managed to fuse Hip Hop with whole mess of other genres, which has undoubtedly played a part in his worldwide success. Still without an official album release, London qualifies for this list but almost with an unfair advantage. Hopefully we'll get a retail album out of this producer-emcee-singer-engineer from Brooklyn sometime in 2011.
With no disrespect to any of the other artists mentioned in this list, Rockie Fresh may have been my favorite thing about 2010. Hearing his mixtape, The Otherside, I got the same feeling as I got the 1st time I heard Lupe Fiasco, or the 1st time I heard Mickey Factz. I had no idea what I was getting into as I hit play on my iPod but I have to say, downloading The Otherside was one of the best decisions I ever made. As cliche as it is to say, the Chicago emcee was "a breath of fresh air". Backed by amazing production from The Cartoonz, "Sofa King Cole" killed track after track with a sick flow, original lyrics, and the presence of veteran. Only 19 and honestly, a CLASSIC mixtape (which was really more of an LP) under his belt, Fresh is definitely going to be the next big thing out of the Chi.
The best 15 year old emcee since Shyheim (you might have to do some homework on that one), Diggy has gone from reality show star, to reputable emcee. I can't lie, before I heard him rap, I was prepared to dismiss him and not take him serious. Then I heard his verse on Oh Yeah! and I was sold. Preemo even co-signed the kid and hosted his Past Presents Future tape. In addition to Preemo, Lupe & Pharrell have also co-signed Simmons. A legitimate emcee with only time to grow, 2011 should be another stepping stone in this young mans career.
Nitty Scott, MC
I didn't grow up listening or even caring about female emcees such as Foxy Brown, Lil' Kim, MC Lyte, or even Jean Grae. Truth be told, I was just never impressed by them. Nitty Scott is by far the best female rapper I've ever listened to. And she's not just a great "femcee" she's a great EMCEE period. Listen to that Deep Cover Freestyle and you'll be asking yourself, "Nikki Minaj who???" She doesn't mirror Minaj or really any artist for that matter. Her originality and lyrical arsenal make her one of the top artists to watch in 2011. Be on the lookout for Boombox Diaries which should be releasing sometime in the near future.
Brazilian-born, Florida-based emcee, Laws made some major moves in 2010. Dropping 2 hot mixtapes and collaborating with fellow Florida producers, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, earned Laws a spot on this list. Although sometimes compared to Drake, Laws is an excellent songwriter and has an amazing ability to shine just as much as his production on every track. Flashback (off of 4:57) was one of my top 5 songs in 2010. With many up-and-coming artists eager to co-sign and work with him, I'm sure he'll be putting in some "Overtime" in 2011.
The Airplane Boys
Canada's music scene really just doesn't get enough credit and these guys are a perfect example. After gaining a large following in Toronto, their track "Escape" definitely opened the door for American fans to start pouring through. I initially thought they were going to be Drake imitators because of their beat selection and their singing, but once they started rapping, they squashed that notion. They have a great ear for music and an even greater ability to put words together. I am extremely excited and eagerly awaiting any future release from The Airplane Boys and you better believe if they drop an album, they'll get my $10.
A jack-of-all trades really, MeLo-X came out of left field when he dropped More Merch. One of the better releases of the year, Melo managed to bridge the gap between hip hop and alternative music whether it be through lyrics or his production. Melo seems like that guy that will always be making quality music whether or not anybody is listening. A true Artist, Brooklyn-bred MeLo-X will find his way to your iPod one way or another in 2011.
If you would have mentioned Paris Jones a few weeks ago, I wouldn't have the slightest idea of who you were talking about. In fact, it was until Nitty Scott, MC tweeted that she was on a track with Paris Jones and a whole slew of other artist for PJ's Pop A Bottle Remix, that I had even heard of him. After hearing the track and immediately falling in love with it, I dug around and found his previous 2 releases, 1 of which was released in 2010. 2 mixtapes later, Paris Jones has established himself has one of the most dangerous dual-threats (Producer/Emcee) in the game. All it took was 1 track for the world to take notice of Paris Jones and in 2011, we'll continue to watch and wait for more of his music.
If you visit hip hop blogs, at all, then chances are you've heard of TiRon. Unfortunately for me, it wasn't until recently that I actually heard his music. Well, it didn't take long for me to see the very apparent talent and skills of this west coast emcee. With many claiming that his MSTRD mixtape of 2010 was one of the best releases, he's already begun to carve his name into 2011. Just a side note, if you ever get around to listening to MSTRD which I strongly recommend, the entire mixtape was recorded in his room, no booth, no engineer. It really makes an impressive release like MSTRD all the more impressive.
With the release of his FreeLP, More Or Less, Skewby etched his name on quite a few Best Mixtape lists of 2010. Hell, More Or Less etched his name onto this list. This Memphis emcee brings hard lyrics with smooth flow capable of painting sonic landscapes. Excellent wordplay and imagery are just a few characteristics that Skewby embodies which makes for real hip-hop experience every time you listen to him. More Or Less got the internet talking but if his track record is any indication of his future, his next release will have the country talking.
Trying to describe Chris Faust's sound is a challenged only rivaled by the enjoyment you get from listening to his music. Far from a mixtape rapper, Faust crafts songs in their entirety and blesses them with gifted wordplay and poetry. With a flow as smooth as a Sax solo, Mr. Good Day Good Night almost effortlessly adds his name to this list. You won't have to wait long to hear more from the artist formerly known as Print either, his debut album FAUST will be released 2/15/2011 and it'll surely be a must buy.
After collaborations with artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Mickey Factz, and U-N-I, this Compton representative really garnered plenty of attention in 2010. His upcoming project, Believe In Hope Wright has been quite the hype generator and after his Compton's Finest track ft. Kendrick Lamar, many can't wait to hear more.
Last but not least, we have the wunderkind of Naledge's Brainac Society. Still in high school, this Chicago emcee stays busy by not only working on his solo stuff, but also leading his alternative-hip hop band, Kids These Days. One of the few live bands in hip hop, Kids These Days are suppose to be releasing their Hard Times EP sometime this month. Displaying true lyrical fortitude, Vic really conveys his love of music through his music resulting in quality, original music. His Straight Up EP which dropped in 2010, was a brief but impressive introduction to Vic Mensa. Download it now and get a preview of what he has in store for 2011.
As with any list some people may have been left off the list and please understand, it's not an insult to them, it's just a compliment to the artists on this list. I originally wanted to do a list of 10, then 11, then 12, and then I finally had to give in and do a list of 15, and that was still hard. The 15 is what resulted in the the whole "Team" thing seeing how a basketball team would typically have 15 players (granted 3 would be reserves). All the artists mentioned in this post are featured on this blog and will obviously continue to be featured in 2011. Go ahead and backtrack through Top Of The Roof and get ready for 2011.
Who do you think should have made the team? Leave a comment.