Lil B (29)
Originally part of the Bay Area’s hyphy movement, Lil B began releasing music on the internet in 2009, gaining a huge following from young audiences. ‘The Based God’ soon attracted attention as a meme, with his unconventional comedic rap style.
B has pushed the boundaries of how rap music can be marketed: for example, deciding to release a mixtape with over 100 songs. His eccentric persona and independent marketing has also helped bring greater freedom of expression throughout the genre, instrumental in inspiring many newer rappers from the SoundCloud generation, like Lil Yachty.
“Soulja has become a beloved mainstream internet meme to this day”
Soulja Boy (28)
Chances are, most people still remember the lyrics and dance to Crank That, Soulja Boy’s record-breaking 2007 song. With his many hits, Soulja’s unique style of superficiality, repetition and viral videos to accompany has influenced countless current rappers, from Lil Pump to Juice WRLD, whose stage name even references a 2011 Soulja Boy mixtape.
Soulja has become a beloved mainstream internet meme to this day, but his most important contribution to the rap world has been revolutionising how rappers can independently promote their music on social media by exploiting the viral nature of internet culture.
Tyler, the Creator (27)
At only seventeen-years-old, Tyler, the Creator and his friends founded the Odd Future rap collective. Tyler’s music gained huge traction online, especially from teen audiences, and his controversial style soon became a force to be reckoned with.
Since the disbandment of Odd Future, Tyler has further evolved his craft, with his new work gaining unanimous acclaim. Tyler has not only influenced rap music and aesthetic, but has also successfully ventured into the realms of comedy and fashion. He created the beloved Camp Flog Gnaw festival, and has spring-boarded the careers of other talented artists like Earl Sweatshirt, welcoming a new audience into the rap world.
“Purpp crafted a wholly unique style of rap”
Though still largely underground, SpaceGhostPurrp’s influence in rap is paramount. Purpp crafted a wholly unique style of rap (known as dark ‘phonk’), with influences ranging from metal and lo-fi. In 2008, he founded the rap collective Raider Klan and became noticed for unique vibe.
Purpp has been an overt influence to the music and dark aesthetic of artists like A$AP Rocky, as well as enabling more crossover between rap and other genres, such as punk rock. He has also helped launch the careers of more recent talents like Denzel Curry, and is revered as a legend in underground hip-hop circles.
“They have raised the popularity of several terms and colloquialisms, as well as elevating the ‘dab’”
Migos (27, 27 & 24)
Quavo, Takeoff and Offset, the Migos, have been a huge mainstream influence in the rap world. Since their breakout collaboration with Drake for the song Versace in 2013, they have released several hits such as Bad & Boujee, and become a cultural phenomenon in music.
Migos helped popularise a distinct Atlanta sound, and their emphasis on ad-libs, repetition, and the syllabic triplet flow is replicated in many rap songs today. They have raised the popularity of several terms and colloquialisms, as well as elevating the ‘dab’ into a massive dance craze with their song Look At My Dab.
“Thug has drawn comparisons to collaborator Elton John, but also David Bowie and Prince”
Young Thug (27)
Rap revolutionary Young Thug’s projects have not only been popular landmarks, but he has been instrumental in establishing ‘mumble rap’ as a credible and exciting subgenre, with his idiosyncratic vocals and off-kilter delivery, which has garnered praise from linguists as an innovative approach to communication.
Thug has drawn comparisons to collaborator Elton John, but also David Bowie and Prince, with his androgynous image and ambiguous personality helping reshape hip-hop attitudes to sexuality and masculinity, an attitude which has influenced many current rappers, such as Lil Uzi Vert. With his powerful YSL label, Thug has also helped kickstart the career of rising stars like Gunna.
“Travis has been cited as a direct influence not only by recent artists, but also more established icons such as Kanye West”
Travis Scott (26)
Beginning his career in 2008, Travis Scott has grown to become one of the most well-known artists in the world, both commercially and critically: his projects are chart-topping monoliths, but are also met with acclaim from all spectrums of the music world.
Travis’ unique musical style is hugely experimental, incorporating distorted sounds with psychedelic and progressive elements (a style that has been described as ‘Hip-Hop Futurism’). Collaborating with several musicians from all genres to craft revolutionary genre-bending songs, Travis has been cited as a direct influence not only by recent artists, but also more established icons such as Kanye West.
Chance the Rapper (25)
Though only 25, Chance the Rapper is no newcomer to the game. Since 2012, his projects have been praised for his lyricism and delivery, be it his solo work or his collaborations, for example with The Social Experiment.
Chance has become a critical darling and built a huge fan base, having had the largest attended performance in Lollapalooza history in 2017. His incorporation of soul and gospel elements into his work has influenced musical trends and his involvement in politics and charity work has proved significant in helping deprived communities, encouraging other rappers to do the same.
Chief Keef (23)
Since the early 2010s, Chief Keef has been the most respected pioneer of the aggressive rap subgenre, Chicago drill. Keef has helped bring this sound to the forefront of hip-hop, creating hits like Love Sosa, and collaborating with rap legends like Gucci Mane. Keef has become an icon throughout the music world, being praised for his unruly and distinctive sound, which has helped the careers of other ‘Glo Gang’ artists such as the late Fredo Santana.
“Keef has directly inspired a plethora of current rappers”
Being influential in the development of independent promotion and a bastion for the city of Chicago, Keef has directly inspired a plethora of current rappers.
Yung Lean (22)
In 2012, sixteen-year-old Jonatan Håstad, or Yung Lean, set up the rap group Sad Boys trio with his friends, which quickly gained popularity throughout their native Sweden. Lean has since established a faithful audience worldwide, collaborating with many high-profile musicians like Frank Ocean.
Often hailed as a founder of ‘cloud rap’, Lean’s melodic trap harmonies and dreamy ambient vibe has received admiration from modern rap lovers. More importantly, Lean was the catalyst for the eruption of the emo-rap movement, with his lyrics centred on addiction, solitude and depression directly influencing more recent megastars such as the late Lil Peep and Juice WRLD.
Mateus de Sá
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