So I recently watched Complex’s interview with rapper A$AP Rocky and it got me thinking. He and the A$AP crew spoke about their beginnings, how they pieced together their style, music and videos, and used their creativity to elevate themselves to the status that they’re at now. After watching I couldn’t help but think about those in the hip hop game that create great music – but more importantly, know how to give it to us in a way that is forward-thinking, creates a message and is always more than just the music. They are the creators in hip hop.
They work tirelessly, always raising the bar, continuously pushing themselves to stretch hip hop’s abilities as genre and as a culture. With these creators, hip hop is an art form that should be celebrated, analysed and thought about. It’s more than spitting angry lyrics or bragging about rich lifestyles: it’s about the struggle, the issues we face in society, an imagination that grows from the creativity that was gifted to these creators.
…So just who are some of the creators in the game?
A$AP Rocky – With his latest album AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP, Flacko has matched his fresh sound with creative videos like ‘L$D’ that takes you to a drug-induced, neon-light world with his baddest by his side, and ‘Everyday’ where A$AP documents the downside to fame with drink and drugs while wearing prosthetics. As you can see in Complex’s interview, A$AP Rocky focuses not only on the sound and lyrics that he’s creating, he also puts serious thought into how his work is projected to the ‘internet world’.
J. Cole – One of my favourite rappers, J. Cole’s strength as a hip hop artist comes straight from his ability to tell a story with his music. With his words he slides us into a place and time, into a situation that we may or may not have been through. His videos bring this to light, as he strays away from the expected club videos with strippers – instead focusing on the suburbs, the neighbourhoods where most of his fans live, or choosing a setting that we wouldn’t expect from when we hear the audio. Take ‘Wet Dreamz’ for example. Rather than use the actual story that he presents with the standard High School crush, he instead focuses on the love story of two dogs…
Kendrick Lamar – Kendrick really blew up this year. He uses his voice and the platform that he’s on for good reasons. Focusing on issues in America such as police brutality against African Americans, his latest album To Pimp A Butterfly was widely praised and allowed Kendrick to voice his opinions on matters. Therefore his music is relevant with the current times, and Kendrick definitely doesn’t hold back with his flow – you can hear his anger in The Blacker The Berry. His videos also explore these matters, and Kendrick’s thoughts are laid out for all to see. It’s not hard to see the points that Kendrick is making and that’s why he is definitely one of the creators in the game. For him, it’s more than just the music. It’s about the people.
Kanye West – I could go into extensive detail but I figured I’d just link you to my previous post here where I discuss his style, his creative videos and producing music. Always open to and on the search for new sound, Kanye has been known to listen to people that approach him on the street as they rap for him – let’s not forget rapper Big Sean was one of those people!
Tyler the Creator – With his latest work building GOLF media, Tyler the Creator really does live up to his name. His music videos are shot like a movie but they push the boundaries of what to expect. Much like the A$AP gang, Tyler and members of OFWGKTA collaborate and bounce ideas from one another, also promoting their work with the Internet. With their stores and their fans, inspiration bounces within the group – artist Frank Ocean stemmed from the group and went on to release creative videos for Pyramids and Novacane. But Tyler’s freestyle abilities, his fearlessness to create and expand from his music, and his wildly creative thought processes, his creativity in the game appears to have no end.
Drake – Last but not least, it has to be 6 God. One of my favourite videos of Drake wasn’t actually one of his music videos, but his collaboration with Sprite and The Fader for their ‘Obey Your Thirst’ campaign. In it he talks about how with his music he ‘crafts his story’ and discusses how in today’s music it pays to be a ‘multi-layered artist’. It’s not just about the music, or the fact that Drake can rap AND sing – it’s also about your style, your message and what you contribute to the genre. Drake’s recent mixtapes, most recently ‘What A Time To Be Alive’ with artist Future, his OVO Beats radio show where he exclusively releases new music, his latest collaboration with Nike Air’s Jordan and Apple Music, and let’s not forget the infamous beef with Meek Mill that gave us tracks Charged Up and Back To Back, Drake’s musical ability and his constant success in moving from one project to the next means that Drizzy can’t NOT be a creator in hip hop.
And that’s my list of the current creators in Hip Hop.
Did I miss anyone out? Let me know below: