The state of hip-hop seems murkier than ever. Weezy's rock opus is mere months away. Jay's doing songs with Coldplay. Kanye is, well...Kanye. And the single entitled "Go Hard" was done entirely in Auto-Tune. If it wasn't for Jeezy rapping like a monster over apocalyptic beats and still finding the time to piss off Bill O'Reilly, we'd wonder if we'd fallen asleep and woken up in some bizarre hip-hop world where up is down, good is bad, it is trickin' if you got it and Rick Ross albums actually reach No. 1 (snap).
So with hip-hop in more of a state of chaos than the inside of Chris Brown's rented Lambo (too soon?), what better time to look to the emcees who have been labeled as the future of the genre? XXL Magazine famously placed 10 of these emcees on their cover as "Hip-Hop's Class of '09." But to this point, only one of those emcees has even released a proper album. Well, as proper as an album from a dude who calls himself Ace Hood can hope to be. So in honor of these artists' "Class of 2009" designation, MOVE breaks them down, NBA Draft Lottery-style (which featured seven draft picks when it debuted in 1986). And we threw in a yearbook superlative to match.
1. Wale: "Most likely to succeed"
Ironically, Wale is the only artist on this list who could likely name the last 10 NBA No. 1 draft picks. No artist in the history of modern music has been cosigned by more musical forces (see: Mark Ronson, Justice, Black Thought, Jay-Z, Jerry Seinfield) than D.C.'s Wale has. And somehow he's managed to sift through all this hype and release the most heralded mixtape of 2008 without a major backlash, which was only possible because this dude can seriously flow. Heavily influenced by D.C.'s go-go music, Wale's "Seinfeld"-themed The Mixtape About Nothing showed he can put together a cohesively intelligent concept without being bogged down by the constraints on those artists strictly labeled "intellirap" or "conscious emcees." But his true display of skill comes on his 100 Miles And Running mixtape, where he runs through a landscape of different beats with a playful versatility and skill that seem almost nonchalant.
Download: "W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E."; "The Kramer"
2. B.o.B: "Class clown"
B.o.B (real name unsurprisingly Bob) is most often compared to Andre 3000, but the comparison doesn't do the man justice. The parallels exist -- both are eclectic ATLiens who make little-to-no sense within the landscape of mainstream hip-hop, but whose quality of music and smooth style allow them to transcend genres and musical norms. But Dre was always an eccentric kept in the mainstream by the counterbalance of his partner Big Boi, whereas B.o.B's forays into the weird and unconventional feel so natural within his goofy-ass persona that you're forced to just go with him. Why should B.o.B have to come to our world when his sounds so much more fun?
Download: "Grip Your Body"; "I'll Be In The Sky"
3. Kid Cudi: "Most likely to leave hip-hop and never come back"
Cudi has the Kanye stamp of approval: He sings backing vocals on 808s & Heartbreak and is signed to 'Ye's G.O.O.D. Music label. With the closest thing to a bonafide hit of any of these young'ns has had (both the original and the Crookers remix of "Day 'N' Nite"), it would seem like Cudi's on the fast track, but his all-caps, angst-ridden blog posts suggest he might be taking notes from 'Ye a little too early in his career. His breakout single is about as much hip-hop as Rick Ross is svelte, and truth be told, Cudi doesn't seem nearly weird enough for these Weezy-like Martian claims.
Download: "Day 'N' Nite"; "Is There Any Love"
4. Chip Tha Ripper: "Best dressed and most likely to clean your clock without scuffing his 501's"
Although Chip is possibly the least heralded of all these cats, get him over some heavy synths and he is a beast like no full-sized dude in skinny jeans has ever been a beast before. The only real knock on the guy is that Cleveland is hardly the marketing epicenter of, well, anything. But hey, that Lebron dude made it.
Download: "Ask About Me"; "I Didn't Know You Strip"
5. Jackie Chain: "Most likely to overdose on E in a club bathroom a week before breaking out"
Out of all these guys, Huntsville, Ala.'s Jackie Chain might fall closest to the traditional definition of rapper, and I don't mean that as a knock. You remember a few years back before Atlanta became a rap mecca and half the country thought everything from the South was complete garbage over rudimentary beats? Well, sometimes theses like these are so absurd they need to be emphatically disproved every few years. And no track has done so more in the past year than Jackie's "Rollin'."
Download: "Rollin'"; "Blinded By The Light"
6. Charles Hamilton: "Biggest flirt/Worst hair"
Charles is a bizarre case: His affinity for pink and his inexplicably massive ego have made him a polarizing figure in hip-hop before he's even come out with a single. His fun, laid-back "Brooklyn Girls" is probably the best original song put out by any of these artists, but his saturation of the market with, at times, overly mediocre rhymes might make this kid more of a Ryan Leaf than a Peyton Manning.
Download: "Brooklyn Girls"; "Starchasers"
7. Drake: "Biggest WTF"
How the hell did one of the Canadian dudes from Degrassi start writing songs for Lil Wayne and hopping onto Lykke Li hip-hop remixes? We couldn't even make this shit up. Dude isn't bad, but he sounds like a character from a Seth Rogen movie. This one might take some time to set in.
Download: "Little Bit"
Other Notable First Round Selections
- Jay Electronica: "Most likely to get caught Twittering in class"
See: Live Twitter account of the birth of his daughter, Mars Merkaba (Yes, that's her real name).
- Blu: "Best Personality" and "Most Likely To Take Home To Mom"
- Asher Roth: "Most Likely To Fade Into Obscurity Outside of Beer-Pong Circuit"
- Cory Gunz: a. "Most Likely To Pull A Lil Wayne By Quietly Improving Insane Flow For Better Part of Decade Until Establishing Himself as Best Rapper Alive Out of Nowhere" or b. "Most Likely To Pull a Lil Wayne By Smoking So Much He Becomes Incomprehensible Babbling Lunatic By Age 27, Leaves Rap to Make Album with Metro Station and Closes Out Career Making Cracked-Out ESPN Guest Appearances"