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Rap 2017 For Dummies

Rap has never been more confusing. From Atlanta to San Francisco to Harlem to Broward County,  there are rap enclaves and subgenres and rappers moving out from the underground and even as a hiphophead and a constant listener, it is hard to keep track. Here is a primer…

Atlanta: Ground zero for Trap, especially since Future broke through and Gucci Mane was released from prison. Trap gets its name from the hi hat (cymbals) that gives it its click clack sound, it is also a reference to drug deals. Around since the 1990s, T.I. brought it to the forefront, Future became the face, and Gucci the poet laureate. It is the biggest sound in hip hop today.

New York: After being the center of the hip hop world more consistently than any other city anywhere, in 2017 it comes down to two collectives, the A$APs and Pro-Era. Pro-Era, headed by Joey Bada$$ after Capital STEEZ killed himself at the age of 19,  is  younger and more politically astute than A$AP/ The A$APs are headed by A$AP Rocky, a scene stealing sex symbol, and A$AP Ferg, a bloody minded sex maniac. The two collectives are very friendly.

Chicago: In the most violent US City, the rap is hip hop. Chance The Rapper turns the rules of rap on its head, a Christian guy who adds elements of Gospel to his sound he is far away from the teenage jailbirds who perform so much hip hop. Of course, this is Kanye West’s hometown. Not to mention BJ The Chicago kid. Always the bridesmaid when it comes to hip hop, the 2010s has found it shrugging off the name. The problem is that it doesn’t have a defining sound.

Toronto: Draw a straight line from Kanye West’s genre changing 808s And Heartbreaks to Drake’s Thank Me Later  and an entire world of lo fi R&b tracks over ruminations about women and success and women and women… and strippers.

Emo Trap: Draw a straight line from Drake to XXXtentacion, starting in Broward County this is a world of juvenile delinquents distilled into a self pity party (except for live on stage where it is a vicious free for all). Rappers with names like Smokepurpp and Ski Mask The SlumLord are huge stars in the teen world.

Emo Rap: Lil Peep is the poster child for emo’s latest permutation

Baby Trap: The children of Gucci: Lil Yachty, Migos, Kodak Black,  and many more, take trap and give it a shot of youthfulness.

Latin Trap: Bad Bunny takes the hi hat and adds reggaeton.

White: With huge success for G-Eazy and Post Malone, white rappers are back.

Women: women have never had the influence on rap that they’ve had on pop music (where they rule). But what they have is oversized. Nicki Minaj, Cardi B (though does she have more than one song?), ANgel Haze, Azealia Banks… these are all frontline rappers.

The Big Boys: Kanye and Jay-Z lead the pack though Jay-Z’s 4:44 stiffed big time and Kanye needs years of therapy. Follow them with Eminem and everybody else locks into step. Except for Kendrick Lamar, whose “Humble”  redefined success. Just below that is Lil Uzi Vert, who is so good he may be bigger than big one day.

London: Grime is council flat rap, it hasn’t really cracked the States but it is good enough to. Start with Skepta, God knows he’s begging for it, but move quickly to Stormzy.

This barely scratches the surface but it is a good place to start. Here is a playlist.


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