25. Gunplay: The oddball rapper Gunplay may squander his talents if he doesn’t wise up soon. When he chooses to be, Gunplay can be one of the best rappers in the game. Check out Cartoons & Cereal where he goes toe-to-toe lyrically with Kendrick Lamar. Or his own song, Jump Out, which could turn Dakota Fanning into a murderous volatile gangster. However for every good song he puts out, Gunplay does something to hinder his success. He got jumped by 50 cent. He was arrested for pulling a gun on his accountant. Seriously. Check out the video.
24. Ab-Soul: The contemplative deep-thinker of Black Hippy, Ab-Soul is clearly on a trajectory to success – his debut album, Control System, was well received and he has had some pretty successful songs, but has not completely broken out yet. As the entire TDE crew gaining mainstream popularity, Ab-Soul is primed for a big breakout in 2013.
23. Trinidad James: Trinidad James’ hit single All Gold Everything was enough to ink a $2 million dollar deal with Def Jam Records. Fans watch vigilantly to see if he can bolster his catalog and remain hot in the rap game.
22. Earl Sweatshirt: Earl Sweatshirt hooked up with Tyler The Creator and in 2010 released his debut album Earl. He recently returned from Samoa and instantly gained fan base with his new single Chum. Look for Earl to continue to gain steam with his upcoming album Doris.
21. King Chip: Chip is slowly gaining momentum after releasing a very solid Mixtape, Tell Ya Friends, under the name Chip Tha Ripper in early 2012. He continued to impress as a featured artist on KiD CuDi’s Just What I Am and Game’s Church, but 2013 is the year when he will really make a name for himself, whatever that name might be.
20. Chief Keef: White people love rappers that just do not give a fuck, and Chief Keef exemplifies exactly that. Post a photo of yourself getting a blowjob on Instagram? Why not. A video shoot with 50 cent and Wiz Khalifa? Fuck that shit, blow it off. As Sosa’s career continues to develop, the 17-year-old rapper will continue to not care about anything, and white people love that about him.
19. Big Boi: While Andre 3000 has seemingly fallen off the map except for the occasional feature or Gillette commercial, Big Boi is still churning out quality music. If you haven’t already, check out his new album Vicious lies and Dangerous Rumors.
18.Killer Mike: A seasoned veteran, Killer Mike got reinvigorated this year after his collaboration with EL-P to create the masterpiece R.A.P. Music. Mike showed us that he is back on the scene and capable of making intelligent songs that can bang with anything in the industry.
17. Big Sean: Big Sean has both a unique style of rapping and an uncanny ability to collaborate with just about anyone and still make hits. Meek Mill and Justin Bieber are on opposite ends of the music spectrum, but fuck it, Big Sean worked with both of them (Burn and As Long as You Love Me, respectively). Few people can straddle the line between Bieber hits and ‘windows down speakers up’ hood hits as well as Big Sean does.
16. Joey Bada$$: Joey Bada$$ is one-half prodigy and one-half anachronism. The 17 year old rapper from Brooklyn has been throwing it back to some deep lyrical flows reminiscent of the 90s, and drops one of the hottest verses of the year on his feature on A$AP Rocky’s 1 Train.
15. Juicy J: Three 6 Mafia member Juicy J’s career has been revitalized since joining Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang. Juicy J has never been one to meticulously craft his lyrics, but his beautiful ignorance overshadows backpack rap these days. Bandz a Make Her Dance going gold should be proof of that.
14. Game: In case you haven’t heard, Game is back. Don’t believe me? Check out his latest album, Jesus Piece. With TDE resurging the west coast to the forefront of rap, the veteran rapper is serving as a mentor and an enforcer.
13. Pusha T: One half of Clipse, Pusha is beginning to make a name for himself as a solo artist. Throughout 2012, spit fire on every track Kanye sent his way, such as New God Flow. 2013 should be a great year for Pusha T, he’s working on an upcoming mixtape, Wrath Of Caine, and his debut solo album, My Name is My Name.
12. ScHoolboy Q: When you look at Kendrick Lamar, you see a strategic rapper with a plan to take over the rap game and push his selfless agenda. His counterpart in TDE, ScHoolboy Q’s career is much more spontaneous and volatile. Like a ticking time bomb with no countdown display, you just never know when Q is going to come out and drop a hit, nor can you predict whether it will be a radio hit, a street-banger or a song for the ladies. But one thing is for sure – Q will keep putting out hits, probably when you least expect it.
11. Nas: Nas is one of the most resilient people in the industry. Every time people start to think he fell off, he comes back and drops an incredible album telling everyone what he’s been up to for the past few years. In 2012, 18 years after dropping Illmatic, Nas released Life is Good, notching a sixth number one album on his belt. With garnished wages and a hefty lawsuit weighing on him, Nas might very well need to continue to churn out hits.
10. Big K.R.I.T.: Krit’s proliferating fan-base is due to the fact that every project he puts out is top-notch. Krit has only released one true studio album but his last three free mixtapes are such great quality that they could easily be mistaken for albums. When asked about his plans for 2013, Krit responded “I Got This”
9. Rick Ross: Rick Ross is a textbook example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Create a persona for yourself and start telling people that you are the ‘biggest boss’ in the rap game, and eventually it will come true. In 2012, Ricky Rozay dropped a free mixtape (Rich Forever) that was better than the majority of albums released throughout the year, and followed it up with his Grammy-nominated album God Forgives I Don’t. He did this all while running his MMG label which is comprised of some of the hottest rappers in the game right now.
8. Meek Mill: Fresh off his debut album Dreams & Nightmares, Meek preps to drop Dreamchasers 3, and if Dreamchasers 1 and 2 are any indication of what to expect from the third mixtape in the trilogy, that shit is going to be hot.
7.KiD CuDi: Cudder has returned to the rap game and is hotter than ever. Make sure you cop the recently released singles Just What I Am (Feat. King Chip) and King Wizard. Look out for Indicud dropping in march.
6. Macklemore: Thrift Shop. White people love Macklemore. ‘Nough said.
5. 2 Chainz: The rapper formerly known as Tity Boi first began releasing music as one-half of Playaz Circle in 2002. Ten years later of hard work later 2 Chainz has finally caught his break. If you didn’t have a song with 2 Chainz in 2012, your shit ain’t hot. Of course, it also helped that a 2 Chainz themed Barack Obama meme went viral.
4. A$AP Rocky: Rocky’s debut album Long.Live.A$AP fell victim to leaks early but that may not be a bad thing. The album has been lauded by critics and fans so if you haven’t heard it yet make sure you cop it January 15th.
3. Drake: Without releasing a project in 2012 Drake still was able to remain one of the hottest rappers. His 2011 album Take Care debuted at #1 and remained a top 10 selling album in 2012. He was also featured on some of the biggest songs of the year: No Lie (2 Chainz), Stay Schemin (Rick Ross), Amen (Meek Mill), and F*ckin Problems (A$AP Rocky).
2. Kanye West: The self-proclaimed god of rap has been running the rap game since The College Dropout came out in 2004. Following the hubristic Jay-Z collaboration Watch the Throne, fans may have been a little disappointed with GOOD Music’s Cruel Summer, but we can’t blame Kanye for that. Every verse he spit is hot.
1. Kendrick Lamar: Kendrick Lamar is so hot he can make an entire album about a single day in his life and it will go gold. Kendrick Lamar is so hot he can take a song with a Lady Gaga hook, drop her from the track, sing it himself and still make it a hit. Kendrick Lamar is so hot he can make an anti-drinking song and make it a top 25 party song. Kendrick Lamar is so hot he can make a Dido song dope. White people will love just about anything Kendrick does at this point, and the good kid from Compton is just going to keep making some of the best music of the last decade.