By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
There's a new kind of rapper in town: compulsively stoned, inexhaustibly prolific, perpetually swagged-out. Rather than cloister themselves in VIP booths, they perfect their ground game in smaller clubs. They prefer the Internet to more traditional means of distribution. And unlike the Big Fucking Deals of three years ago (hi, Wale and B.o.B.), they choose to rap their asses off instead of nurturing delusions of wheel-reinventing grandeur.
Curren$y has a somewhat fractious place in the world of hip-hop. He lacks Yelawolf's blue-collar bona fides and he's certainly not eccentric enough to fit in the Odd Future/Lil B axis. While his cross-market appeal is limited by comparison, the MC's ear for music is far better attuned. Curren$y's albums (2010's Pilot Talk is an ideal starting point) are great comfort food, punctuating baggy prose with the molten, smoldering accents of 1970s beach rock. Like indie rock counterparts Real Estate and Ty Segall, his stuff hits hard but goes down easy.
That Curren$y has no discernible ambition other than smoking weed doesn't matter because, simply put, he sounds great. And wouldn't you know it? The Hot Spitta is reshaping the genre in his image. Below are five rappers with enough style to obscure the fact that they don't talk about much of note.
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A$AP Rocky: Late last year, A$AP Rocky nestled onto urban radio with a memorably mumbled refrain ("Everything is purple . . . everything is purple") from "Purple Swag," a hypnotizing highlight off 2011's LiveLongA$AP. A disarming everyloser, A$AP delivers tracks that are cloudy ruminations on the spoils of unemployment. What the Hold Steady are to drunks, A$AP is to people who get blunted and lose their car keys at Sonic.
Chief Keef: In his previous life, 16-year-old firebrand Chief Keef undertook such noble pursuits as trying to murder a Chicago cop. The youngster's impulse-control issues fuel dagger-sharp new mixtape Back from the Dead. Keef's wormy, pithily phrased hooks suggest that he's ready for prime time, but his dead-eyed flow is straight underground.
Death Grips: Sacramento's Death Grips tango hedonistically with aggro-pop, punk, and crunk. It's fight music with brains: Imagine El-P knocking up Three 6 Mafia's Gangsta Boo. "Get Got" is a chaotic preamble to The Money Store, one of two albums the trio (which includes former Hella drummer Zach Hill, of all people) plans to release via Epic in 2012. Get ready for twin shitstorms of noisy keyboard music.
Main Attrakionz: Space cadets Main Attrakionz had a hand in pioneering "cloud rap," which splits the difference between Bay Area hip-hop and Southern bounce. Critics swear by the Oakland duo for good reason. 808s & Dark Grapes II casts the future as a blighted, postmodern nightmare. They're extraterrestrials with a melancholic streak that's painfully earthbound, but the best tracks are chilled-out, hypnagogic funk.
SpaceGhostPurrp: It's not hard to picture SpaceGhostPurrp worshiping a shrine made out of Rozerem bottles and liner notes from Lungfish albums. Borrowing his name from Adult Swim's long-canceled Space Ghost Coast to Coast, he traffics in fever dreams and art-house porn vibes: Last year's Blackland Radio 66.6 was a work of nightmarish beauty. But don't take our word for it. Space just joined British alt-rock factory 4AD, where he's curating tracks for the upcoming Mysterious Phonk: Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp.