#8: Big K.R.I.T.
When the country-baked flavor of the South meets the heady lyricism of the North, you get Big K.R.I.T. The Mississippian Def Jam rapper—a worthy descendant of OutKast and David Banner—has made his presence felt with his superb life-on-wax opus Krit Wuz Here and even-doper Return Of 4Eva, both entirely self-produced and oh-so-soulful. The latter sets the bar for this year’s crop of rookies, as K.R.I.T. (acronym for King Remembered In Time) questions the perks of success, celebrates old school whips and challenges unjust governments and greedy churches. Watch this king rise to the Dirty South throne.