#2: Lupe Fiasco
Want to know how lyrically gifted Lupe Fiasco is? Consider the following bars from his awesome “SLR” freestyle: “Pharrell what these niggas talkin’ ‘bout?/Two-man Big Pun, a one-man Slaughterhouse/A two-album Jay-Z, a one nigga Wu-Tang/Young and hungry Mos Def, a conscious-rappin’ Lil Wayne.” From any other MC, it’d be an incredibly nifty string of comparisons dismissed as baseless bravado, yet rap heads actually considered the truthfulness of Lu’s proclamations. But the Chicago native doesn’t have to speak his greatness into existence via braggadocio; his two near-flawless albums (Food & Liquor, The Cool) ring loud and clear. And while critics—us, and even himself, included—may pan his latest Lasers album, the pop ears are finally listening, too. The album moved more than 200,000 copies its first week. With a more consistent presence, Lupe really can touch the sky.