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Sorry, Drake And Nicki, But Hip-Hop Is Changing

The mixed reviews of Drake's 'Scorpion' and Nicki Minaj's 'Queen,' paired with the excitement behind new acts, signifies that rap is changing the guard.

Trend watching is a core component of success in the music business. From keeping up with the latest SoundCloud up-and-comers to mining local scenes for burgeoning talent, the industry depends on such active monitoring and engagement in order to thrive. Today’s star can easily be tomorrow’s has-been, struggling to reach new heights or even find a place for themselves as tastes shift and fans migrate in pursuit of something fresh.

In hip-hop, now the largest genre grouping by consumption thanks in no small part to the streaming revolution, the challenges increase and compound regularly. A viral hit could signal the onset of a promising career, as seems the case for Lil Pump, or a false start with little room to recover, as Stitches no doubt knows in the years since “Brick In Yo Face.” Even artists that achieve tremendous prosperity in short order may find themselves very much out of vogue without warning, as evidenced by the almost inexplicable fall of once vibrant rap romantic, Fetty Wap. With an abundance of new music dropping each week, few second chances are granted and, as O.T. Genasis can attest after “Coco” and “Cut It,” third ones can prove maddeningly slippery.

While established hitmakers overwhelmingly occupy our ears, as patrons we often take a passive approach to hearing new music, letting the platforms we listen on and social media influencers we listen to drive our consumption. Getting a placement on one of Spotify’s branded playlists or a shout out from a prominent Instagrammer can have a significant impact on a single’s lifespan and an artist’s prospects. With discovery a less individual practice than the Internet age posited, hip-hop remains a game to be gamed by those with the power and savvy to do so, making it vital for insiders to stay on top of what’s happening.

Still, amid all the fads and frauds coming at us almost daily, hip-hop is a living thing, one that grows, adapts, and, ultimately, changes to suit its times. Through the genre’s 45-year history, seismic shifts have disrupted the status quo time and time again, with heavy hitters nudged or shoved aside for the next defining wave. And while day-to-day it may not be apparent, we are once again in the midst of such a transference.

READ MORE: Two Houstons, One Travis Scott And An ‘AstroWorld’

The summer of 2018 rages on, and so too does the veritable donnybrook of rappers dropping new albums to beat the heat. Already in the mix are full-lengths by known quantities Drake, Future, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, and the unexpected tag team of Beyonce and JAY-Z as the imaginatively named duo The Carters. Travis Scott stunned his haters with the massive first week performance of Astroworld, which officially went RIAA gold in that opening frame, while tabloid target Mac Miller returned with a soul searching outing for his fans in Swimming. Imminent entries from Young Thug and the aforementioned Lil Pump promise to shake things up, with plenty of blazing hot weeks ahead for other contenders to join in.

While it seems premature to suggest Canada’s biggest export will fall off anytime soon, especially with the strong performance of his latest double album Scorpion, reactions to that record were mixed. So too, it appears, is the case with Queen, a rap-centric release that even has some of the Minajerie’s faithful Barbz questioning their stan status. Even the comparatively shorter Beast Mode 2, the existence of which delighted fans of the Zaytoven-helmed first installment, failed to produce a single close to the Atlanta rapper’s Metro Boomin hits. And the less said about Ye, that hastily assembled rap miniature, the better.

"Our longstanding faves are putting out underwhelming albums now because that's generally what happens."

This, assuredly, is the natural order: the inevitable slide of big names from the last decade or so into the legacy artist category. Whether we like it or not, our longstanding faves are putting out underwhelming albums now because that's generally what happens. We witnessed it 11 years ago when Kanye’s Graduation bested 50 Cent’s Curtis, the initial sales disparity signaling the demise of G-Unit’s days of dominance, which in turn had its ascendance at the expense of the once formidable Roc-A-Fella. There was a time when Cold Chillin’ was the name in hip-hop, summarily replaced by gangsta and hardcore rap on both coasts courtesy of N.W.A., then Wu-Tang, then 2Pac and Biggie and so on.

The possibility of Drake or Nicki or Kanye ever putting out great and groundbreaking albums again remains open. Survivors of the 1990s and early 2000s, JAY-Z and Nas dropped their summertime projects to much fuss and little else, the former obviously benefitting from the superstar standing of his wife. And seeing how well younger acts like Travis Scott are doing, it's safe to say we've transitioned away from the aging powerhouses controlling the musical conversation.

Indeed, hip-hop is driven by the youth, and in just the last two years we’ve seen a rising generation of listeners with a corresponding collection of new artists generally ranging in age from teens to mid-20s. One example, Lil Uzi Vert took the momentum from 2016’s breakthrough “Money Longer” and ended up making even bigger waves with 2017’s “XO Tour Life” and Migos’ “Bad And Boujee.” His erstwhile collaborator Playboi Carti appears to be on the same path, leveraging “Magnolia” into this past May’s debut album Die Lit. Barely legal, Lil Pump captivated audiences with the repetitive “Gucci Gang” and continues with his Harvard Dropout tracks.

Thanks to support from these young audiences, Cardi B and Post Malone went from presumed one hit wonders to international festival headliners. And the pool of prospects keeps expanding, with new entrants like Juice Wrld and Lil Baby making it onto Billboard’s Hot 100 this year. Latinx artists like Bad Bunny and Ozuna are challenging the norms, with Spanish language hip-hop approaches making for major chart hits too. Admittedly, some of the figures coming up do so with considerable legal baggage and troubling behavioral characteristics, yet their music nonetheless connects with young consumers.

Looking at the landscape, we're clearly in the middle of another generational shift in hip-hop. Today’s tweens and teens are removed from 31-year-old Drake by as much as two decades, and the idea that he will direct this segment’s tastes seems questionable given the way things have always gone. The kids will always be right, determining for themselves what’s cool and what isn’t.

Conversely, the choice now for maturing listeners who’ve grown accustomed to being on top is to decide whether or not to keep overlooking the new and young talents in hip-hop in favor of aging ones. In truth, we’re probably about two years away from an undeniable turnover. Those who opt to stick primarily to what they know stand to officially become the new oldheads. Choose wisely.

READ MORE: Mac Miller’s Metamorphosis Shows Hope For Growth From The New School

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A look back at the collaborator's up and down relationship.
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Remember The Time: 10 Times Drake And Kanye West Were Stronger Together

Kanye West and Drake aren’t exactly in the best place at the moment. West’s Dec. 13 Twitter rant detailed their issues, in which he accuses Drake of “sneak dissing” and threatening him.

“You sneak dissing on [Travis Scott] records and texting Kris [Jenner] talking about how’s the family.” he wrote among many other tweets and allegations against the Scorpion MC.

While this is a bump in the road, the two haven’t always been enemies. Despite the shenanigans surrounding them, Kanye West and Drake have had a very fruitful relationship. All drama aside, the duo have created many memorable moments in hip-hop and pop culture. They’ve written and recorded some incredible songs and shared countless stages during concerts and tours.

To abstain from dwelling on the negativity, VIBE has collected a list of moments taking you through the high points in the rappers’ relationship. Check it out below.

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Drake's Freestyles Over Many Beats By 'Ye

Before he was one of the most sought-after rappers in the world, Drizzy has looked up to Kanye West and sampled his work. For “Say What’s Real,” a single off his mixtape So Far Gone, the “In My Feelings” MC sampled Yeezy’s “Say You Will” off of his 2008 album 808s & Heartbreak. The admiration continued throughout the years, resulting in more freestyles over songs like “Swagga Like Us” and “Barry Bonds.” Both tracks feature beats created by the Chi-town native. 

‘Thank Me Later’ Proves Their Shared Power 

After meeting in 2009, the duo came together to bring Drake's Thank Me Later album to the next level. They collaborated on two tracks- the futuristic love songs “Show Me A Good Time,” and “Find Your Love.” With West holding down production, deep-pocketed 808’s and table-top scratch sounds were highlighted. The accolades for the latter song resulted in the No. 5 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 charts as they created their own lane.

Drake Calls Kanye “The Most Influential Person”

In a 2009 interview, the then-industry rookie had some nice words for West. Speaking specifically about the 41-year-old’s 808’s and Heartbreak album, the Toronto rapper described ‘Ye as "the most influential person” who was important to young emcees in the game.

"Before I ever got the chance to meet him, Kanye West shaped a lot of what I do, as far as music goes," Drake said. He knows how to utilize great sounds and great music. So before I met him, I had the utmost respect for Kanye West. I'd even go as far as to say he's the most influential person as far as a musician that I'd ever had in my life."

Their Collaborations On Wax 

The pair has been making music together for nearly 10 years, with some standout tracks including “Forever,” the remix to “All Of The Lights,” and “Pop Style.” On their 2017 song “Glow” off of Drake’s playlist More Life, both rappers discuss their growing, limitless success. West was rumored to initially appear on Drizzy’s smash-hit “Nice For What.” He reportedly had a verse on the critically-acclaimed track until the beef between Drake and his G.O.O.D. Music cohort Pusha T became lethal.

The Joint Mixtape That Never Happened

Drake and Kanye are no strangers when it comes to making joint albums with other artists. Drake worked with Future on the platinum-selling album What A Time To Be Alive, while Kanye released Watch The Throne with JAY-Z to critical acclaim. However, it has been hinted for the longest time that the two were working on a full-length album of their own.

Kanye confirmed the plan to release an album with Drake to Vogue in 2016, shortly after hinting at a joint project during OVO Fest. The Take Care rapper co-signed the announcement, saying "What my brother was asking before was, are you ready if we make an album?"

Drake Writing For Kanye’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’

Drake wrote a song for Kanye’s 2016 effort, The Life of Pablo. The Canadian hip-hop star helped pen the Isaac Hayes and Nelly-sampled “30 Hours.” Drizzy was also reportedly on the original, unreleased version of Pablo’s “Wolves,” which featured Icelandic artist Bjork (the album version features Vic Mensa and Sia).

The Duo Become Friendly, Competitive Neighbors

By the time of their initial meeting in 2009, Kanye already clocked in nearly a decade of music industry knowledge, and Drake was making the transition from teen TV star to full-time rapper. But who would have thought the duo would have eventually become actual neighbors?

Drake eventually moved to Calabasas, Calif.- a neighborhood in Los Angeles many celebrities call home- around the same time West began publicly dating his now-wife, Kim Kardashian. In the 2016 bop “Summer Sixteen,” Drizzy jokes, “Now I got a house in LA, now I got a bigger pool than Ye / And look man, Ye’s pool is nice, mine's just bigger's what I’m saying.”

 

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There goes the neighborhood

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Kanye Supports OVO Fest

Drake created a hip-hop festival called OVO Fest in 2010. Not only does it feature notable acts in urban music, but it also gave a platform to upcoming artists from Canada who might not have gotten a platform back home. Kanye West was one of the first supports of the music event, performing at three of the festivals.

He also admitted that Drake inspired him and JAY-Z to record Watch The Throne during 2013’s OVO Fest, stating, "Me and Hov would've never made Watch the Throne if this ni**a wasn't putting pressure on us like that, so I just wanna pay my respects.”

Kanye Apologizes To Drake Over G.O.O.D. Music Album Rollouts

Earlier this fall, Kanye West apologized to Drake in a series of tweets for planning the rollout of albums by artists under his G.O.O.D music roster around the proposed release of Scorpion.

In one of the tweets, Kanye wrote “Let me start by apologizing for stepping on your release date in the first place. We were building a bond and working on music together including squashing the issues with Cudi at our office.” In another tweet, ‘Ye revealed that he never listened to the diss tracks between him and Pusha, and didn’t have conversations regarding Drake’s child with him.

Let me start by apologizing for stepping on your release date in the first place … We were building a bond and working on music together including squashing the issues with Cudi at our office.

— ye (@kanyewest) September 5, 2018

They Shared Laughs Over Meek Mill Memes

Drake and Meek Mill were in an infamous feud back in 2015. After performing his diss track aimed at Meek- "Back to Back”- at the 2015 OVO Fest, Drizzy, Kanye, and Will Smith enjoyed a laugh over the countless memes mocking the Philly MC.

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Debate Us: The 30 Best Albums Of 2018

What a year 2018 has been for music lovers.

Listeners enjoyed a buffet of diverse melodies, savoring in the choice of curating the tunes they craved as opposed to consuming more than they can digest. Rumored albums from veterans like Lil Wayne's Tha Carter V and The Carters' first joint project battled its way to the top of our personal charts alongside music's innovators like Noname, The Internet, Buddy, and Janelle Monae.

Within that aforementioned list of artists, a new generation of lyricists and vocalists found their footing with fans and critics alike. The rising crop of talent released projects that should motivate each of them to carve out space for forthcoming awards. While we took into account the albums released from Dec. 1, 2017 to Nov. 20, 2018, that moved us emotionally, we also checked off a list of requirements like replay value, overall production, critical reception, and cultural impact.

Here are the 30 albums (in alphabetical order, not ranked), that instilled pride in our culture, made us take a look within, and encouraged us to appreciate music all over again.

READ MORE: 25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018

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18 Best Latinx Albums Of 2018

A number of artists from the scope of latinidad contributed to making 2018 another rich year in music. If hip-hop is the world's most consumed genre, latin pop, reggaeton, latin trap, flamenco and more of the subgenres of Latinx music rested in between.

This includes J Balvin being one of the most streamed artists on Spotify, Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy scoring stellar Grammy nominations, the rising appeal of Harlem rapper Melii, the return of Wisin Y Yandel and Bad Bunny sprinkling the gift that is Latin trap on your getting ready playlists.

But there were also artists who took big risks like Kali Uchis' coy yet forward voice in R&B, Jessie Reyez's dynamic voice and collaborations with the likes of Eminem and many more.

Check out our favorite albums from the best and brightest Latinx artists of the year below.

READ MORE: 25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018

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