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The New Wave is Moving Hip-Hop Forward, Take a Seat

While my Facebook feed over the last year was usually saturated with repetitive memes and ironic fake news articles, hip-hop content would occasionally catch my eye. I’m always interested in seeing how my social media friends react to different styles of rap music.

Up-and-comers like Lil Yachty and Migos are known for their social media prowess; but the wave of hip-hop they’re riding into relevancy on is yet to be taken seriously.

Despite the ramblings of certain hip-hop purists on the so-called death of “real” hip-hop and their immortalization of artists past like Biggie or Tupac, the new school is here.

Every year, new artists and sounds push the boundaries of hip-hop. Experimentation opens the door to progress within the genre. This was evident throughout 2016, as niche artists found mainstream success. Often, the unconventional sounds, flows, vocals, and production of trap rappers has been categorized as “mumble” rap, a term that pigeonholes artists’ into a corner of inferiority just because the vocal delivery tends to takes a more hurried, less decisive approach. It’s a sound and style that is here to stay. Whether or not that style goes appreciated, it will continue to grow – and produce more unconventional artists – throughout 2017.

Through the first month and a half of the new year, the hip-hop community has had quite a bit to discuss.

Shy Glizzy changed his name to Jefe, a move that garnered more attention than his album probably ever will. Philadelphia-based R&B artist PnB Rock released his first studio album, GTTM: Going Thru the Motions, the send us into the new year with an impressive collection of memorable hooks over a safe trap production. Migos dropped the critically-acclaimed Culture, and eagerly-anticipated Gucci Mane projects are in place to highlight the already-known releases for trap in 2017. The year is open for anything.

Expected releases from big names like Schoolboy Q, Drake, and Rick Ross are noteworthy and will no doubt find mainstream success, but they’re already set up to do well. What I’m looking forward to are the artists still creating a name for themselves. In 2016, artists including Lil Yatchy, Lil Uzi Vert, K Camp, Desiigner, Kevin Gates, 21 Savage, Kodak Black, Playboi Carti, and Rich The Kid found varying amounts of success; seeing if these artists will be able to capitalize on their hot starts will be interesting.

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Even more uncertain is the future of the emerging, but still unknown rappers in 2017.

Still far away from gaining the stability of the mainstream, rappers like, Allan Kingdom, Chris Travis, Deniro Farrar, Dice Soho, Trill Sammy, Famous Dex, Ralo, Key!, Duke, YFN Lucci, and Skippa Da Flippa will be fighting for the spotlight in 2017.

While hip-hop is opening new lanes for the eccentric efforts of newcomers in 2017, R&B seems to be marching down the same path. Though slightly less ambitious in experimenting with and accepting new sounds, R&B is on the verge of a renaissance. Doors are opening in the genre to allow unconventional artists to find a spot amongst the usual heavyweights like Usher, Trey Songz, and Chris Brown.

The dark, moody R&B style that The Weeknd seemingly single-handedly brought into the mainstream with hits like “Wicked Games” and “Often,” expanded in 2016 and should continue to grow in 2017. While Bryson Tiller looks to be the next big thing, his 2016 debut album TRAPSOUL elevated him to the front of the pack, there’s still room for other artists to get a slice of the R&B cake.

Artists like the aforementioned PnB Rock, August Alsina, Jacquees, dvsn, Eric Bellinger, Jeremih, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Post Malone, Roy Woods, Tory Lanez, and 6lack all have interesting variations of a common sound and will need to deliver quality in 2017 if they expect to stand out. There’s room for these artists to run with Bryson Tiller and Ty Dolla Sign, so solidifying a sound in 2017 will be crucial for these up-and-comers.

2016 was a progressive year for hip-hop and R&B with no signs of a cool-down in 2017.

While all we can anticipate so far are new releases from already solidified artists like Schoolboy Q, Drake, and Rick Ross, it’s the new artists searching for greatness that will continue to mold these genres throughout 2017 and into the future. Throw in some rumors about a new Kanye album plus the two year anniversary of Kendrick Lamar’s last full album, and music fans have every reason to be excited for what 2017 has to offer.

Noah Simpson wrote this article. He’s a Cal Poly political science sophomore and KCPR DJ, running tracks on KCPR San Luis Obispo 91.3 FM and KCPR.org on Saturdays from noon to 2 p.m. Kelly Chiu is a Cal Poly graphic design senior and KCPR staff member. She created the undeniably cool art for the article (and KCPR’s first use of .gifs as art, which we think has gone quite well).

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