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Rappers on the Rise: 3 Artists to Know Next

Today’s post is from Ypulse Research Associate Phil Savarese.

Millennials have been putting their mark on the rap scene, and a slew of young rap artists have shown how this generation is taking their own approach to hip hop. The internet has been a powerful influencer on the current rap scene. In the past, appealing to as many people as possible and adapting to the mainstream style was one of the only ways to accumulate a large audience—which often times meant sacrificing artistry for the radio spins. But those rules have changed, and internet releases and niche communities have allowed young and talented musical artists to find audiences online that allow them to maintain their unique perspectives.

The last several years have seen the rise of 20-something rappers out of Chicago, L.A., and New York that have made waves with their unique approaches. Young rappers like Odd Future, led by Tyler the Creator, Kendrick Lamar, and ASAP Rocky have pushed the boundaries of what rap can be about, and infused their music with Millennial perspective and experience. These rappers don’t just name traditional hip hop as their inspiration, but pull from alternative music, skate culture, and beyond to create a unique perspective on the genre. Sometimes called “Weirdo Rappers” (though that moniker is not embraced by all rappers, and has actually started some conflict within the rap scene) this generation of artists is exploring new territory, shying away from the trends of decades past, which often included rapping about material goods and physical conquests, and including personal, unconventional viewpoints in their lyrics.

In this new music landscape, young rappers are able to test their artistic limits and create styles that are out-of-the-box and authentic to their work. The new hip hop is full of Millennial artists who continue to turn the era of gangster rap on its head by revealing what “life in the streets” is really like for them; artists with a message, or a story to tell. Now even those rappers appealing to the mainstream are able to rethink what rap can be—the rise of Macklemore is just one example of how rappers expressing their real life experiences and views in their work, rather than producing imitation gangster content, can majorly win with Millennials. The new generation of rappers continues to grow and change the landscape, and today we’re profiling three emerging rappers that you should know next:  

Vic Mensa  

Vic Mensa has been one of the most buzzed about rap artists of the past year. The former front man of the group Kids These Days has been hard at work and is prime for a breakout. He’s currently a part of Save Money, a hip-hop collective out of Chicago along with fellow rising star, Chance The Rapper. Hip-Hop collectives and groups are a usual occurrence in rap, from classics like Wu-Tang Clan, and new groups like A$AP Mob, who will be releasing their debut studio album this year. Mensa was recently featured on Asher Roth’s single “Fast Life” off of his new album Retro Hash. With his new song “Down On My Luck,” Mensa is on a new path to success.

Isaiah Rashad

Hailing from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Rashad was a rare addition to the Cali based collective TDE. Rashad takes a real approach to his music, with lyrics pertaining to his own life experiences and thoughts, often delving into the darker side of life. We’ve seen this approach to music work for now mega-star Macklemore, whose history of substance addiction was a driving force and inspiration for his early music. On first listen of Isaiah’s EP Cilvia Demo, it’s easy to glaze over just how deep his tracks can go, but once it clicks, his true talent is clear. Surrounding himself with artists like Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q will undoubtedly propel Rashad’s career further, and put him on the scene.

Lil Bibby

Another talent out of the Chicago area, Lil Bibby is a young man with a story to tell; a story that we’ll all hear in his upcoming EP The Book, which is scheduled to release later this year. Brandon Dickerson (Lil Bibby) began rapping to get himself and his friends out of their violent lives in Chicago. Even now, Dickerson cannot walk around the streets of Chicago without being careful. While his darker past is undoubtedly a source of inspiration for his work, Lil Bibby has a bright future ahead of him. He has already gotten the attention of established artists like Drake and Mac Miller, and the release of his EP this year will mean big things for the young artist with a past.


PHIL SAVARESE, Research Associate

Phil studied at St. John’s University, graduating summa cum laude as a marketing major with a minor in media management and finance. He started at Ypulse as an intern in his junior year and is now working with the team full-time. He enjoys diving deep into trends and statistics that help him better understand his own generation, while learning a bit about himself along the way. He enjoys all sports, but is a die-hard New York Yankee fan at heart. He’s also a proud member of the Knights of Columbus.