This year marks the 50th anniversary of Hip hop. The genre has grown and changed producing revolutionary artists of each era. To honor these artists, we asked a few members here at RadioUTD to tell us about their favorite hip hop artists and what they mean to them.
Malu Yitages – Editor
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is an all-time favorite of mine. It’s rare for me to find a no-skip album and Hill’s debut is definitely one of them. I find women in hip hop to be so inspiring and as they have continued to set the bar higher and higher, we have to pay respect to one of the OGs. Hill’s time with Fugees set her up perfectly for her first solo project. Hill taught me to look within when I need guidance and to trust in others to build deep, long-lasting relationships. Hill is one of the most genuine artists out there and hip hop would be totally different without her.
Angel Ponce – Writer
Little me couldn’t tell what shape “In da Club” took within the cultural space, little me just listened because there wasn’t anything better. This appreciation for fitty stems from the nostalgia that he frontiered, and what his sounds and prose did for the culture. Obviously, Curtis is more than nostalgia, so I’m hesitant to dive into his history like I was there; but a part of me is so attached to Get Rich or Die Tryin’ that I’d be reluctant to defend its iconography. What 50 Cent did to my generation is introduce a new shade of communication— When “Just a Lil Bit” was played in the school bus, it was all hands in the air. “Candy Shop”, while a seductively dark contrast to my earlier impressions of fitty, showed me how nuanced Jackson is. His dance-floor hip-hop was edgy, it was groovy, it controlled your bones and you couldn’t help it. But don’t get it twisted, 50 Cent didn’t create melodies to be played in a baby shower. He refined the dawg behind gangster rap and put the genre on his back.
Matthew Rain – Writer
The 2010s saw the outcropping of some of hip hop’s most iconic albums and artists – songs that defined summers and rappers that created trends – amidst a worldwide shift towards social media interconnection, which permanently changed the way the music industry functioned. At the center of this shift was Brockhampton, a self-proclaimed hip hop boyband that formed over a Kanye West forum and blew up almost overnight in 2017 with the release of their debut album, ‘SATURATION.’ Based in San Marcos, TX, the group of young adult rappers and singers took their newfound fame by the reins and rode it through the rest of the year; completing a trilogy of albums and tours for a rapidly growing fanbase and signing to RCA Records the following March for $15,000,000. However, the group’s trajectory was permanently altered when core member Ameer Vann was accused of and subsequently kicked out for sexual misconduct. The remaining members tried to stay the course, releasing their beautifully painful RCA debut ‘Iridescence’ later that year, but it was for naught; Brockhampton would dejectedly dissolve a few years later, forever a testament to how quickly the new era of social media can both make and break artists.
Abhik Kumar – Writer
Hailing from Croydon, a burrow in the southside of London, Stormzy first started his career by releasing freestyles on YouTube. A series of freestyles called WickedSkengman garnered millions of views and solidified his status as an upcoming artist. One particular single, “Shut Up” went viral in 2015 was a pivotal moment in his career, becoming a staple UK grime anthem and solidifying his place in the scene. Stormzy eventually followed up with his 2017 debut studio album, Gang Signs & Prayer. It was a commercial success, becoming the first grime album to debut atop the UK Albums Chart. Gang Signs & Prayer was succeeded by Heavy is the Head and This Is What I Mean, both commercially successful albums that blended lots of other genres, such as soul, reggae and gospel with grime.
Stormzy’s unique take on modern grime, a subgenre of hip-hop that originates from the UK, has helped the genre garner mainstream success across the UK and the world. Stormzy shines alone, tasked by predecessors to bring grime to the world stage. Grime originated in the early 2000s in east London by artists who wanted their unique form of British rap, evolving from the UK garage scene. With flows too fast to be on radio, irregular beats too hard to dance to, and lyrics too hard to build choruses around, it stayed mostly underground until 2017. Gang Signs & Prayer illuminated the genre to the masses, but also added elements of R&B and gospel that helped keep the genre accessible to a wider audience. With a diverse set of collaborators across albums, such as H.E.R., Ed Sheeran and Burna Boy, Stormzy is pushing the genre to new levels of mainstream success.