Sunday, 1 January 2012

The Urbanite End of Year Awards (The Countdown) - New Hip Hop Artist of the Year

The other week, we gave you The Urbanite's definitive list of the best music and artists of 2011.  With only days away until the end of the year, and after much deliberation and last minute changes, the list has finally been made.  We'll be revealing the winners in the new year, but here is a look at the best new rap artists that just missed the cut and why in the New Hip Hop Artist of the Year award.

5. Kreayshawn

You either love or you hate Kreayshawn, the 21 year old white female rapper from California.  Her image is bratty, her voice annoying and her lyrics repetitive and simple.  But there is something about the rapper that is so catchy and attractive.

But who really is Kreayshawn?  On her blog, she describes herself as a 'cinematographer, editor, rap beast, screw head, pot smoker, oakland representer, pixel fantasy, bitch snatcher, young rill'.  Her songs include titles such as Hoes on My Dick and she has already had beef with rap stars like Rick Ross.  If there is one thing you can say about the girl, it is that she does not lack self-confidence.

In reality the former hip hop video director is a cross between Eminem and Lady Gaga - her songs inspirational and offensive in equal measures.  She may not have the flow of Nicki Minaj, but she has just about enough swag to hold her own in the hip hop world.  Her songs and lyrics are also genuinely funny and genius in their simplicity.

Take Rich Whore for example, where she asks us to "hear it for my the second hand clothes, they use that dollar bill to put the powder in they nose".  Or the catchiest chorus of the year, on Gucci Gucci, where she manages to drop the names of several designer labels into a song whilst maintaining her fashion independence - "gucci, gucci, louis, louis, fendi, fendi, prada, basic bitches wear that shit so I don't even bother".

It's so basic, it's not even clever.  But try listening to her songs without singing along and bopping your head instantly.  It's hard not to.  And for that reason Kreayshawn is going to be a major artist next year.  Or she'll be bagging groceries at her local Walmart.  Either way, the chick has got swag.

4. Wiz Khalifa

If you're friends with someone that prides themselves on knowing all the latest music out there, they'd tell you that Wiz Khalifa is not a 'new' artist.  Some will point you to Kush And Orange Juice, his 2010 mixtape that received critical acclaim with great tracks such as Mezmorized and Petal To The Metal.  For those that are more musically aware, they'd highlight his first hit single, Say Yeah, way back in 2008 from his first studio album, Show And Prove.

Others would say that he is one of the most well-known up and coming artists out there.  He was named The Source's Rookie of the Year in 2010 and featured on the cover of XXL's Top Ten Freshmen, alongside other up and coming stars like J Cole.

But it was only with the release of one of the biggest songs of the year, the super-bowl inspired Black and Yellow, that people really began to take notice of the Pittsburgh rapper.  That a song about your favourite American football team can appeal to so many people, even those that do not even understand the sport (The Urbanite included, though it is exciting to watch), speaks volumes for Wiz's talent in crafting songs.

In a similar mould to his idols, Bone Thugs N Harmony, Wiz has a great ability to calmly spit hazey bars over laid back beats.  Black and Yellow is a perfect example of this, but further evidence can be seen on some of his best material, from his verse on Tinie Tempah's Til I'm Gone to Wake Up and Cameras.

Although Rolling Papers, his 2011 release under Atlantic Records, was a slight disappointment, this should not turn fans away.  Due to release a collaborative album with Snoop Dogg, which seems like a match made in (weed) heaven, one can expect a lot more tunes from Wiz Khalifa next year and some hits to go with that.

3. Tyler The Creator

If this award could go to the crafter of the best chorus this year, then 20year old rapper Tyler the Creator would win hands down for his hook on Radical.  "Kill people, burn shit, fuck school" is not really the type of stuff that you'd like your child to listen to - but in all honesty Tyler is not a rapper that anyone with a sense of political correctness should hear.  He is purposefully offensive (think Slim Shady back in 1998 on ecstasy), sexist and homophobic.  He has talked off stabbing Bruno Mars in the throat, kidnapping Rihanna and stalking women that he is in love with.

Make no mistake, Tyler the Creator is weird, rude and sometimes down right fucked up.  Which makes him even more addictive to listen to .

One would be idiotic to dismiss Tyler as an ignorant fool or a quick fad.  The rapper is an intelligent, creative artist that has seen no boundaries in what he can achieve.  As the leader of the most successful rap group of the year, the brilliantly named Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, Tyler raps on and produces most of the material put out by the collective that spawned the career of Frank Ocean.

Not content with musically carrying the group, Tyler also designs all their artwork and clothing, directs their videos and is basically a one-man spokesperson for the group.  In between doing all this, he also managed to release one of the albums of the year, Goblin, which featured some of the songs of the year in She and Yonkers.

One thing that will continue to give Tyler the attention he needs, and seeks, is the controversy that his lyrics generate.  Gay rights campaigners have criticized him for his constant use of the term 'faggot' in songs and on twitter, whilst women-rights groups have accused him of promoting misogyny and, even worse, rape.

But the more they talk about him, the more popular he will become.  So expect to hear more of Tyler's name next year.

2. Wale

Joining Rick Ross Maybach Music Group may be the smartest decision that Olubowale Victor Akintimehin has ever made in his life.  Better known as Wale, the Washington rapper was constantly seen as 'one for the future' but had failed to achieve a hit record.  Before signing to MMG the rapper had worked extensively with legendary producer and Amy Winehouse mate Mark Ronson, touring with the English producer and featuring on many of his songs.

Our last real memory of him was his verse on Daniel Merriweather's Change, which was fantastic.  But again, the lack of solo material from the rapper was a cause for concern.

When he announced in September, via twitter, that his solo album Ambition was finally complete it seemed like the wait was worth it.  Lotus Flower Bomb, the first single off the album, was brilliant rap/r&b and set the standards for an album that has exceeded many expectations and peaked at number two on the Billboard 200.

His fan-base has also consistently grown over the past year, in part due to a very savvy social media strategy that has clearly paid dividends.  In August he became the first mainstream artist to shut down the file sharing site, Hulkshare, within a minute of posting a link to his latest mixtape.  He has also performed with the rest of the MMG collective and laced some of the best verses on their brilliant mixtape, Self Made Vol. 1.

With the work already beginning on his third album, 2012 will be a big year for Wale as we await the videos/singles from some of the other tracks off Ambition.

See the rest of the nominations here.  Winners will be announced shortly.

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