5 Experimental Hip-Hop Artists Pushing The Boundaries of Music
Hip-hop has come a long way in the past decade. After all, it was 2006 when rap legend Nas officially proclaimed the genre dead. “Could you imagine,” he said in an interview with Westwood, “what 50 Cent could be doing, Nas, Jay, Eminem, if we were the Jimmy Iovines?” It seemed that, no matter your power in the hip-hop world, rappers were still tied down to Iovine, head of Interscope Records, or other labels. It was an era where the drama was manufactured by contracts: Murder Inc vs. Shady Records, Clipse vs. Jive Records, Lupe Fiasco vs. Atlantic. But now, Jimmy Iovine collaborated to create Beats by Dre, Jay-Z’s TIDAL has rocked the year’s biggest exclusives, and hip-hop’s cultural influence surpasses music, bleeding into fashion, Hollywood, and the art world.
All of this is to say that hip-hop is officially lamestream. If you’re in your 20s and you don’t know someone trying to make it as a a rapper, congrats on your hermitude. That said, as the most consumed genre in the world, hip-hop has a lot of room for experimentation. The ever-flowing tide of trends means that there’s always someone trying out a new flavor of sound, bending what it means to be hip-hop. Here are 5 artists that are challenging hip-hop conventions to make something new.
Milo Name Drops Philosophers Over Spacy Beats
Slam poetry has risen alongside hip-hop, originating in the ’80s and growing in theatrics and popularity ever since. Rory Ferreira, a Wisconsinan who performs under the names Milo and Scallops Hotel, is an emcee who draws from spoken word poetry and his studies in Philosophy. His free-form musings are unbound in topic and meter, generally accompanied by producer Kenny Segal’s morphine-drip beats. His plight seems to capture the crisis of the internet generation–lyrics that are referential to the point of insignificance, tackling heady topics like racism and ’80s sci-fi in the same breath. His 2015 album, so the flies don’t come, is a straight shot of existentialist rap. Camus with a mic drop.
Tame Impala Presents Genre-Blenders Koi Child
Without live instrumentation, hip-hop artists are constantly challenged to entertain. Some artists bring hypemen or dancers to add another performative layer to hip-hop shows. But there is a rise in instrumental-based hip-hop, too. Koi Child, an Australian hip-hop group, raps alongside an army of horns and strings, nimbly avoiding the pitfalls of rock-rap like Linkin Park. Koi Child’s impressive roster of musicians most closely resemble the trip-hop bass-heavy leanings of BADBADNOTGOOD, but the Australian outfit differentiates itself through singers, a sunny sound, and tight production from Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker. Cheers.
Get a Peek into theMIND’s Claymation Dreams
THEMpeople, a Chicago-based hip-hop collective, creates music that kind of defies categorization. Take their single, “Mercury Rising.” theMIND’s conversational singing satisfies the hunger left by Frank Ocean’s relative absence, but it’s the production that steals the show. We’re left to gawk as the beat twinkles above like a mobile, with xylophones and trumpets spinning in and out of view. The Claymation animation, too, is unorthodox, adding narrative to theMIND’s limitless ambition. “Whoever said the sky was the limit wasn’t living where I was living.”
Cities Aviv Has Brood Rap on Lock
Drake’s Views presented a tale of two cities. There’s the production and instrumentation, which leads you to grab a partner and embrace on the dancefloor, and the lyrics, where Drake tells you to not trust said partner at Cheesecake Factory, or, in fact, anywhere. Rapper Gavin Mays, aka Cities Aviv, an emcee from Memphis, has created a sound that manages to accommodate both. Mays’ production is as if the chops of Chicago footwork had been slowed to a crawl, like hip-hop embalmed in promethazine until the upbeat becomes downtrodden. Like electronica artist Pictureplane, Cities Aviv makes dance-hop for the melancholic.
Ho99o9 Takes the Horrorcore Genre to the Limit
As any Death Grips fans know, experimental hip-hop can mean an occasional affront to the eardrums. Presenting Ho99o9, the New Jersey-based hip-hop group that turn the “r” into a 6 before turning it into a 9. Horrorcore enjoyed a brief moment in the blood moon in the early nineties, with rappers like “never scared” Bonecrusher and Geto Boys creating disturbing, Halloweeny tunes. But now, as one might expect from a band named after horror and “the number of the beast,” we have a blend of hip-hop and death metal that is truly spooky. Ho99o9’s mix of metal and Satanic imagery is so far removed from popular hip-hop that I’m hesitant to even call it hip-hop. And if that’s not a stamp of approval for genre-pushing, I don’t know what is.
Image via Youtube.
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