It's the dawn of a new year, which for those of us who love music means a whole new year of live shows and another Coachella. Speaking a bit more specifically, it means another period of buzz surrounding possible Coachella lineups, rumors, definite answers, and photoshopped posters. This list is none of those — we know, you're probably about to exit since we have yet to mention Daft Punk or something — but it is a wishlist of sorts regarding hip-hop artists that need to be showcased on the level of Coachella. We have a full year of new, (hopefully) exciting sounds ahead of us, and hip-hop as a whole is in better health than it has been in years. It's 2013 now, and it's time to match the recorded strength of modern hip-hop and the quality of live hip-hop.
This up-and-coming psych-rap duo from NYC only has a handful of recorded tracks and played performances to their name, but they're already one of the most exciting newer hip-hop acts to watch. Together as The Underachievers, Issa Dash and AK mash and meld esoterically based lyricism with production that sounds like it was meant for a time and place years ahead of our current state of being. This is indeed some trippy shit, but not the type of trip that seems to involve Juicy J, lots of good quality ecstasy, and college girls who love Adderall and anything that has something to do with withdrawal. This is the opposite.
On paper, each song reads like something meant for decoding, as if its original form was hip-hop hieroglyphics translated through hallucinogenics. This is futuristic hip-hop music for a new age, with "wisdom from the light like Socrates," a swollen pineal gland, and a third eye with perfect vision, regardless of all the weed smoke clouding it.
Chicago is in pretty dire straights right now as far as the state of survival there goes, but in a twisted way that caustic environment has managed to produce a few notable and relevant rappers. There's artists like Chief Keef who may be able to produce a few unbelievably catchy hits but may very well lack the ability to stay and strive, and others such as Lil Durk and King L who can probably stick around long enough to form a respectable discography. Regardless of who they are, all of them are trying to aim for stardom and bloated bank accounts, but it's the charismatic King L we'd like to see take the stage.
King L can play the role of the ruthless, masked-up shooter on one record and then transition to more light-hearted band-popping and partying on the next. His mixtapes are structured like carefully-compiled albums, and he has strong crossover appeal, with songs like "Val Venis" appropriate for venues and festival grounds of any stature or state. He can actually rap well enough to stand under the the hot light of critical inspection as well. On his recent Juicy J and Pusha T assisted song "My Hoes They Do Drugs," he actually manages to stand toe-to-toe with the two veteran rappers. Even with the gloomy opiate swamp he has as a beat, his verse still sets the standard for what rappers should speak about when they're trying to make good songs about nights spent partying until critical mass is hit.
Rick Ross cohort and Maybach Music's lyrical/physical enforcer Gunplay seems to be slightly on the wrong side of insanity. At the moment, he's facing a slew of intense legal problems, is fully enveloped in all the Illuminati conspiracy theories you can Google, and he received his first bit of "viral" fame with a video of him snorting coke in Colombia. So yeah, there's definitely something there to fill up some therapy time.
But, he's one of the most talented rappers on the market. Each verse he produces, whether it be somber and existential such as his work on "Bible On The Dash" and "Cartoons & Cereal" or rash and ignorant like his outbursts on MMG posse cut "Finals" or "M1," is well-constructed, all-around great rap. In spite of his unpolished outside demeanor and attitude, he still appears to understand the importance of everything from cadence to the structure of his rhymes. When one thinks of Rick Ross and the bombastic, indulgent aesthetic that comes with Ross and the Maybach Music mantle, you may not think of any sort of progression in hip-hop, but Gunplay is definitely one of the key players out there building on the style and form passed down by lines of legends before him.
As beloved as the motor city's favorite eccentric Danny Brown has been, and as much praise has been thrown upon his half-haired head, he still has yet to secure a set at Coachella. It's unfortunate, and we feel as though it's something that the promoters might have dropped the ball with. XXX and The Hybrid are arguably some of the very best albums of their respective years, and Danny Brown has an uncanny ability to basically downplay and render irrelevant many of the rappers he jumps on a track with. And, as far as lyrically-heavy rappers go, he's one of the best live performers of his league. Maybe the promoters can't bring in Kathy Griffin and an oversized candy bowl full of drugs, as we're sure that's what the majority of his backstage demands must be. Regardless, whatever length they would have to go through to get Danny Brown situated on a Coachella stage would most likely be more than worth it.
1. Freddie Gibbs
Since gangsta rap torchbearer Freddie Gibbs originally graced the cover of LA Weekly a few years back, he has consistently been on a short list of the very best rappers in the game. In all honesty, not once has he stumbled or faltered when it comes to his musical output. Label or no label, cosigned or not, he has always been one of the most consistent, hardest working dudes in the business.
Everything he does, from his own mixtapes to his countless collaborations with others, is the same brand of immaculately weaved, relentless lyrical battery. No matter who it is, put them on a track with Freddie Gibbs, and they will be bettered, equaled, or outright embarrassed. You know how often we have skipped through others' verses on songs just to rinse Gibbs' turn over and over? We couldn't even begin to tally up the times. We can't even bother to trudge on through a minute of 2 Chainz' "I'm Different" after hearing Freddie Gibbs' take on that production.
Yet, he has yet to grace the Coachella stage, and if this goes on for much longer it will be heresy towards hip-hop. At the very least, Goldenvoice owes him an incredible album release show when his first full "proper" album comes out.