Are we copying the XXL Freshman Class list? Somewhat, but I can’t think of a major hip hop publication that doesn’t put out a list of “who’s next” in their minds. We put our own spin on it, and instead of choosing only the next “mainstream” rappers to blow, we chose guys from every lane in hip hop.
This list is compiled with artists that we think are the future of hip hop, or at least are making damn good music and should shortly be gaining serious traction. We feel that every artist on this list has a sky-high ceiling. There will be some familiar names, and there will be some faces you’ve never seen before. We tried to keep the names relatively smaller, so artists like Mozzy, PnB Rock, Tee Grizzley, Playboi Carti, and 6lack who have been generating a huge buzz but aren’t quite yet truly “mainstream” will not make our list. We also attempted to avoid any bias, so any artists that we have had extensive contact were not put on the list. It was important for us to pull from a variety of places and sub-genres within hip hop. We did this to diversify our list and showcase different aspects of the current state of hip hop. We want this list to represent all aspects of modern hip hop. Without further ado, here is the breakdown of Apex Hip Hop’s 10 Up Next in 2017:
Stro is arguably the biggest, most established name on our list. He has been in the game for a few years, and has gotten love from a variety of industry legends. He recently put out an album called Grade A Frequencies, and his progression is evident. The positive growth and evolution of his music is why he lands on our list. This year, he is ready to make the leap from an artist with a solidified fanbase to one who does sold out shows all over the country. His boom-bap, New York sound is unlike anything in hip hop today. This year should see Stro experience exponential growth.
Staff-picked dream collaboration: Joey Bada$$
Camden, New Jersey is known as one of the poorest, roughest cities in America. In this town, Mir Fontane grew up and developed his authentic rap style. He has gotten love from every major media site, and even performed on the Hot 97 Who’s Next concert. His track “Down By The River” is a perfect showcase of his emotional, compelling style. Mir Fontane can rap his ass off, but his songwriting abilities are unlike anything in hip hop today. His skills and XXL Freshman nomination should allow his steady growth to spike up in the rest of 2017.
Staff-picked dream collaboration: Big Sean
Swoosh God quietly put together a SoundCloud portfolio of tracks that could easily be world wide hits if given the exposure. He is only getting started after gaining traction following a collaboration with Famous Dex on the track “Get Out My Face”. The New York native is also affiliated with the A$AP Mob. In particular, Swoosh God has gained the favor of A$AP Bari and could see his rise to fame under the A$AP-backed conglomerate the Vlone Money Team. This young hit maker has some work to do to fine tune his sound but we believe he has the raw talent to be next up.
Staff-picked dream collaboration: A$AP Rocky
Touring with 21 Savage, Young M.A, and Tee Grizzley is no easy task, but neither is holding your own on a track featuring Juicy J. Young Nudy is an accomplished and upcoming emcee who boasts a cosign from 21 Savage. He has plenty of raps over beats from rising producer Pierre Bourne as well as bars over a Metro Boomin beat. His recent Slimeball 2 mixtape earned him love from major hip hop publications, which is only helping him prove he isn’t messing around. His gangster-rap style makes him the perfect successor to his friend 21 Savage’s throne. If Young Nudy can continue to perfect his sound he could be the next up from his crew.
Staff-picked dream collaboration: Tee Grizzley
DMV rapper Jay IDK has garnered comparisons to big names like Kendrick Lamar, but for good reason. Jay IDK is a rapper’s rapper, and he might be one of the biggest names on our list. His hard hitting bars are gritty and filled with punchlines. Any beat he hops on is sure to be filled with a booming bass, but this doesn’t compromise the lyricism in his songs. He is currently on tour with Isaiah Rashad, where he is surely accumulating new fans to ready himself for a huge rest of 2017.
Staff-picked dream collaboration: Schoolboy Q
The Bay Area holds a legendary place in hip hop culture. This region has always been home to unique artists that receive love from die hard fans all over the West Coast until their popularity can no longer be contained. Larry June is a San Francisco artist ready to break through the Bay Area ceiling. We project Larry June as a next up artist because he represents the unique Bay Area sound in an era of hip hop focused on the younger, newer artists. He has the lyrical talent and appealing flow to connect to a much larger fan base in the upcoming year.
Staff-picked dream collaboration: Mozzy
Rexx Life Raj
The former Boise State football player moved back to the Bay Area after college, and it seems like that move has paid off. Rexx Life Raj has developed a unique, mesmerizing sound that combines elements of R&B with his soulful rap style. He is one of the best songwriters on this list, and is doing everything right to make him the next big act from the Bay Area. He is well respected in one of the biggest music communities in the country and has songs with big name artists like Russ, Iamsu!, Mozzy, and Felly. After the release of his Father Figure album, he even got praise from Pharrell. Rexx Life Raj‘s stock and fanbase should only rise as he goes on tour with P-Lo and continues to release music.
Staff-picked dream collaboration: Drake
IshDARR‘s versatility is unlike anyone else’s on this list. When he dropped “Too Bad” he got put on many hip hop heads’ radars. After that, his project Broken Hearts & Bankrolls caused him to gain serious national attention. The Milwaukee product’s rapping abilities are unparalleled, and his consistency is only helping his growth. He is single handedly putting on a city with many unknown, budding artists. If he can continue to be consistent his career should see a spike in growth in 2017.
Staff-picked dream collaboration: Kendrick Lamar
Evander Griiim first hopped on our radars with his single “Right Now” which has remixes featuring Rich The Kid and Gucci Mane. Since then he has been doing everything right, and he just made an appearance on the new Lil Yachty album. Evander Griiim‘s upbeat style and sound make him the perfect fit for mainstream hip hop. His career should be on its way to a period of exponential growth as he continues to make hits and form connections with industry leaders. The El Paso native could shortly rise to the ranks of his A-list peers.
Staff-picked dream collaboration: Migos
He calls himself the beach boy, and he is definitely on a wave. Yung Pinch‘s music can’t quite be called rap, but that’s because he doesn’t limit himself. His catchy flows and unique vocals create a sonic experience unlike anything in the industry today. He is currently on tour with 24hrs and Blackbear, and his fanbase should only get bigger with each day. He has the potential to make radio hits, and is one song away from the Billboard Hot 100. Yung Pinch is up next because his ceiling is higher than most artists out now.
Staff-picked dream collaboration: Kehlani
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