Chance The Rapper came out of nowhere to take over 2013, and it seems as though his SAVEMONEY counterpart, Vic Mensa is next in line. With a strong showing on his INNANETAPE project, Vic has shown his versatility, which has been recognized by the likes of old-heads like J. Cole and Wale, and new-school experimentalists like Danny Brown, who asked Mensa to open for them on their respective tours.
Lil Durk has always been one of the most consistent members of the Chicago drill scene, but was overshadowed by Chief Keef's monstrous hype. With Keef now operating in weirder and more low-key territory, Durk has risen as the city's current flagbearer of street rap.
His single "Dis Ain't What You Want," which arrived as a stronger and more paranoid update of his already terrific "L's Anthem," captured a lot of attention, and his full length, Signed To The Streets delivered on the promise of the track. Durk proved he could handle an entire project solo, and refined his triumphant yet world-weary croon.
On top of his deal with Def Jam, Durk crewed up with French Montana's Coke Boys. He even tried to release a new mixtape in the first week of the new year, but was stopped by his label-- which means his debut album can't be too far away.
YG's smash single "My Nigga" has pretty much guaranteed him priority from Def Jam for his 2014 debut album My Krazy Life, and with DJ Mustard on the boards for the majority of the project, it's hard to imagine we won't be seeing a hell of a lot more of the Bompton rapper in the coming year.
On the strength of his most recent mixtape, Just Re'd Up 2, it seems like it's a formula that can't possibly fail.
Sage The Gemini and Iamsu! have had very different career arcs. Iamsu! has gained a steady following through a consistent flow of solid releases, while his HBK Gang comrade, Sage saw success almost overnight through "Gas Pedal"'s strange success on Vine.
Regardless of how they got to this point, the West Coast rappers are now on a similar playing field. Both releasing their debut albums in 2014, and apparently guesting on one another's projects several times. Overall, things are looking great for HBK.
Kevin Gates often gets compared to Drake and Future, mainly because we wears his emotions on his sleeve, and has a tendency to get gurgly with the autotune. Unlike Drizzy, who relies on 40s production to convey the melancholy in his lyrics, otherwise remaining poised and stoic in his delivery, Gates pours his heart into each word. Like Future, his voice may be his defining feature, but where the Atlanta crooner relies solely on melodies and punchy delivery, Gates has some honest-to-god bars.
With two solid tapes in 2013 (seriously, which one was better?), anticipation for Gates' proper debut is steadily growing. Still no news on when we'll get that, but we can be sure there will be new music from the Baton Rouge rapper soon enough, possibly even a joint tape with Starlito-- a very exciting prospect.
With an extremely memorable guest spot on Earl Sweatshirt's "Hive" (arguably showing up OF's resident wordsmith himself), Vince Staples turned a lot of heads last year. While the rapper was initially lumped in with the collective's particular brand of horrorcore (his introduction to most was on Earl's "epaR"), but where OF often pair their violent storytelling with absurdity, Staples has a decidedly colder, more menacing way with words.
Vince released a fairly low-key but solid project produced entirely by Mac Miller under his Larry Fisherman pseudonym, which showcased his skills well. With a Def Jam deal under his belt, Vince will likely be the first member of his Cutthroat Boyz crew to break, Aston Matthews and Joey Fatts deserve mention as well.
Young Thug gradually gained hype over the course of 2013, both off the strength of his maniacally brilliant 1017 Thug, and his affiliation with Gucci Mane's 1017 Brick Squad collective. However, things really took off with the release of his one-off singles, "Stoner" and "Danny Glover," which were respectively greeted with a Wale remix and a Draketurn up video.
Thugger's ability to switch between double-time falsetto squeals, belted stutter-flows, and sweet melodies in the span of about 20 seconds make him one of the most unique up-and-comers in the game right now (and has earned him the approval of another helium-voiced rapper). The success of Thug's singles have proven that he's not too weird for the club, which means the rapper has just about everything going for him at this point in the year.
Rockie and Casey share an ear for forward-thinking production, and a new-generation mindset, which is why they worked so well together on last year's cleverly titled Fresh Veggies mixtape. Both of the rappers bring a youthful glee to their craft, and are consistently perfecting their sounds with each subsequent release.
Rockie has a deal with MMG, while Casey is still taking the independent route (though he's got a mangement deal with Roc Nation), so there's (hopefully) no reason why we shouldn't see full length albums from them this year.
Tinashe definitely has a considerable push behind her, and the rollout for her next project is just beginning. The singer is clearly being marketed alongside the increasingly trendy alt-R&B wave, which seems like it's giving classic R&B a run for its money in terms of prominence.
Rather than the more focused producer team-ups we've seen from the likes of Solange and Jhene Aiko, Tinashe will be enlisting a who's who of blog-ready beatmakers, including Travi$ Scott, DJ Mustard, Ryan Hemsworth, and Boi-1da. Her ear for new sounds, and well-honed vocal skills put her at the top of the R&B rookie pile this 2014.
Making their name back in 2009 with "Teach Me How To Jerk," Audio Push truly proved their versatility last year, releasing the very cohesive (and very underrated) mixtape, Come As You Are. Alligning with Hit-Boy's HS87 imprint, the duo proved their technical ability over a variety of West Coast production, as well as some of Hit-Boy's own hard-hitting futurism.
2014 will likely see another release from the group, and this time, the hype will hopefully match the high quality of the music.
Rome Fortune teamed up with some of Atlanta's most talented producer's for last year's Beautiful Pimp, curating a selection of the most ambient and experimental beats we've heard from the likes of Childish Major, DunDeal, C4, and DJ Spin, including some collaborative work between the producer's (something ATL is becoming known for). The result was a moody and atmospheric trip, lead by Rome's charismatic presence, that played like the comedown from a Zone 6 trap tape.
Beautiful Pimp II is due out this month, and Rome is scrapping the sound he created on the first installment altogether, opting for live instrumentation, and pulling from influences like Andre 3000's The Love Below, for something he's described as "a genre of its own".
G Herbo & Lil Bibby
G Herbo (formerly Lil Herb) and Lil Bibby are heroes in their hometown of Chicago, and the rest of the world is starting to catch on. Word is Bibby already has already incited a label bidding war in his name, and Herbo can't be far behind.
Once known primarily as a duo, the two young rappers appear to be making waves on their own, and with a Drake co-sign they've certainly got a lot of eyes on them going into 2014.
While neither Isaiah nor SZA have a full length release under their belt, the taste and power of the team behind them is evidence enough that there is something special about the two performers, not to mention the material they have released has been nothing less than stellar.
Rashad and SZA both possess the talent to earn them a place in the public eye, and with TDE ready to rush the music industry with 6 full length projects, there's a high probability 2014 will be a big year for the each of them.
A selection of some of the artists you may want to keep an eye on in 2014.
2014 will likely be no different, but we've organized a few artists who could very well have big breaks this year. Some are more visible than others, but all of them have the potential to make a splash in the rap game.
It should be noted that none of those included in our Breakthrough Artists of 2013 were considered for this list. You can only break once, after all.