One of the great joys of being a hip-hop fan in 2017 was not only enjoying some strong studio outings from proven veteran talents, but also to witness the rise of the next generation of rap superstars, seemingly all at once. From Soundcloud rappers to emcees who have toiled for several years that are just now getting that big break, success came in all kinds of different forms in the world of hip-hop this year, and dazzled many with potential that is still clearly untapped.

What’s astonishing is the young age at which these emcees and/or singers are breaking through the online music clutter and the “every man/women for themselves” mentality of being an independent artist in today's digital age. Where a rapper may have had to pay their dues 20, even 10 years ago, scaling those ivory towers has proven to be a non-existent issue for today’s crop of budding stars. In fact, it often plays out in reverse order now: record labels will look to pounce on someone once they’ve obtained a minimum level of viral appeal online, instead of emcees trying to use those institutions to help bolster their career beginnings.

In 2017, we had no shortage of “overnight” success stories, many of them reaching pinnacles that few would have thought possible a year ago. NAV, the Toronto native who only started taking his music career seriously a short time ago, is already linked up with some of the biggest names in the business and enlisted some eye-catching features on several of his singles. A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie signaled his presence as one of the next ones to watch from the East Coast, while the guys in Brockhampton have done the same for the West Coast. Even someone like Cardi B, whose signature song was inescapable for most of this year, has figuratively gone from rags to riches and ascended into the rarefied air of hip-hop’s A-list crowd. Finally, let’s not forget XXXTentacion, rap’s problem child who, for better or for worse, drove much of the conversation surrounding the next generation of rappers.

Who was 2017’s biggest breakout star? Read on to see the entire list.