Hip-hop has evolved, and its future stars aren’t exactly who you might suspect. Our list of up-and-comers include an NYU graduate, innovators and a guy who speaks three languages! They’re not all eggheads, but they all are planning on taking this year by storm—and with a good backbeat to boot.
The 19-year-old—whose real name is Casey Jones—has taken matters into his own hands. He’s released five independent label mixtapes, and that was enough to catch the attention of hip-hop enthusiasts and critics. He hails from Los Angeles and was one of the founding members of Odd Future, the hip-hop collective featuring breakouts Frank Ocean and Tyler, The Creator.
If you’re a sitcom fan, you’ve probably watched NBC’s Community and noticed “the funny Black guy,” Donald Glover, who is as talented spitting a hot 16 as he is doing stand-up. Further proof of his sense of humor: His hip-hop moniker is Childish Gambino, which came from the online Wu-Tang Clan name generator. Glover has a degree from NYU, performed at the Bonnaroo Music Festival and is in the studio working on his next album.
The 31-year-old Detroiter has quite a tale to tell, so it makes perfect sense that he’s putting a beat behind it. Born Daniel Sewell, he’s an ex-drug dealer who likes skinny jeans and pink clothes; the latter two, he believes, have prevented him from signing some record deals. He released the critically acclaimed XXX almost a year ago and has had a successful live tour. This could be the year commercial success comes a-calling.
Any time comparisons are made to a young Nas, one is in good company. Joey (born Jo-Vaughn Scott) hails from Brooklyn and has been writing poetry since he was in sixth grade. Poetry ultimately evolved into hip-hop, and now he’s winning fans on YouTube—nearing 1 million hits for one track alone—and landing on "best-of-dotcom" hip-hop lists.
The Bronx-bred rapper has an incredible story. His real name is Karim Kharbouch, he’s of Moroccan descent and speaks French and Arabic. He made a name for himself on the underground scene and, after being in a bidding war, finally signed with Diddy’s Bad Boy Records. His debut album, Excuse
My French, hits stores this month.
At age 26, Brian Todd Collins is hardly a kid, but considering how some of the hottest acts in hip-hop didn't find commercial success until their 30s, the nickname fits. In the summer of 2012, he released a digital album, Up & Away, a Top 5 hip-hop album. Not bad for a guy not even on a major label.
If you had Daniel Swain's skills, you might toss an exclamation point after your name, too. The former Savannah College of Art & Design student's self-released And I Love H.E.R. was named one 2008's 50 best albums. Danny! recently appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, where he performed with The Roots. His current album is Payback.
Born Donald Pullen, this Midwesterner is seduced by the sounds of alternative rock music. He’s signed to Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group, and the 21-year-old Chicago homeboy is making waves without a studio album. His music has been heard in the CW’s Nikita series, and he was featured on Good Charlotte’s project The Madden Brothers: Before The Fame.