Being a Chicago native and one of the founding members of SAVEMONEY, Joey Purp first got my attention through his collaborations with Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa. I always liked his verses, but I never really checked out his solo material. It wasn’t until last year when he released his iiiDrops mixtape that I really sat down with his work, and boy, am I glad I did.
iiiDrops was my favorite mixtape of 2016 by a landslide. Joey’s telling lyrics and incredible ear for production drew me in the second the intro kicked off. This tape showed me that Joey Purp is an exceptional wordsmith, and is currently one of the most refreshing voices coming out of Chicago. If you haven’t yet, check out iiiDrops immediately, (I’ll link it here), and any other loose tracks you can find on Soundcloud. I promise you won’t regret it.
Also reigning from Chicago, Lucki, (formerly known as Lucki Eck$), has been on my radar for about two years now. I first heard of this guy from his Body High mixtape, and instantly fell in love with his sound. It didn’t take long for me to listen to every song he had ever released multiple times through. Lucki encapsulates a vibe more than almost any other rapper I’ve ever come across. If I throw on one Lucki song, which I do quite often, I’m about to listen to the entire project front to back. His unconcerned vocals and nonchalant delivery thrusts you into a “whatever” mood that overthrows your current state of mind and takes full control. It’s something about the way this guy raps that makes you feel completely inebriated, and that’s fitting given his lyrical content. You can’t go wrong with any of his projects, but for first-time listeners, I highly recommend starting with Body High, seeing as it is still my favorite release to date.
Coming out of Houston, Texas, Maxo Kream is one of the hardest rappers in the game right now, point blank. The first time I heard this guy, I checked out his Maxo187 tape when it dropped in 2015. The second I heard him get on the mic, I knew I was in for a treat. That trademark Houston sound is on full display, and it’s rare to hear a voice as aggressive and demanding as Maxo’s. His music is not for the faint of heart, as it puts you in a state of mind where risky behavior seems fun and you have the invincibility cheat code entered. His most recent release, The Persona Tape, was another one of my favorite projects from last year. If you’re looking for somebody to invoke your inner dark side, look no further.
I’ve been a fan of this Florida-based rapper for quite some time now. I first stumbled across Pouya with his “Get Buck” video that found its way onto my Twitter timeline way back in 2013. As soon as he started to rap, I knew he was right up my alley. As a huge fan of the rapid fire flows from artists such as Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, there are few people currently rapping that can flow like Pouya. The way he effortlessly glides over hard hitting trap beats will leave you astonished. He never misses a syllable and manages to find pockets I didn’t even know existed. He’s released numerous projects, with some of his most notable work being his South Side Slugs mixtape, and Underground Underdog album. He also recently released a collaborative album with longtime friend Fat Nick titled Drop Out of School, so be sure to check that out as well.
Atlanta rapper J.I.D is poised to have a tremendous year regardless of if he makes the XXL list. Recently signing to J. Cole’s Dreamville Records, and releasing his debut album The Never Story, this Spillage Village emcee is making major moves in 2017. As a huge fan of EARTHGANG, another Atlanta rap group that is also part of Spillage Village, I first heard J.I.D through his collaborations with them. Being from the South, southern rappers always seem to resonate with me the most, and J.I.D is no exception. The Never Story was an exceptional debut album that is sure to put J.I.D on many people’s radars. You know he has to be special if J. Cole signed him. If you’ve never heard his music before, start with his single “Never,” (watch the video here), and be sure to give the full album a listen.
Smino is a St. Louis-based rapper that I became aware of just last year. His blkjuptr EP caught my attention and garnered countless replays ever since its release. There’s something about Smino’s vocal inflection and the way he’s able to spastically flow over a beat while still remaining melodic that is quite unique. Coming fresh off of his EP last year, he recently released his debut album blkswn, which blew me away. This album is currently sitting in my top three releases so far this year, that’s how good it is. I cannot begin to recommend this guy enough. If you haven’t listened to him yet, check out both the projects I mentioned above and see why I’m hyping this guy up so much.
Last but definitely not least, we have yet another Chicago native. This time, it’s the one and only Noname, (formerly known as Noname Gypsy). The first time I heard Noname, she dazzled me with a beautiful performance on Chance The Rapper‘s “Lost,” which appeared on his Acid Rap mixtape. The second I heard her voice, I fell in love. Anytime I saw her on a track, I perked up. It wasn’t until her own debut release, Telefone, that I fully understood how special she truly is. It’s genuinely amazing how positively heartwarming this project is. Anytime I throw this record on, it’s as if the sun shines brighter and the music embraces me in a warm hug. Not to mention she can rap, extremely well. If you haven’t yet, please go listen to Telefone. Your life will be better because of it.
Below is a playlist consisting of songs from each artist I picked. I’ve kept them in order, so you can follow along as you listen to each person. Enjoy, and please go support each of these amazing artists.