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50 Innovators Shaping Rap’s Next 50 Years

From Ice Spice to Kenny Beats, Druski to DD Osama, these are the rappers, producers, fashion designers, and creators helping point the way to hip-hop’s future

Ice Spice


HIP-HOP WAS BORN IN THE BRONX IN THE summer of 1973. To celebrate the music’s 50th anniversary, Rolling Stone” will be publishing a series of features, historical pieces, op-eds, and lists throughout this year.

In 50 years, hip-hop has transformed, evolved and taken on any number of different shapes and contexts while remaining an undeniably distinct art form. You don’t quite know why something is hip-hop, but it strikes you as immediately as any physical quality. The rap world has invented new forms of expression as its adapted to the internet and other technological changes, all while remaining true to its essence, the indomitable spirit at the heart of this culture. More than just artists, today’s rap world is a constellation of figures all interlinked by the lineage they share with hip-hop’s forebears. Whether they’re rappers, producers, fashion designers, or online creators, hip-hop is as stuffed with talent as ever.

While the genre remakes itself too rapidly to predict far into the future, we decided to highlight 50 figures who are changing the game — and who will help shape rap’s next 50 years. While there are hip-hop movements bubbling up all over the globe, our list centers on figures in the English-speaking world and, to keep things fresh, avoids names who were featured on Rolling Stone’s recent Future 25 list. This unranked survey is focused on the younger generation coming up (as opposed to veteran superstars) and is in no way exhaustive, as the number of people shaping the multifaceted world of hip-hop extends far beyond 50. But it’s a glimpse of good things to come. —Jeff Ihaza

From Rolling Stone US

Jeff Weiss

Hip-hop media is in a tricky space right now, with fewer places than ever that are able or willing to nurture new writers. But that’s no problem for Passion of the Weiss, a hip-hop blog that has provided crucial early coverage to artists such as Kendrick Lamar, 03 Greedo, and Drakeo the Ruler since being founded in 2007. Jeff Weiss, a longtime rap and culture journalist, started the blog to give himself an outlet to write fearlessly about everything that is right and wrong in hip-hop. The site has since expanded with help from countless writers, including myself and Pulitzer finalist Craig Jenkins, among many others. Passion of the Weiss is a place where young writers can develop their voices, just as much as it’s a home for integral criticism on whatever cynical trend the music industry is promoting. –J.B.

Gabe P

This summer, Drake and Central Cee stopped time with sprawling freestyles for On the Radar. It was the stuff of dreams and memes — Drake’s saying “combination” in his best attempt at a Caribbean accent — as well as one of the few mega-moments in hip-hop culture this year that was essentially just about rap. To Gabe P, On the Radar’s creator, it was “just a stepping stone.” “Corporations have been trying to get Drake on their platforms for years,” he tells Rolling Stone. “And I did it by myself with my team.” But P is as interested in superstars as the bubbling-under acts with a fraction of the following. He began On the Radar in 2018 as a mentee of storied hip-hop media personality Angie Martinez, borrowing time from his iHeart Music social media job to record his own interviews with local New York rappers like Cash Cobain and Kay Flock in an office studio. Now, it’s not just a web series of interviews plus performances that has long caught the eye of vets like Drake and helped break artists like Ice Spice, though. They’re running an independent label, working with artists on distributing their original music onto streaming platforms themselves. With a small team of young industry professionals with backgrounds in the types of music institutions that can be stuck in their ways, Gabe P is building something new, what could become a record label that’s truly artist-centered, a common and lofty goal that can get lost in the shuffle of norms. “We often get [so] stuck in our ways in that we forget to realize that we have to always do things to innovate,” Gabe says. — M.C.

Kai Cenat

If, for a moment, you look beyond the boneheaded kids captured on video trashing police cars, one has to give Twitch streamer Kai Cenat some credit. The 21-year-old who got his start making videos on YouTube, has a level of fame capable of starting what the NYPD would consider a riot. It’s more like Beatlemania, as the current generation of youth have clearly grown tired of the prepackaged stars being served to them. Following his botched PS5 giveaway in Manhattan this summer, commentators across the board found themselves caught off-guard, most had no idea that Cenat, at one point the most followed streamer on Twitch, had the kind of pull that he did. The rap world, however, has been along for the ride from the start. Kai famously linked up with Lil Uzi Vert for the music video for “Just Wanna Rock,” shot in New York City, nearly shutting down a city block yet again; and Kai is at this point a fixture in the rap community. Guests on his stream have ranged from Ice Spice to Lil Yachty to 21 Savage. Sort of like a cross between Jerry Springer and MTV’s Sway, Cenat represents the next generation of rap media, in all of its messy glory. For his part, he’s taken the uproar that happened in Union Square to heart, telling his fans on a recent stream that he was “beyond disappointed” in the kids who came out to cause trouble and describing how the events of that day led him to think more critically about his influence. One thing that seems certain: That influence isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Like it or not, streamers like Cenat are part of the hip-hop tapestry of the new generation. — J.I.