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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

Saucy Santana

Hip-hop has been notoriously heteronormative for decades. As its patriarchal walls crumble a little, Saucy Santana has burst through them with killer attitude, snarky wit, and an insatiable appetite for a good time. “I see a lot of records that are blowing up now aren’t very calculated,” he said at a recent Spotify event in his new home of Atlanta. “It’s not like ‘We have to reach this algorithm.’ I see a lot of fun, free music is happening right now, and that’s what I’ve always been doing.” His uninhibited personality pops off his tracks, making them go viral, like 2020’s “Material Girl” and “Walk.” As a gay rapper, he follows in the footsteps of all kinds of hip-hop changemakers, from Big Freedia to his close friends Yung Miami and JT of City Girls, to assert his talent, fashion sense, femininity, and his right to express all three without remorse. “I wanna have my feet in every genre,” Santana told Rolling Stone. “Two years from now it’s giving the face of fashion, it’s giving the face of makeup, it’s giving Grammys, it’s giving movies … the shit that I can do in two more years, I can’t even imagine,” Santana says. —M.C.

Key Glock

The 2021 murder of Young Dolph was grotesquely heartbreaking, but ask Key Glock and he will tell you that you have to stay strong for the family. The Memphis rap revival has been partly led by Key Glock, a cousin of Dolph. Glock’s a traditional Memphis rapper with a slur to match and a pugnacious tone that adds to his arsenal as a rapper. See the earthy “Dirt,” off of Glockoma 2, where the number-one rule is to get the money — a rule that Dolph taught him. Glock is a rapper meant for the strip clubs and the speakers booming from trunks, especially if you are on Elvis Presley Boulevard. If Dolph was the boss, then Glock was his lieutenant. Since Dolph’s murder, Glock has been tasked with being the leader of Dolph’s Paper Route Empire label. The ghost of Dolph hovers all over Glock’s music. He’s the next one in Memphis, even though that goes deeper than the chains and money. It’s in his legacy. Glock’s latest record, Glockoma 2, his first since his cousin was murdered, is a testament to rap’s raw emotive spirit. “I just sat still. I didn’t force or rush it; I had to deal with time,” he told Rolling Stone of his process on the album. “I wasn’t feeling it. It wasn’t in me to record. I was grieving, bro. Ain’t no way around it.… Everybody has a date. You can’t run from it, no matter what it is.… When it is your time, it is your time. You got to wake up, live your best life, and be prepared.” —J.B.


Hip-hop is at its core protest music, born from the experiences of Black folks on the margins. While the genre’s become a cultural and commercial juggernaut, artists like Chicago-raised Noname maintain an ethos that’s adversarial to assimilation. Her catalog is a testament to rap as a tool for revolution, full of big ideas delivered in an elegantly elastic flow. And she matches her ethos with action. “I don’t do brand deals, I don’t take advances,” she told Rolling Stone in 2021. “I don’t like doing things I know are going to build on my celebrity because that’s not ethical when I’m trying to be anti-capitalist.” —J.I.


Chicago rapper Lucki built a steady fan base over the course of a decade, all while avoiding the telltale pitfalls of young artists in the internet era. His searing vulnerability — letting his tangled emotional interior unfurl over moody trap beats — has made him one of rap’s foremost storytellers. He counts Drake, Future, and Playboi Carti as supporters, which is all you really need to know about his depth and range. Lucki’s 2023 release, Flawless Like Me, is a vibrant distillation of his best talents and proof that the 27-year-old MC is only just getting started. —J.I.


Dreamville rapper J.I.D has had a cult following since his 2017 debut album, The Never Story, which drew on his autobiographical insights from growing up in East Atlanta, his ear for rhythm, his sandpaper singing voice, and his knack for lyrical precision — all attributes that have only grown more potent since. His storytelling reached impressive heights on last year’s The Forever Story, which brought J.I.D’s lore full circle with recollections of fighting and family — and at its most compelling, the literal intersection of the two on “Crack Sandwich.” He has classic panache and a modern touch, somehow reminiscent of early Eminem, Q-Tip, and Big L all at once. And sure, he has the blessing and mentorship of his label boss, J. Cole, but he has a texture, technicality, and acumen all his own. J.I.D’s manager, Barry Hefner, told Rolling Stone last year, “I think J.I.D just wants to deliver great art to the world. I don’t think he really understood what it took to be at the highest of levels. As he grows, he’s starting to realize some of this shit [he] just doesn’t care for.” —M.C.

Annabelle Kline-Zilles

Founder of the video series and curation channel That Good Sh*t, Annabelle Kline-Zilles interviews up-and-coming hip-hop artists with the level of interest and care you’d expect from a major publication. As the avenues for discovery become more dispersed via technology, her platform provides a service that seems increasingly essential, making sense of the endless stream of new music being released online. In addition to interviews, the brand hosts events and curates playlists that highlight up-and-coming talent. In a time when label executives are apparently distraught over the lack of new superstars, Kline-Zilles sees the power of grassroots movements led by young people. As the old guard continues to struggle to make sense of the changing world around us, platforms like That Good Sh*t are here to usher in the next generation. —J.I.


The breakout star from Philadelphia production collective Working on Dying, BNYX has been one of the defining rap producers of 2023, with credits on Travis Scott’s Utopia (“Meltdown,” “K-Pop”), Drake’s “Search & Rescue,” and Lil Uzi Vert’s “Aye.” (He also worked on half the tracks on Yeat’s 2022 EP Lyfë.) Contributing to “Meltdown” seems poised to bring him a new level of name recognition, as the unofficial “Sicko Mode” sequel works better than most attempts to recreate a hit, thanks to BNYX’s thunderous bass and 808s. His work with Yeat is particularly remarkable, as he crafts gritty, textured trap beats that are bizarre enough to bring out the best in the oddball Portland MC without sounding cluttered or labored over.BNYX has become a fixture on rap Twitter for his wry comedic sensibility, genuinely interesting insights into his work, and an earnest appreciation for his success — he’s an easy figure to root for. On YouTube and Soundcloud, he’s shared ambitious genre-inspired remixes of Playboi Carti and Yeat that incorporate everything from heavy metal to bachata to afrofuturist electronica. BNYX is part of a new crop of internet-savvy producers like Kenny Beats and Illmind who have established strong social media presences, helping them establish the kind of profile that in the past has been reserved for the Timbalands and Scott Storches of the world.His sonic palette is moody and dark, making him a natural collaborator with artists like Travis and present-era Drake, with woozy low ends that are punctuated by the occasional squealing synth or string line. But he’s also made beats for funny man-turned-MC Zack Fox that showcase his fluency with the ‘90s Memphis sound, Toro Y Moi-style psychedelic pop, and pumping, drum machine-driven R&B. These tracks marry the two sides of BNYX, cinematic star producer and social media jokester, always in on the joke but knowing when to play it straight. —G.R.

Martine Rose

Brands like Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, and Stüssy are lining up for a chance to collaborate with designer Martine Rose, and for good reason. Her knack for mixing modern menswear with a rebel mentality has even landed her a Kendrick Lamar shout-out. “And I’m best dressed, movin’ forward,” Lamar rapped, donning her brand while getting on his private jet in the video for “The Hillbillies,” a track with Baby Keem. For Rose, not following traditional fashion-industry systems has become a huge part of her appeal to musicians and consumers alike. “I was always a bit ambivalent. Even when I went into fashion, I wasn’t really into the industry,” she recently told GQ. “I don’t do the fashion thing. It bores me to tears.” —K.R.


Kaytranada is the missing link. For decades, artists have tried to build a bridge between dance music and hip-hop, two Black musical traditions that have spent generations positioned as opposites, and then Kaytranada came along. With a sample selection as rooted in a love for Black music as the earliest pioneers of hip-hop, Kaytranada builds a seamless connection between disco, house, and rap that can turn a dance party into a rap show, or rather, prove how the two should’ve never been separate in the first place. Recently, Kaytranada linked up with the rapper Aminé for a joint project titled Kaytraminé; the result is a bona fide proof of concept, as Aminé’s playful flow finds a comfortable home in Kaytranada’s dance-floor-ready production. As the hip-hop world contends with its place on the charts, its innovators can already see beyond the horizon where hip-hop, dance, and, according to RZA, Afrobeats, exist as one. It’s a world Kaytranada is built for. —J.I.

Tay Keith

Producer Tay Keith has created a sound signature that’s uniquely his own. You can hear it in Sexyy Red’s lascivious “Pound Town,” Travis Scott’s world-conquering “Sicko Mode,” Drake and 21 Savage’s stuntin’ anthem “Jimmy Cooks,” and several other singles that make the Memphis producer one of the hottest in mainstream rap. The bass in these tracks thrums hard with propulsion, like a musician working a stride rhythm. “I was born into this shit and raised in this shit. Memphis music is all I listened to and all my family listened to,” Keith told Rolling Stone in 2022. “The Three 6 and all that shit, like that sound.” Yet Keith’s contributions to the Memphis legacy are distinct, too, and not just because he doesn’t rely on the horrorcore keyboards that fueled so many Triple Six classics. He couches his beats in melodies that can feel orchestral and foreboding, like on Gucci Mane and Lil Durk’s controversial shooter anthem “Rumors,” or lilting and whimsical, like on Lil Nas X’s “Holiday.” They feel indisputably modern as well as informed by the past, all as he stamps each one with a tag cribbed from a session with Tennessee rapper Lil Juice: “Tay Keith, fuck these niggas up!” —M.R.


On Scaring the Hoes, the joint album between resident rap eccentric Danny Brown and JPEGMafia, the latter wrangles an almost impossible emotional texture out of distorted electronics and chaotic drum sequences. It’s a hallmark of JPEGMafia’s work, which by now spans more than a decade, first in the underground corners of the internet and more recently in the mainstream. His rise is indicative of the kind of hip-hop star that actually makes sense in this new era, where virality is a given but fan devotion isn’t. “Peggy” as he’s affectionately known by his fans is uniquely gifted in how he’s able to transmit a feeling – often something close to delirium and rage – with the authenticity of a close friend. It’s why, at a recent concert in new York City, you could hear chants of “Peggy” ring out from hordes of teenage devotees. JPEGMafia has spent much of his career on the fringes, but onlny because he was so far ahead of his time. Now, it seems, the rest of the world is beginning to catch up. – J.I


There’s no denying the appeal of punk and heavy metal to today’s rap listener, and there’s no sign that the genre-blending we’ve seen from artists like Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert is going away anytime soon. That’s why Philadelphia producer F1lthy, known for crafting sounds as guttural and crunchy as his name suggests, is quickly becoming a bonafide hitmaker. Drawing on a sonic palette replete with distorted drums and blistering 808s, the founder of the producer collective Working on Dying is largely responsible for rap’s recent push towards the mosh pit. And thanks especially to collaborations with artists like Lucki and Drake, F1lthy is helping shape the sound of modern rap.—J.I.  


The elusive U.K. designer behind the ascendant streetwear label Corteiz, who’s known as Clint419, has quickly become a major force in both fashion and music. Just as U.K. rap begins its global takeover, Corteiz has armed the scene’s biggest names, like Dave and Central Cee, with a uniform fit for hip-hop dominance. The brand’s tasteful selection of garments feels in many ways like an update on the ethos of Nineties brands like Stussy and Supreme, except where those labels found inspiration in the rap world, Corteiz is much closer to the ground level, a product of the culture itself. Drake, rap’s de facto global ambassador, even shouted out Clint in his “On the Radar Freestyle” with Central Cee, so it’s only a matter of time until the company’s slogan, “Runs the World,” becomes a reality. —J.I.

Pierre Bourne

The iconic producer tag of Pierre Bourne, a pitched-up sample from The Jamie Foxx Show, is stitched into an entire generation’s sense of the sonics of hip-hop. His early work with Playboi Carti, and subsequently as a solo artist, imbued a distinct groove to the sound of rap that is sure to endure in the coming years. Not unlike Pharrell’s playful drum constructions in the early aughts, which are still potent more than twenty years later, the rhythmic spacing of Bourne’s beats and his penchant for airy, dream-like synths is a hallmark of modern hip-hop. As his sound evolves, Bourne’s music has become more clearly linked to traditions that came before. On “DJ In The Car,” from his recent album Good Movie, you can hear his signature flare match seamlessly with the four-to-the-floor rhythm of house music. It’s that ability to translate different moods and time periods into a sound that is distinctly of the moment that makes Pierre Bourne one of rap’s foremost innovators.—J.I. 

Certified Trapper

If you hear a clapping sound in the wind, then it is probably coming from Certified Trapper, the Milwaukee rapper and producer who’s made a trademark out of beats whose hi-hats never stop ringing in your ear. As a rapper, Trapper is a light and fun, and quite nimble with the raspy voice to match. The Milwaukee scene — which is running roughshod over the Internet right now – is famous for its videos and production, and Trapper shines there, too, with plenty of videos featuring young men dancing (with or without guns) in ways that are jubilant and goofy. “Each Smoke” feels like an infomercial, with multiple Trappers appearing on the screen at the same time. To see Trapper is to see the beginning of what could have been a career of comedy and rapping intertwining like a sweet science. His recent record Trapper of the Year features rappers like BabyTron and BLP Kosher. The future of hip-hop will undoubtedly be extremely online, and Trapper is one of the people keeping things fun. – J.B. 

Murda Beatz

29-year-old producer Murda Beatz is behind some of the biggest rap hits of the past decade and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. As a collaborator with everyone from Drake to Travis Scott and Nicki Minaj, Murda Beatz iconic producer tag is a sure sign of a bonafide banger. Something like a natural heir to the expansive world of hits ushered into the rap world courtesy of DJ Khaled, Murda Beatz is proving to be among the genre’s great collaborators, his infectiously fun production style (Consider Drake’s infectious 2018 single “Nice For What“) ensures that his work will endure for generations. — J.I.


If you’re one of the millions of fans who have been drawn in by the moody, minimal sound of Destroy Lonely’s “If Looks Could Kill,” thank Corey Kerr. The Atlanta-based producer, better known as Clayco, produced that song along with many of Lonely’s other breakthrough hits, rapidly reshaping the sound of rap’s cutting edge. Clayco’s production collective Underworld Online strikes a balance between the sinister beats of early Three 6 Mafia and the melodic drama of the Cure — more evidence, in case any is needed, that rap as a genre can contain multitudes. – J.I


New York-based producer and rapper Xaviersobased is still in his late teens but is emerging at the forefront of an internet-born sound that fuses the sensibilities of hip-hop, hyperpop, and everything in between. On TikTok, his tracks have soundtracked thousands of viral clips thanks to their infectiously hazy sonic construction. His recent collaboration with Milwaukee’s Ayoolie, “Same,” sounds almost like it was made on a toy keyboard, which, in Xaviersobased’s hands, manages to feel futuristic. With runtimes typically in the 90-second range, Xaviersobased’s music feeds into a sensibility that feels particularly relevant in today’s fast-paced age. He’s able to capture your attention quickly, a much-needed skill if the progressive decline of attention spans these days is any indication for the future. Somewhere between Drain Gang and Lil Uzi Vert, Xaviersobased is a sign of what’s on the horizon for the next generation of rap stars born in the 2000s. —J.I.


Knxwledge’s production has defined underground rap for the past decade. Known as “lo-fi” for the way he filters his beats through grainy noise until they seem hazy and out-of-focus, his aesthetic has informed several standout projects, from Joey Bada$$’s 1999 and Mach-Hommy’s HBO (Haitian Body Odor), to his own instrumental classic, Hud Dreems. In 2015, he earned a Grammy for co-producing a track on Kendrick Lamar’s seminal To Pimp a Butterfly. Then there’s his ongoing hip-hop soul collaboration with Anderson .Paak as NxWorries: after a lengthy absence following 2016’s acclaimed Yes Lawd, the duo recently emerged with two new singles, “Where I Go” with H.E.R. and “Daydreaming,” as well as a worldwide tour. All that activity is just the most visible example of how Knxwledge has remained at the forefront of beat culture since emerging in Los Angeles amidst a wave of post-Dilla producers in the late Aughts. Hardcore fans are equally familiar with the countless beat collections he drops without prior notice on Bandcamp — where unauthorized remixes of Meek Mill songs eventually led to a DMCA notice from the rapper’s management — as well as his Discord and Twitch accounts. They’re a sign of his artistic restlessness as well as his deep engagement in the slipstream of internet hip-hop, where his name represents both a recognizable brand and a distinctive musical style. – M.R.

Harry Fraud

Historically, the only career with a shorter shelf-life than being a rapper is being a rap producer. Your sound might become the industry standard for six months, maybe a year if you’re lucky, and then either hip-hop moves on, or younger, cheaper beatmakers emerge who can do the same thing for half your rate. Harry Fraud has gracefully sidestepped that path by consistently varying his sound and collaborators, all without seeming desperate for relevance. In recent years, he’s worked on tracks by Jack Harlow, Westside Gunn, and Rico Nasty, even as he’s remained a go-to producer for blog-era darlings like Curren$y, Wiz Khalifa, and Action Bronson. His sound can be a throwback to the luxurious era of speedboat rap and quarter-million-dollar music video budgets, but he also knows his way around a distorted 808 and the ins and outs of producing a sticky topline melody.Fraud, 36, first emerged as a name to know for his work with French Montana, helping craft the luxurious drug rap sound that eventually would make French a chart-topping star. Fast forward to 2023 and Fraud has already released a pair of collaborative projects, VICES with Curren$y and the terrifically strange Virtuoso with Valee. The latter is one of Fraud’s best projects in years, as he consistently finds fresh pockets for the Chicago MC’s hushed, oddball verses atop mafioso piano arpeggios, cloud-rap synths, and finely diced soul samples. The album illustrates Fraud’s appeal as both contemporary (RXK Nephew sounds terrific on the springy 808s of “Not Right Now”) and enduring (the signature nimble flows of Twista contrast the languid beat on “WTF” perfectly).Like all popular culture in the 2020s, hip-hop feels increasingly fractured, with few artists and producers to truly build consensus around. Fraud is an exception, not because he’s aiming down the middle, but because he has his fingers in so many pots that no rap fan could earnestly say, “I don’t like Harry Fraud.” A little like his friend and collaborator, The Alchemist, Fraud has endured not by chasing trends but by establishing his own pocket and inviting artists from across the rap spectrum to be part of it. – G.R.


There’s a trope that nobody wants to hear traditional rap beats anymore. Alchemist is helping to prove that it couldn’t be less true. If DJ Premier is the boom-bap godfather, then Alchemist is the son of that iconic sound. His patient drums and soulful loops provide a surface for rough rappers to humanize themselves, from underground classics like Prodigy’s 2007 album Return of the Mac to the full-length collaborations that Al has done more recently with Freddie Gibbs, Boldly James, Roc Marciano, and more. He’s feeding the instinctive need to hear an MC bend words and rhymes to find pockets of rhythmic gold. Here’s to 10 more years of bare-knuckled beats. —J.B. 

Dianne Garcia

“True artists often follow their intuition and instincts,” says Dianne Garcia. The L.A.-based stylist’s own instincts were on display last year when she shot 18 different looks for Kendrick Lamar’s “N95” video, juxtaposing utilitarian garb and refined tailoring. As the video shifts from reality to Lamar’s dreams, and flickers between black-and-white and color, Garcia’s looks amplify what she calls the “textures and volumes” of the film’s composition. “Very light colors were used to create godlike imagery, and very dark colors were seen in more street looks referencing guys like DMX and ODB,” she says. It’s this intuitive, intimate relationship with her clients that has led to Garcia’s prolific work in music. Along with becoming Kendrick’s go-to stylist, she’s also worked with SZA, Travis Scott, and Drake, among others. “Musicians are not actors. They’re not blank canvases. Their image speaks to their musical narrative, and you have to respect that while elevating them at the same time,” she explains. As hip-hop continues to penetrate the fashion industry, Garcia expects the results to be world-changing. “Things are changing, and they will continue to change,” she says. “With hip-hop/rap becoming the lead category in the U.S. and Canada, its influence will be undeniable, and the world will have to pay their respects.” —K.R.


“Stop playin with them Riot,” the now-infamous producer tag of the Bronx-born producer behind the meteoric rise of Ice Spice — whose voice it is on the tag — is a sure sign of a good time. It’s been a long time since a producer and artist had the type of chemistry RiotUSA has with Ice Spice. The two met in college and have since been locked in, going on a historic run of hits that have managed to alter the shape and rhythm of modern hip-hop. Earlier this year, he signed a global deal with Warner Chappell Music, and it’s only a matter of time before we start to hear that iconic intro throughout the rap world. —J.I.

Cole Bennett

27-year-old Cole Bennet, the brains behind the media company Lyrical Lemonade, is a unique character in the world of rap. An in-demand music video director known for a decidedly Gen Z visual style, he started Lyrical Lemonade as a blog while he was still in high school and has since built something of a mini empire. The company’s Summer Smash music festival in Chicago is quickly becoming one of the premier rap festivals on the already bloated festival circuit, in part thanks to the level of curation present. The young people at the forefront of today’s rap world are as entrepreneurial as ever, and Lyrical Lemonade, in many ways, represents a changing of the guard. Consider his 2022 work with Yeat on the viral hit “Rich Minion.” A student of the internet, Bennet knows precisely how to capture online attention, and it seems like he’s only just getting started. — J.I.


Jae5’s producer tag — a humble stack of vocals croaking his name — is one of the best indications that you’re listening to Afro-diasporic music of the highest quality. It kicks off songs like British-Gambian rapper J Hus’ breakthrough “Did You See,” Koffee’s joyous party ode “Pull Up,” and “Bank on It,” the triumphant finale to Burna Boy’s Grammy-winning Twice as Tall. Perhaps one of Jae5’s greatest accomplishments is helping usher amalgamations of hip-hop, Afrobeats, and Caribbean music (particularly the London-led Afroswing movement) into their rightful place in the global consciousness. Mostly reared in East London, the producer born Jonathan Mensah got his start in the smidge of time he lived in his family’s native Ghana around the ages of 10 to 13. “They didn’t have a lot of grime music out in Ghana, and I didn’t have an internet connection like that. I was trying to re-create what I could remember of grime, but everything I had around me was Timbaland, Celine Dion, Afrobeats,” he says of what led him to hone some of the sounds of the future through fusions. —M.C.

Internet Money

The producer collective Internet Money is a prime example of the new forms of collaboration sprouting in hip-hop. Founded by 30-year-old Florida producer Taz Taylor and now consisting of a slew of heavyweight beatmakers, the group is responsible for a good chunk of the biggest hip-hop songs in Spotify’s history, including Lil Tecca’s hit “Ransom,” the late Juice WRLD’s signature smash “Lucid Dreams,” and many more. Like an increasing number of figures in the rap world, Internet Money is also in the content-creation business, producing YouTube vlogs as well as offering a platform for up-and-coming producers to sell beats. As the coming generation adopts a growing set of tools to allow creatives to get their ideas out even faster, groups like Internet Money will be there to usher in the hits.  —J.I.

Danny G Beats

Detroit’s bustling rap scene relies on a style of production innate to the city. Rappers like BabyTron have a playfully robust arsenal of punchlines that match perfectly with the production of Danny G, whose production work with Tron and his early rap crew, ShittyBoyz, has come to define the Detroit sound. Known for complex beats that can run at impossible speeds and switch on a dime, Danny G is like a souped-up sports car when it comes to rap production, and he’d have to be in order to keep up with the talents of the rappers in his city. As rap’s regional movements grow more distinct, producers like Danny G are sure to be a fixture in the rap world for years to come. —J.I.


From the Madd Rapper to Katt Williams, every rap generation gets the comedian it deserves. Druski, the 28-year-old social media star born Drew Desbordes, has emerged as that figure for the 2020s, able to both rib and rub elbows with hip-hop stars, including Jack Harlow, Drake, and Lil Baby. Druski is a perfect avatar of the age where rap became the biggest genre in the world; his humor isn’t niche. It’s broad and accessible. He’s able to work as both the goofball when he’s with more serious MCs like Yung Miami and as a kind of hybrid straight man when he’s around bombastic personalities like Diddy. Druski’s comedy touches on topics beyond hip-hop; one of his successful early characters was an obnoxious frat boy, but his funniest stuff involves lambasting rap culture and the music industry at large. Some of Druski’s best work has revolved around Coulda Been Records, his satirical take on an exploitative record label in which he plays a larger-than-life head honcho in the vein of Diddy or Birdman (the latter of whom had a tense Instagram Live with the comedian and accused him of “starting to step on my toes”). He’s pitched Drake to join the label and hosted a series of hilarious auditions that effectively placed cringe comedy into an American Idol format. With a keen sense of his audience — and their fractured attention spans — Druski doesn’t rely strictly on long-winded standup jokes for his laughs. In the half-decade since he became a recognizable name, he’s hosted major shows for J. Cole, delivered some of the best one-liners on Revolt’s The Crew League, and stole the show in Drake’s star-studded “Laugh Now Cry Later” video. Along the way, he’s become one of those ubiquitous cultural forces, popping up in videos with Elle, hanging out with WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu, and making a killing in commercials for brands like Google and KFC, helping them say, “We get it.”Is Druski’s comedy as incisive as the best work of Dave Chappelle or Donald Glover? No, but it always goes down smooth, rarely induces a groan, and has a consistently high approval rating among hip-hop die-hards and casual fans alike. In essence, he’s the Rap Caviar of comedians. –G.R.

Tremaine Emory

As creative director of the streetwear powerhouse Supreme, Tremaine Emory has imbued the brand with a cultural relevance in hip-hop since coming on board in 2020. His real impact on the rap world can be seen with his brand Denim Tears, which you’ve undoubtedly seen basically every popular rap star wearing in the past few years. Emory, who was among the many creatives in Kanye’s orbit as he launched his forays into fashion, was one of the most prominent voices to speak out in response to Ye’s “White Lives Matter” T-shirt debacle. Fitting, as Denim Tears’ most iconic piece is inspired by the lineage of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Adorned on the rap world’s biggest stars, it creates a powerful statement, and one that remains essential to the culture. —J.I.

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.