10 rappers to look out for in 2015

With 2014 in the books, we take a look at the rappers that will define the year ahead.

The rap game isn’t friendly. With a surplus of “Check out my mixtape, fam” struggle rappers and Twitter-follower-buying lames crowding the hip-hop community, it can be difficult for the real artists to shine through. That’s where we come in. We’ve hand-selected 10 emcees who are generating a respectable buzz right now and are bound to pop off in the upcoming year. Scroll through the list and take a listen to these guys. When you hear them on the radio in 2015, we’ll be over here saying, “We told you so.”

Michael Christmas

Michael Christmas has been on the come-up for a minute or two now, but he’s yet to permeate the mainstream. His awkward humor and lackadaisical flow have been attracting a solid following, though, so he’s definitely one to look out for in the New Year. He’s been linking up with some fellow up-and-comers in 2014 like Tunji Ige and Alex Wiley, and he even got the co-sign from iLoveMakonnen. Christmas offers some solid appeal to those who are simultaneously into Hot Pockets, Superbad, and good rap music.

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Kevin Abstract

Easily one of the most underrated rhymers in the game right now is Kevin Abstract, whose 18-year-old flow boasts an impressive balance of sophistication and finesse. His mid-year project, MTV1987, showcased Abstract’s potential as an adept lyricist and introduced his signature synth-driven style. He’s been steadily releasing some heat lately via Soundcloud, and if it’s any preview for what’s come, we can’t wait to see what he has in store for 2015.

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GoldLink

GoldLink has been rising to the surface this year since his debut project, The God Complex, amassed some serious hype for its experimental fusion of house and soul or “future bounce,” as he calls it. Link moves under anonymity, refraining from exposing pictures of himself on social media or appearing in his own music videos. It’s this mysterious camouflage in combination with his exploratory rhymes that make GoldLink’s artistry so alluring, making him one to keep an eye on in the upcoming year.

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Tunji Ige

At a mere 19-years-old, Tunji Ige has been churning out a steady flow musical gold this year. He’s equal parts melodic and electronic, and the majority of his material is written, produced and engineered by the young man himself. To round out 2014, he just dropped The Love Project, a 13-track compilation of literal fire with crooning soulful hooks about the trials and tribulations of his past and current relationships. It doesn’t look like Ige is slowing down anytime soon, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see him blow up in the coming months.

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QuESt

As a key player in Visionary Music Group’s roster of artists, which is also home to Logic and Jon Bellion, QuESt has been showing us surefire signs of promise lately. Although he’s a self-proclaimed “struggle rapper,” he’s been slowly climbing the ladder by way of his structured sound and thought-provoking lyricism. His latest project, Searching Sylvan, explores tales of his less-than-composed upbringing, hardships facing the contemporary rap game, and motivation to prevail triumphant. So what are his plans for 2015? Plenty of shows, a free album and a visual project to accompany his latest release. Watch out for this one.

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Denzel Curry

It’s easy to mistake Denzel Curry for just another 19-year-old Waka Flocka wannabe. The reason we’re so hyped on him for 2015, though, is his secluded artistic complexity. His biggest hit to date, “Threatz”, is dressed like a club-ready turn-up track, but his lesser known cuts like “Strictly 4 My Raiders” touch on political controversies and take on mature perspectives. Each joint he puts forward boasts its own identity, making him one of the most refreshing artists out right now.

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OG Swaggerdick

Sometimes, it’s cool to see rappers that don’t take themselves too seriously. This is just the case with OG Swaggerdick, who, if you couldn't tell from the name, chooses to not to hold a very sophisticated standard for himself. If his music can’t make you laugh, then maybe you should stop being so uptight and try yoga or something. The dude has an entire track dedicated to a Lunchables for crying out loud. Still, Swaggerdick manages to juggle comically clever rhymes with an avoidance of cultural clichés, successfully finding the balance between joking around and making music that’s actually good.

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OnCue

When his highly anticipated project, Angry Young Man, dropped in September, seasoned fans and OnCue novices alike flocked to the Connecticut rhymesayer’s heavy emotion and lyrical ambition. A year of sparse releases and promise of a suitable follow-up to his 2013 album had his Twitter followers on their toes, but when OnCue finally burst back on the scene, he came stronger than ever. With a clear artistic vision backed by a diversified roster of producers, OnCue’s bars are full of storytelling, whether he’s spitting over a party-appropriate youth anthem or a heart-heavy diary entry. We’re definitely going to keep a watchful eye on Cuey next year, and we’d suggest you do the same.

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Mick Jenkins

Chicago-bred rookie Mick Jenkins caught our attention with his much-talked-about sophomore project, Water[s], which dropped this past August. With deep, sonorous vocals overlaying organically free flowing beats, Jenkins offers a sound just outside of the generic realm of modern day hip-hop, pushing the envelope while still maintaining a comforting sense of familiarity. He tackles no nonsense subject matter like the oppressions facing his hometown’s South Side and broken relationships, but filters them through an artistically thoughtful lens. As he sits on the success of his summer drop, we’re stoked to see what Jenkins has up his sleeve for 2015.

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Skepta

With a well-balanced recipe of grime and polish, British emcee Skepta is penetrating American markets with his intriguing style and exotic perspective. We’re not sure any reasonable person could dislike “That’s Not Me,” his breakthrough track, especially after Wiki from Ratking was enlisted for a guest verse on the official U.S. remix. He marries old school flow with new school beats, and with a foreign accent to keep things interesting, Skepta is bringing something truly unique to the table.

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