SXSW Music: Must-See Hip-Hop

Rap royalty and rising stars


Young M.A


Joey Bada$$

Wed. 15, Stubb's, 11:20pm
The Brooklyn lyricist has matured from teenage phenom, living up to expectations with his boom-bap revivalist 2015 debut, B4.DA.$$. More recently, his loose single "Devastated" pushed the Pro Era rapper slightly over into the mainstream, utilizing Atlanta-influenced flows.

Rapsody

Wed. 15, 512 Rooftop, 11:55pm
This North Carolina product is arcing up to the greats with her intricate patterning, turn of metaphor, and wordplay. Featured on tracks by Anderson Paak ("Without You" from Malibu) and Kendrick Lamar ("Complexion [A Zulu Love]"), her boom-bap broke the mold centric on 2016 EP Crown, folding in themes of womanhood, black elevation, and mic dominance.

9th Wonder

Wed. 15, 512 Rooftop, 12:15am
Patrick Denard Douthit initially rose to fame as producer of renowned fellow North Carolinians Little Brother, and has since stamped Jay Z, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar. His soulful, crate digger sensibility has carried over to his label, Jamla, which houses femcee Rapsody.

Ugly God

Wed. 15, Monster Energy Outbreak House, 12:20am
Hilarious, lo-fi trap rapper has unwittingly become a sign of rap today, gaining millions of views/streams with his admittedly nonsensical lyrics in tracks like the popular "Water," "Rari," and the very literal "I Beat My Meat."

A$AP Ferg

Wed. 15, 800 Congress, 1am
Never lacking confidence, this brash Harlem rapper calls himself the "hood pope." His first two releases, 2013's Trap Lord and Always Strive and Prosper three years later, spawned incredible singles, including "Work" and "New Level" featuring Future.

Lil Yachty

Wed. 15, Cheer Up Charlies, 1am
Calling his sound "bubblegum trap," the Atlanta rapper spawned a hook-heavy pop trap that never takes itself too seriously. The new face of fashion brand Nautica, he recently appeared in a LeBron James-led Sprite commercial and Target spot with Carly Rae Jepsen, doing an "It Takes Two" remix.

Young M.A

Wed. 15, Monster Energy Outbreak House, 1:05am
Destroying femcee stereotypes, this emerging Harlem rapper actually dumbs it down somewhat on "OOOUUU," spitting bars about her conquests of other women and aggressively "dealing" with violators. Her "Kween" freestyle further confirms M.A's ascendancy not as one of the best female rappers, but one of the best young MCs, period.

Statik Selektah

Wed. 15, Monster Energy Outbreak House, TBA
One of the most respected beatmakers in the game, the Boston-born producer and DJ has crafted bangers for Freddie Gibbs, Joey Bada$$, and Action Bronson. Statik's also known for his collaborative efforts with rapper Termanology (as the duo 1982) and KXNG Crooked (2016's Statik KXNG collaboration).

The Cool Kids

Thu. 16, Mohawk Outdoor, 11:50pm
Helping usher in the re-emergence of golden era hip-hop lingo and aesthetics, Midwest duo TKC veered away from the Auto-Tuning of the late Aughts and reached their zenith on 2008's The Bake Sale, a requiem of coolness pivoting on punchy 16s about sneaker-head talk and girls.

Talib Kweli

Fri. 17, Banger's, 11pm
Rapper, indie label head, and social activist Talib Kweli waxes, whether on petroleum product, television, or social media. The Brooklynite's been at the forefront since his 1998 commercial debut alongside Mos Def as conscious Black Star, through his excellent solo debut, 2002's Quality, and onto 2013's weighty Gravitas.

D.R.A.M.

Fri. 17, Banger's, 12mid
Acronym for Does Real Ass Music falls short of describing this Virginia native's capabilities. After breakout single "Cha Cha," the rapper released Big Baby D.R.A.M., an intelligent, often humorous affair pivoting the rapper into more evolved music.

Nick Grant

Sat. 18, Ibiza, 12:40am
Waltersboro, S.C., native Nick Grant has shown tremendous promise as a clever and unafraid lyricist, openly challenging the repetitive, trapped-out sound of the South on his efficient debut, January's Return of the Cool.

Peanut Butter Wolf

Sat. 18, the Main, 12:40am
Founder of the seminal Stones Throw Records, Chris Manak started the label partly as an avenue to remember his slain friend and musical partner Charizma. He's overseen weighty releases from J Dilla, Madlib, and most recently NxWorries, a collaboration with producer Knxwledge and Anderson Paak.

Smoke DZA

TBA
Gaining notoriety on tracks by contemporaries Kendrick Lamar and Big K.R.I.T., this prolific Harlem rapper upped his level on a collaborative effort with producer Pete Rock. 2016's co-feature Don't Smoke Rock puts the listener in late-Eighties New York, smoking a blunt in a tinted '93 Acura Legend.

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