This past decade has been incredible for the world of all things Rap and Hip-Hop. From the top of the decade to the closing of this past year, there have been some heavy hitters who have been consistent in bringing the heat and shaping the culture as we know it. So, as we reflect on the close the decade and bring in 2020 I had a chance to reflect on the artists who have really shaped the industry as we know it.
Some artists have created everlasting anthems, while others have shifted Hip-Hop as we know it. This list reflects the top rappers who have achieved mainstream success during this past decade based on influence, consistency throughout the decade, and the impact of their work.
Nicki Minaj kicked off her career a little before the start of this past decade and is one of the most influential women on the planet. She arrived on the hip-hop scene after releasing a stint of provocative and ear jarring mixtapes that showcased her larger than life theatrical lyricism. Nicki was a refreshing reintroduction to women in hip-hop at a time where there weren’t many mainstream women on the scene. In 2010 the former First Lady of Young Money debuted her album Pink Friday which sold over 300,000 copies in its first week. She has since released 4 studio albums and a number of chart-topping singles and features that contributed to her international success.
With her over the top bravado, Nicki has cemented her place in history by reviving the image of women in the rap industry during this decade. She has unceasingly been at the forefront of the quest for leaving space for women in hip-hop. She has shown us that she is good enough, if not better, to be considered one of the best rappers of the decade among her male contemporaries.
Hailing from Fayetteville, North Carolina, J.Cole emerged on the scene with an insatiable hunger to secure his spot in rap history and was favored as one of the most talented rappers at the time. He delivered three career defining mixtapes and was before being signed to Roc Nation in 2009. In 2011 he debuted his first studio album Cole World: The Sideline Story which continued the theme of his previous works of giving an introspective look at dealing with every day as an outsider of the rap game while trying to break in to mainstream success. He maintains his unconventional approach as a celebrity by concealing much of his personal life but uses his storytelling abilities to keep fans engaged with his life.
J. Cole came from humble beginnings. In 2007 he started Dreamville Records along with his cofounder Ibrahim Hamad which continues to manage talented artists today. He has released 5 studio albums and three compilation albums with his Dreamville Record Artists for the Revenge of the Dreamers trilogy. He’s had 5 top 10 hits on Billboard 100 throughout his career. One of his most talked about lyrics “went platinum with no features” is a testament to J. Cole’s grandeur and position in Hip Hop Overall. The line refers to his albums: 2014 Forest Hills Drive, 4 Your Eyez Only, and KOD not having any guest appearances on them. Cole continues to push Hip-Hop further by being a voice to the “under dogs” who are hoping to breakout as he did earlier in his career.
The Migos formed in 2008 but received most of their success during the past decade. Their charismatic aura and gaudy fashions have lent themselves to their universal appeal. The notorious “Migos flow” attuned our ears with repetitious rifts and playful adlibs that have redefined what’s accepted in Hip-Hop and what isn’t. Dismissed as “mumble rap” by some, their stylistic flows have been ushered into mainstream hip-hop culture as a staple sound. Their breakout single “Versace” produced by hitmaker Zaytoven peaked at 99 on the US Billboard Hot 100 Chart and later included Drake on the remix. While they’ve only released two studio albums as a group together this past decade, their singles and mixtapes have had incredible success. The trio have all individually debuted their own albums as well.
Although he got his start in acting at the tender age of 15, Drake is one of the bestselling music artists of all time. He is hands down one the decade’s most prominent rappers. There is no corner of the industry that Drake hasn’t touched, from crossing over genres to embodying the flows of different regional cultures. From his 2010 debut album Thank me later Drake has been a power player in the rap industry.
In 2012 he started his record label OVO Sound. He has spent a record breaking 476 weeks in the top 10 throughout the entire decade. He has done a lot in 10 years, winning 181 awards from 636 nominations across industries. His impressive track record makes him easily the most valuable hip hop artist this past decade.
By: Mecca Fowler
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