“Rep the set, gotta rep the set.” Future’s Freebandz collective didn’t make the Top 5, but the iconic line on “Mask Off” is proof that crew love is alive and well in 2017. Some groups choose to raise their brand by allowing each member to focus on their solo ventures, while others opt to come together on posse albums that show off their brilliant chemistry. Whatever the method, however, they all love to see each other shine, and we do too. Here’s a countdown of the hottest groups in hip-hop as we near the halfway point in 2017.
5. G.O.O.D. Music
Notable artists: Pusha T, Big Sean, Travis Scott, Desiigner, Tyga
On the rise: Francis and the Lights
Is it fair to ask what happened to G.O.O.D. Music? It feels like just yesterday that Kanye’s imprint sat atop the rap game, setting the world on fire with Cruel Summer along with their impressive individual projects. Fast-forward to today, and misinformation and disunity run deeper throughout the label than ever before. Cruel Winter has been “coming soon” for almost five years, and it’s supposed early 2017 release has come and gone without so much as a snowflake. Mr. West confirmed he’d been in the studio with Drake last September, only to hear the OVO head honcho fire shots at Kid Cudi and G.O.O.D. Music President Pusha T on “Two Birds, One Stone.” John Legend, one of the first artists signed to the label and a staple in R&B for over a decade, walked out the door near the end of 2016. Add in Kanye’s numerous mishaps in the media lately (albeit not entirely his own fault), and there’s reason to believe the indestructible empire may have some dents in the armor.
Despite the drama, there’s more than enough star power in G.O.O.D. Music for them to make our list. Travis Scott’s Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight was one of the best albums of 2016, with the Kendrick Lamar assisted “goosebumps” showing no signs of disappearing almost a year after it’s release. Although Big Sean appears to be running out of room to grow on I Decided., songs like “Bounce Back” and “Jump out the Window” are keeping him within mainstream relevancy. Recent signee Francis and the Lights will broaden G.O.O.D. Music’s appeal, and if we ever get the elusive Cruel Winter project it’ll be interesting to see how Ye uses their unique talents.
With Pusha T and Desiigner expected to release new albums soon, G.O.O.D. Music’s reputation is hanging in the balance. If the two rappers come through on their respective projects, the label should be back like they never left. Otherwise, it may be up to Kanye’s mythical Turbo Grafx 16 to keep G.O.O.D. Music in the headlines.
Frontman: Chance the Rapper
Notable artists: Vic Mensa, Joey Purp, Towkio, KAMI
The loose collective of Chicago rappers doesn’t produce as much collaborative work as they used to, but that doesn’t mean they’re not shining individually. Chance the Rapper has become the poster child for independent artists bucking major labels, and has essentially been on a victory lap through the Grammys, the White House, and all of America since the release of Coloring Book in 2016. Aside from the music, Chance is an excellent example of a public figure using his platform to make an impact in the community, donating money to Chicago Public Schools and partnering with Chicago Beyond for the Go Innovation Challenge. BET just made him the youngest recipient ever of their Humanitarian Award, showing faith that the bright rapper will continue to do his good work for years to come.
Chance was the first SAVEMONEY artist to truly break into the mainstream, but the group is flush with talent from top to bottom. Vic Mensa switched styles following his acclaimed mixtape Innanetape and found success with upbeat hits like “Down on my Luck,” “U Mad,” and “New Bae.” On June 8th, he dropped The Manuscript EP to build anticipation for his upcoming album, and of course went viral for his showdown with DJ Akademiks a few weeks later.
If you haven’t given Joey Purp’s 2016 release iiiDrops a listen through yet, you’re doing your ears a disservice. In only 38 minutes, Joey paints a haunting picture of life in the streets of Chicago, showing incredible resolve and determination in the face of unspeakable horrors and everyday pitfalls. Whatever your hustle is, Joey Purp’s visceral, cutting lyrics will inspire you to push through all obstacles until you’ve reached your goal.
Notable artists: PARTYNEXTDOOR, Roy Woods, Majid Jordan
On the rise: dvsn, PLAZA
Love him or hate him, Drake is arguably the biggest icon in all of music right now, and his presence alone would be enough to keep OVO relevant even if the rest of the roster wasn’t up to par. Fresh off hosting the inaugural NBA Awards, Toronto’s cultural ambassador has announced plans for the 8th annual OVO Fest, with a plethora of the label’s artists slated to perform.
PARTYNEXTDOOR has been busy this year as well, dropping a slew of singles both on his own and as a guest for artists like Major Lazer. PND’s 17 minute EP Colours 2 gave fans a sequel to the original 2014 EP, and provided the world with a concentrated dose of what’s made him a household name in modern R&B. Roy Woods continues to grow into his sound, delivering his best work yet on the Nocturnal EP. It’s an efficient, well-made project with few missteps, showing why Drake first cosigned the crooner by premiering his song “Drama” on the first ever episode of OVO Sound Radio.
Subdued R&B duo dvsn quickly gained a sizeable following after releasing their debut album Sept. 5, receiving widespread praise while shrouding themselves in mystery. Consider their “on the rise” designation a testament to how much farther dvsn can still go, not a slight to their already significant presence. Check out their newest release below, and keep your eyes peeled as the group ascends to the upper echelon of OVO.
2. A$AP Mob
Frontman: A$AP Rocky
Notable artists: A$AP Ferg, A$AP Nast, Playboi Carti
For far too long, A$AP Rocky was the only member of the Mob getting consistent mainstream recognition. However, as he’s scaled down his solo efforts to focus on the Cozy Tapes series, the entire collective has been thriving. 2017 singles “RAF” and “Wrong” are instant club bangers, building excitement for their upcoming album, Cozy Tapes Vol. 2. In addition, A$AP Ferg has proven to be a consistent hit-maker, pumping out anthems like “New Level” and “Shabba” while serving as the Kyrie Irving to Rocky’s LeBron.
Rappers dabbling in the fashion world is nothing new, but perhaps no group does it better than A$AP Mob. Everyone already knows about Rocky’s impeccable eye for style, but he’s not the only member setting new trends in streetwear. A$AP Nast recently linked with Converse and Carhartt WIP for their sneaker collaboration, and A$AP Ant has launched his own brand, Marino Infantry, that’s now being sold in Nubian Tokyo’s Harajuku store.
A$AP Yams would be proud of the Mob’s growth in the wake of his untimely passing. Newly initiated member Playboi Carti has only boosted the group’s profile, shining on their collective album as well as his own self-titled project. Expect their hot streak to continue once Cozy Tapes Vol. 2 drops later this year.
Frontman: Kendrick Lamar
Notable artists: Schoolboy Q, SZA, Isaiah Rashad, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock
On the rise: SiR, Lance Skiiiwalker
If the Golden State Warriors have established themselves as the untouchable dynasty in the NBA, Top Dawg Entertainment is the team’s musical doppelganger. Less than halfway through 2017, the label owns arguably the top rap album of the year in Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN., and arguably the R&B album of the year in SZA’s Ctrl. And now, before the hip-hop world has even had time to fully process all that was said on SZA’s debut studio album, we have reason to get excited about another TDE release coming down the pipeline.
It was Black Hippy that anchored the label for much of its formative years, and the quartet’s rise to prominence has allowed Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith to flesh out the roster with talented artists like Isaiah Rashad and the aforementioned SZA. The two newest signees, Lance Skiiiwalker and SiR, have been building a modest buzz since aligning with the West Coast powerhouse, and add more musical diversity to the rap-heavy label. Make sure you’ve heard their newest projects, Skiiiwalker’s Introverted Intuition and SiR’s Her Too.
Special praise is due to Kendrick’s father “Ducky” for his fried chicken generosity when he first met Tiffith, or the strongest rap label in 2017 may be non-existent. Thanks to his quick thinking, his son’s musical excellence and Top Dawg himself, TDE should be able to hold their top spot for several years to come.
Who do you think has the strongest crew in Hip-Hop right now ? Let us know in the comments below.