Ever since Bubba Sparxxx faded from the scene and abandoned rap's redneck throne, there's been a void that hasn't been filled -- until now. Alabama rapper YelaWolf is next to bring Podunk back, having recently gone viral on the Internet with his gritty mixtape 'Trunk Muzik,' a studio-quality collection of tracks that sees the emcee reflecting on pick-up trucks, shooting shotguns and collaborating with the likes of Bun B and Raekwon. Though he isn't signed to a major, word on the street is that he's fielding a few offers from labels, so prepare your iTunes to tussle with some of this up-and-comer's tunes in 2010.
This North Carolina-based sextet, first introduced by Napoleon Wright II's documentary 'One Day,' consists of three emcees (Charlie Smarts, Tab-One and Rapsody), two producers (Foolery and The Sinopsis) and a DJ (Ill Digitz). But while they roll deeper than a rickety clown car, the group has a cool blue sound that hasn't been this relaxed since the days of Digable Planets. The collective first released their debut EP 'The Summer Sessions' in 2008 and soon followed with solo albums from each emcee (Rapsody, the token female of the gang, is putting hers out this year). 2010 will see the release of their official debut 'The High Life,' but Google their '09 mixtape 'Kooley Is High' to help vibe out until that day comes.
As one of the 10 emcees to be featured on XXL Magazine's infamous 2009 "The 10 Freshmen" cover, Mickey Factz didn't pop off in 2009 quite like people expected. But instead of falling back, Factz pushed up his black-rimmed glasses and kicked off 2010 by releasing a brand new project dubbed 'thedarkphoenix #ALPHA,' which hit the Internet on the first day of the year. The project was a hit among those well versed in the art of right-clickage, and while the eight-track offering was satiating, it's only an appetizer for what's to come from Factz in '10.
Waka Flocka Flame
With Mizay Entertainment repping some of the biggest Southern acts like Gucci Mane and Nicki Minaj to blow in '09, it's a safe bet to place your money on Waka Flocka Flame as the Mizay torchbearer for 2010. Straight out of Atlanta, Juaquin Malphurs (that's his real name) kept steady on the mixtape grind last year, releasing street favorites 'Salute Me or Shoot Me Vol. 1' and 'Twin Towers' as well as performing in his group Brick Squad with Gucci, OJ Da Juiceman, Frenchie and Wooh Da Kid. Waka Flocka got off to a rocky start this year, getting shot in the arm in an attempted robbery, but a mere two days later, he was conducting interviews discussing the incident. Look out for his official debut 'Murda Man Flocka' in 2010 and respect this fighter's spirit!
The Kid Daytona
Bronx-based emcee The Kid Daytona sped his way across the blogosphere in 2009 with a string of free releases, paying homage to A Tribe Called Quest on his Cipha Sounds-approved 'A Tribe Called Fresh' and unleashing his Mick Boogie-presented free EP 'The Daytona 500.' But before he made a name for himself as a solo artist, Daytona had a deal with Atlantic Records in a group dubbed The Aces, quickly joining Busta Rhymes' Flipmode Squad after the deal fell through. Now, after releasing his lyrically dense 'Come Fly With Me' in summer '09, Daytona is gearing up to take over 2010, having already taken it to the blogs with a few new tracks released this January.
This trio's name might give off the impression that it's actually one guy on the mic, but Atlanta emcees Strap, Quez and Ali spent 2009 making sure that the world knew that Travis Porter is a triumvirate of like-minded lyricists. With three mixtapes ('Who is Travis Porter,' 'I'm a Differenter' and 'I'm a Differenter 2') under its belt, the unsigned group is keeping on the independent hustle in 2010, catering to younger fans with their indelible street slang and getting co-sign from adults by collaborating with trap rappers like Waka Flocka Flame. Though there's no word of an official album on the way, the group already seems to have '10 in the pocket.
When 23-year-old Bridget Kelly graced the stage to belt out the chorus on 'Empire State of Mind,' during Jay-Z's 9/11 televised tribute concert at Madison Square Garden last year, the uninformed mistook her for Alicia Keys. Despite not being the piano-playing songstress everyone hoped for, her pristine vocals won over fans. The mystery girl had a name, and shortly after, the masses learned she was a singer signed to the Roc Nation imprint. In 2009, Hov took Bridget on tour with him to promote 'The Blueprint 3.' With the rapper by her side and a debut album in the works, mistaken identity is no longer a problem.
Atlanta rhyme slinger Pill has just two mixtapes under his wing -- '4180: The Prescription' and '4075: The Refill' -- but that's enough to cure the ailments of this rap game. Though the bottom-of-the-map talent spits lyrics of street life, he's not one to glamorize the struggle. On tracks like the synth-heavy 'Trap Goin' Ham,' Pill puts the masses on to foodie slang while simultaneously shedding light on the nitty-gritty of ATL's Fourth Ward drug movement. But it's his crisp lyrics on 'Hear Somebody Comin'' that prove Pill's got the verbal remedy: "Caped crusader, you won't ever unmask me/ Supreme with the game, call me Pilton & Bradley/ Monopolize the wordplay, a swordsman with the pen tip/ You better call authorities after my third gin sip."
Not many female rappers can get away with Barbie comparisons, yet Nicki Minaj has managed to flip the doll's image to suit her taste, as she's done with every song she's been featured on as of late. Her vivacious delivery and sexually charged lyrics are a hot commodity when it comes to the likes of Mariah Carey ('Up Out My Face' Remix) and Robin Thicke ('Shakin' It For Daddy'). She even outshines the majority of her Young Money affiliates on the team's standout track, 'Bed Rock.' For those still not convinced the Queens-bred emcee is the greatest thing since Lil Kim donned colored wigs, check out the verbal fire she spits on the remix to Keri Hilson's 'Get Your Money Up' featuring Keyshia Cole: "Three girl play so I'm tripling my value/ Keri steal, Keyshia pass, Nicki with the alley-oop."
It's no secret that Ryan Leslie is a musical force to be reckoned with. As a result, his co-signs prove to be well-worth the listen. Such is the case with Krys Ivory. In 2007, the producer signed the West Coast singer to his Next Selection imprint, crafted her piano-laden track, 'Be Next 2 Ya,' and launched her singing career straight towards the blogosphere and social networking sites like MySpace. After enduring a year-long battle with cancer and emerging victorious, the steadfast songstress has no restraints holding her back. Eager listeners can hear both new and old tunes on Krys' mixtape, 'Reflections,' presented by NextSelection and Stupid Dope Moves, a joint effort between DJ Frosty and Charlamagne Tha God.