10 Best New Rappers of 2014

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10 New Rappers to Watch in 2014

Microphone

This year's best new rappers include: a Charlotte cult-rap leader, a Chicago wunderkind and an unGoogleable New York rapper. Ladies and Gents, here they are in alphabetical order: 10 rappers to watch in 2014.

02
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A$AP Nast

ASAP Nast
© asapmob.com

Hometown: Harlem, NY

New York rap -- at least the type emerging from the A$AP camp -- owes more to Texas than the Big Apple. A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg struck gold last year with Southern rap-inspired albums. Then there's A$AP Nast who isn't as influenced by the South as his cousin Rocky. See, Nast is more of a 90s East Coast kinda guy. Prime example: the sewage-grimy, Nas-inspired "Trillmatic" alongside Method Man. But as "Black Mane" proved, Nast is also versatile enough to ride a trap beat with ease. He's perfectly poised to keep the A$AP Mob cap waving in 2014.

Essential: "Trillmatic" | "Black Mane"

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Deniro Farrar

Deniro-Farrar.jpg
© WBR

 Hometown: Charlotte, NC

Deniro Farrar is an impressively tattooed rapper out of North Carolina. The self-crowned cult-rap leader (the term is a reference to his growing audience) is a special Southern rap talent in the mold of Freddie Gibbs and Big K.R.I.T. Deniro is primarily on the soulful side of things, but he can also rattle off internal rhymes and punchlines with the best of 'em, if you're into that. His lyrics are deeply autobiographical and his hometown is a recurring backdrop. Join the cult.

Essential: The Patriarch II

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Denzel Curry

Denzel Curry

 Hometown: Carol City, FL

It's exciting just to hear Denzel Curry rap. Curry springs off the block with the unbridled gusto of a young DMX. The former Raider Klansman isn't old enough to drink, yet he displays the lyrical maneuvers of a Whisky-soaked sage. Curry's rhymes cut deep. "It's real in the field/ Either kill or be killed, like B.G./ So I got a grip with the TEC/ Took my nigga China Man/Took my nigga PJ and Trayvon/ Goddamn, who's next," he raps on "Zone 3," a track from the brilliant Nostalga 64.

Essential: N64

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Isaiah Rashad

Isaiah Rashad
© TDE

Hometown: Chattanooga, TN

"Background music." That's how one friend described Isaiah Rashad's sound. It's understandable: Rashad's debut, , is so jazzy and cohesive that it can seem translucent at times. But Cilvia also proved that Rashad has all the ingredients of a future great. He can rap his ass off. He drips with Southern appeal, lending a certain panache to his delivery. His narrative is devoid of pretension or bitterness. He's aware of the expectations but unfazed by the pressure. And, yes, a roster spot on the best rap label around helps. Keep an eye on TDE's first non-LA native signee because we could be talking about him all year.

Essential: Cilvia Demo

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Kilo Kish

Kilo Kish
© Awol Erizku

 Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Kilo Kish has a style that splits the difference between rapping and singing. She blends her sometimes half-rapped, half-sung vocals with eerie production to create a sound that's best described as cloud rap. Last year, Kish dropped a collaborative multimedia project that featured Earl Sweatshirt, Flatbush Zombies, Childish Gambino and A$AP Ferg.

Essential: K+

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Lucki Eck$

Lucki Ecks
Lucki Eck$. © twitter.com/LuckiECKS197

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Chicago is having a moment, sure. But there's a sense of homogeneity around the Windy City's emergent rap talent. Lucki Eck$ dances to the sound of his own drum, and sometimes it's a tuba. He tends more toward the unhurried palette of Chance the Rapper than the frenetic sound of Chief Keef. Eck$, 17, has room to grow, but his potential is undeniable.

Essential: Alternative Trap

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Shirt

New York Rapper Shirt
Shirt. © illrapper.com

 Hometown: Queens, NY

He's practically unGoogleable. But if you're lucky enough to find the work of New York rapper Shirt anywhere, genius awaits. Unconventional marketing tactics, like impersonating New York Times rap journo Jon Caramanica, will ensure that you pay attention. Rugged rhymes ensure that you'll stick around.

Essential: RAP

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Tree

Rapper Tree

You probably couldn't pick Tree out of a lineup. His name is not SEO-friendly, either. Yet the Cabrini Green rapper continues to distinguish himself with every subsequent release. He writes, raps, and makes his own beats -- typically a concoction of soul samples diced up in unusual patterns. If you're curious about his sound, start with last year's Sunday School II: When Church Lets Out, which combines soul samples with street tales to yield a powerful contrast.

EssentialSunday School II: When Church Lets Out

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Vic Mensa

Vic Mensa
© Getty Images/Jason Kempin

 Hometown: Chicago, IL

Last year's 10 to Watch finalist Chance the Rapper bubbled to the top of the pack with the stellar Acid Rap. One of the standouts from that project was "Cocoa Butter Kisses," alongside Twista. The song also featured Chance's buddy Vic Mensa, who nearly stole the show. If you like Chance, you'll definitely like Vic. The Chicago native has been building buzz in the last few months, dropping his solid INNANETAPE and even showcasing his tongue-twisting skills over Disclosure's "When the Fire Starts to Burn."

Essential: INNANETAPE

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Vince Staples

Vince Staples
© Brock Fetch

Hometown: Long Beach, CA

Most rap fans first heard of Vince Staples on Earl Sweatshirt's "epaR." Others first heard him on Doris standout "Hive," where he stole the show from the host. He's been working the underground circuit for years, having dropped his brilliant but largely overlooked mixtape, Shyne Coldchain 1 in 2011. What Staples has shown over the past two years is steady improvement. His cold, sinister narratives pull from elements of reality (his father was a gangabanger) and often bear an emotional undercurrent that sets him apart from the cartoonish violence of Tyler, the Creator.

Essential: Stolen Youth | Stolen Youth Comic