“Listen to the kids bro…We are the Millennials. This is a…this is a new mentality.”
Those are words taken from Kanye West’s now legendary 2015 VMA Video Vanguard Award acceptance speech. And while the Kanye may have confused and bewildered to the point where people completely missed his points, he did indeed make some great points.
The new generation of “kids”, of creators and artists, have a different mentality from those they grew up idolizing. In urban music especially, the youngest and brightest talents are forging their own paths, whether they’re on major labels or not. They aren’t relying on the industry to make them. They’re making themselves. Below, I’ve profiled 4 of the brightest young urban creators in the industry.
Chance The Rapper, 22
Photo By: C/O Chance the Rapper’s Official Tumblr
Chance the Rapper not only is a great rapper, but he also has an ear for great music. When you look at Chance, you see a young, hungry creative with eyes wide and creative gears constantly turning. Chance is one of the only young guys not following the trend of what’s hot at the moment. He’s not trying to compete with the Future’s or the Drake’s of the rap game. He’s forging ahead in his own lane, while bringing proper hip-hop lyricism back to the forefront at the same time. Not to say that Chance isn’t a fan of melody, because he for sure is. And that’s the beauty of his music. It’s as diverse as rap gets; a feat that’s made him a huge festival favorite, with only one big project (Acid Rap) under his belt.
He has a good heart and a great head. Knowing that he has a platform to shape lifestyles of those that look up to him, he’s become heavily involved in keeping the kids of Chicago off of the streets by involving himself in creative community events. He’s showing kids that grew up where he grew up (the infamous South Side) that you don’t have to be a gang banger or a drug dealer to “be cool” or to “make it” in/out of the hood.
Aside from his own music, we’ve seen Chance collaborate with Justin Bieber, James Blake, Lil Wayne, Skrillex, Kanye West and more. The greats of vastly different genres respect what Chance brings to the table. We’ve seen him create 30-minute films with VICE, showcasing his acting skills. We’ve seen him deliver musicals for songs like “Sunday Candy.” He’s done all of this before even signing a major label deal. Chance is the future, and there’s no question about it.
Raury at the 2015 mtvU Woodies Festival. Photo By: Getty Images
Raury is a messenger of positivity and of belief for the new generation. The genre-blending millennial. A true definition of a millennial and what millennials stand for. When he first arrived on the scene early last year, many likened him instantly to Andre 3000 and Kanye West, and named him as part of the future of Hip Hop. However; Raury has proved time and time again that a box is not something he’s looking forward to being put in. He’s much more than hip hop, and much more than a musician. Through his lyrics and his interviews and even his tweets, Raury is adding thought and inspiring to be “other” back to the young urban crowd. Thought: thinking about what’s being said, thinking about what’s coming next for us in life, thinking about what’s good for us vs. what isn’t. Thinking about how we can improve society. In hip hop, it’s called being a “conscious rapper”. But Raury transcends music, a crazy feat at such a young age. Case in point, the video for his song “Seven Suns” sheds light on how our generation is addicted to the Internet and social media, so much so that it’s hinder our communicatoin skills and real life relationships. It makes you THINK. So dope. So necessary.
Tinashe performs at the 2015 MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles, California. Photo by: Getty Images
Tinashe is your super hot, greatest hope of becoming the next “Beyonce/Britney” level superstar. But she’s so much more than a pretty face that sings and dances. Before Tinashe got signed to RCA Records, what impressed label execs most was her ability to take matters into her own hands. Her first 2 mixtapes, In Case We Die and Reverie, we recorded in her bedroom and produced mainly by Tinashe herself. Videos for songs on those mixtapes were choreographed and directed by Tinashe. She sings, dances, acts, produces her own music, loves to give her fans visual content that’s not paid for by the label, and fans love that about her. Too many artists nowadays, especially females, rely on their record label to do everything for them. They want to have someone write them a hot song, produce them a hot beat, have the label figure out a hot video treatment, be given a dope stylist & glam squad to keep them on-trend, and then have the label hopefully back the song financially, to make it a #1 hit. Tinashe’s not that girl. She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. Ambition.
Musically, she’s also not afraid to get a little dirty. While the personality of Tinashe may come across as this bubbly Valley girl who listens to Katy Perry and Bruno Mars, she‘s not afraid to roll a blunt and party with trapstars like Travis Scott, Future, ScHoolboy Q and A$AP Rocky. Her music is inspired heavily by the likes of Janet Jackson, Aaliyah, Britney and Christina, but she knows how to cater to the fellas as well, as showcased on her latest single, “Party Favors” which features Young Thug. Tinashe’s the total package. And then some. All aspiring young female singers should learn from her and take matters in their own hands. That’s where the music indsutry is headed, so now is the time to get ahead of the curve.
Vic Mensa, 22
To a lesser extent than the ones above, Vic Mensa is really working to change views on what “hip hop” is as well. Take his song “Codeine Crazy” for example; it truly shows his affinity for great rock music. Vic has said in interviews that one of his biggest inspirations growing up was the band Nirvana, and in his live shows, Vic rock out to “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” He’s exposing someone who maybe only listens to him because he’s Kanye West-affiliated, to an entirely new world of music. He’s also using his rockstar spirit to shed light on social issues of the now, (police brutality, racism, etc.). Songs like “Down On My Luck” show that he’s not afraid to experiment with genres not known to mesh with the rap world. But what really is “rap” in 2015? People like Vic and Chance and Raury are changing what we think about when we think about that term. And that’s what’s needed for building our next crop of urban superstars.