So, your most recent hip-hop memory is a vague notion of "bling-bling" and the No Limit tank running roughshod over things like artistic credibility and musicality. Well, now's the time to come back into rap's loving arms, because hip-hop has evolved. It has slithered out of the primordial ooze of Krump River and sprouted some legs. There's a lot to catch up on, so to help walk you through rap's rebirth, here's a handy guide that uses indie rock's biggest players as your landmarks.
Kanye West = Radiohead
Radiohead pulled at rock's fabric until it split, and Kanye West has similarly broadened the artistic and sonic boundaries of rap. Seriously, who else could've brought piano balladry and ballerinas into the gun-toting, crotch-grabbing world of rap?
Odd Future = The White Stripes
The White Stripes pushed rock forward by looking backward. Likewise, Odd Future harks back to a time when rap was raw and sparse and downright scary. And these skater punks are just as restless and prolific as Jack White.
Kid Cudi = My Morning Jacket
My Morning Jacket is more than a beardy Southern rock band, and Kid Cudi can hardly be qualified as a mere rapper. Both make music using textures that are otherwise missing from their respective genres. As they say, it's complicated.
Lil Wayne = Kings of Leon
Both Lil Wayne and Kings of Leon started out making gritty music from the South that felt fresh yet familiar. But both didn't make it huge until they commercialized their sound. And, unfortunately, some of their recent releases have been musical abortions.
Drake = The Strokes
Jay-Z = Coldplay
Both Jay-Z and Coldplay sell out arenas instantly. Both have penned the occasional grating song (“Fix You,” "Empire State of Mind"). But when you get over yourself and forget about how mainstream they are, you realize that, you know what, they make really solid, accessible music.
Wiz Khalifa = Best Coast
Beastie Boys = Beastie Boys
The Beastie Boys still get tons of play on alt-rock radio, while the Beastie Boys still get tons of play on rap radio.
Chiddy Bang = LCD Soundsystem
Rapper-producer duo Chiddy Bang shamelessly flaunt their musical influences to create songs that ultimately transcend the source material. LCD Soundsystem used to shamelessly flaunt their musical influences to create songs that ultimately transcend the source material...until James Murphy retired.
Das Racist = Arctic Monkeys
Both Das Racist and Arctic Monkeys are made up of cheeky young dudes with sharp lyrics and a cultivated sloppiness. Sometimes performers who seem like they care the least end up making the best music.
Tinie Tempah = Bloc Party
Kreayshawn = Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Lil B = Lady Gaga
Like Lady Gaga, Lil B is a champion of gay rights and has used social media to create legions of cultlike followers. And like the Mother Monster and her "Born This Way" philosophy, Lil B also founded a pseudo-religion based around something he dubs the Based God.
Mos Def = The Black Keys