Complex is great. Love their stuff. Definitely one of the better if not the best mainstream hip-hop focused publications in the game. They’ve become probably best known for their use of, but not reliance on LISTS. They had some of my favorite lists compiling the best of the 2000’s, they do really solid porn star lists (and almost embarrassing in that I KNOW porn, but these mufuckers KNOWWWWWWW porn) , and all other types of assorted things that people such as myself who love the culture EAT UP.
What I like most about the lists that they do is that they really seem to get it right when it comes to finding a real balance between quality and historical context and cultural impact. Whether it’s giving the proper ranking to Kim K’s posterior in the scheme of the decade or giving the nod to 50 cent is the future over Da Drought 3 for best mix tape of all time, they just seem to get it right.
This brings us to Complex’s newest list ” 20 Best Rappers in Their 20’s (right now)”. From how they’ve done lists in the past and even since the publishing of this June 4th article (there a list machine, something like the ticker tape machine Paul Newman had in the Hudsucker Proxy (soooo underrated) ) and from how a list generally gets compiled just by nature, one somewhat assumes that this list is not a pure ranking of the top 20 rappers who happen to be under 30 but a list that somewhat takes into account the age when factoring their overall rank. Or let the fine folks tell it themselves
“simply put: This is more an analysis of how well rappers in their 20s are cultivating their talent and fulfilling their potential than it is a ranking of pure skill.
They also get into some stuff about expanding what a “rapper” is and that is a whole other topic. To me and really any one whose not a yutz (sorry if that sounds arrogant but its true) RAP, is when you RAP. What a hip-hop artist is can and surely has evolved over time but a rapper is someone who raps. However I realize that is not how this list is looked at and as such a guy like Kid Cudi is someone I can get behind in my rankings even though in my opinion as a “RAPPER” he isn’t very good at all. Future on the other hand, who is on this list, IS NOT A RAPPER, hes not a rappa turnt singer, he’s a hip hop artist, SURE, but the guy doesnt rap so were just going to call him # 20. Speaking of the #’s, Complex’s is
20. Keving Gates
19. BIG K.R.I.T
18. French Montana
16. Action Bronson
15. Wiz Khalifa
14. Tyler The Creator
11. Meek Mill
10. Kid Cudi
8. Chance The Rapper
7. Mac Miller
6. Schoolboy Q
5. A$AP Rocky
4. Big Sean
3. J. Cole
1. Kendrick Lamar
Ok some quick first impressions
- Kendrick at 1 works, mainly because of the “(right now)” portion of the title, otherwise it’d be arguable. To be fair , come 5 months from now it most likely will be Drake again.
- The big 3 really are very far from the rest, and even the top 2 vs Cole is a big gap.
- Sean, man I want to root for Sean and I do like him now (he won me over eventually), and yea he’s super poppin, I guess, but he needs to be lower ranked.
- A$AP in the top 5.. I just cant do it, he’s versatile in that he’s relevant, he can rap I guess, he’s hungry and like freestyles and pays homage (bringing out bone at summer jam was dope, but no Dipset , for real?) and has a seemingly up and coming crew but, nah I don’t think so.
- Q being 6 is probably the most ridiculous thing on this list, and I like Q , a good amount, but Soul is farrrr better and not really THAT less relevant. SBQ’s “That Yey Yey” is getting somewhere for sure, where as soul is somewhat in between projects but yet the distance b/w them isn’t that big. Not 6, that’s all I’m saying
- Malcolm in the middle* of the top 10’s, that’s a tuff one to swallow, he has some ammunition to back up his stature esp when considering his age (21) in relation to where he’s at, but I don’t know, def not ahead of cudi, meek, wale, maybe even krit. Sorry cant do it.
- My bad did I say Q being 6 is the most ridiculous, so I misspoke because Chance the Rapper being 8 might be one of the most ridiculous reaches in list history (definitely in recent memory). Look I mean Complex shot itself in the foot with this one in that they made a point to emphasize RIGHT NOW, so with all the potential this kid may have (pitchfork loves him , and apparently pitchfork thinks the best thing in music is the guy we think is the best thing in rap) it still doesn’t make it make ANY SENSE to put him in this spot. Id be hard pressed to put him in a top 30 with the “right now” in play, please don’t let me find out this kid is whack, I may have to come for complex in the middle of the night.
- Wale as per usual is in a spot where I want to go hard for him being neglected and all that, but its like there’s just to many people you cant put him over in the scheme of things?, even if you think hes THEEE NICEST (but unless your last name hppens to be Folarin, I doubt you truly think he’s the second coming of HOV)
- Macklemore, although yes hes under 30 should prob not be on the list because everyone and their mother knows he’s sorta old, and its just not that fun having him on the list. Its like ranking the top 20 “Tallest People” in a group of 30 that has 25 people under 6 feet. Its like are you really the 17th tallest person, or can we just call you 5 foot 7 and be done with it. This point either makes perfect sense to you or your head might exploded from frustration.
- When we get to the section where Wiz and Bronson are separated by an invisible line it gets tricky, bc I mean in what world is Bronson bigger than Wiz in any kind of way besides gut and restaurant roledex. But RAP wise, Wiz kindaaaa sucks.
I mean of coursseeee, of courseeeee.. Wiz is fun, and goes hard, and it’s TGOD homey!, and all that jazz that somehow seemed sooooo much cooler when he wasn’t wearing painted on jeans and wifing up bald yeezus 2nds…,
but MAYBE, MAYYYYBEE he’s absolute garbage and is just hangin on because he has a fun sounding name and black and yellow is oddly universal? (TM LCK)
Maybe. Side note, considering how biased I am for Bronson its tuff for me to not try to argue that he’s the only guy on this list that is sort of bringing back the idea of just being NICE, and having good production and collaborating with Producers for full albums and just no frills GOOD HIP HOP, great hip hop.
- Soulllllll. I mean I already alluded to him before but jesus I fucking love this guy. I mean for me personally, Him and Action are like Cain Velaquez and Junior Dos Santos in how they will be linked together as contemporaries of a certain generation (or at least in my minds memory). Even though they’re not on the same team they are part of the same movement so to speak. I’m reaching with this analogy because its hard to explain but if you get it , and you have the same amount of bro crush on these 2 as I do then you’ll feel me.. No Roy Hibbert.
- KRIT, if this was a top 10 personal favorites id have a tuff time keeping KRIT out but overall its understandable that his setbacks, stature in the game, and frankly similarities and obvious comparisons to J Cole I think hinder his ranking, but not really his potential to be a GREAT artist.
- Thank god French Montana isn’t soooo relevant that I feel like he has to be on this list. I mean he’s being possibly the worst rapper of all time (but shit its mean of me to make fun of mentally challenged folks). The guy closed out Summer Jam, but did he really? I mean he’s literally the rap version of a middle man, he’s the table setter for the features. God bless him though.
- Kevin Gates…
So since going through this again, I must say I’m overall ridiculously excited at how many artist there are on this list that I legitimately am both a HUGE fan of but also have such a good foundation to justify their respective positions on the list, that makes me excited.
My version of the list would go like this, ill keep the same 20 just for arguments sake
20. Kevin Gates
17. Chance the Rapper
16. Wiz Khalifa
14. Big K.R.I.T
13. Tyler The Creator
12. School Boy Q
10. Action Bronson
9. Mac Mill
8. Meek Miller
7. A$AP Rocky
6. Big Sean
4. Kid Cudi
3. J. Cole
1. Kendrick Lamar
Looking at the list a few hours later im going to leave it as is. But if anything, the one area ill admit my personal bias might be slightly affecting it is Wale being above Sean, Rocky, or Meek. Bear in mind in that in about 2 weeks when Wale’s “The Gifted” drops it’ll have more credence to that #, Meek though might still should be in front of the other 2, hard to call it.
I’ll come back and update who I think the other 4 (17-20) should be because none of them frankly deserve to be on the list,
and maybe even a few more. In the meantime, what do you think?