The dictionary defines rapper as “a person who performs rap music or speaks the words of a rap song.” With that, rappers had the best year ever. In 2021, rappers dominated the charts, the headlines, and the streams and sales. It was almost as if there were no other genres existed. Purists can cry foul if they want, these guys and gals are putting up numbers, making history and paving a way for all of Hip-Hop in many ways. Lets re-live those that made power moves.
Drake moved into god-like rap levels in 2021 for numerous reasons. The Canadian kept fans and critics alike waiting with baited breath as he prepared to drop his Certified Lover Boy album. To hold everyone down, in March, he released Scary Hour 2, a 3-song EP that featured Rick Ross and Lil Baby. When CLB finally dropped, it was a solid outing that had its share of critics. Nevertheless, Drake’s star did not dim one bit. In fact, it got brighter as he remained one of the biggest pop stars in the world. That status did not stop him from becoming a fixture in Hip-Hop as he celebrated his 35th birthday with The Ultimate Rap League at Til Death Do Us Part. Simply put, Drake did it to death, with a variety of cameo appearances, chart-topping music and a highly-touted kiss-n-make-up with Kany West.
Lil Durk more than vyed for the crown, he basically took it. He was not the pop sensation that Drake was, he still managed to top the charts enough to tie Taylor Swift for the most hits in 2021. All of this jumped off on December 24, 2020, when The Voice dropped. Durkio’s sixth studio album was an immediate hit and set him on the true road to greatness. Then he and Lil Baby dropped The Voice of the Heroes, which they toured in support of despite the pandemic. He had songs with Drake (“In The Bible”), Pooh Shiesty (“Back in Blood”), Coi Leray (“No More Parties”) and several others. He even got engaged to his longtime ride-or-die India Royale. That’s two crowns. 👑👑
Baby Keem is destined to be one of rap’s next megastars. It does not hurt that he’s cousins with reclusive champon emcee Kendrick Lamar. Keem is another animal completely. While he’s not exactly a new artist, in 2021 he took the game by storm. The Melodic Blue, his debut studio album, formally hit on September 10, 2021. A Columbia Records and pgLang release, the album was full of heavy weights like Travis Scott, Don Toliver, Brent Faiyaz and cousin Kendrick Lamar. A total of four singles landed the album on the Billboard 200 chart with an estimated 53,000 total albums moved. Destiny awaits.
Polo G busted a shot and 146,429,819 YouTube views later he trully manifested what he rapped. “Rapstar” was atop all the platforms that mattered, including Spotify and Apple Music. (The writer of this piece is wearing a Polo G hoodie right now.) Team Polo G put in the work around marketing and promoting his third album Hall of Fame, it was almost guaranteed a classic. He even fought back Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” to stay number 1 so run tell that. Polo continued to apply pressure all year, even sampling MJ’s “Bad” on “Bad Man (Smooth Criminal.” The audacity is a bit part why the 22-year old Cap A Lot will likely keep bussin’ in 2022.
Everybody knows about Moneybagg Yo, yo. When Morgan Wallen (the singer that used the N-word) wants to get back in good with The Blacks, who does he name? Lil Durk, Kendrick Lamar and Moneybagg Yo. In 2021, A Gangsta’s Pain hit definitively. The original version featured Future, Tripstar, Polo G, Lil Durk, Kaash Paige, Big30, Jhené Aiko, and Pharrell Williams and then he spun the block with a deluxe version that had new songs with Lil Wayne, Ashanti, EST Gee, Pooh Shiesty, Big Homiie G, Yung Bleu, Janiyah, and the omnipresent DJ Khaled. Bruh! Moneybagg’s offerings felt so dominant thanks to a bevy of collabs and big outings like the BET Awards.
Megan Thee Stallion
What a year for Megan Thee Stallion. The Texas Hottie managed to flourish at a time when she could have rested. At the BET Awards, he won four of her seven nods. This included Best Female Hip Hop Artist honors. She also won three Grammys, including Best New Artist. But all of that was rooted in her 2020 work. In 2021, she released Something for Thee Hotties, an album of freestyles and previously unheard songs that gave us the hit “Thot Sh#t.” She also collaborated with Lil Nas X, K-pop sensations BTS, Ariana Grande and Doja Cat as well in 2021. Off the mic, she graduated from college, became the first rapper to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue, made a content deal with Netflix and dominated headlines with a publicist legal bout with Tory Lanez.