5 Up & Coming Rappers
By: Elaina Bernstein
1. Lil Tjay
Fairly new to the rap game at just 18 years old, Lil Tjay does not let his fellow New York City rappers down. The Bronx native started releasing music on SoundCloud in 2017 (yes, at just 16 years old), and was recognized almost immediately: his songs “Brothers,” “Leaked”, and “Ruthless” rapidly raked in listens. The song that really sparked Tjay’s career, however, was his feature on Polo G’s “Pop Out” (yes, the Tik Tok song...) in early 2019. On October 11, 2019, Tjay dropped his first album, True 2 Myself, which includes many of his original SoundCloud songs and big-name features such as Lil Wayne and Lil Baby. Successfully combining rhythmic R&B style beats with consistently impressive bars, Tjay has a singularly unique sound that stands out from a lot of other rappers of his generation. Some of his songs lean more towards the R&B genre, whereas others are perfect pregame anthems.
Decline (ft. Lil Baby)
2. Roddy Ricch
The first time I heard Roddy Ricch was when he rapped over Marshmello’s “Project Dreams” earlier this year. Ricch, who appeared on the XXL Freshman list this past year at just 20 years old, started making beats at the same age as Lil Tjay—just 16 years old. He released his first mixtape in November of 2017 (Feed Tha Streets), his first EP in March of 2018 (Be 4 Tha Fame), and his second just months later in November (Feed The Streets II). With only two features on Feed Tha Streets and none on its sequel project, it’s very refreshing to listen to an album centered around Ricch, as opposed to him being dominated by feature artists.
Wow Remix (by Post Malone)
3. Yung Bans
Yung Bans is also only 20 years old, which amazes me. Originally featured on SoundCloud singles with future rap sensations such as Playboi Carti and XXXTentacion, Bans released his first projects, Yung Bans and Yung Bans Vol. 2, in December 2017. In November 2018 he continued his series of self-titled EP’s with Yung Bans Vol. 3, Vol. 4, and Vol. 5, followed by his debut album Misunderstood in July 2019. With the album featuring stars such as Lil Skies and Juice Wrld, it’s a testament to Bans’ unique sound and distinct melodic voice that these bigger names don’t take away his spotlight. To have a rapper release so much quality music in such little time is almost unheard of nowadays.
Touch The Stars
Easter Pink (ft. Gunna)
4. YNW Melly
YNW Melly, again, only 20 years old, has such a distinctive style that I can’t really think of any rapper to compare him to. Melly put out his first full project in 2017 and began getting noticed on YouTube with singles like “Virtual (Blue Balenciagas)," "Melly the Menace," and "Slang That Iron" in 2018. He released his first mixtape I Am You in August 2018, and his second while he was in prison (We All Shine). These mixtapes are each from very different periods of his life, and the different tone across each project reflects this. With the exception of a Kanye West feature on “Mixed Personalities” (which is obviously huge), Melly really strays away from features on We All Shine—which again, I respect a lot.
Murder on My Mind
5. Lil Tecca
If you thought the past few rappers were young... Lil Tecca, Queens’ newest prodigy, is just 17 years old. Yep. 17. Tecca’s claim to fame came earlier this year when he dropped the viral hit “Ransom,” on which Juice Wrld later dropped a remix verse. Tecca just recently dropped his first album We Love You Tecca, named after the trademark mantra found in the openings of several cuts off the album, including “Amigo” and “The Score.” He recently made a triumphant return to his roots of Queens, NY, with a supposedly insane live performance at the inaugural Rolling Loud New York.
Somebody (ft. A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie)