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SexyyRed, 454 and more: Four songs that tell us about the future of rap

Close up of a dj while mixing tracks. (Getty Images)
Close up of a dj while mixing tracks. (Getty Images)

If a rap single hasn’t gone number one on the Billboard Hot 100, does that mean the genre is in decline?

Millan Verma and Mano Sundaresan say that Capital-D Discourse is overblown. They’re co-editors for the music website No Bells, and they brought us a playlist of songs that define the genre now and predict the future of rap. Sundaresan says that right now, hip-hop is becoming more fractured and regional.

“I think that now the genre is as interesting as ever because of how quickly it’s mutating,” Verma adds. “There’s almost no barrier to entry.”

Kenny Mason blends hip-hop with hardcore rock, expanding the genre into other sounds. Verma cites Mason’s work as evidence that the genre is evolving.

“He can do experimental things,” Verma says, “essentially make a hip-hop, hardcore- rock song without it sounding corny… It sounds like one thing, but he’s mixing so many different elements in there.”

And the editors point to the success of rappers like St. Louis, Missouri native, Missouri native SexyyRed as proof that women are running hip-hop right now. Verma says that many of the hit songs of this summer have come from women. Verma says that many of the hit songs of this summer have come from women.

“Women have always planted the seeds for hip-hop, from the MC Sha-Rock — who was one of the first rappers, period and then the first female rapper — all the way to the present day,” Sundaresan says. “We’re just in this renaissance that is so unbelievable.”

2020s hip-hop and rap playlist, from Mano Sundaresan and Millan Verma

Ice Age + Tales of the Hood” by 454

Watch on YouTube.

Na Na Na” by Lay Bankz

Watch on YouTube.

Shmackin Town” by AYOOLii

Watch on YouTube.

NOSEDIVE” by Kenny Mason

Watch on YouTube.

Hellcats SRTs” by SexyyRed


Gabrielle Healy produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Catherine Welch. Healy also adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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