COMPLEX: THE 20 BEST RAPPERS IN THEIR 20'S
The 20 Best Rappers In Their 20s
3. Vince Staples
Last Year’s Rank: 5
Big Fish Theory is a weird album. Vince Staples, in his first full-length since the bleak, bass-heavy statement of intent that was Summertime ‘06, only went deeper. He mined harsh, metallic beats for sounds that came closer to warped dance music than anything resembling modern hip-hop. It was as if he picked the most difficult instrumentals to rap over on purpose, every song a challenge. Then he proceeded to rip each one apart.
The Vince Staples of ‘17 is surgical, interested in songs as much as verses, in vision as much as execution. He’s still the brash provocateur that’s made him as famous for his interviews as his music, but he’s emerging as one of the rappers with the most cohesive visions on offer, an auteur with a precise, restless flow and something to say. —Brendan Klinkenberg
10. Big Sean
Last Year’s Rank: 10
Big Sean kicked off 2017 by dropping his fourth studio album I Decided in February and he’s had a pretty active year hitting the festival circuit. The Detroit native took a different approach with this album than he did on his 2015 project Dark Sky Paradise, opting for a concept album with a storyline about aging and regret.
On I Decided, he crossed an item off his bucket list, securing a verse from the King of Detroit himself, Eminem, on “No Favors.” But the album didn’t linger the way past projects of his have, and though it’s solid, it didn’t quite cut through the noise of a very busy, fruitful year for hip-hop. But he’s showing no signs of quaffing his ambition, and retains his spot in the top 10. —Alexa Shouneyia
Last Year's Rank: 7
YG seemed almost perfectly set to take over the world when his debut album My Krazy Life came out in 2014. He was signed and mentored by Jeezy, who took him out of krazy California and brought him to Atlanta to create music. He teamed with DJ Mustard, whose minimalist sound was on its way to taking over the game. And he was releasing an album about life in Compton just about a year and a half after another, very different album about life in Compton had whet everyone’s appetite for tales of that world.
But what’s kept YG in our sights—and on this list—is the way he's managed to fulfill the promise his debut showed. He released 2016’s Still Brazy, an album without DJ Mustard, and it was still great. He put out a mixtape, and we all listened. Oh, and he actually called his tour the Fuck Donald Trump Tour—a move that, even if he hadn't done anything else, merits his inclusion here. His 2017 output has been minimal but not without bangers—“Fuck It Up,” especially. No one’s going to forget about him when he’s heating up the end-of-summer parties like that. —Shawn Setaro