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If you’ve ever spent some time looking the rap map, or know even the slightest about hip-hop for that matter (which I assume given you’re reading this), you know how important birthplace is for a rapper trying to chisel a reputation in the rap game. New York, Los Angeles and Detroit have historically harbored–and to an extent defined–the most dynamic hip-hop traditions both musically and culturally (loosely referred to as the East and West coast schools). But as hip-hop took off over the world through the 90s, Atlanta (The Dungeon Family), Chicago (Common, Kanye), Philadelphia (The Roots) and other cities started to make names and spaces for their unique dialects of hip-hop too. With each new crop of freshmen hip-hop artists, including 2010’s, hip-hop dialectically snowballs as new and under-represented places grow and support upcoming artists and in turn, cultivate hip-hop reputations of their own.

This year, quite a few new spaces became legitimate hip-hop destinations. Gadsden, Alabama; New Orleans, Louisiana; London, Ontario; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Meridian, Mississippi each took on new worldly reputations thanks to their home grown stars that have been busy making names for themselves in 2010. Shad, Yelawolf, and Big K.R.I.T in particular, paint vivid lyrical stories of their experiences, and people of their home soils, bringing their hometowns along on their rise to the top. In 2010, the rap map got a little more worldly.

Honorable mentions go to Nicki Minaj who dropped her debut record Pink Friday and broke a slew of billboard records, the Californian phenomenon Odd Future (OFWGKTA and in particular Tyler, The Creator), who enjoyed a moment as trending topic during their highly hyped debut New York performance and scored a boatload of underground fans and a couple of major magazine co-signs, as well as Toronto’s own producers Boi-1a and Rich Kidd, who are quickly on the rise to the upper echelons of major producer superstardom.

Curren$y

Why do we have Curren$y in this category? I could go on for a while on this one, but it’s really the fact that Spitta is a completely independent artist who has surrounded himself with the right people and tools in order to create success. Before 2006, I didn’t know anyone other than my close friends (whom I also introduced to Curren$y’s music) who checked for his music, which is phenomenal given he’s become a household name in the 2010 rap game. Believe it or not, Curren$y was once signed to Lil Wayne’s Cash Money record label.  Being from the NO it only seems right, but Spitta did gain some small success out of the label being featured on a single “Where The Cash At” back in ’06 from Wayne’s Dedication 2 mixtape.

Since leaving the label due to personal reasons (I read/heard that Wayne kicked him for being too good and possibly taking the lime light from himself) he’s been doing mad work.  In 2008 he released 7 mixtapes and honestly all of them were good, with great rhymes, amazing beat selection and no filler. Mixtape after mixtape since, we’ve reached the end of 2010 and Curren$y has released two albums in this year alone, Pilot Talk and Pilot Talk II, on Dame Dash’s new imprint/creative collective DD172/BluRoc. And in the process, he’s gained an extremely dedicated following of 20-somethings that are just like him, people who like to smoke the nicest weed, chill the fuck out, and joke around while still kicking some shit that’ll make you have a “somebody stinks” face real fast. –J.R.

Wiz Khalifa

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Really, I didn’t fuck with Wiz all that much before Kush & Orange Juice dropped.  I had checked the How Fly mixtape that he put out with Curren$y which was good music, but I still wasn’t convinced. Then summer came and along, and with it K&OJ, which easily became my most played mixtape of the year.  As the months went on and K&OJ made its rounds, I started to notice more and more people, at least on the net, getting into Wiz.  People were talking about him and posting his songs and older mixtapes, and the conversation wasn’t just limited to us bloggers and hip-hop diggers. Once Wiz’s name was painted around town, “Black and Yellow” (prod. by Stargate) dropped and all hell broke loose. All of a sudden, Wiz was all up in everyone’s ears, headphones, and speakers.  There was a point where all you heard from us 20-somethings who were into hip-hop was those two colours. Repeatedly. Whether you loved or hated it–and there were many who hated it– I guarantee you nodded your head at least once. Stargate and Khalifa had nailed it. With its catchy and repetitive chorus, “Black and Yellow” had the perfect formula for a still popular but mainly underground artist.

Regardless of his 2009 album Deal or No Deal and his debut release Show and Prove in ’06, it wasn’t until this year with the success of K&OJ and “Black and Yellow” (which currently sits at just over 17 million hits on youtube) that Wiz took his game to another level with a sign to Atlantic records. A major record deal is what Wiz wanted from the outset and once he started to make some noise on the scene he made all the right moves to make it happen, first by turning down Rick Ross’ offer to sign him to the Maybach Music Group label, then declining an offer to go on tour with Drake. Wiz’s decision to pursue his own (stoner) branding, character and individuality with the types of followers he’s created rather than ride on the coat tails of anothers during his breakout is probably the most important game-time decision of his career. Wiz came up and made moves in 2010.  And that’s why you see him on this list. –J.R.

Shad

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Since it’s pretty easy for us civilians to skip the US/CAN border and go shopping for a day, to the average person it may not seem such a huge accomplishment that Shad, along with his record TSOL, has garnered some serious attention in the US throughout 2010. It’s not easy for Canadian artists to make it in Canada let alone in the southern half of our vast North American continent (the side that contains all the entertainment capital). Perhaps following in the wake of Drake, Shad’s US accolades are a huge deal not only for his own career as an artist, but also in terms of solidifying a reputation for the hip-hop scene in the North.

Several (self-dealt) cards in Shad’s favor have made cross-border success possible. The extra eyes cast Shad’s way when he was shortlisted for the 2010 Polaris Prize helped. His 2010 Europe/UK tour helped. His 2010 Canada wide tour helped. All the love from the Canadian music press helped.  But most of all, it was his lyrical performance on TSOL that got everyone talking in the first place, and is ultimately responsible for his career’s assured momentum. 2011 is looking mighty fine for London Ontario’s hottest lyricist, reminding us all of a timeless datum: build it and they will come. –K-Lis

Big K.R.I.T

Big K.R.I.T. is the epitome of the Come Up Artist. Why? Because virtually no-one had heard of him before 2010. I know I hadn’t, and new music is what I DO. Through the release of his outstanding free album Krit Wuz Here and viral videos shot by Creative Control, Big K.R.I.T. captivated record A&R’s, the blogosphere, and fans alike.

J.R. introduced me to K.R.I.T. in the summer and we decided to feature an hour of Big K.R.I.T. on The Come Up Show. Shortly thereafter, were the first Canadian media outlet to do an interview with K.R.I.T., and had a part in bringing him to his first show in Canada.

K.R.I.T. definitely has a bright future ahead of him. Many have compared him to a young Pimp C mixed with Pac, and Krit Wuz Here was more than a few people’s choice for album of the year. To boot, you can tell he has struggled to get where he is and he has so much more to share with us. Making something out of himself and coming from Mississippi, Big K.R.I.T. is definitely a come up artist of 2010. –Chedo

Yelawolf

It was exactly January 1st, 2010 that Yelawolf’s mixtape Trunk Muzik hit the world. After so many positive reviews, co-signs, and advertisements for the mixtape, I couldn’t help but download it. Since then, Yelawolf hasn’t stopped. From opening up for Wiz Khalifa on the Wake and Bake Tour to countless media coverage, Yelawolf is definitely known amongst good music lovers.

When I checked to see exactly what date this mixtape was released, I was surprised to see it had dropped right on January 1st 2010. Yelawolf has been grinding from the first day of the year, and all the hard work paid off, because he has made our Come Up Artist of the year. –Chedo