As we begin to close out the decade, 2019 presents a number of daunting issues related to the future, namely those revolving around the internet. Like all music, rap depends on the internet for distribution and circulation as never before, and it’s been extremely apparent these days given rap’s status as the most admired of popular music. That said, all the utopian arguments that the internet would prove to be a boon to the genre and make things easier for artists and audiences alike have proven futile. History and information should be easier to get ahold of, but they’ve instead become easier to disregard. Nearly anyone can guarantee their music gets on the major platforms, but so much stratification for whose music is emphasized makes painfully noticeable the artists who aren’t heard. For all the promise that technology would make rap feel better than ever, it’s somehow managed to make it feel more difficult to explore.
The songs selected below do a great job at demonstrating how strange 2019 feels. It includes multiple generations, rappers from all across the nation, and even some from across the Atlantic. Similarities persist in some of the selections, but the differences are incredibly prominent and create a baffling sense of what can be considered “now.” So much of rap’s past is still impossible to shed, and so much of the so-called future feels illusive to point to with confidence. This isn’t to say that any one thing in particular feels exciting or enjoyable, it’s just difficult to do justice to it all with the endless sprawl of talent that continues to make itself known. For the readers: I hope these selections do their best not only to satisfy, but to confound. One can only imagine what the 2020s hold, but for now we have another year to marvel at and to endure.