Rodney Carmichael

In the age of SoundCloud rap, 19-year-old Demo Taped's rise from unknown Atlanta-bred music prodigy to 300 Entertainment signee isn't all that unusual. That he's ascended from hip-hop's bedrock city to the house that Lyor Cohen built while making something other than hip-hop? That's totally out of the ordinary.

Only Young Thug could fail to show up for his own video, unknowingly have that video win an award at the MTV VMAs, then make a post on Twitter the next day that encapsulates how oblivious he was to it all.

"Introduce the melancholy / I've felt since last I saw you." — P.M. Dawn, "The Ways of the Wind"

The year was 1993 and Prince Be was everything rap was not supposed to be. While Snoop and Dre were indoctrinating Middle America in the chronic fundamentals of a "G Thang," the P.M. Dawn lead represented a much softer strain. He rhymed about unrequited love with a delicate lilt. He wore silky flowing garments and his dreads in an updo.

For nearly a decade T-Pain reigned, the ubiquitous King of Auto-Tune.

Syd has developed quite a voice for seduction. Between her solo work and group efforts helming The Internet, her burgeoning discography of softly-sung R&B hook-up anthems could turn any amateur PUA into a pro.

On the same night that torch-bearing white nationalists wound up staging a rally at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Van Jones stood at a podium, in the nation's capital, telling a theater full of supporters why they should let love rule in the face of racial hatred.

When MF DOOM emerged from the ether just before the last millennium's end, with a metal faceplate masking his grill, a raspy voice and a vicious internal rhyme scheme, he quickly amassed a cult-like following.

His villainous persona, an amalgamation of comic book characters ranging from Dr. Doom to G.I. Joe's Destro, masked his true identity as he exacted revenge on an industry which had metaphorically disfigured him.

Jamila Woods and Chance The Rapper have a new video to counter Chicago's image as a hotbed of guns and gang violence. The two homegrown artists challenge this one-dimensional caricature of the city with innocent scenes of children, families and loving communities.

Hip-hop turns 44 today, and Google is giving mad props with a Doodle that drops science on the birth of the breakbeat. In addition to detailing the legendary 1973 party at 1520 Sedgewick Avenue in the Bronx, where DJ Kool Herc originated the style of playing two versions of the same record on different turntables to extend the break, users get an interactive tutorial in the art of crossfading and scratching.

"We manufacture bull---- here in Fresno; there's no way any one person can succeed in Fresno."

Kelela is not here to play — she makes that clear from the outset of her new video for the hook-up single "LMK."

Thirty years after becoming rap's first sex symbol, LL Cool J will be the first hip-hop artist to receive Kennedy Center Honors in its 40-year history.

The rapper-turned-actor born James Todd Smith will be inducted with a prestigious 2017 class — including pop stars Gloria Estefan, Lionel Richie, television icon Norman Lear and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade – on Sunday, Dec. 3 at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C.

The honorees will be saluted by performers while seated alongside President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.

Talk about arrogance.

Three days after topping the pile of MTV Video Music Award nominees with eight nods for "Humble.," Kendrick Lamar is back to test our "Loyalty." Now the most pop-worthy song from DAMN. has a video as epic as the collaboration behind it.

"Righteous rachetness is the wave."

Rap's fashionable attack has come a long way since Russell Simmons had to cajole Adidas into cutting a check for Run-D.M.C.

When history ranks 2017 among hip-hop's wonder years — and from the sounds of the previous six months it certainly qualifies — Vic Mensa's long-awaited full-length debut will be a big part of the reason why. The Chi-town native has created a work in The Autobiography that's equal parts confessional and confrontational, gut-wrenching and uplifting. Steeped in a personal story arc that envelopes Mensa's hometown, it echoes with the pain of a generation.

"I'm working on the SoundCloud thing," Chance the Rapper tweeted last Thursday, sounding like an angel tasked with yet another miracle after rumors — later denied by the company — that SoundCloud's collapse was imminent. After having what he called "a fruitful call" with SoundCloud cofounder Alex Ljung, Chance tweeted "SoundCloud is here to stay," a day later.

When an artist of Dr. Dre's stature releases a new song, it's always an event – especially since he averages about a record a decade.

When you're born with a musical bloodline and the perfect rap moniker to match, dropping dope lines on your daddy's critically-acclaimed album is almost inevitable. Just ask Blue Ivy.

After a week of Tidal/Sprint exclusivity, three additional bonus tracks from Jay-Z's 4:44 leaked last night — including one featuring freestyle bars from the first daughter of music's royal couple, Jay-Z and Beyoncé.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


Editors Note: Shabazz Palaces' Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines is the second of two albums that Ishmael Butler released the 06/14. We recommend listening to his first installment, Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star, before pressing play here.

JAY-Z opens his latest album, 4:44, by slaying his own ego.

For an MC who's spent his entire career constructing such a formidable facade, it's a tall task. But "Kill Jay Z" sets the stage for what becomes his most personal, vulnerable album yet — and arguably one of his best.

Sounds like Independence Day has come early for Public Enemy. After recently leaking plans to release a new album, Nothing Is Quick In The Desert, on July 4, the iconic rap group has uploaded the entire LP to its Bandcamp page.

When Biggie Smalls is nearly banished from Bed-Stuy, the writing is on the wall. An outside mural dedicated in 2015 to the deceased hip-hop icon and Brooklyn native Notorious B.I.G. barely avoided permanent removal last month after the building's landlord threatened to do away with it for major renovations.

The BET Awards, like black America, is never a monolithic affair.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Just when it seems Atlanta's done all it can to decimate rap's beloved traditions, someone hops out of bounds again, crosses another line, slaughters a sacred cow.

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