Rodney Carmichael

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.

For more than half a decade Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have been an inseparable creative duo, racking up record sales and Grammy awards. But the premiere of "Glorious" — the first single from Macklemore's new, unnamed album — comes today with news that the Seattle rapper's next release will be a solo effort.

The Southern dialect is a complex thing, especially when pouring out the mouths of three of the regions best rappers ever. From the marble-mouthed flow of trapper du jour Gucci Mane, to the elongated vowel sounds of the dearly departed Pimp C, to the sticky, multi-syllabic delivery of OutKast's most consistent player Big Boi, it comes in all drawls and colors.

Geopolitics might not be the first thing that comes to mind as you watch the NPR premiere of the new Higher Brothers video for "Franklin," featuring Jay Park, but the global implications are real.

We already knew Nick Grant was a sick lyricist. Then he arrived at NPR headquarters with a mild case of the flu and quickly demonstrated why the title of his debut — Return of the Cool — should be taken quite literally.

Hailing from a region where rap's young guns and lil innovators tend to defy tradition, the South Carolina-by-way-of-Atlanta native proves being a purist is not just for the old heads.

Sometimes life confronts us with the very things we're attempting to flee. That's the raw inspiration behind the first video from Philly-based artist Ivy Sole's sophomore EP East. The visual for "Life," premiering on NPR today, depicts the story of a protagonist battling his own demons.

Two decades after his death, Tupac Shakur is still the headline-generating, record-selling, contentious figure that he was in life. From DJ Funkmaster Flex's recent tearful Tupac rant to the fresh diss tracks it generated in response, our obsession with the legend continues to grow. And it's bigger than hip-hop.

A year ago today, Gucci Mane emerged from an Indiana federal penitentiary a slimmer, sober, reformed version of his old self. Though still confined to house arrest, the Atlanta rapper quickly began picking up the pieces of a career left in limbo when he received a 39-month sentence on gun and drug charges in 2014.

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.

When the story of Atlanta's turn-of-the-millennium sonic boom is told 100 years from now, Organized Noize — the production trio of Ray Murray, Sleepy Brown and Rico Wade — will be the sound architects credited with putting the Dirty South on the map.

The only thing bigger than a classic beef in hip-hop is a monumental collabo. And when Kendrick Lamar, the artist with the biggest selling album of the year (DAMN.), hooks up with Future, the artist responsible for making history in 2017 with back-to-back No. 1 albums (FUTURE, HNDRXX), it's bound to be the best of both worlds. That's exactly what happens on a newly released remix of Future's runaway hit "Mask Off," featuring an inspired verse from Lamar.

The pairing is not their first, but here's what makes it so compelling and dope.

When Vince Staples releases his sophomore album Big Fish Theory next month, he won't be the only lanky rapper from Long Beach, Calif. with new music in the marketplace. Big Uncle Snoop Dogg, whose solo debut Doggystyle dropped the same year Staples was born, released his 15th studio album this week. And like the title Neva Left not-so-subtly suggests, his ubiquitous industry presence over the last quarter century is unprecedented in hip-hop.

T-Pain just unleashed a real rap unicorn. T-Wayne — his once-promised collaborative project with Lil Wayne, originally set to drop around 2009 — is finally live on Soundcloud. Also available for free download on the artists' shared website, it's a nostalgic rewind to an era when both T-Pain and Lil Wayne were at the apex of their careers.

Did you know Fetty Wap played Martin Shkreli's office Christmas party in 2015?

Jay Z may be one step closer to becoming hip-hop's first billionaire. The day after appearing on an annual shortlist of hip-hop's wealthiest artists. With an estimated net worth of $810 million, the rapper and entrepreneur has announced a new deal with Live Nation that could put him over the top, Variety reports.

You know what's funny about "Kool Aid," the new Danny Brown song made for the HBO show Silicon Valley? No, it's not Brown's endearing squeal. It's not even the familiar way in which he recycles Kool-Aid as colloquial '80s slanguage to emphasize the importance of people staying out of his, uhh, mix.

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