Last Friday, exactly one week after the most popular rapper of the decade, Drake, released his most recent №1 album, Scorpion, Future proved why he’s the most consistent rapper of the 2010s by releasing Beast Mode 2, the rapper’s 17th project since 2012 — a catalog that includes six studio albums, two joint projects, and nine mixtapes.
While Drake, Kendrick, and J. Cole are considered the three-headed monster of hip-hop’s reigning generation, we may have to make room for Future. Together, they are the defining rappers of the ’10s, and we’ve reached a point where it’s worth discussing whether they’re one of the greatest generations in hip-hop history.
A new hip-hop generation sprouts up every few years, so the best way to measure each cohort is by dividing them into four-year windows: the rappers who blow up, simultaneously, over a four-year stretch, comprise a generation.
Since the genre catapulted into the mainstream in the mid-’80s, hip-hop has seen six generations come through rap’s revolving door.
Classes of 1984–87: Rakim, LL Cool J, Run, Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, Chuck D, KRS-One, Eazy-E and Ice Cube
Classes of 1992–95: Snoop Dogg, Nas, The Notorious B.I.G, 2Pac, Scarface, and Raekwon
Classes of 1996–99: Jay-Z, Andre 3000, DMX, Eminem, Ludacris, Ja Rule, Big Pun, Lauryn Hill, and Fat Joe
Classes of 2003–06: Lil Wayne, Kanye West, T.I., 50 Cent, Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, and Lupe Fiasco
Classes of 2009–12: Drake, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Future, Nicki Minaj, A$AP Rocky, Big Sean, and 2 Chainz
Classes of 2013–16: Chance the Rapper, Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert, Travis Scott, Vince Staples, 21 Savage, Kodak Black, Quavo, and Offset
Let’s rank them.