Rodney Carmichael

Jhené Aiko is not of this world.

Somewhere between pop-oriented R&B and traditional soul, the singer-songwriter floats like an ethereal voice disembodied from typical format and genre distinctions. So when we talk one week prior to the unannounced release of her epic new album, it comes as no surprise that she's much more interested in easing into the big reveal rather than making a huge splash.

In her rise from the Bronx to the Billboard charts, Cardi B has been many things frequently deemed disposable in the annals of pop culture: an exotic dancer, an Instagram celebrity, a reality TV star. But now there's no denying her place in history. At 24, Cardi B has become the first woman rapper to score an unassisted No. 1 hit since Lauryn Hill nearly two decades ago.

The last time Macklemore released a solo album, it wasn't ironic to call him a conscious rapper.

The president had ascended to the nation's highest office despite losing the popular vote. The country was embroiled in an immigration debate stoked, in part, by the politics of fear. And a natural disaster in the making would soon highlight the systemic fault lines of race and class in America.

In 2005, The Language of My World touched on all of those social issues and more. It couldn't have come at a more appropriate time — unless it was released today.

Master P and his New Orleans-bred No Limit Soldiers proved to the music industry that Southern hip-hop was "Bout It, Bout It" in the '90s. But beyond the records that flooded the Billboard charts, it was the guerrilla street marketing he brought to rap — as the founder of one of the biggest independent record labels of all time — that changed the game.

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.

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