Age: 26
Label: TDE/Interscope
From: Carson, California
Active Since: 2009
Latest Release: Control System
Recent Single: "Terrorist Threats" f/ Danny Brown & Jhene Aiko
Who says politically minded rap has to be focused on opening up the public’s "third eye?" Ab-Soul isn't one of the most popular rappers around by any means, but a few listens to some of his songs reveal that isn't a factor to him. The energy and passion he puts into his tracks are the types of qualities that can appeal to audiences outside the backpacker fan base.

This balance of hustle and political consciousness is in full display in "Ab-Souls Outro" off 2011’s Section.80. While succinctly tying together the album's themes, Ab-Soul touches on the inherent problems of President Obama's race, martial law, and enlightenment. It's not that he's able to get through those topics within the span of two verses that makes the performance exciting; it's that he's able to sound empowering instead of condescending and alienating.

The balance is also part of what makes last year's Control System such a standout. You got darts at the powers that be in "Terrorist Threats" and "A Rebellion," and there's the chest beating epics of "Illuminate" and "Soulo Ho3." The whole project ranges from desperate, to angry, to aggressive, and by the end of it you realize there's still a whole career ahead of him. And if your "third eye" opens, that's cool too. —Brian Josephs