Hometown: Baton Rouge, LA
Active Since: 2007
Label: Bread Winners Association/Atlantic Records
Twitter Handle: @Kevin_Gates
Essential Listening: The Luca Brasi Story
Pros: Has the management, the connections, the pedigree, and the ear for hooks.
Cons: His style is an aquired taste, and compelling street narratives aren't exactly at a commercial peak in 2013.
Blending an undeniable melodic sense and weaving subtle street narratives, Kevin Gates crafts convincing "songs for the ladies" that seem as well-considered as his tracks targeting gangster rap aficionados. The rapper has been recording since the late 2000s, when fellow Baton Rouge resident Lil Boosie was reaching his popular peak. In fact, the first time listeners outside of Louisiana heard of him was "Get in the Way," a single that featured Boosie, the region's now-incarcerated superstar. Both rappers went to jail soon after; Boosie remains incarcerated. But when Gates emerged in 2011, he hit the studio, and his buzz has slowly grown ever since. His initial impact attracted the attention of Lil Wayne, and Cash Money soon jumped in to manage the rapper. His buzz didn't garner much media attention, though, until spring 2013, when he stole the show on Pusha T's "Trust You" and immediately followed it up with the impressive The Luca Brasi Story mixtape. He's already released an album-before-the-album Stranger Than Fiction since that time, and seems poised for bigger things. —David Drake