We're in an era of information saturation. There are statistics and streaming numbers. There’s social media, metrics, publications, celebrities, friends, Romans, Pokémon. There are opinions and more opinions. If the audience wants a certain type of artist, and he or she doesn't exist, they can invent him (i.e. someone will fill the void). More than ever, such accidents of chance can lead to very temporal celebrity status. Maybe that means a hit record or a few blog posts; maybe it means a record deal or a radio show on Beats 1.
Some artists will have what it takes to sustain, regardless of the misfires and missteps. But figuring out who those people will be has become the real challenge for today's devoted hip-hop fan. In the late 2000s, a small group of blogs dictated the conversation. Soon, publications—finally catching on with the Internet—stepped in to take their place. In that era, new artists with a grassroots following could arrive and feel like a burst of fresh energy: ignored by the industry, rappers used YouTube and social media to build an independent following, ultimately making the press and labels look behind.
Now that an artist can go from not mentioned at all to gossip fodder with a stray celebrity tweet, it seems obvious that the balance has shifted. With so many artists bubbling—in the press, through the grassroots, or on the back of a celebrity endorsement—it's begun to feel like no one is going to "make it." The next generation will face more of an uphill climb as they traverse the new social web and remember to make music that matters, too. But there is hope. On The Rap Game—Jermaine Dupri's new show on Lifetime about young emerging artists aiming for their shot—that process itself is portrayed. The career begins before the career has even begun.
Here are 10 artists from 10 different cities whose odds look good.