All-Star Weekend is officially here, and though things might look a bit different this year, the competition is still all the same. In honor of the festivities, we at The 4th Quarter decided to have some fun and dared to answer the question, ‘what would a Hip-Hop All-Star Game look like?’
To answer, Njera and myself picked a batch of artists to select who would be our All-Stars based on their performance from 2020 up until now. The pool of artists we chose was divided up based on the regions that correspond with the respective NBA cities – I took the East and Njera took the West.
Below we present the starters and reserves for The 4th Quarter’s 2021 Hip-Hop All-Star Game:
Brandon’s Roster (East)
Lil Baby was 2020’s MVP, so this All-Star nod was already set in stone. Baby made plenty of noise throughout the year, following the release of his My Turn album. According to MRC Data, the album was the most popular album of last year. The project went certified double platinum and earned Baby his first No. 1 album. My Turn had the numbers and the quality to match. Nine of the original tracks earned plaques, including “Woah,” “Sum 2 Prove,” and “Emotionally Scarred.” He also dropped off a deluxe version that took the project to the next level. It featured “All In” and the 42 Dugg collab, “We Paid,” which would have been one of the club anthems if outside was open. The year 2020 was filled with COVID cases and social unrest, so Lil Baby used his platform to send a message with the socially-conscious record, “The Bigger Picture,” which also went platinum. A Lil Baby feature is starting to become somewhat of a stimulus package, as his career is taking off to even greater heights. One of the hottest rappers in the game, his slot as a starter is undeniable.
First things first — R.I.P. Pop Smoke. Hip-Hop lost a rising star when Pop Smoke was killed last February. At just 20 years old, he had become the face of the resurgent Brooklyn drill movement. Just weeks before his death, Pop dropped his second mixtape, Meet the Woo 2, which features standout tracks like “Shake The Room,” “Christopher Walking,” and “Mannequin.” Pop’s debut studio album Shoot For the Stars, Aim for the Moon was later released posthumously. The project debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and was powered by four platinum singles, two of which reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 (“For The Night” and “What You Know Bout Love”). Tracks from the album could be heard all over TikTok as well. Some may say Pop Smoke wouldn’t have been this big if he was still alive. We may never know, but it’s clear that he had the makings of a star. The younger generation embraced him, and he also garnered the respect of many within the music industry. This All-Star nod was certainly deserved and earned.
Benny the Butcher
The rap scene in New York is definitely buzzing right now. Pop Smoke’s music is still going crazy and if you go to Buffalo, you’ll find the rap collective Griselda Records. The three biggest names under that faction are Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine and Benny the Butcher. The latter of the three emerged in a major way over the past year. Benny the Butcher released a host of mixtapes between 2004 and 2018, but it wasn’t until 2019 that people really started to pay attention. He released an EP titled The Plugs I Met, then he followed it up last year with his third studio album Burden of Proof. The album was widely-regarded as one of the best rap projects of 2020. Benny’s music may not be for everybody, but for the OG rap fans and those who love a great lyricist, his music is a dream. Benny raps with such confidence and bravado and his flows are very much refined. While Benny the Butcher has not reached the same level of mainstream success as most of the other names on this list, you simply cannot overlook the work he has put in and quality beats quantity.
After 10 years in the game, Lil Durk is still going hard for Chicago and the streets as a whole. In fact, he may actually be on a run, unlike one that he’s ever had before. One of the pioneers of Chicago’s drill movement, Durk has honed in on his craft and found a way to stay relevant in the rap game. Lil Durk has had the streets on lock over the past eight months or so. Last May, he released his fifth studio album Just Cause Y’all Waited 2, which peaked at No. 2 and featured street anthems like “All Love,” “Viral Moment” and “3 Headed Goat.” Then, he closed 2020 out with The Voice, his second full-length album of the year. The project features standout tracks “Refugee,” “The Voice” and “Backdoor.” He later dropped a deluxe version, which included the Lil Baby-assisted trap banger “Finesse Out the Gang Way.” Durk also linked up with rising star Pooh Shiesty for his breakout single “Back In Blood.” All in all, Lil Durk is one of the most respected names in the game and in the streets. He’s a perfect example of what longevity looks like in today’s industry.
Lil Uzi Vert
Lil Uzi Vert doesn’t drop projects every year, but when he does drop, we just know it’s going to go crazy. Fans had been waiting on pins and needles for a new album and Uzi certainly delivered, dropping three projects in 2020. He released Eternal Atake, his second studio album, and it was met with great reception. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Uzi has built a reputation for pushing the envelope with his music and having his own unique sound, which has helped him develop such a loyal fanbase. The album went platinum behind tracks like “Futsal Shuffle, “That Way” and “Baby Pluto.” He also released a deluxe version, which he titled Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World 2, which featured popular records “Myron” and “Bean (Kobe).” For his last act, Uzi tapped in with Future for a collaborative album Pluto x Baby Pluto, which also performed well.
There are several bright young talents coming up out of Chicago right now, but none bigger than Polo G. Polo made a great first impression with his debut album Die a Legend, which went platinum. He followed that up with a strong sophomore campaign behind his second studio album, The GOAT. The project debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and earned Polo G yet another platinum plaque, following the success of songs like “Heartless,” “Martin & Gina” and “Go Stupid.” When Polo G raps, he lets us know he’s really got something to say. The messages behind his lyrics are just one of the many components that set him apart from other artists in his class. In today’s streaming era, he continues to elevate to new heights. Polo G is firmly entrenched as a playmaker in Hip-Hop.
Let’s be honest — Freddie Gibbs is not for everyone. His music is a bit of an acquired taste, which sounds strange to say because he is a lyricist at heart. The younger generation may not appreciate his Gibbs’ lyrical ability, but rap purists definitely are rocking with him. Last year, he released Alfredo, a collaborative album with producer The Alchemist. This album was the most successful body of work of his career up to this point. Alfredo peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard 200, but was met with critical acclaim by numerous outlets. The album earned Freddie his first Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album at this year’s awards show. Gibbs appears to be hitting his stride at the right time. With Bandana and Alfredo back to back, he’s got the hot hand.
With more than a decade of music under his belt, Future Hendrix has established himself as one of the most complete artists in Hip-Hop. There’s little left to prove, so he doesn’t drop as often as he once did, but he very rarely disappoints. Future released his eighth studio album High Off Life at the mid-way point of 2020. It wasn’t his best work, but it has some great moments and also performed well commercially. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and featured the 8x platinum smash-hit Drake collab, “Life is Good.” It also housed fan favorites like “Trillionaire,” “Too Comfortable,” and “Accepting My Flaws.” Future also shined on the Lil Uzi Vert collaborative album, Pluto x Baby Pluto. Future is still one of the top dogs in Hip-Hop and he proves it time and time again.
Quiet as kept, G Herbo delivered one of the best rap projects of 2020. Although, he’s not a mainstream darling, he enjoyed the best commercial performance of his career with his latest studio album PTSD. The album debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200, giving G Herbo his first Top 10 debut. The project’s title track “PTSD,” featured Chance the Rapper, Lil Uzi Vert and the late Juice WRLD. The single gained a great deal of traction and it peaked at No. 38 on the Hot 100. This was the first G Herbo track to make it on the charts. As a rapper who’s been in the game for a while now, this was a huge win. Herbo came through with his most vulnerable effort to-date and the meaning behind it is why so many people resonated with it. G Herbo is living proof that you don’t have to conform to the industry to have success.
It’s been a roller coaster ride for the City Girls for the past few years they’ve been in the game. 2020 was a big year for the Miami duo – JT was released from prison, much to the excitement of their fans and the Hip-Hop community as a whole. They dropped their second studio album City On Lock in June and a summer release was perfect timing. The project featured catchy records like “Jobs” and “Flewed Out.” They’ve also been tapped for features for popular tracks like Moneybagg Yo’s “Said Sum,” BRS Kash’s “Throat Baby” and Chloe x Halle’s “Do It.” The City Girls are a brand — they know who they are and they’re unapologetic about it. They’re hustlers and one constant is that they’ll always make music about getting to a bag.
After a bit of a quiet 2019 campaign, 21 Savage re-established himself as an important fixture in the rap game in 2020. This past October, he released Savage Mode II, a collab album with Metro Boomin, who is one of the most sought-after producers in Hip-Hop. The album was a sequel to his breakthrough Savage Mode project that brought 21 to the mainstream. The project was a throughly enjoyable body of work, featuring bangers such as “Glock in My Lap,” “Many Men” and “Mr. Right Now.” SMII debuted at No. 1 and was certified gold. According to Music Business Worldwide, 21 Savage was the top songwriter of 2020, racking up 21 platinum and gold certifications. Songwriting is a skill that not all rappers have, but over the years 21 Savage has evolved and grown into a legitimate artist and he is now a mainstay.
Normally, Drake would be considered a no-brainer for a starting spot. However, since this is based on 2020 up until now, a reserve spot seems to be more fitting. In a way, Drake took somewhat of a step back over the past year while the rest of the East coast roster shined. Still, Drake did enough to earn the nod. He released Dark Lane Demo Tapes last year, a mixtape that served as sort of an appetizer to his upcoming album, Certified Lover Boy. The project debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and was carried by tracks like “Pain 1993,” “When To Say When” and “Chicago Freestyle.” It also featured the infectious dance single, “Toosie Slide,” which went viral on social media. The song debuted at No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100, making Drake the first artist to have 3 singles debut at No. 1. He also gave us a taste of what’s to come on the upcoming album with its lead single, “Laugh Now Cry Later,” which features a guest verse from Lil Durk. The single has already gone platinum. A down year for Drake is still better than a lot of artists’ good years.
Njera’s Roster (West)
Megan Thee Stallion
When you name the biggest rappers of 2020, Megan Thee Stallion is for sure at the top of those lists. Since she dropped her Suga EP back in March of last year, she’s been hitting us nonstop with new music and trends that have redefined the way the music industry has started to embrace female artists again. From teaming up with Beyoncé for the “Savage (Remix)” to owning the year with Cardi B’s “WAP,” Megan has seized any and every opportunity to make some of the biggest records of the year, while also providing the base for many TikTok challenges that have rolled out recently. Despite her setback from the shooting incident over the summer, Megan didn’t let that stop her flow, and after much anticipation she finally dropped her debut album, Good News. She’s at the top of her game right now, and from the looks of her latest freestyle, it seems as though she may be bringing her Tina Snow alter ego back to remind us where the Hot Girl came from. All in all, if you want to bet on an all-star talent, my money is always on Megan.
Roddy Ricch’s quick rise to stardom has been a remarkable journey highlighted by securing a Grammy win, No. 1 single, and No. 1 album. He owned 2020 as Hip-Hop’s hottest breakout star with his 8x-multi-platinum “The Box” single, which was deemed the number one song topping Apple Music’s 2020 year-end album and songs charts and spent 18 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. He continued his 2020 momentum with DaBaby’s “Rockstar” – another No. 1 single deemed the song of the summer. Now the Compton-bred artist is teasing the release of his upcoming Feed Tha Streets 3 mixtape. Roddy Ricch undoubtedly shocked the masses last year and proved how dominant Hip-Hop is compared to other genres. With the major buzz around his name, there’s no telling what he can accomplish now.
Most may find picking Lil Wayne as an All-Star starter as a surprising choice, but his attitude stands out – specifically his resilience to keep going despite the naysayers who disagree with some of his actions. Lil Wayne has more than had his fair share of controversies over the course of his lengthy career, but he’s still standing and has maintained a core fanbase through it all. His bounce back potential at the end of the day is admirable, most recently with projects like Funeral – his 13th studio album to date – and his double-disc mixtape No Ceilings 3 that was well-received by fans back in November. Lil Wayne’s name still rings out in Hip-Hop and he’s blazed too big of a trail to count him out now.
In less than a decade, Travis Scott has cemented a place in Hip-Hop that transcends the need for lyricism. His level of artistry has created a new lane where he’s now considered one of, if not the most electrifying performers of our generation. His ability to captivate audiences and elevate them to a higher level at shows is mind-blowing, especially his knack for forming the perfect mosh pits. His energetic songs coupled with his show-stopping performance style didn’t just make him one of rap’s biggest stars, but music’s as well. On top of that, he’s successfully released two No. 1 albums – 2016’s Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight and 2018’s Astroworld – which is a huge accomplishment for any out-of-the-box rap artist. Moreover, the level of success he’s found outside of the music industry through not-so-surprising partnerships with McDonald’s, PS5, and more is proof that Scott’s star power knows no limits.
If any artist has mastered the art of adapting to the most unique circumstances, it’s Saweetie for sure. The crowned ‘quarantine content queen’ has stepped into a new space filled with creativity over the last year that always keeps fans guessing – whether she’s staying ahead of the curve setting trends on social media or going viral for another crazy food combo. That kind of versatility is a rare find in artists today and although Saweetie gets more recognition for what she does outside of making music, there’s no questioning her hit-making abilities. From “Icy Girl” to “My Type” to “Tap In,” Saweetie’s numbers are way up there with the top dogs of women in rap.
Unlike all other areas of life, coming into the Hip-Hop game as a white rapper is by no means an easy ride, much less a pass to being accepted by the culture’s gatekeepers. However, this last year Jack Harlow has made it look all too easy. The 22-year-old Louisville, KY rapper’s laid-back chill approach has propelled him light-years ahead of some of his peers, and he’s just getting started. As one of the buzziest newcomers to rap, Jack Harlow is quickly becoming a household name already with a Grammy nod for the No. 1 Billboard hit under his belt – “Whats Poppin (Remix)” – and the release of his debut album, That’s What They All Say. Though he still has much to prove in terms of consistency, his rise to fame has been fun to watch and there’s surely more to come from the young spitter.
Over the last few years, Doja Cat has proven to be a one-of-a-kind artist – in more ways than one. From her controversial headlines to her TikTok hit-songs, the pop/rap star has still won the hearts of many both inside and outside of the music industry. Doja Cat first burst onto the scene in 2018 as a viral sensation with her song “Mooo!” and saw fame almost instantly overnight. Though some found it hard to take her seriously with her outrageous single, Doja Cat quickly quieted the chatter by leaning into her pop lane that would propel her second studio album, Hot Pink. Shortly after its release, her viral TikTok hit, “Say So” ran it up online and proved the budding superstar to be a force to be reckoned with. She’s become a lovable artist among many women in music, including Megan Thee Stallion, Nicki Minaj, Saweetie, and others, and continues to make waves that overshadow any stain that was on her career.
Two things for sure come to mind when you think of NBA Youngboy – controversy and a non-stop work ethic. At just 21 years old, the Baton Rogue rapper has become one of the most prolific rappers of his time, and it’s all thanks to his nine top 40-charters, four top 10 efforts, and three No.1 Billboard 200 projects – AI YoungBoy 2, 38 Baby 2, and Top. Not to mention, he made it cool again for Hip-Hop artists to use YouTube as a launching pad for streams for new music releases. With over 9.14 million subscribers and hundreds of millions of views, NBA Youngboy has beat out the biggest pop stars and Hip-Hop’s cream of the crop. His nonstop cycle of legal trouble may have him on the bench for now, but we shouldn’t count him out as an artist – not when he’s still very much in his prime.
Travis Scott protege and Cactus Jack signee Don Toliver has been making things shake in the music industry since he broke out with his single, “Diva,” back in late 2017. From there, he saw an uptick in momentum over the last three years since he first dropped his 2018 mixtape, Donny Womack – a release that occurred just days before his contribution to Travis’ “Can’t Say” track off his Astroworld album. The Houston rapper’s feature on that song had the world asking, ‘who is this guy?,’ and he answered back with his viral TikTok anthem, “No Idea.” Just when you thought he peaked, he flipped the industry on its head when he dropped his smash debut album, Heaven or Hell, early last year. He’s been shaking up the Hip-Hop world with his signature mashup of melodic rap, and though he’s no surefire household name yet, he certainly holds all the potential to get there.
Moneybagg Yo isn’t at the top of the rap game, but he’s been consistent with his music for the last few years and has secured some hit songs with the help of artists like the City Girls, Megan Thee Stallion, DaBaby and more. The Memphis rapper comes from the same stomping grounds as artists such as Juicy J, Project Pat, and Yo Gotti to name a few, and has remained an energetic flame putting on for his city. Known for his brash tracks and certified club anthems, Moneybagg Yo is always a safe bet because he stays in the pocket and plays to his strengths. Bangers like “All Dat,” “U Played,” and “Said Sum” have made mainstream noise over the last year and his consistent run of albums – Reset, 43VA HEARTLESS, and Time Served – have helped to carve out a lane for him to prosper in Hip-Hop.
We first met Flo Milli in 2019 when she broke out onto the scene with one of her many viral hits “Beef FloMix” – a freestyle over Atlanta rapper Ethereal’s 2015 Playboi Carti collaboration, “Beef.” Following that, she amassed a gang of catchy hits including “In the Party,” proving she was way more than a one-hit wonder artist. 2020 was a huge breakout year for her, garnering major mainstream attention for those who were finally paying attention to the women in rap. Among the heavy-hitters that also had standout years in 2020, Flo Milli showcased the depths of her star power and hasn’t slowed down since. Her jaw-dropping Ho, why is you here? project took the industry by storm last year and put everybody on notice that a new face has arrived to shake things up. Her quick rise to superstardom is undeniable, and she’s stopping at nothing to show the world exactly what she’s capable of.
Last, but certainly not least, to grace the reserves roster is none of then popular newcomer Pooh Shiesty. The Memphis rookie and the 1017 Records signee has been heating the streets up over the last few months, officially declaring it Shiesty Season. In just a year, Pooh Shiesty’s life has changed entirely – partially due to his deal with Gucci Mane – after making his formal introduction on Gucci’s 2020 compilation album, So Icy Summer. From there, it was clear he was the best in his recruiting class and to finish proving his worth he sealed the sealed with his 2021 solo debut project and first single “Back in Blood” – positioning himself as one of the most promising all-star talents to break out in Hip-Hop in the last year.