"Ain't a place that I know that bear resemblance; that's why they call it The Planet," Mos Def raps on his 1999 ode to Brooklyn. He wasn't lying: with its own nuanced cadence, flavor and subject matter, Brooklyn hip-hop is an entirely different genre. Though some of its brightest stars transcend local parameters, everyone from Jay-Z to Biggie Smalls has viable Bucktown influence in their rhymes.
BK still pushes on today, with the release of Joey Bada$$'s anticipated Summer Knights mixtape marking the latest triumph. Check out the borough's burgeoning talents below.
1. Pro Era
You can't mention Joey without his Pro Era crew, which appears to be ascending just as quickly as its de-facto frontman. While Bada$$ stole headlines with last year's critically-acclaimed 1999, the collective Peep: The Apocalypse project was just as buzzworthy.
These kids rap and produce like they're stuck in Brooklyn's boom-bap age, even though most of them have yet to hit the age of 20. CJ Fly and Kirk Knight stand out as two of PE's most promising talents, while the late Capital Steez will see a posthumous debut album in 2013.
Joey's fiercely loyal to his crew, ignoring his budding buzz and giving five of Summer Knights' seven features to Pro Era emcees. With ears for beats and serious talent at such young ages, PE will take off regardless of what their leader does.
2. Mr. Muthaf*ckin' eXquire
He's some twisted hybrid of Biggie and ODB. He's just as talented as he is brash. He's Mr. MFN eXquire, and he's every bit ridiculous as his moniker.
The debut mixtape Lost in Translation received rave reviews, and the deprived character that's "drivin' drunk on a Wednesdaaay" is completely completely cognizant of his appeal. Despite increased exposure, eXquire isn't toning it down at all.
But not everything's vulgar for vulgar's sake. eX's inconsistent personality and bouts with depression and self-doubt make for some very interesting music.
"I encapsulate what it means to be from Brooklyn," the Crown Heights native says.
3. Flatbush Zombies
Brooklyn gets weird, if you haven't noticed.
The Flatbush trio of Meech, Juice and Erick Arc Elliott turned heads with their D.R.U.G.S. project, a substance-addled mixture of nightmarish synth and mellow weed raps. Meech claims he was reincarnated at 16 after dropping shrooms; Juice sports a beard that looks more like a novelty gag than actual facial hair. Regardless, these two are serious about their drug use, serious about their hip-hop, and serious about how the two coexist without stoner cliches.
The Zombies have performed with A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown and the rest of rap's new weirdos. It's only a matter of time before they're headlining some shows.
Opening for the likes of Talib Kweli and Buckshot, DyMe-A-DuZin already has Brooklyn's blessing. The self-nicknamed "Swank Sinatra" understands where the genre's been but has no reservations pushing it forward with compact rhyme schemes and a cool yet eager flow. At just 20-years-old, the subject matter's already progressing, and you can tell that this kid is a natural entertainer.
DuZin headlines the Phony Ppl crew, which has performed on the same stage as The Roots and Erykah Badu. His fondness of bow-ties is a plus; his hatred for hipsters in his native Bed-Stuy is even better.
5. Phony Ppl
DyMe's crew is right behind him. Phony Ppl feature live percussion, production elements that range from J. Dilla to N.E.R.D., and introspective nerd-rap from Bed-Stuy. The large crew dynamic is bolstered by the fact that they're equal parts friends and bandmates.
Phonyland. and nothinG special. are fantastic free albums that continue to pick up hype. Phony Ppl are like a new-age Native Tongues in graphic tees, palatable entry-point rap for the tragically hip and refreshing Golden Age for the hip-hop heads. Like everyone else on this list, their young ages hint at a long future.
6. The Underachievers
Part of the Beast Coast movement that's putting gritty lyricism back in New York hip-hop, the Underachievers emerge as Pro Era's pissed off cousins. Issa Dash and AK form a duo that claims it'll "bring it to ya front lawn," on Indigoism, the rapid-fire mixtape that resulted in a signing from Flying Lotus.
With a preference for psychedelics, a recent opening gig for Kendrick Lamar and connects to the rest of the Flatbush talent, the Underachievers are poised to do anything but.
7. Nitty Scott, MC
A female emcee that doesn't sound like Nicki Minaj? Seriously. Brooklyn's Nitty Scott, MC is more of a Jean Grae and Lauryn Hill than anything else, and her recent single with Kendrick showcases her simultaneous charm and lyrical dexterity.
Scott's been featured in the New York Times and was in on a BET cypher back in '11. It's only a matter of time before a gimmick-less girl makes it in today's hip-hop.