Kanye West claims to be the first rapper with a Benz and a backpack, but these days it looks like several backpack rappers are carrying around more than just a pad and a pen. In the past year, there’s been a wave of underground MCs surfacing their way to the mainstream top and collecting checks on their way up. These youthful spitters are penning a modern hook to the already played backpack rap era of the 80s and 90s. With the recent success of backpack rap from such conscious rappers as Kanye, Lupe Fiasco, and Kid Cudi, the new school of backpackers is painting a different, more open road in the hip-hop lane.
So, what exactly is “backpack rap”? It’s a sub-genre of hip hop that’s traditionally known for being void of the glitz and glam that comes with being a rapper, or as rapper Drake put it, “the money, cars, clothes, and hoes.” In other words, it is less concerned with “making it” and instead focuses more on issues surrounding social awareness. However, backpack rap today has taken on a new look. The hip-hop underground scene that’s getting play includes the alternative and indie side of hip-hop, rather than the political, intellectual stereotype of the genre. It’s the youthful sound and mix of genres that takes these MCs from backpackers to Benz owners, not to mention the sound that’s sitting atop this week’s Billboard charts (more on that in a bit).