It's almost comical that so many rappers can be identified by their jewelry- Rick Ross's Face Pic, Young Jeezy's Snowman, Kanye's (and now everybody's) Jesus Piece- "Ice" has been a symbolic part of hip hop music since Flava Flave's clock. But there's a new crop of young MC's that have broken through the bling glass and are leaving their imprint on the culture of hip hop minus the materials.
Kendrick Lamar just dropped what many consider to be the best debut album since Illmatic. Personally, I feel "Good Kid Maad City" is more comparable to "It's Dark and Hell is Hot" than any other record, but either way most agree it was an incredible album with its own merits. It's rare enough to find an artist that turns deep concepts and artful storytelling into commercial success, but it may be equally as rare to find an artist that doesn't celebrate that success with lavish pieces of jewelry. But Kendrick Lamar is just that, and he's not the only fresh star in hip hop that focuses more on spreading good music than spending music money.
J Cole is another relative newbie to the rap game, releasing a number one debut album in 2011 and selling over 200,000 copies in its first week of release. Similar to Good Kid Mad City, "Cole World The Sideline Story" was focused more on content and telling stories of relatable circumstances rather than boasting of new riches. And J Cole seems to be a perfect reflection of his music, usually differing to white t-shirts in his interviews more reminiscent of a college student than of a nation wide rap star.
Whether you're a supporter of either of these artists, as a fan of hip hop (and music in general) both of these artists need to be celebrated for not only contributing meaningful music to a genre that struggles for any type of meaning in its records, and praised even further for their contributions to the overall culture of hip hop as examples of creating content without the chains.