Chris Richards: If we're placing bets on tomorrow's hip-hop prophets, my money is on Los Angeleno Kendrick Lamar. In addition to claiming to have been visited by the spirit of Tupac Shakur in a dream, he opens his fantastic new "Section.80" album balancing rhymes about God, poverty, mosh pits and being abducted by aliens. One foot in reality and one foot in fantasy — that's what we need from our next rap Nostradamus, right?
Allison Stewart: I don't know if there's as obvious a contender as there was in 2008, when the recession was still novel and it was an election year. "Things are still terrible" isn't the subject matter epics are made of. My hopes are high (maybe not high, exactly; high-ish) for Killer Mike, the ATL rapper whose "Burn"perfectly summed up late 2010-early 2011. He's great at perfectly controlled times-are-tough rants, though he can take it a little far at times (like where he raps about stockpiling your weapons. Don't do that).
David Malitz: I will go with a half obvious choice - Jeezy associate Freddie Gibbs. Before "The Recession," you would have never really thought of Jeezy as someone to look at the big picture -- he mostly just explored thug motivations. Similarly, Gibbs has a limited outlook right now. He succinctly summarized it at a concert at U Street Music Hall a few months ago when he said, "I'm trying to do some gangsta [expletive]." But he has proven to be a a keen enough observer and gifted enough lyricist that if and when he expands his scope, the results will be special.