Everyone’s a rapper now. Thanks to hip hop’s continued growth in popularity and the genre’s low barrier of entry, it’s more likely to know someone pursuing a professional rap career today than at any other time in history.
Lucky, the BET Hip Hop Awards have been tracking these newcomers since 2006 with the “Best New Artists'' category. Initially dubbed “Rookie of the Year '' and later the “Who Blew Up” award before being changed to the current “Best New Artist '' title today, the Hip Hop Awards’ track record of choosing long-lasting acts speaks for itself.
Whether it was donning Chicago’s Chance The Rapper the honor in 2016, Pop Smoke last year or Wiz Khalifa in 2011, rarely have winners gone on to be a bust.
RELATED: The 2019 BET Hip Hop Awards Winners
With the Hip Hop awards approaching this Fall and all the new talent this past calendar year, picking a lone stand-out will be closer than one might think. In the meantime, here’s a look at five past winners and how their careers have taken off since.
2 Chainz - 2012
Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz took home three BET Hip Hop Awards at the 2012 ceremony. Formerly known as Titty Boi, Chainz scooped up the “Sweet 16” trophy for his part in Kanye West’s “Mercy'' with Big Sean and Pusha T; the “People’s Champ” award, for his debut Based On A T.R.U. Story single, “No Lie,” Featuring Drake, and, of course, “Rookie of the Year,” for completely dominating the airwaves.
In retrospect, Chainz not only stood the test of time but, one could argue, was the correct pick against A$AP Rocky, Ca$h Out, Future, and Meek Mill.
Chainz is the only of his peers to have competed on Verzuz, going up against Rick Ross back in 2020; his 2019 album, 3 was A&R’d by none other than basketball megastar Lebron James; and he has two top 10 hits on Billboard — more than his peers combined.
Since then, the father of three released two more albums, No Face No Case in 2019 and So Help Me God! In 2020. The Atlanta rapper has also been hosting the GQ and Vice show, Most Expensiviest since 2017.
Iggy Azalea - 2014
Australian-born MC, Iggy Azalea, took home the honor home in 2014 as her debut studio album, The New Classic, debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and was one of the most popular albums that year.
Fetty Wap - 2015
When Fetty Wap won the award in 2015 with his self-titled debut studio album, it dropped with the singles "Trap Queen" and “My Way” and absolutely strangled the radio.
The album would sell more than 1 million copies and even landed at the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Top 200 chart.
Drake - 2009
The first BET Hip Hop Awards was in 2006 — the same year Drake won the award for
“Rookie of The Year.”
Seventy million records sold, four Grammys, six American Music Awards, two Brits, and three Junos later, and it’s safe to say he was the right choice. The Canadian rapper was also named Artist of the Decade by Billboard and is tied for second all-time in BET Hip Hop Award wins.
And Drizzy is still breaking records. According to Apple Music, in an Instagram post on Friday (Sept. 3), his sixth studio album, Certified Lover Boy, broke his record for the most-streamed album in a single day.
Cardi B - 2017
Honestly, everyone saw Cardi B. as the bonafide star today even before she won the “Best New Artist” title in 2017.
While it’s true "Bodak Yellow" became the largest single in the country that year, the New York native was already an Instagram influence and starred on VH1’s Love & Hip Hop: New York — there’s a reason she also won “Hustler of The Year”.
After winning the illustrious Hip Hop Awards honor, Cardi released Invasion of Privacy in 2018. The debut album topped the Billboard 200 and won Best Rap Album at the 2019 Grammys, making it the first time a solo female rapper landed the accolade.
Although Cardi hasn’t released an album, she’s hosted the 2018 hip-hop show, Rhythm + Flow, sold out tours across the world had the viral smashes ‘WAP’ (2020) and “Up” (2021).