Rodney Carmichael

Two decades after his death, Tupac Shakur is still the headline-generating, record-selling, contentious figure that he was in life. From DJ Funkmaster Flex's recent tearful Tupac rant to the fresh diss tracks it generated in response, our obsession with the legend continues to grow. And it's bigger than hip-hop.

A year ago today, Gucci Mane emerged from an Indiana federal penitentiary a slimmer, sober, reformed version of his old self. Though still confined to house arrest, the Atlanta rapper quickly began picking up the pieces of a career left in limbo when he received a 39-month sentence on gun and drug charges in 2014.

Most musicians who achieve a certain amount of acclaim only to disappear from the public eye get cast as reclusive. The baggage that label carries has never quite fit Cody ChesnuTT. Even if you tried to pin it on him, he'd no doubt shake himself free. In between the release of his sprawling 2002 lo-fi debut, The Headphone Masterpiece, and the 2012 studio follow-up, Landing On A Hundred, the soul conjurer's mystique only grew.

When the story of Atlanta's turn-of-the-millennium sonic boom is told 100 years from now, Organized Noize — the production trio of Ray Murray, Sleepy Brown and Rico Wade — will be the sound architects credited with putting the Dirty South on the map.

The only thing bigger than a classic beef in hip-hop is a monumental collabo. And when Kendrick Lamar, the artist with the biggest selling album of the year (DAMN.), hooks up with Future, the artist responsible for making history in 2017 with back-to-back No. 1 albums (FUTURE, HNDRXX), it's bound to be the best of both worlds. That's exactly what happens on a newly released remix of Future's runaway hit "Mask Off," featuring an inspired verse from Lamar.

The pairing is not their first, but here's what makes it so compelling and dope.

When Vince Staples releases his sophomore album Big Fish Theory next month, he won't be the only lanky rapper from Long Beach, Calif. with new music in the marketplace. Big Uncle Snoop Dogg, whose solo debut Doggystyle dropped the same year Staples was born, released his 15th studio album this week. And like the title Neva Left not-so-subtly suggests, his ubiquitous industry presence over the last quarter century is unprecedented in hip-hop.

T-Pain just unleashed a real rap unicorn. T-Wayne — his once-promised collaborative project with Lil Wayne, originally set to drop around 2009 — is finally live on Soundcloud. Also available for free download on the artists' shared website, it's a nostalgic rewind to an era when both T-Pain and Lil Wayne were at the apex of their careers.

Did you know Fetty Wap played Martin Shkreli's office Christmas party in 2015?

Jay Z may be one step closer to becoming hip-hop's first billionaire. The day after appearing on an annual shortlist of hip-hop's wealthiest artists. With an estimated net worth of $810 million, the rapper and entrepreneur has announced a new deal with Live Nation that could put him over the top, Variety reports.

You know what's funny about "Kool Aid," the new Danny Brown song made for the HBO show Silicon Valley? No, it's not Brown's endearing squeal. It's not even the familiar way in which he recycles Kool-Aid as colloquial '80s slanguage to emphasize the importance of people staying out of his, uhh, mix.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

If prayer is meant to soothe the soul, Jamila Woods's "Holy" is a bathtub balm of self-affirming joy. Like manna from HEAVN (her 2016 debut LP), a new visual for the song descended this week, and it's a hair-raising ode to single black women who've considered self-pity when the loneliness was too much.

Brother Ali is a prophet, plain and simple. Even if you're unmoved by his life story — being a legally-blind albino rejected by society who found identity through hip-hop and the Muslim faith — his music most certainly will move you.

Kendrick Lamar has spoken. In his first interview since the debut of his (soon-to-be) chart-topping cultural phenomenon-of-an-album, DAMN., the rapper sat down for the now-requisite interview with Zane Lowe of Apple's Beats 1 Radio.

If, like so much of the general listening public, you have found yourself grappling with the themes and depth of his mystical masterpiece since its release one week ago today, you should find solace in the fact that this is exactly as Lamar intended.

What's weirder? A hip-hop loving Bill Nye the Science Guy, or a science-loving Tyler, the Creator?

The period of anticipation preceding the release of Kendrick Lamar's fourth album, DAMN., was intense, brief but methodically built.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We have a guide to this day's news.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Since its inception, hip-hop has been grappling with the timeless question Marvin Gaye posed on his seminal 1971 album: What's Going On?

This weekend happens to mark the 33rd anniversary of Gaye's own untimely death (on April 1, 1984) resulting from a domestic dispute with his father that happened just one day before the singer/songwriter's birthday. Gaye would've turned 77 this year.

A Tribe Called Quest's latest visual from its four-month-old reunion album, We got it from Here...Thank You 4 Your service, dropped Thursday and its a poetic distillation of hip-hop's generation gap.

Kendrick Lamar wasted no time following through on his mysterious "IV" Instagram post. Last night, the Compton MC released a new song, "The Heart Part 4," and it's a no-holds-barred lyrical onslaught.

Within the span of five minutes, over shifting beats produced by Syk Sense, The Alchemist, DJ Dahi and Axlfolie, Lamar waxes philosophical, adversarial and political while dropping heat on everyone from phony rappers to President Trump.

Kendrick Lamar, deservedly hailed as the god MC of his generation, made a peculiar pronouncement from on high (i.e., high-speed Internet) today that has fans genuflecting in collective anticipation.

The rapper's Instagram account was wiped clean Thursday morning, replaced with one cryptic post added around sunrise. The simple white-on-black image of the Roman numeral "IV," with no caption provided, has led to a near-universal interpretation: Prepare ye the way for the impending release of Lamar's fourth studio album.

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