10 Cards to Collect from Today’s Hip-Hop Superstars
Welcome to a celebration like no other – a tribute to the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. In honor of this momentous anniversary, we’re looking at the two most important American creations of the late 20th century: modern trading card collecting and hip-hop. Join us all month (and beyond) as we spotlight how hip-hop and the Hobby have connected to create singular and enduring cultural moments.
Before the world rocked to the trading cards of today’s hip-hop heavyweights, we were already shuffling through the cardboard chronicles from our favorite rappers. Remember the Rap Pack? Those trading cards from the early 1990s that gave us pocket-sized legends? They set the stage, proving that hip-hop was not just a genre but a collectible culture. Years later, the card-collecting world still makes room for the titans of hip-hop, immortalizing their legacies in trading cards. As B-Real from Cypress Hill once said, “Music and memories go hand in hand, but a card? That’s forever, man.” So, while the names and faces may have evolved, the game remains the same.
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2016 Topps Series 2 #FP-19 Kendrick Lamar
Recently, King Kendrick set the internet ablaze with his prison-inspired “programming” workout, drawing hearty laughs and memes on zombie Twitter. Yet, this isn’t the first instance when the GRAMMY-winning Compton lyricist showcased his physical prowess. Flashback to April 27, 2015: Kung Fu Kenny takes the mound for the Dodgers, delivering a first pitch that, depending on who you ask, might’ve touched the strike zone. Commemorating this iconic moment, the 2016 Topps First Pitch card has become another feather in the cap of one of the world’s top five rap artists. After all, with titles like “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers” and the critically-acclaimed “Section 80” to his name – not to mention a whopping 17 Grammy awards – Billboard’s declaration of him as one of the greatest rappers of all time hardly feels like an overstatement. Are you debating that? Take that up at the barbershop.
2011 Topps American Pie Kanye West
Before J.R. Smith was coined as Hennessy’s unofficial sponsor, the symbol known as Kanye was doing his service for the notable brand at the 2009 MTV VMAs. Can you believe it’s been 14 years since the iconic and jaw-dropping moment when Kanye grabbed the VMA from Taylor Swift and ranted about how it should’ve been Beyoncé’s win? Not going to lie. This is still a hotly contested topic. The 2011 Topps card commemorated one of the most unhinged moments in award show history. We may never get another like it (unless your name is Will Smith). With that said, Yeezy is still going strong as one of the greatest producers/rappers/sneaker designers ever. But let’s keep it a bean; he needs his phone privileges revoked. How many artists are beating Kanye in an actual Verzus? His catalog is way too deep, and he’s still cranking out hits despite his ever-changing personas.
2021 Topps Garbage Pail Kids The Shammy Awards #4A Medalling Megan
Megan Thee Stallion first sparked interest on social media as a college student, setting pre-zombie Twitter ablaze with a show-stealing performance in a Houston cypher. In 2016 and ’17, the Houston Hottie released two SoundCloud-exclusive mixtapes, Rich Ratchet and Megan Mix. She then dropped the track “Big Ole Freak” in 2019 and watched the trajectory of her career blast into orbit. A bonafide superstar, Thee Stallion is now a mainstay on the charts who lights up TikTok with songs like “WAP,” “Savage,” and “Hot Girl Summer.” At this point in her young career, she boasts three GRAMMY wins, a slew of other awards, and brand deals from just about any company worth its salt. The H-Tine princess is enjoying what should be called a “Hot Girl Decade.” She’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
2020 Topps Garbage Pail Kids The Shammy Awards #2A Tyler, the Creator
The co-founder of Odd Future, Tyler, the Creator, threw music fans and media outlets for a loop and had them collectively clutching their pearls after channeling his inner Marilyn Manson and releasing the video for Yonkers in 2011. The video went on to land him his first MTV VMA, and the California native has flourished ever since. His wit, artistic vision, and taste for shock value built a brand that captivated a generation of angsty youths and parlayed into great success in several avenues, including TV, where the group dropped the Adult Swim hit series Loiter Squad. The California-based emcee has since left the horrorcore and Howard Stern-esque space for more serious endeavors and has watched his star reach even greater heights as he won GRAMMYs in 2020 for his projects Igor and Call Me If You Get Lost. Today, Tyler, the Creator is still one of hip-hop’s biggest names and innovators, collaborating with everyone from Pharrell to NBA Youngboy. The 2020 Topps Garbage Pail Kids The Shammy Awards #2A Tyler, the Creator captures Tyler at what he would probably say is his finest.
2021 Topps x Lil Wayne Tha Carter IV 10th Anniversary “Novacane”
There are two types of people: those who hail Lil Wayne as hip-hop’s undisputed GOAT and those who have another favorite. And you know what? Seeing Wayne as the GOAT isn’t a wild thought. During what many consider the most legendary run in hip-hop history, fans were so enthralled they began calling themselves “Waynheads,” growing dreads, and even dressing like the Hollygrove native down to the wallet chains. From 2002-08, Lil Wayne was untouchable, releasing a string of classic mixtapes and albums, and dominating the hip-hop scene as if he were the Usain Bolt of rap – in fact, Usain Bolt should consider himself the Lil Wayne of sprinting. Even after his hallowed period, he continued to rack up awards and drop platinum projects, including the Tha Carter IV. In 2021, Topps commemorated the 10th anniversary of his 5x platinum album. And Wayne? He absolutely loved it.
2023 Leaf Metal Pop Century Pro Set Raps Lil Baby Auto
Lil Baby never saw himself rapping. Originally an avid gambler and hustler, he was content being around the studio, enjoying time with musicians and fellow hustlers. However, with encouragement from well-known figures like Young Thug and Pierre Thomas, aka Pee from Quality Control Music, and a reality check from a brief prison stint, the south Atlanta native decided to try his hand at rapping. This unexpected career shift led to multiple accolades, including a GRAMMY win in 2022 for Best Melodic Performance, consistent placements on the Billboard charts, a string of hit mixtapes and albums, and a trading card with his very own auto. Lil Baby now has a devoted fan base that spans multiple age groups because of his authenticity and relatability. Among his ardent supporters are notable figures like NBA star James Harden and Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin. How life’s events turn, huh?
2023 Leaf Metal Pop Century Meek Mill
“Dreams and Nightmares” isn’t just the unofficial song for the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s the unofficial anthem of hip-hop clubs in almost every city across America. Rarely will you leave the spot without hearing the crowd crooning to Meek’s timeless track word for word. And it’s been like that since its release in 2012. Meek’s legend began long before he dropped that classic song. It started in the 2000s when a young Robert Williams with the crusty braids garnered thousands of views for his freestyles and battle raps. Much has changed since those days, as he now sits on five studio albums, including two that went Platinum — Dreams Worth More than Money and Championships — two legendary mixtape series Flamers and Dreamchasers, a trading card, and surviving a beef with fellow hip-hop titan Drake. How many rappers can compare with Meek’s cache? There’s a conversation to be had that he’s the East Coast’s best rapper of the last decade.
2016 Garbage Pail Kids The Shammy Awards No-Twerk Nicki
Leaving Nicki Minaj off a list like this could result in millions of Barbs knocking on your mentions, ready to attack. So to avoid that, we had to include the most successful female rap artist ever because she’s the undisputed Queen of contemporary hip-hop. She’s one of only a dozen artists with over 100 Billboard Hot 100 entries and has sold over 100 million records worldwide. Yes! Over 100 million. And guess what? Only two female artists have ever produced at least eight music videos with at least one billion views on YouTube. One is Rihanna. The other is none other than the Harajuku Barbie herself. “Anaconda” is one of the eight songs. Salute to GPK for the spoof card. Really wraps it up.
2005 Topps Chrome #217 Jay-Z Rookie Card
Whether you know him as Jay-Z, Jigga Man, Hov, or even Jaz-O’s former protégé, Shawn Carter, the Marcy Projects-based hustler who now rocks those Jean-Michel Basquiat-inspired dreads stands in his own lane when talking hip-hop greats. His discography is legendary, from the gritty tales of Reasonable Doubt to anthems like “Empire State of Mind,” “99 Problems,” “Hard Knock Life,” and even “Run This Town.” But simply boxin’ him in as the Mike Jordan of Recordin’ limits his impact on the culture. Jigga is also your favorite hustler’s mentor. With power moves like founding Rocawear, spearheading Roc Nation, capturing the streaming wave with TIDAL, and strategizing a partnership with the NFL, he’s showcased a business acumen that validates his “Go Crazy” bars “More than a hustler/I’m the definition of it.” His accolades? Stacked as tall as the housing developments that birthed him. Think 23 GRAMMY Awards and that glittering title as hip-hop’s first billionaire. And if you’re looking for unique bragging rights, even the world of trading cards had to tip their hat to Jay, spotlighting him in gems like this 2005 Topps Chrome RC. Now, ask yourself, how many rappers have that kind of versatile shine?
2018 Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash Gunna
Emerging from the talent-rich music hub of Atlanta, Gunna’s meteoric rise in the rap realm is marked by hits like “Sold Out Dates,” “Banking on Me,” and a slew of other speaker knockers. His synergy with industry giants Lil Baby and Young Thug has produced not just chart-toppers but anthems for a generation, and despite the alleged shaky relationship between the three right now, there’s no denying how pivotal they’ve been for each other’s success. After a recent release from Fulton County jail, the Drip or Drown crooner wasted no time delivering A Gift and a Curse, an album with critics and fans raving. With tracks that resonate deeply and a Lyrical Lemonade trading card as a symbol of his cultural impact, Gunna is not just on the scene — he’s leading it.