Posted on January 06 2017
More than anything, it’s music that keeps us going. When under the influence of new music it feels likes you have discovered a whole new world that's just waiting to be explored. An inspired sixteen bars over melodic instrumentals just has a way of making everything feel alright. Now, we know that predicting which artists are going to blow is never a perfect science, however this handful have proven to be ahead of the pack - either through their song selection, writing ability or because of their artistic maturity.
So take a scroll down & have a listen to the budding leaders of the new school.
There's no doubt you've heard the super infectious summer release, “Caroline” from the Portland artist whose name you probably also pronounced incorrectly. For future reference, it’s “Uh-Mean-Aye”, according to his personal website. Amine is the first artist in a minute to break-out of Portland & his playful yet clever lyrics have struck a chord with fans globally. His accessible sound is reminiscent of Andre 3000 at his most experimental while not straying too far away from any unfamiliar hip-hop elements. The result is a quick spittin’ Goldlink-esque artist with a recipe for making genre transcending hits.
Since his signing to Republic Records, he has nabbed a #11 Billboard spot with “Caroline”. Only time will tell what more he has to offer, so take a listen below at the best of his current releases.
Russ is a tireless workhorse in this rap game. If you check out his Soundcloud page, rarely will a week go by without a new song being dropped for his passionate, cult-like following. His independent work ethic grew his fan base to a substantial number before he deservedly was signed to Columbia Records late in 2016.
Incredibly enough, every track Russ releases is of the exact same superb quality - it’s a testament to his omni-skilled musical talent; he writes, produces, mixes & also sings on his own shit. Take a listen below & you will understand that Russ has a natural ear for making hits & will be sure to make a dent on the Billboards this year.
The lo-fi sounds which Radamiz spits over is the perfect soundscape for the hard hitting MC to layer his thoughts on wax. The Bed-Stuy rapper focuses on the beauty of his unique experience, as he told Vibe Magazine, “Rather than reflect on the negatives of the current, this record focuses on the types of necessary switches I’ve made to my perspective and applying them to create that better life.”
Think Joey Badass circa 1999 mixed with Late Registration instrumentals or lo-fi MF Doom beats. It’s refreshing, classic hip-hop in an era littered with (arguably) too much trap-influenced rap.
The East London rhymesayer doesn’t focus on the grime-infused sounds that originated from his homeland, rather he opts for mellowed out instrumentals which are generously dipped in 90’s nostalgia. The production spans from the melancholy tones of a J Dilla or Nujabes beat to the more understated, lush sounds which you can find on his song "Promises" below.
His 2017 has started with a bang; he was chosen to open for the European leg of Chance the Rapper’s world tour. A co-sign from the biggest independent artist in the world is no easy feat & is a testament to his talent.
Few rappers are as smooth as Topaz Jones. Is it his relaxed demeanor on the mic? Or it could be the musical royalty in his blood - his father was a popular funk guitarist (remember Slave?) & his grandmother was a singer on Motown Records. Either way, the kid's gifted.
His sound relies on his expansive, retro-futuristic sensibilities & a cadence well beyond his years. Just take a listen to “Tropicana”, his first big single. It’s a bouncy, upbeat track which strays away from the standard hip-hop single formula, yet is still instantly catchy. His second LP “Arcade” dropped & if you’re feeling either of the tracks below then you will love what his full-length package has to offer.
The enigmatic Nav, a Toronto based artist whose synthed-out, wavy production marked him to be the successor of the The Weeknd's sonically moody soundscapes is just about ready to pop. His recent signing to XO further cements this, especially as he got put on after only releasing nine songs on Soundcloud. Nine songs. To us it sounds like someone whose sipping the same Kool-Aid that Jay Electronica is on, and once again we're hooked.
Let’s see, he’s recently collaborated with Travi$ Scott on ‘Birds’, he's announced a collaborative album with the hottest producer of 2016 (Metro Boomin’) & he has had Toronto on lock for the past nine months. His future is bright, but if you don’t believe us, just hit play on either of the tracks below. Our real question is, will his stellar standalone tracks be able to translate into a cohesive, full-length album?
Whatever the people are sipping in Canada, it’s doing wonders for their creativity. Kamau, the Ontario native is a singer/rapper in the same vein as Frank Ocean is. He has an impressive range & he never hesitates to spit a slick, multi-syllabic sixteen bars on his own shit. When you compound that with an artistic vision that is willing to explore every nook in hip-hop, you get creations like “Hometown Glory”, a song which starts like an ALT-J album cut & masterfully transitions into a rendition of Three 6 Mafia’s anthem “Stay Fly”. Just listen to it & you’ll see, cause if you can’t tell by now, he’s got us pretty hyped.
Two rappers & one producer. It’s the classic hip-hop group configuration & Injury Reserve use it to their advantage. Their producer, Parker Corey takes you on a ride as the beats switch from The Cool Kids to N*E*R*D* to 9th Wonder inspired productions between each song; but what is most remarkable is how fluid it all is. Groggs & Ritchie impressively weave through every instrumental that Corey throws at them with such bravado you can't help but revel in glee. Just take a listen to their most recent album “Floss”, a highly underrated album which is close to comatose in the public eye, even though charisma is lathered on every track. Ride out with the AZ natives below.
Savour The Rations
It's Western Sydney's answer to Run the Jewels - just give a listen to "Bluffin". Upon pressing play you will be transported to a world of thumping verses & bombastic instrumentals which El-P himself would be proud to spit on. Their MC's fluidly control the beat, spitting like a medley of grime's best with a hint of Jay Rock's casual ferocity. The final package usually results in a hard hitting, in-your-face banger which begs to be played through a high fidelity sound system.
Their skill is undeniable, but what will push this collective forward is the authenticity to their art & their commitment to the vision.
The recent Interscope signee has a big year ahead of him. He's proven himself to create mood inducing jams where he easily weaves between playful crooning & rapid fire lyricism. And we love the variety.
What's truly frightening is how nice his soulful raps translate into live performances. Just take a listen to his Soulection Studios performance below, where he performs "Kajun", his first single since getting signed. It sounds so good it could be an album cut favorite; Smino has the lustful hunger of an artist who can taste success in the air & is within arms reach from reaching it.
The young Orlando spitter has had a massive look this year by being added to the Governors Ball festival. That's a nod to the sheer talent in this nineteen year old kid from Florida, whose been penning songs since the age of seven. His eclectic production has an uplifting liveliness to it & his laid back vocals breeze across any track he lays down.
The interplay between the heavy basslines & infectious hooks mark Kaiydo as a front runner for his unique brand of uplifting trap. It may sound conflicted, especially if you understand where trap music originated from but we can't help but love it.
Trapo is another entrant into the singer/rapper niche who dabbles in genre blending hip-hop. The contrast between his pop ballads & his deeper, hard hitting raps will surprise you & may remind you of when you first realized Danny Brown also had a toned down rap persona (or vice versa). On "Drugs" he lightly croons over light piano keys & laments about his unrelenting addiction. Then on "Cards and Conversation" he takes a darker topic & transitions into his forceful & deep flow. It's always fun to see where & how this gifted artist intends to take us on his musical offerings.
Some of the artists here may continue to stay underground, it all depends on what they bring to the table this year. Many before them have squandered their opportunities, so it will be exciting to see who will be the ones to appeal to the masses or to critical fanfare.
There are many artists we did not include in this list who we believe are already established & have sizable grassroots followings. This includes Noname Gypsy, Mick Jenkins, Madeintyo, Jazz Cartier, KYLE, Kehlani, Saba, Joyner Lucas & Young M.A.