If you’ve not yet been introduced to Nesta, then let me now introduce you to you this artist. Born in Jamaica, Queens to Jamaican parents, Nesta (formerly known as Zan) grew up with Rastafarian influences, that can be heard throughout his music. His sound is an audio sun-splash, infusing modern day R&B, trap soul and his instinctive reggae/dancehall vibes.
Nesta has himself said that he wants to be “the Bob Marley of the trap-infused R&B game” and so far he’s on the right path. Here’s a fun fact, Nesta’s father was the lead singer of the reggae band, The Visionaries.
Listen to Nesta’s “I Love Leaves” below, and let us know what you think.
Lord Bones is an underground rapper that originates from Atlanta Georgia. To date, he’s released two projects under the name Lord Bones in the form of his 2017 project, End a Life, and his 2018 project, End a World. Not much is known about this artist, in all honestly, but his music not only speaks for itself; it screams! Although his appearance is similar to the rappers who are heavily saturated within the rap game on the radio, Lord Bones is far from the norm. If you were expecting to hear trap music form him, you’ve come to the wrong place. Lord Bones spits straight flames, using conscious rap as a medium to get his stories across. Let us know in the comments what you think about this artist’s music. Hot or not?
Not a whole lot can be ascertained from Tyler Coolidge‘s social media channels; he covers himself with a balaclava and fan interaction is kept to a bare minimum. Until recently, no one knew what he looked like. Perhaps the most telling things we can draw from his elusive internet presence is his hometown of Castro Valley in California and his influences – Drake, John Mayer, Frank Sinatra, Kanye West, Biggie, Sade, Jay-Z and Young Jeezy. I’d wager that the closest comparison would not necessarily be with any of the aforementioned artists but fellow California rapper Earl Sweatshirt and Mick Jenkins, albeit with a more pop and r&b driven approach. Each time a new artist comes out and conceals their identity, you just know the music is straight flames! Check him out!
Valee Taylor, known mononymously as Valee, is an American rapper known for his mixtape 1988 which got him signed to Kanye West’s record label GOOD Music. He released GOOD Job, You Found Me on March 2, 2018. The first song he released was with Ty Money, titled, “Cash Don’t Bend“). After all of the ridiculous public statements seemingly designed to provoke controversy that Kanye West has said, there is literally only one thing that shouldn’t garner any arguments: “Valee’s style is the most popular in rap, period.” The Chicago rapper who became a star, a year after signing with West.
Music on the strength of his mixtapes and hometown love — isn’t the most popular newcomer in hip-hop, though he could be considered one of the most influential by far. If you haven’t listened to him yet, odds are you’ve heard someone that’s copying his strangely soothing sound. Just look at the way SoundCloud artists like Lil Pump and 6ix9ine, defiant anti-technicians, are beginning to debut new, more complex flows (often with clumsy results). Most tellingly, they’re getting softer in tone.
All of this can ultimately be traced back to the way Valee raps. His verses sound quiet on the surface, but they conceal complex flows and consistently surprising wordplay. “Some people say on Twitter that I’m whispering,” says the 30-year-old artist, who until relatively recently was making his living customizing cars. “I’m just laid-back and not too loud, and kind of shy a little bit.” Is this artist’s style of rap up your alley? Let us know in the comments.
Mills’ style of rapping has been compared to the early work of Kendrick Lamar, especially Lamar’s 2011 album Section.80.This comparison alone should be enough to at least spark a music interest in IDK.In September of 2016, Mills released his album, Empty Bank and premiered it on Forbes Magazine. The album addresses having financial issues, an anxiety Mills wanted to tap into because it is widespread and taboo in the American mindset. In the following year, Mills released his debut studio album,IWasVeryBad, which was released through Adult Swim, to much acclaim. No IDK’s here though, without question, IDK is a definite must hear! Check out the song below and leave your thought son this phenomenal talent.
Over the last few years, St. Louis native, MattyWood$ has carved out a spot in the rap scene, racking over 3.5 million streams with the successful independent release of three projects: Backwood Bandit, Dopeboy, and ForeverFaded. He’s quickly built a huge fan base and collection of music that showcases both his lyrical ability and refreshing melodies.
Returning with an even fresher sound in 2018, Matty released his second full-length mixtape, I’ll be Fine, which is comprised of tracks that depicts Matty’s experiences living in the “lou,” while also discussing how persevered through life’s challenges. Give him a listen. I guarantee you, you’ll either be roped in by his lyrics, or his super-dope samples.
Cam The Artisan is a soulful rap artist hailing from East Atlanta. At only 21-years of age, his blend of blissful, soulful hip-hop has taken a hold of the Atlanta creative scene and helped him build a devoted fan base. His family has a strong musical background, with a father that leads the music ministry at his church, and an older sister, Isis, who makes up 1/2 of the goddess girl group, St. Beauty, currently signed to Janelle Monae’s Wondaland label.
While proud of his family’s musical history, Cam is eager to build his own legacy and help usher in a new era of MC’s in Atlanta that are both lyrical and spiritual, and aren’t afraid to express themselves freely and authentically. Coming off the strong response to his single “Bliss” which has 600,000+ streams on Spotify, Cam released his first music project HUES in February 2019 beginning his journey towards a promising career in music.
Asoh Black!, of the group, Free.All.Mind$ (with sndw. And more) is one of NYC’s prominent musical artist. He’s had a passion for hip-hop since high school when he began listening to artists like Kanye West, Big Sean, Childish Gambino, and many others. Despite living in a household that didn’t celebrate this music, Asoh developed a talent for writing lyrics and creating feel good music. In June of 2015, he released his debut EP, 20/20, and since, has been following his dream. Asoh and his team have been featured in highly celebrated publications like Lyrical Lemonade, Bandcamp, BBC1Extra, among other platforms. Keep your eyes peeled on this artist.
Just months before his graduation from Cass Tech, the 19-year-old Detroit rapper known as, Curtis Roach, independently released his breakthrough mixtape, 2017’s Highly Caffeinated, which is an incredibly well-rounded and seamlessly produced homage to an era of hip-hop that precedes him.
A self-described “music-head,” Roach has long admired the work and style of rappers Tyler the Creator and Chance the Rapper, and takes notes from rock acts like Jimi Hendrix, Tame Impala, and Rage Against the Machine. Early on though, Roach gravitated toward the classics, admitting to jamming out to Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder when he was still in diapers, so you already know the music is fire!!
Tank and the Bangas is an American musical group based in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. They’re rise in popularity came following their victory in the 2017 NPR Tiny Desk Contest. The group was founded and fronted by Tarriona “Tank” Ball on lead vocals; Ball first gained attention as a slam poet. Other members include Joshua Johnson on drums and as musical director, Norman Spence on bass and synth keys, Jonathan Johnson on bass, Merell Burkett on keyboard, Joe Johnson on keyboard, Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph and Kayla Buggage on background vocals, Albert Allenback on alto saxophone and flute and Etienne Stoufflet on tenor saxophone. Writing in The Washingtonian, Heather Rudow described the group’s work as “lively fusion of funk, soul, hip hop, rock, and spoken word.”
The English actor known for portraying “Greyworm” on Game of Thrones, Jacob Basil Anderson is actually more than just an actor. He’s also a singer-songwriter, rapper, and record producer! As an actor, he goes by the name of Jacob Basil Anderson, but as a rapper, he uses the alias Raleigh Ritchie. His debut album, You’re a Man Now, Boy, was released in 2016 to very positive reviews, debuting on the Official Albums Chart, peaking at number thirty-two. He was also featured on Stormzy’s debut album, (Gang Signs & Prayer) on track 13 – “Don’t Cry for Me“. Curious to see what Greyworm—I mean, Raleigh Ritchie sounds like? Give his music a listen!
Chattanooga native, Kevin Adams Jr., better known as, YGTUTis a rapper who gained major attention following his critically acclaimed album, Preacher’s Son featuring artists Isaiah Rashad, and Michael Da Vinci, among other talented names. His song “G35” even went on to gain a feature on Billboard.
Reminiscent of a fusion between Slim Thug and Kendrick Lamar, and being musically influenced by the likes of of Tupac Shakur, OutKast and Lil Wayne, YGTUT gets his musical influences from both his father, who was a pastor and his mother who was a gospel singer. There’s really not more to say. His music truly speaks for itself! Have a listen below, and let us know if his music is fire, or burnt out.
I recently read an article by Cassidy Kakin that I couldn’t resist sharing with you all. His words were all too familiar, as a working adult, whose escape from the reality also stems from the impact of music. I’m pretty sure we’ve all woken up in the morning, dreading going to work as each hour creeps closer to the time we have to be there. “Do I really need this job?” we think. “Oh thank God, I’ve got two more hours until my alarms clock goes off” In America, it has become common to live only for the weekends, but why? Cassidy explains how the “American Nightmare” weighed heavily on his energy, his psyche, and his happiness, and what he did to reclaim all of these things. Give it a read, I promise it’ll be worth it.
“When I was 23, my mother-in-law to be was proud of me.
I’m two years older now, carrying a few pounds less stress and a few dozen more complexes when I wake up in the morning, and that notion disgusts me.
A lot has changed; new jobs, new relationships, new addresses have come and gone. Old friends with new homes and new wives. New perspectives. New hip-hop. Looking back, I can trace the first domino in all those toppling transformations back to the morning I quit my Silicon Valley tech job. And the night before, when Kendrick Lamar dropped To Pimp a Butterfly.
Rewind to February 2015, the first time I felt like a big kid. I’d been out of school and living on my own for two years, but by the end of that cruel winter, everything was different. I’d found my pocket. Professionally, romantically, it all looked on the surface like things were lining up.
The soundtrack was golden too. Joey Bada$$ stumbling into his grown man swagger right alongside me, Run The Jewels giving all of us young old heads faith in the culture. More powerful underground music than I’d ever swam in before, doing more for my heart and soul than I’d ever thought to ask for.
Something was wrong, though. Something was missing. A grating feeling, like I wasn’t who I was supposed to be, started to work its way deep between the cracks in the paint covering the white picket fence in our tidy San Jose suburb. And it took To Pimp a Butterflyfor me to understand why.
To imagine that my struggle as an upper-middle-class white college graduate living in the Bay and smoking too much weed shared any DNA with Kendrick and the demons he was battling is naive and bordering on cultural sacrilege. But I heard his words like I was staring at myself in the mirror, tasting the same anxiety and self-doubt that lingered in the back of my throat that Kendrick was trying to drown out in that hotel room.
March 2015, I was the COO of a small Silicon Valley angel-funded tech company that builds designer bike lights worth more than my dental visits. I was good at my job, but I wasn’t sure why, and nothing made any sense. To this day, I have no idea why my boss’ patent was worth millions of dollars, or why I was trusted with a company credit card when most months I lived on the wrong side of my checking account’s overdraft line and treated my FICO score like a game of Russian Roulette.
I had everything that the TV had ever told me I wanted, and none of it tasted right. The soundtrack was turning rotten. All the artists I loved looked scared. I remember feeling nauseous every morning, hearing about another death in the black community, another cop getting a paid vacation, another stain on my comfortable millennial ideals.
And I remember feeling anxious, like none of the community leaders I looked up to had the guts or vision to make the music I needed to hear addressing all of that fear and hurt.
Then, on March 15, Kendrick dropped.
To Pimp a Butterfly, starting with the opening track, felt as abrasive and refreshing as a Sprite wrapped in sandpaper.
“When I get signed, homie, I’ma buy a strap / Straight from the CIA, set it on my lap / Take a few M-16s to the hood / Pass ’em all out on the block, what’s good? / I’mma put the Compton swap meet by the White House / Republican run up, get socked out.” — “Wesley’s Theory“
Around midnight on the 15th, I was laying in bed, staring at Twitter and hating the idea of work in the morning like the rest of us. A few minutes later, TPAB landed in my iTunes folders, courtesy of its famously bungled release job, and I remember thinking as much about Huey P. as 2Pacalypse Now.
It felt like a weight was being lifted; like I was drinking my medicine for the first time in years. Kendrick rapped “I need forty acres and a mule / Not a forty ounce and a pitbull” and I felt like the trajectory of mainstream hip-hop was changed forever. Like I was witnessing history.
By 3 a.m., I’d squeezed in two back-to-back listens of TPAB‘s neo-fusion odyssey. Staring at that ticking clock and thinking about all of the emails I had to send in the morning, I walked myself through shutting my laptop and taking off my headphones and pretending like I cared about anything other than the voice of my favorite poet speaking truth to power.
But, of course, I pressed play again, diving a layer deeper into the radical mind of the artist just as revolutionary.
“And I’m insensitive, and I lack empathy / He looked at me and said, ‘Your potential is bittersweet’ / I looked at him and said, ‘Every nickel is mines to keep’” — “How Much a Dollar Cost“
From “How Much a Dollar Cost” to “Alright” to “Mortal Man” to “Complexion,” Kendrick refused to take the easy way out. These were protest songs for the people, not for TV endorsements. They were real images, not packaged politics.
I thought about Kendrick’s world, before and after fame, and I thought about what it meant to swing so hard for the fences as a major label artist with everything to lose. I thought about his unwavering convictions. Kendrick stared White America in the eye and showed us his scars.
Halfway through my third spin, as the hands on my clock were nearing 4 a.m., the prospect of my 10 a.m. budget meeting became the furthest thing from my mind.
When “u” came on, I heard it the way Kendrick meant for me to hear it:
“I fuckin’ tell you, you fuckin’ failure—you ain’t no leader! / I never liked you, forever despise you—I don’t need you! / The world don’t need you, don’t let them deceive you / Numbers lie too, fuck your pride too, that’s for dedication / Thought money would change you / Made you more complacent / I fuckin’ hate you, I hope you embrace it” — “u”
I’d been complacent, volunteering on the weekends and writing some rap think-pieces here and there, but otherwise totally detached from everything that inspired me. I knew the stakes were high, and that I wasn’t doing enough. I convinced myself that that was ok, that I had done my time and worked hard and deserved to live with whatever luxury was left after the rent and average self-destructive habits took their financial toll.
Yet, here was Kendrick. One of the most important figures of his generation. Taking the blame. Accepting that he hasn’t always been the leader he knows he should be. Looking in the mirror and seeing a 360-degree view of himself and resolving to cast out the lie that says we deserve to love every bit of ourselves, even the parts that don’t trust in who we can be.
By the fifth spin, with the clock reading 6 a.m., I didn’t have any illusions about showing up to a meeting at a job I didn’t care about. By the fifth time “Mortal Man” rang out, Pac’s voice cutting through whatever sheets of self-deception were still hanging on like a chainsaw through a Jell-O mold, I knew I didn’t ever want to go back to work.
So I didn’t.
That morning, I called my boss, turned in my two weeks notice, and was told politely that I should shut the hell up and chase my dreams sooner than that. That same morning, I also published a review of To Pimp a Butterfly that made me feel hungrier than I ever had for a life of thinking about rap and art and politics full-time and figuring it out along the way.
Since then, I’ve been a whole lot broker but also a whole lot happier. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, as a leader or a man or a member of my community, but I’m a lot closer than I was two years ago, staring in that mirror with Kendrick and finding reasons to hate myself.
To Pimp a Butterfly is an objective classic. More importantly, as it pertains to my own life story, it caught me at the right time. Kendrick showed me how to be a version of yourself that doesn’t hide from the nuances; his commitment to creating the album he wanted at a time when that album was needed inspires me to this day. I don’t think that I’ll ever fully move past that morning when I made that phone call.
Sitting there in my bed, iTunes on repeat, wrapped in blankets, but warm most of all with passion and the certainty that the right artist could change the world. Even if that only happens one late-night bender, one phone call to your boss, and one abandoned career at a time.
Kendrick helped me to appreciate who I am and who I hope I can become. Quit your job for an album listening session and join me in figuring it out, and I’ll see you in the “thank you” card aisle whistling K-Dot.
“002 / LOVE ME is me telling relatable love stories that I have lived/Imagined/fantasized about, it contains the good, the bad, and the ugly of a relationship.”
It is time for me to play the role of Ms. Cleo, and make another prediction, naming the next artist to look out for on the music charts. Louis Philippe Celestin, who goes by stage name, Lou Phelps, is a Canadian rapper known for releasing club-rap bangers in Toronto. Phelps, whose musical influences include Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Anderson .Paak and Madlib, is known for the his 2017 debut album release, 001: Experiments, which brought in well-over 1 million plays on SoundCloud, and went as far as earning a nomination from Canada’s JUNO Awards for Rap Record of the Year, Phelps has earned a reputation of creating bomb electro-rap. It also doesn’t hurt that well-known DJ and record producer, KAYTRANADA is his older brother. Phelps, who began making music in 2011 with KAYTRANADA, formed a rap group christened, The Celestics, and released their first project, Massively Massive, which brought major shine to the duo’s talent. Since then, KAYTRANADA’S career took off in a massive way, leading to his later release of breakout album, Kaytra Todo. But what about little Lou Phelps? Did his success end with 001: Experiments? Far from it.
In September, Phelps, shared club banger, “Miss Phatty,” marking the announcement of his forthcoming album, 002 / LOVE ME. “Miss Phatty” encourages the kids to go to the strip club and to fall in love with them,” Phelps stated, explaining the meaning behind the song. “002 / LOVE ME is me telling relatable love stories that I have lived/Imagined/fantasized about, it contains the good, the bad, and the ugly of a relationship.” Since then, Phelps, has been delivering new music on stages across Canada, via his fall tour, with stops in Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto. With all of this success, there does not seem to be any sign at all of slowdown or stopping for this young rapper, so definitely be on the lookout for more music from him in upcoming months.
Chicago Rapper, Joseph Davis, better known by his stage name Joey Purp has single-handedly been releasing hit after hit that makes it almost too easy for the most uncoordinated dancer want to hot the dance floor. Purp grew up listening to Wu-Tang Clan, Sex Pistols, The Casualties, The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, Dipset, and Lil Wayne. In a 2014 interview, he stated that his early recordings were heavily inspired by Currensy He is one of the founding members of Savemoney (the collective of artists that includes Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, and others), and has most notably released two banging albums. iiiDrops, which came on May 26, 2016 included features from Mick Jenkins, Saba, Teddy Jackson, TheMind, and fellow Savemoney collaborators, Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper. The album’s single, “Girls @” even included a music video.
QUARTERTHING, Purp’s follow-up album brings more tact and attention to how his unique cadence and flow drive his music. iiiDrops established Joey Purp as a leveling rapper with range, one who can batter down the walls while simultaneously conducting a dancing crowd. iiiDrops was painted in broad strokes, and QUARTERTHING finds Purp zeroing in on an exciting and complementary color scheme.
Chicago native, Tahj Malik Chandler, better known as Saba, is an American rapper and record producer. He gained his initial moment to shine in 2013 when his verse on Chance the Rapper’s mixtape, Acid Rap, in the song “Everybody’s Something“. The two even came together again to collaborate on song “Angels” and performed it live on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Saba credits fellow Midwest musicians Lupe Fiasco, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, and Kanye West as his biggest influences. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony got Saba into rap and made him want to rap himself. Saba also was influenced by his older brother and his older brother’s friends. His brother is a rapper who goes by Joseph Chilliams and his cousin was a rapper who went by John Walt. Together, Saba’s family and friends, are the backbone of the rap crew Pivot Gang. Pivot Gang is named after the famous scene in Friends where Ross, Rachel, and Chandler move a couch up the stairs and Ross continuously yells, “pivot.” To the rap crew it means “to take things one step at a time and to always progress
On February 27, 2018, Saba released the track “Busy”, shortly after announcing a tour for his second album, Care for Me, which featured tracks Chance the Rapper, Kaina, and theMIND. The album is dedicated to his late cousin and close friend Walter Long, Jr. aka John Walt; who was stabbed to death in February 2017 in Chicago, IL. Walter is heavily mentioned in the songs: “Busy”, “Life”, and “Prom/King”. However, “Prom/King” recounts the events that Saba and Walter shared with each other leading up to Walter’s death.
Born D’Anthony Carlos, but known globally as GoldLink, this American Rapper has been setting fire to the tracks that he’s graced with his presence, the most recently being “Got friends”, featuring Miguel. GoldLink began making music after graduating high school, eventually recording tracks in a local studio, releasing his first tracks on Bandcamp under the name Gold Link James. It was in 2013 that he began performing under his current pseudonym, GoldLink, releasing several free tracks on SoundCloud. 2015 laid way for GoldLink’s upward claim to fame as he was chosen as part of the XXL Freshman Class. With all eyes on him, it wa sonly fitting tha he then released debut album, At What Cost, to much positive reviews. The album’s single, “Crew”, was blasted on EVERY radio station and peaked at number 45 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, as well as earning him a Grammy nomination. GoldLink then went on to sign a major deal with RCA Records, later revealing that he is currently working on a second album.
“Prince reached out to me via email and said he wanted me to direct and write a treatment for his music video”
Originally from South Florida (and later settling in Los Angeles, California), dancer, singer, songwriter, and creative director extraordinaire, Danielle Curiel, aka, DaniLeigh, has singlehandedly skyrocketed her way to fame in November 2015, following the release of her debut single “D.O.S.E.” on YouTube and SoundCloud. Since its release, the track has since accumulated hundreds of thousands of views on both platforms.
From the age 12 she had always been interested, and avidly practiced dancing, later gaining an interest in singing, and uploading covers of popular songs onto YouTube at only 14 years-old. This hard-work would not go unnoticed for long. Ironically enough, an artist world-renowned for also using a mononym noticed young Danileigh’s potential.
The legendary one himself, Prince, was so moved by the talented young artist that he sought her out to star in, write, and direct the video for his song, “Breakfast Can Wait.” “That was crazy,” Dani recalled. “Prince reached out to me via email and said he wanted me to direct and write a treatment for his music video. He gave me a whole budget and I made the video happen. That was the peak of my career. It was the first that time that all eyes were on me.” After working on the video, Prince would remain a mentor for the young artist until his tragic death in 2016. “I always say I wish Prince was here to see all of this happening with me right now,” Dani says on her website. “It’s okay though. I know he’s watching.”
Danileigh, who co-wrote J.Lo’s single “Dinero,” featuring DJ Khaled and Cardi B. has received two nominations for Best Latin Video and Best Collaboration at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. She even went viral as she completed Drake’s #InMyFeelings challenge, gaining a cameo appearance in the credits at the end of Drake’s official “In My Feelings” music video. Shortly after, she released her single “Lil Bebe,” which has gained countless amounts of radio airplay, in addition to thousands of streams on Spotify.
“I grew up in the church, so it was a bunch of gospel along with Musiq Soulchild, Em, T-Pain—just a bunch of soulful dudes that are country. My first favorite rapper was Ludacris.”
If you’ve never heard of Christopher Smith Jr, better known as Smino, then all hope is lost for you. Luckily, I’m here to restore that hope (you’re welcome). Hailing from St. Louis, Missouri, American rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer Smino is co-founder of the musical collective Zero Fatigue with Bari, Monte Booker, Jay2, and Ravyn Lenae. Signed to independent label Downtown Records, Smino initially gained local recognition in 2012 after the release of his mixtape, Smeezy Dot Com. His debut album, Blkswn was released to in 2017, with his sophomore album, NØIR following only a year later.
Smino describes his sound as futuristic funk and soulful rap. Having bene raised listening to jazz, gospel, and hip hop, with rappers including Busta Rhymes, Ludacris, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Field Mob being of the few, Smino lists Kanye West and André 3000 as his biggest musical influences, as well as his cousin, Drea Smith. In an interview with Pitchfork he stated, “I grew up in the church, so it was a bunch of gospel along with Musiq Soulchild, Em, T-Pain—just a bunch of soulful dudes that are country. My first favorite rapper was Ludacris.”
I recently had the great opportunity of speaking with D’wante Navire, budding Afrobeat/R&B singer, hailing from Jamaica. This young-man has his eyes set dead on the stars, and will soon be one of them. For listeners who don’t fully grasp what Afrobeat is, thank God we have Google, right? Afrobeat is a music genre which involves the combination of elements of West African musical styles such as fuji music and highlife with American funk and jazz influences, with a focus on chanted vocals, complex intersecting rhythms, and percussion. In all seriousness, we all need to keep our eyes peeled on this future stars growth to stardom. Feel free to check out the interview below:
It’s an interesting one. I was born in Jamaica however my blood is Ghanaian, I have Ghanaian parents. I Moved to England when I was about one years old and lived in England since.
Is your family musically inclined as well?
They are, my mother and father were both in singing groups when they were younger, dad also played the piano and would teach choirs. I have 2 sisters who can sing well but they chose not to (lack of interest I guess).
Can you remember the first time you wrote/sung a song?
It was about 8 years ago, 1 am in the morning I was sitting at my piano creating soulful chord progressions. Now as a former poet I had a lot of lyrical content on my phone, so I decided to see if I could sing these lyrics over the chord progression. They merged perfectly, therefore my songwriting journey was birthed from there.
Who gave you the support to begin writing? Who did you play the early songs for?
To tell you the truth, songwriting was something I had to figure out for myself. I knew I had the basic ingredients i.e. (talent to pick up instruments, ability to sing and lyrical flow) and a rough idea of the recipe. So I just started cooking and getting feedback from others. The early songs were for lovers of R&B and Neo-soul.
You write all of your own music; where do you draw inspiration from when you write songs and what’s your favorite part about the process?
Personal experience, topics that I am passionate, other people’s situations. The usual process is to make the beat/instrumental first, then find a theme that matches it. I would say my favorite part of the process is deciding which vocal tone/tones to use to record the vocals. I have 5 different vocal tones which I utilize throughout my music.
As listeners, we can all assume what artist’s songs are about, but I find it more beneficial to be direct and ask. What is “Announce My Arrival” about? What does it mean personally to you?
Announce My Arrival sets the foundation for what is about to come, it lets people know that I have landed on the music scene and I intend on staying. I wanted people to taste AfroBeat and R&B which are 2 essential elements of my musical DNA.
Who are your biggest writing influences, and who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Old-school influences are Donell Jones & Boyz II Men. NewSkool influences are Mr Eazi & Bryson Tiller. I would love to collab with Wizkid and Mr Eazi. I would also love to collab with Bryson Tiller & Tory Lanez.
For our readers who have never heard your music, explain your sound in 5 words
If I was to turn on your iPod right now, what five artists/songs would I see on your recently played list?
2. Burna Boy
3. Bryson Tiller
4. Tory Lanez
I’ve let plenty of people hear your music, and we all agree that we can’t wait for more! Are there any plans for new singles, or an EP on the way? What’s next for D’wante Navire?
That’s great to hear, and you can expect more singles to be dropping over the next few months. In terms of what’s next, Aside from building my fan base, I have big plans for my brand “iRep Ghana, iRep Africa”. More details will be revealed in time.
Amsterdam native, Jeff Kesse, better known as, Jay-Way is not your average rapper. Typically, when you turn on the radio (which most people don’t even listen to anymore), you’ll find a plethora of songs in which the artist is only talking about sex or drugs. If this is what you look for in music, then Jay-way is not the artist for you. However, if you’re in the market for conscious lyrics, positive messages, complex storytelling, and fire beats, then look no further. Being influenced during the short time he lived in New York, his honest, poetic and straight lyrics, speak to an entire new generation, as well as older Hip-Hop fans.
Jay-Way isn’t just a random up and coming artist either. He’s put in all of the hard-work necessary to actually put prestige behind his name. After releasing his first single “Cool Kid”, Jay-Way put out his first solo project Jaynalysis, earning him the award for Best Rapper at the Glint Awards, only a month later. The accolades don’t end there either. In 2016, Jay-Way was chosen to be one of the (5) Encore Freshmen, releasing a compilation album. His first song from this project, “Happen Dappen”(definitely my favorite song), received 100K plays within the first week of release, went straight to number 1 in the Spotify NL Viral Chart and has gained over 2 million streams up to date.
Jay-Way clearly has an ever-increasing fan-base, but in addition to this, he must also, in the words of Cardi B, have “shmoney”, as he’s been rocking the stage with his own shows and festivals with his live band as well, opening up for artists such as KRS-One, Obie Trice and Rejjie Snow, in addition to doing a live performance for the radio show 3VOOR12 on NPO/3FM. Haven spoken with this talented artist (find the interview below), there is no doubt in my mind that he is destined for the top of the top, so definitely keep your eyes directed towards the skies (just don’t look directly at the sun) to see the constant rise of Jay-Way’s continued success.
Dutch-American rapper, Nigel Williams, aka, Digitzzis a young artist overflowing with raw talent! If you like Kendrick Lamar and J.I.D., then there’s no question; you’ll absolutely love Digitzz. Deriving his stage name from a cassette tape brand, with the addition of an extra ‘z’ (with great minds thinking alike, hence the name of the website), Digitzz was formerly a member of the rap collective, Nouveau Riche, and later on in 2013, continued on as a solo artist. Drawing inspiration from artists like Bob Marley, Bootsy Collins, Snoop Dogg, Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G, it is no wonder why his rap-style is so hypnotically infectious. In collaboration with record label, TopNotch, he released his first EP entitled, The Good Stuff, with his debut single, “The Jam”, becoming an instant hit. The music video was watched millions of times on YouTube, sparking much conversation and recognition of his talent. Having heard Digitzz albums and EP’s, with my favorite being EP, DooDoo, I could not resist the opportunity to speak with him. This conversation can be found below:
This, by far is the BIGGEST artist deserving of a Limelightz segment. The only reason I neglected to do so was because I wrongfully assumed that everyone already knew about this superstar. This is not the case, so, without further ado, this piece will center on introducing Destin Choice Route better known by his stage name, J.I.D. J.I.D is an American rapper and songwriter from Atlanta, Georgia, most notably known for being a part of the musical collective, Spillage Village, founded by EarthGang in 2010, with Hollywood JB, JordxnBryant, and 6LACK, among others.
He also recently signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville Records, where he began gaining recognition after releasing several independent projects such as Route of Evil and Para Tu. Growing up, J.I.D’s first connection with music was through his parents’ collection of classic funk and soul LPs. He names Sly and the Family Stone, D’Angelo, Wu-Tang Clan, Little Dragon, boom-bap, New York hip hop and Arctic Monkeys as his biggest influences. In a December 2018 interview, he considered OutKast, T.I., Goodie Mob, 21 Savage and Young Nudy as some of the ones he looks for inspiration.
His debut album, The Never Story, was released in 2017 and received many positive praises, especially for the hit-single “NEVER“. His most recent album, DiCaprio 2, released on November 26, 2018 to positive review and critical acclaim, which in turn led J.I.D to announcing the first leg of his headlining Catch Me If You Can tour, which includes 34 college dates, beginning in January 2019.
“When you go everywhere, you just hold on to the things that made you”
If Brandon Paak Anderson, who initially went by the appellation, Breezy Lovejoy, but currently goes by, Anderson .Paak, isn’t on your list of favorites, then, can you really consider yourself a true “music head”? .Paak, whose Neo-soul, Funk, R&B, and Hip-hop sound mixture earned him a record deal with Dr. Dre (Aftermath Entertainment) in 2016. The American musician and record producer from Oxnard, California Began gaining attention in 2012, following the debut of his debut album, O.B.E. Vol. 1. Following this releases well-received reception, .Paak released Venice in 2014, followed by Malibu, in 2016, earning himself a nomination for Best Urban Contemporary Album at the Grammy Awards.
Apart from his solo career, Paak is also one-half of NxWorries, alongside record producer Knxwledge. He is accompanied by the band The Free Nationals, who play a variety of instruments such as electric guitar, bass, piano, keyboards and drums and also serve as backing vocalists. Paak, who is set to release his third album this Friday, entitled, Oxnard, named after the Southern California city where he grew up, held a listening party for the unreleased album earlier this Monday, which of course, I attended. The whole vibe in the atmosphere was pretty chill, with low lights, alcohol, fine wines, and even finer women. .Paak entered the room dancing, accompanied by the DJ playing his single, “Tints”, and immediately began greeting the listeners, taking pictures (with almost EVERY fan), and autographing both, vinyls and CD’s alike.
I’ve got to say, it’s one thing when a celebrity makes good music, but is a, for lack of better words, a shitty person. I’ve heard plenty of cases where celebrities, like Nicki Minaj (back when she made good music…waaaaayyyy back, because lord knows her music is garbage now) would meet fans and treat them with the utmost disrespect, almost as if it were a bother to meet the people who support their music. But, it’s a completely different feeling when a celebrity you “ride for” is genuinely good at their craft, and even more so, genuinely a good, kind person.
.Paak, joked around with the audience, and performed a couple of tracks from Oxnard (which were fire, by the way). When asked why he named the upcoming album after his hometown, .Paak replied with, “When you go everywhere, you just hold on to the things that made you.” After the performances, he let us all know that he had to go, leaving the crowd with a “farewell, and goodnight”. The fun surrounding this up and coming album is far from over though. Beginning at 2 p.m., at the Performing Arts & Convention Center fittingly, in his hometown of Oxnard, California Paak is throwing Andy’s Oxnard Carnival to celebrate the release of Oxnard . If you don’t have a random hundred dollars laying around to spend on a trip to California, I think it goes without saying, that Oxnard is deserving of a purchase (yes, I said “purchase”, not stream).
“I couldn’t really listen to hip-hop… I couldn’t go outside until I was about 16, ’cause my mom thought I was going to get shot in South Central”
You asked for it, and here it is: A new gem for you all to discover! South Central LA rapper, singer, and graphic designer, Jared Lee, more commonly known as Duckwrth (no relation to Kendrick Lamar) is literally on the brink of breaking out of the Underground status, and with good reason. Signed to Universal Records, (which might be the best option, as this record-label seems to allow him full creative freedom), Duckwrth, has opened for like-minded artist, Anderson .Paak, and continues to create his own high-energy, punk-rap sound. He is also well-known for illustrating all of the artwork that accompanies the projects that he has released, in addition to creating the visual branding for artists like T. Mills and IAMSU!
Duckwrth, who considers himself a GPK (Grand Pastor’s Kid) was raised Pentecostal, where he was essentially sheltered from experiencing life to it’s fullest as a kid, “I couldn’t really listen to hip-hop… I couldn’t go outside until I was about 16, ’cause my mom thought I was going to get shot in South Central.” Still, he was able to break the mold, and create his own world through his art and music, going as far as releasing his first solo album, I’m Uugly, in 2016.The album was comprised of songs that covered love and even went as far as to address police brutality, which in turn, caught the attention of Urban Outfitters, who then booked him for their 2017 SXSW showcase. Following its predecessor’s release, An Xtra Uugly Mixtape, released in 2017, spreading Duckwrth’s music to an international level.
He now has hopes that his upcoming U.S. tour will expand to other countries. “For me to actually be able to go overseas is big because a lot of people from my neighborhood, they don’t even get to leave my fuckin’ neighborhood,” Duckwrth said. “I need that experience, ’cause I need to be able to take that back, and tell the people that are in my neighborhood that it’s possible, I did it.” For those of you intrigued enough to give this amazingly talented creative’s music a shot, Duckwrth is currently on the road, conducting his The Falling Man Tour, and will be in Dallas, TX. November 2nd. Obviously, I will be there, front and center. The real question is, where will you be?
“How do you feel about Drake? Are you still a fan?”
It never fails when discussing music tastes amongst fellow music fans that the question arises: “How do you feel about Drake? Are you still a fan?” This is not a dramatization either. I was literally asked this yesterday. The answer is not necessarily an easy one to give either. Anyone that truly knows me knows that I used to be the biggest Drake fan ever, to the point where “Drizzy” was my high school nickname (given to me by friends, not created by me, obviously). It probably didn’t help that I had a fade, a slight buzzed beard, and Degrassi was the hype at the time. The OVO lettermans, all the OVO apparel, an OVO owl tattoo, every mixtape, you name it, I had it (I still have these things). However, being a fan who was listening to Drake’s music since the Room for Improvement mixtape days, I have higher expectations for Drake’s music than the average music consumer. With the top chart bangers that he releases now, I completely understand the hype surrounding his name that makes newcomers want to jump on the fandom bandwagon, but it is exactly this shift in music where the problem lies.
Before the fame, Drake used to be (emphasis on the “used to be”) a lyricist, who’s words had a certain charm and cleverness to them. I believe it was this, in relation to the vulnerability if his music that let him rise to fame under Wayne’s tutelage as the music industry’s “Golden Boy. “The Presentation,” a song from Drake’s Comeback Season mixtape essentially illustrates, just the tip of the iceberg of the cleverness that his old style of writing possessed.
“I’m perfecting my craft using more cess
Tryna make some cheese of a single is a process
Get it? Kraft, single, cheese, process
Sit back and admire the talent that I possess
Top notch, no less, oh yes, I’m known in the city
But need to bust out like a model that show chest”
In comparison to his newer music, Drake’s blatant nonchalant lyrics seem effortless (not in a good way), uninspired, somewhat rushed and geared towards hit making. “God’s Plan” is only one of many songs to emphasize this laziness in writing.
“I been movin’ calm, don’t start no trouble with me
Tryna keep it peaceful is a struggle for me
Don’t pull up at 6 AM to cuddle with me
You know how I like it when you lovin’ on me
I don’t wanna die for them to miss me
Yes I see the things that they wishin’ on me”
Don’t get me wrong though. I have to admit that Drake stays at the top of the charts; that’s a given. In fact, he is probably one of the best at the craft of releasing songs that rake in a bunch of money, that have catchy beats, and are pretty much just catchy in general. Some of the songs like “Jaded” and “March 14th” from Scorpion(songs that still showcase his vulnerability) still have high favor with me. However, I cannot help but feel as if he sold out in order to remain successful in the music industry. From a monetary point of view, this is genius. Find out what the fans and the industry like, and give it to them time again, and your bank account stays secure, but what about the artistry itself, and remaining true to self?
It definitely can be done. Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, J.I.D, Earthgang, and plenty more have managed to do so. All of the artists listed still discuss what they want to talk about, whether it be real-life issues facing the black community, police shootings, racism, or the ignorance of the president, regardless of what type of reception it may have, and still manage to stay at the top of the charts. So, am I still a Drake fan? I’d have to say yes… but only because of the vulnerability that has remained consistent in his albums, and also because I’m generally a hopeful person, so, as such, I can honestly admit that I’m still waiting for a song that at least has a trace of the old mixtape days. But, I will say this, when the consistency of the vulnerability leaves the albums, then that’s when I leave as a fan.
It goes without saying, that it is long past overdue for me to have created a segment on this hip hop duo, so today’s belated segment will consist of all things Earthgang. The American duo, composed of Atlanta-based rappers, Johnny Venus and WowGr8 (previously known as Doctur Dot) released its first EP, The Better Party, in 2010, followed by several singles and six albums, including Rags in 2017, Robots(also released in 2017), and Royalty in 2018. The duo’s sound, often compared to that of OutKast, can best be described as lyrical, meaningful hip hop that tells a story with each track. If I’m being 100% honest, since 2010, I have more than relished at being one of the select few to know about this duo. I’m sure that dedicated music heads can relate. It is essentially a love-hate relationship in which we, as the listeners know about artists before they blow up, so they’re pretty much our “secret weapons” to pull out when in music debates, but at the same time, because we know they’re so talented, we also want the world to know and love them as much as we do.
The only issue that I’ve seen from time to time (not always) is that, when artists sign to a label and gain recognition, their style of music changes, as if they “sold out” for the record deal. Nevertheless, this doesn’t seem to be the case with Earthgang. They recently, as of the end of August, signed to Dreamville Records, joining the roster alongside J. Cole (establisher of the label) BAS, COZ, J.I.D, Lute, Ari, and Omen. Since then, they have released two songs, “Up,” and “Stuck” (ft. Arin Ray), both of which have still retained their original sound, something that has been consistent since their early days. As Earthgang is no longer a secret anymore, and signed to one of the biggest labels in the game right now, old fans and new fans alike can all sit back in anticipation for the new album, Mirrorland that is rumored to be released before the end of this year.
“So I found a joy in talking about sad shit sometimes and having fun being sad”
If you’re anything like me, you love the clout and bragging rights that come from knowing about an artist while they’re still in the developing stages of the renowned “underground”. You wanted it, and here it is: A new artist’s music to check out (thank me later). Up and coming star, Tobi Lou, whose career is pretty much still in its beginning phases, has an extraordinarily unique style and sound that can best be described as somewhat resembling a fusion between OutKast and Chance the Rapper.
When asked in an interview, Lou, ironically being from Chicago (the birthplace of Chance the Rapper as well), said that one of his all time favorite songs is “Hey Ya!” by OutKast, stating that “Most people don’t know that André 3000 is talking about the saddest shit on that song, because it’s masked with happiness. He’s talking about divorce and why love doesn’t last and shit, but he’s like, ‘You don’t want to hear me, you just want to dance.’ So I found a joy in talking about sad shit sometimes and having fun being sad.”
This is more than fitting, as Lou’s music and recent videos paint an upbeat, inviting picture full of cartoon characters, and whimsical visuals that can easily be danced to, despite often being about dreary, and somewhat more serious topics. Working with artists such as Galamatias and Smino, Lou is definitely a rising star to keep an eye on. His most recent EP, Tobi Lou and the Juice, was released in early August of this year, and if I am being honest (which I ALWAYS am), it is more than 100% worth the listen, if you haven’t already (You’re still here? Still reading? No! Go listen to that album).
As a person who is always on the lookout for new lyricists who can deliver hella dope verses, I honestly don’t know how I passed up 25 year old, California native, Kyle Harvey, better known as simply, “KYLE”. I’d heard of this lyricist a couple of times, but never seriously checked out his music, until last night. It took the Netflix original, The Afterparty to convince me to check out KYLE’s three past projects. In The Afterparty, KYLE plays Owen, a struggling rapper whose goal was to spit some bars in front of the right people, and get signed to a record label, which seemed more than within reason, until the opportunity came, and was squandered after meeting, and vomiting on Wiz Khalifa (yes, the actual Wiz Khalifa, who just so happens to be one of KYLE’s biggest musical inspirations), and seizing on stage from Wiz’s earlier doobie, causing him to go viral (pun intended) worldwide, via Worldstar under the name of “Seizure Boy”.
All in all, the movie was funny, and a little corny, but it shined major spotlights on KYLE and his fresh off the dome bars. For those of us who weren’t already aware of KYLE’s lyrical skills, it lit a fire under our asses to actually do the digging to find out who this guy was. For those reading this who also want to join the wave of becoming fans, but aren’t yet convinced to do so, let me break down KYLE’s style.
To put it simple, and compare KYLE’s style to already well-established artists, imagine listening to a combination of Drake, Childish Gambino, and Chance the Rapper fused into one person. Acting, he’s done it, singing, he does it, rapping, he does it, and nerdy analytical lyricism, he’s got it. Four instant bangers to listen to in order to get you hooked, are “Really, Yeah!“, “Game“, “Remember Me?” (ft. Chance the Rapper), and “To the Moon“. His most recent album, Light of Mine, with Atlantic Records rose to Gold status only eight weeks ago. I did most of the research for you, now go check him out to see if his style is your cup of tea or not. I’m wrapping up this article to see if my boy, KYLE will shoot me two tickets to his up and coming Light of Speed World Tour. Fingers Crossed!
“Where were you when you heard?” “Hey man, are you good” “Did you hear?”
Around 4 pm today, my phone pinged with text after text like these. I didn’t know what had happened, but I knew as soon as I responded, to ask what was going on, I’d be in for a major heart break, so I didn’t respond…I didn’t have to. Something was seriously wrong. I felt it in my stomach. It’s the kind of eerie, gut wrenching feeling that you get before knowing you’re about to receive horrible news; and truly horrible it was.
I didn’t have to respond to any message to figure out what had taken place. The buzz around the office was enough to confirm the recent loss. That, and the coworkers that actually came to my desk to ask, if I’d heard the news of rapper, Mac Miller’s passing. As a major Mac Miller fan, I honestly thought it was some type of social media stunt. People are pronounced “dead” all the time in memes and online trollings as jokes. This wasn’t one of those times, nor was it a joke.
Mac Miller was found, and pronounced dead after an apparent drug overdose around noon, this Friday in his San Fernando home. Only a couple of years prior had Miller himself said, “I’d rather be the corny white rapper than the drugged-out mess who can’t even get out of his house. Overdosing is just not cool. You don’t go down history because you overdose. You just die.”
However, in cases like this, you don’t “just die”. In the Hip-Hop community, in the hearts of the fans, and in the hearts of his family there’s a shared pain that we understand all too well. Someone near and dear to us was taken way too soon.
In 2014 Miller released his mixtape, Faces, which was almost wholly centered on personal drug use. It’s here that he also makes references to a premature death. It’s almost eerie how artists who leave this earth at far too young ages somehow seem to predict their ill-fate.
Nevertheless, if there’s anything that someone who’s been around for a minute can tell you, it’s this, “In every dark cloud, there is a silver lining”. Every moment in life has the potential to be learned from, if you can find it’s teachable moment. I think it is my place to spread the news of October being National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. It is during this month that drug awareness is raised in an effort to lessen the stigma surrounding real life’s issues, while also shedding a light on healthy coping methods. Miller may have ascended to a higher plane, but his legacy of music, honesty, vulnerability, carefree spirit, and all around good vibes will never be forgotten.
“So how was it meeting Kendrick Lamar, and the rest of TDE?” “Did you sign with TDE?” “How do you know Kendrick?”
The list of questions that I got after posting this picture was endless. They weren’t bothersome, but there were quite a lot, so I’ll just answer them hic et nunc (here and now in Latin). For starters, meeting Kendrick Lamar was hella dope, but not as long as you’d think. The whole process lasted maybe two minutes at the most. That’s me being generous.
Before I even turned the corner, I just knew what I was going to say. “What’s up K dot? When shit hits the fan, I’ll still be a fan.” Clever right? True Kung Fu Kenny fans would get the saying. Being no newcomer to being around celebrities, I just knew, I’d be fine. Being starstruck was for the inexperienced, and surely I’d had enough experience to be fine, right?
Wrong! So here’s how it ended up panning out instead:
Kendrick: Hey Champ, thanks for coming out today. I genuinely appreciate it
Me: (Looks around at other TDE members) No prob, man.
Me: (Getting up from taking the pictures). Aight, y’all be easy.
That was it. No cleverly planned out lyric or questions on my end at all. I honestly only forgot because I wasn’t expecting a majority of the label to be there. If SZA would’ve actually been there at the moment, I would’ve been lucky to have gotten the few words out that I did manage to let escape out. There’s always next time though (yes, there HAS to be a next time).
I had a dream that great rappers, and even great lyricists would come together in one single label, and create a worthwhile sound, so that their music could be judged not by the catchiness of the beats, but the content of their words. I think Martin would be proud of that intro, and even prouder of the record label that has taken major steps in realizing this dream: Dreamville Records. The label, established by J. Cole and his manager Ibrahim Hamad, is comprised of. Cole himself, BAS, COZ, Earthgang, J.I.D, Lute, Ari, and Omen, all of who are considerably talented on their own. Earthgang, the duo most recently signed to Dreamville are currently touring, and opening for Cole on his KOD Tour, exposing the general masses to their unique style.
Of course, it goes without saying that those who follow underground rising stars already knew about all of these label-members before their signage, but, it’s good that every new signee will now be getting the marketing shine necessary to spread the knowledge of their music to those who limit themselves to whatever is on the radio. For the longest, whenever someone would dare utter that “Hip-Hop is dead”, the typical response would be, “Nah man, we got Cole and Kendrick!” As the adage goes, knowledge is power, and now you have a few more nuggets of knowledge to aid in Hip-Hop’s defense.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” — Plato
In a world full of mumble rappers, there still are amazing artists actually worth listening to. You just have to know where to start. For those of you who think today’s music is falling off, you might want to take the time to reconsider, and check these artists out (the list is in no particular order).