Back in the day, the next big names in Hip Hop were decided — almost exclusively — by top Record Labels and A&R teams. From the late 90’s until recently, prime time radio plays, cable music video’s and features on magazines like The Source and XXL, were the only way for new artists to reach a mainstream ear. Unless up and comers had the personal finance or A&R backing to access those platforms, a local buzz was the best that they could expect.
Fast forward to today, in the age of the internet of things; the rules have been redrawn and playing fields leveled. Platforms like Youtube and Soundcloud ( and MySpace before that) provide a route through which talent — not money — dictates prospects for success in the game.
In Hip hop, hot new singles, mixtapes and EP’s spread on platforms that can be accessed across the globe. Labels no doubt remain powerful, but the success of new artists is more people driven today than it ever has been. MC’s daring to go it alone today can expect more than a local buzz for his music, just as long as he has the talent to back it.
In that vein, we look at five of Hip Hop’s and comers today; those lesser known but highly rated artists whose trajectory is based on homegrown and social media hype, not big Label money.
The list is in no particular order and is as broad as my natural bias can muster.
Latest Project: Free 6LACK
6LACK is a 24 year old Hip Hop and R&B artist from Atlanta. He brings a fresh, evocative and ‘mellow mood’ flow to the scene, and his records tell probing stories suggesting a wisdom in 6LACK a little beyond his years. The artist first emerged in 2011 as a SoundCloud sensation, gaining views on the platform well into the tens of millions. In November last year, after the release of his latest project ‘Free 6Lack’ he shot to dizzier heights and managed to sign with Interscope Records. For those who need a bit of soul in their Hip Hop, he is definitely the one to watch.
Latest Project: Kairi Chanel
Dave East is a 28 year old, East Harlem based gangsta rap artist with his own new school inflections, and he spits to beats that capture the essence of NYC’s golden era of rap; melodic, looping and bass heavy. East signed to Def Jam records last year in a multi-million dollar deal following the release of his 10th Mixtape Kairi Chanel. He’s managing to rub shoulders with the right people, and this growing industry exposure, along with his hard, unique delivery, are definitely set to make him a big name in the near future.
Latest Project: Lil Boat
Lil Yachty is a 19 year old rapper championing that new school mumble rap flow capturing the younger, upcoming generation of Hip Hop heads. His simple yet catchy flow sits over sampled Dysney and and 90’s game console type beats. Despite the multitude of haters deriding what he and other new wave mumble rappers are bringing to the table, Lil yachty is still making serious waves. He reached top 5 in the Billboard 100 charts last year and was signed in June following that on a Joint Venture with Capital and Motown Records. For better or worse,he’s another one destined for big things this year.
Latest Project: THC
Mick is a 26 year old Chicago based, mellow mood rap artist with a cult following around those who yearn for unforgiving conscious hip hop. He is a sort of an underground Kendrick with a softer, yet potent, beat-riding delivery. Mick first burst to prominence in 2014 with his critically acllaimed mixtape The Water’s. Although he’s yet to produce a track that propels him to mainstream stardom, for many that’s just the way they like him. Mick is definitely one to keep watching, and listening to when you need to hear the truth in music!
Latest Project: Silence
Russ is a 26 year old, half Sicilian, New Jersey based rapper throwing serious new flames to the game. With over 40 million views on his Soundcloud since its inception in 2014, Russ has built a hyped fan base with his fast-clip lyrical delivery and smooth hooks over beats he mostly produces himself. He has a new age Drake flow, with the saving grace being less of the emotion, and more focus put on creative delivery. Russ landed a major deal with Colombia Records last year, and most people are saying the only thing that will stop Russ becoming as big as he is destined, is his massive ego.