If you’re like me, then you pride yourself on being among the first members of a musician’s fan base. I enjoy listening to artists early in their careers because it makes me feel more connected to their music.
Last year, I compiled a list of 14 up-and-coming Hip-Hop musicians that I recognized as having potential. Since then, many of those artists’ careers have blossomed, including Leon Bridges receiving a Grammy Award nomination.
In no particular order, here’s another list of 14 rappers that I think are worth keeping an eye on.
To read the previous list click here.
- Joey Bada$$
Don’t let the stage name fool you. This Brooklyn-based emcee delivers surprisingly socially conscious music. His recently released sophomore album, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, features guest appearances from popular artists such as J. Cole and Schoolboy Q. In an interview with XXL, Joey stated that his influences include Tupac Shakur, Black Thought, MF DOOM, Andre 3000, Jay Z, and The Notorious B.I.G. Joey’s old-school sound and intelligent lyricism pays homage to these artists.
I wasn’t a fan of Yelawolf until I listened to his second studio album, Love Story, which was released in 2015. Influenced by rock and country music, the acoustically driven album was a completely different style than previous Yelawolf projects. His earlier music conveyed a far more aggressive tone.
Executive produced by Eminem, Love Story received very positive reviews from critics who praised the album’s emotional feel, ambition, and production. Charting at number 3 on the Billboard 200 and selling 51,000 copies in the first week, this was the best sales week of Yelawolf’s career. His upcoming album, Trial By Fire, has no release date yet but I’m excited to hear it.
Check out the lead single from his forthcoming Trial By Fire album here.
Dreamville Record’s newest signee, J.I.D, has a great future ahead of him. Only a month after signing to the label, the Atlanta native released his first album, The Never Story. His unique voice and lyrical delivery stand out in the song “Bruuuh.”
- Lunchmoney Lewis
Although he’s relatively unknown in America, Lewis’s 2015 debut single “Bills” topped charts in Australia, Belgium, New Zealand, Ireland, and the UK. Later that year, he released Bills EP. It’s unknown whether or not there’s a full album in the works but his mainstream sound is perfect for the American consumer. I can picture his music appearing in commercials, movies, radio, and everywhere else imaginable (much like CeeLo Green).
I met Russ Vitale at the beginning of his career in 2012. Since that time, I’ve watched his following grow exponentially. Now, he’s selling out venues across the world and his recent single “What They Want” even placed at number 83 on US Billboard Hot 100. With his dedicated fan base and music video views in the millions, I bet his debut album will be very successful.
- Cyhi the Prynce
Having been co-signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label since 2010, Cyhi is no newcomer to the industry. Although appearing in songs like “The Morning” and “So Appalled” alongside some of Hip-Hop’s biggest legends, he hasn’t released an album of his own. However, lately he’s been doing promotional rounds gearing up for the release of his long awaited album, No Dope On Sunday, which is expected to arrive this summer.
Watch the video from his recent appearance at Genius HQ here.
Russ’s long-time friend and fellow DIEMON Crew rapper, Bugus Thompson, has been greatly underappreciated in my opinion. Many Russ fans aren’t familiar with Bugus’s work even though his songs often feature Russ himself. Likewise, Bugus has multiple guest appearances throughout Russ’s discography. Hopefully, as Russ’s career takes off, Bugus begins to gain popularity.
Here is one of my personal favorites from Bugus.
17-year-old rap prodigy, Token, writes with the lyrical complexity of some of the greatest artists in the Hip-Hop genre. With his recent appearance on the nationally syndicated radio show, The Wake Up Show, Token proved himself as a force to be reckoned with. Fellow Massachusetts native, Mark Wahlberg, even took to Twitter to proclaim Token as his new favorite rapper. In my eyes, Token has the potential to become a household name.
Watch Token’s performance on The Wake Up Show here.
Also, check out his remix of Eminem’s song “Rap God” here.
Los Angeles swag-rapper, RJ, is most widely known for his frequent collaborations with YG. While he isn’t a socially conscious lyricist or a political activist, he has a good flow and a well-defined style. RJ’s song “Warning” displays similar musical qualities that made artists like Tyga and Meek Mill popular.
- Luke Christopher
Out of all the artists on this list, I think Luke Christopher may have the most mass appeal. His talent is versatile, serving as a rapper, singer, writer, and producer on many of his projects. The songs “Lot to Learn”, “The Waiting Game”, and “They Know” are great examples of his range of musical styles that appeal to a variety of audiences.
Chicago rapper, Calez, is a fast-rising star. His work with other notable artists like Alex Wiley, Mick Jenkins, & Chance the Rapper has given him a lot of popularity in the Windy City music scene. His mixtape/free album, Baby, is among my favorite projects from 2016 and often reminded me of a young Kanye West.
- Chris Rivers
As the son of deceased Hip-Hop legend Big Pun, Chris Rivers has some big shoes to fill. He does have a lot of talent and I think Chris’s style even resembles that of his father. Chris’s freestyle skills are well developed and his lyrical delivery is exceptionally strong. His hunger for success is clear in the song “Born For This” which tells a story of perseverance and overcoming obstacles.
Watch Chris Rivers freestyle on Shade 45 FM here.
His stage name is an acronym for “Does. Real. Ass. Music.” D.R.A.M. is a unique character (to say the very least). His lighthearted, playful, and slightly silly personality is very evident in his music videos. D.R.A.M.’s music has been described as Happy Trap, which is a Hip-Hop subgenre. You don’t even need to know what qualifies as Happy Trap to know that his music fits the description.
Watch the videos for “Cash Machine” and “Broccoli (ft. Lil Yachty)” off his debut studio album, Big Baby D.R.A.M.
- Scotty ATL
Walter Scott Williams, also known as Scotty ATL, is an Atlanta-based rapper, songwriter, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and record producer. His company, Atown Grillz, is responsible for putting customized bling in the mouths of artists like Rich Homie Quan, K Camp, and Trinidad James. As a musician, Scotty has done a lot of work with Grammy nominated artist, B.o.B., including a joint project, Live & Direct.
My favorite mixtapes from Scotty ATL are Unplugged and Daily Bread, which were both recorded from live performances.
Now, I want to know what you think-
Were there artists on the list who stood out to you? Was there anybody missing you wanted to mention?
Please comment below
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