As someone who lives Hip Hop wholeheartedly, nearly to his own detriment, one of the things I look at when December hits each year is the roster of new and/or emerging artists who I believe will or at least should break a new boundary in the coming 12 months. As much as the traditionalists beef with the hipsters, and the thugs disagree with the raptivists, we all want Hip Hop culture (and rap music) to persevere. It represents us. For 2015, I shared my top prospects with nikkisiixx.com. While reading the list, please understand that, for one artist, “emerging” may mean hitting the mainstream, while for another, it may mean finally achieving name recognition. For one reason or another, as explained below, the following are my picks for the Top 10 AWKWORD-Approved Hip Hop Artists to Watch in 2015. Needless to say, this list is not exhaustive; feel free to share your choices in the Comments Section. Send hate to @AWKWORDrap on twitter or email me at info@AWKWORDrap.com.
YONAS: Has this brilliant, transgressive Pop Hip Hop Artist ever made a song not workable as a single? Yonas, for me, has been one of those very few emcees whose name sparked an automatic download for years. And curiosity as to why he’s not ‘bigger’ than he is persists. Whether Yonas is remixing a chart-topping alternative record, opening up about the loss of his father to cancer, or ripping a beat to shreds, I know I can expect something I can relate to, something that is humanizing, something emotional and strong, well thought out and voraciously told. Always beautiful, tragic or otherwise. And Sean Divine, his producer, for sure, has been a part of that. Yonas is better than your favorite rapper’s new signee, sorry.
“Radio Flow” (Audio) –
“Fall Back” (Video) –
“I Could” (Video) –
AG DA CORONER: This guy handles dead bodies for a living. He also raps better than your favorite rapper. And he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve met in the rap game. Confused? Yeah, that’s right, I’m talking about one of the three heads of the horseman, Bronson x Meyhem x Coroner: AG himself. Truth be told, before any of these artists really broke (inter)nationally, and we only knew of each other through friends, I just listened and enjoyed and always found myself as impressed by the least famous of the three as I was by the other two. What I hear from this untouchable trio would not be the same without the depth and gruffness of AG’s voice. And with the breakout success of Bronsolino and the strong following behind Mr. Laurenovitch, it’s only a matter of time before the Coroner cleans up. Watch out for #SipTheNectar and EVERYTHING that follows.
“Terror Death Camp” by Action Bronson, feat. Meyhem Lauren, Maffew Ragazino & AG Da Coroner [prod. by Statik Selektah] (Dallas Penn Video) –
“Michael Landon” by Eddie B, feat. AG Da Coroner & Meyhem Lauren [prod. by Harry Fraud] (Audio) –
“Ray Lewis” by Meyhem Lauren, feat. Action Bronson & AG da Coroner [prod. by J-Zone] (Live Video) –
HOMEBOY SANDMAN: Sometimes a little too weird for traditionalists, I say fuck it. Boy Sand owns his voice, his flow and his niche. And he’s perfected it. For those that don’t get it, I think that is the problem unto itself: they simply don’t get it. When I first met him, I was impressed by his humility, and the man’s comfort in his own skin. I saw him rock, and he did exactly that: he rocked. And then I heard his polished material, and I initially struggled computing how the NYC underground Hip Hop scenester could translate. Then I gave up and gave in, like his brilliant backing label Stones Throw, and I embraced the weirdness, and the magnetism, wordplay and wittiness.
“America, The Beautiful” [prod. by Jonwayne] (Audio) –
“The Heaviest Cross 2.0” by YC the Cynic, feat. Homeboy Sandman [prod. by Frank Drake] (Audio) –
“Fat Belly” [prod. by Paul White] (Video) –
CHRIS WEBBY: Last year, I had no idea who Chris Webby was, and I don’t become a fan of other white rappers that often. So when my wife’s dance student told me her favorite rapper was a white kid from Connecticut, like me, I didn’t really pay much attention. But then I saw one of his singles, “Dopamine”, featured Talib Kweli, Grafh, B-Real and Trae The Truth — and I decided to give it/him a listen. He held his own, so I listened to more of the album on a day less busy than usual… and then I played it more and more — so much, in fact, that said wife put a temporary embargo on Webby’s latest, Chemically Imbalanced. This album might be my favorite of 2014, and I’m still not comfortable admitting it. But when I go through an LP and barely delete any of the songs off my iTunes, that’s a good sign. Not to mention that the white girls love him, and they’re the ones who determine the success of today’s artist anyway.
“Dopamine” by Chris Webby, feat. Talib Kweli, Grafh, B-Real & Trae The Truth (Audio) –
“Roll A Doobie (R.A.D.)” by Chris Webby (Video) –
“Fuck Off” by Chris Webby (Video) –
ALEX WILEY: My first encounter with Alex Wiley was when I read a tweet of his that read racially insensitive and I called him out on it, only to find out from his reply that he was a person of color too… AWKWORD start. Alex is also probably the only artist on this list that could be considered part of the new wave of Hip Hop (not going to elaborate; if you don’t know, you don’t know). I am eclectic, in my own music and even more in the music I listen to, but sometimes enough is enough. I don’t feel that way about Chicago’s Alex Wiley, though, as his substance and stylizations blend effortlessly with his almost laissez faire attitude, a la Action Bronson. It’s Fear and Loathing in America, and my man’s psychodelic trips and traumatic memories lay the soundscape. If anyone on this list is going to really blow 15 years in, it might be this cat from the Windy City.
“Vibration” by Alex Wiley [prod. by Hippie Sabotage] (Video) –
“Splash Game (Self Doubt)” by Alex Wiley (Video) –
“Ideas (Adderall)” by Alex Wiley (Video) –
L.ATASHA A.LCINDOR (L.A): NikkiSiixx regulars know how I feel about L.A. She was named #9 on my Top 20 AWKWORD-Approved Female Rappers List earlier in 2014. And for those who don’t remember/know, I first created that list to provide my young daughters with alternatives to Iggy Azalea, Nicki Minaj, etc. And L.A.’s stock is only rising. Later this week, my review of her latest single “Go Off (A Prelude to (R)evolution),” will premiere via NikkiSiixx — and I think my comments there can pretty much sum up my feelings on her work: “With a vicious tongue and unapologetic stance, Brooklyn’s own L.atasha A.lcindor (L.A.) unleashes…” Amongst all the queens included on the aforementioned list, L.A. has the most attributes essential to taking it to the next level, now. She is not only a beautiful, strong black woman, she is an emcee (NOT a “female” emcee) with a unique flow and powerful lyrics. As long as she continues on this path, picking the right beats to match her aesthetic, she’ll continue to move forward.
“Go Off (A Prelude to (R)evolution)” by L.A. (Audio) –
“I’m Alive” by L.A. [prod. by Hippie Sabotage] (Video) –
“L.A. State of Mind” by L.A. (Video) –
APPLEBY: I don’t even want to tell you about this cat, cause, like, Appleby still feels like my own dirty little secret. I first heard of him through his manager Amir Abbassy (@BlameTheLabel), and when I saw the lengths to which Amir was going for a nearly unheard-of (outside of Pigeons And Planes?) act, I knew there had to be substance, and ingenuity, there, and man was I (really, Amir) right. Appleby sings REALLY well, and, he raps, REALLY well. I can’t even choose my favorite joint on dude’s soundcloud. Just STFU and peep game. And answer this: How do you like THESE apples!???
“Find” by Appleby (Audio) –
“Rounded Edge” by Appleby (Audio) –
“My Latest B.I.D.” by Appleby (Audio) –
ADRIAN LAU: “And my old friend Fraud got the world saying wavy, Hannnn…” That’s not a quote from Mr. Lau’s latest record, but my own. I must admit my allegiance to SRFSCHL and La Musica De Harry Fraud. But I could have gone a number of ways here, and I selected Adrian. Had time permitted, he would have appeared on my forthcoming NYC RMX of hit World View single “Go!”, not only because Harry and I go way back, or because I was blessed with two Fraud productions on World View, but because THIS kid can spit and command a mic or dominate a camera lens. And he represents a VERY underrepresented population in Hip Hop: Asians. Asian Americans have ALWAYS been MAJOR players in one of the elements of our great culture: breakdancing; and rap music (just another element, no?) is now prevalent throughout Japan, China, Korea, India and elsewhere to the east of us. But, chill, I didn’t ask Adrian if he’s a representative of China Town or of China, and I’d be an ass if I assumed. I like seeing diversity in Hip Hop, but I chose my mans because his raps are fresh and his imagery is vivid.
“Stopwatch” by Adrian Lau, feat. Charlie Bars & Riff Raff [prod. by Harry Fraud] (Audio) –
“Blue Dreams” by Adrian Lau [prod. by Harry Fraud] (Video) –
“Intro” by Adrian Lau [prod. by Harry Fraud] (Audio) –
DAVE EAST: I don’t usually listen to radio, indie or otherwise, but I was hype when I heard Dave East with Statik Selektah on Showoff Radio. Real emcees know: Some rappers claim to freestyle and spit writtens, some spit writtens and acknowledge just that, and a lot of motherfuckers claim off-the-cuff creativity while spitting shit they’ve written and long-since memorized. I’m a writer more than an emcee, so I prefer to write over freestyle; but when I’m asked to spit off the top, I do just that. And this guy Dave East, signed by Nas, freestyled for real, and he did it well. Dude is pure New York, from and of Harlem, but influenced by and representing all of us. Stupid hard, THIS is the music that most excites me when it comes to New York: young, hungry and aggressive, reminiscent of our godfathers, embracing of the new era, and unedited, unafraid and personal. Dave East is not just another rapping “Dave” — he’s one of my favorite artists on MY iTunes playlist.
“Let It Go” by Dave East (Video) –
“Make It Out” by Dave East, feat. Emilio Rojas & Jazzy Amra [prod. by Buda Da Future & Grandz Muzik] (Audio) –
“Make A Dolla” by Dave East [prod. by Scram Jones] (Audio) – CLICK HERE
MR. KING AKA HUGO KING: So, I was listening to the forthcoming producer album from Kingston, NY’s Shakiah Asquith, and the three songs that stood out the most all featured this one emcee who SJ called ‘Mr. King’. I had never heard of him, and so I asked to meet him, and SJ obliged — but Mr. King, although friendly, did not seem interested in expanding his reach beyond his hood, at least not right away. I’m not sure if King (who has at least one album on DatPiff) reps the Bronx or Kingston, but when I met dude upstate, I was impressed. My mans needs coaching, but he can spit with the best of them, point blank period. And he’s virtually unknown. My recommendation to the vultures would be start to swooping in now… but let him make more shit like this:
“Say My Soul” by Mr. King (Audio) –
“Big Dreams” by Mr. King (Audio) –
“Make It Out” by Mr. King [prod. by Shakiah Asquith] (Audio) –
Thanks to Awkword for getting this list together of some of the Hip Hop Artists for us to keep a look out for in 2015. They’re hard work ethnics, making moves, and getting more recognition. Can’t wait to see what’s in store with new music from this batch of talented artists.
Don’t forget to follow Awkword on all his social media outlets. AWKWORD: Rap Singer. Activist. Sociologist. Gonzo Journalist. NYC x Upstate NY x Worldwide