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The #AWKWORDapproved Top Rapper Prospects of 2016

top prospects 2016 awkword nikkisiixx

I did this last year, and earlier this week I took a shit on rap journalists by critiquing my own picks. Now, here’s to hoping I — and these artists — fare better in 2016! Send your hate to @AWKWORDrap or info@AWKWORDrap.com. – AWK

koncept-j57Koncept & J57
New York City’s answer for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. With better bars, and bigger balls. These two made my favorite album of 2015 not called Black Liberation Theology.

silent-knightSilent Knight
Busy is his best friend — and it ain’t hard to tell, as he racks up the appearances. Here’s to hoping Silent Knight’s buzz finally catches up to his work ethic, and talent. I had a hard time picking my favorites from him in 2015.

aaron-cohenAaron Cohen
Clearly I’m a fan, since I recruited the fellow bearded Jew for last year’s NYC remix of my hit World View single “Go!”. The XXL Break alum has the hipster niche on lock, with steady love streaming in from the MISHKA, Noisey, Mass Appeal and Complex collectives. But it’s his confidence, his consistency, and his KIDS-era aesthetic that may propel him (and his ICK crew) to new heights in 2016.

russRUSS
Speaking of consistency… From the art he creates for each single he drops to the quality of HIS production on each of his songs to the catchy hooks and undeniably witty lyricism, Russ is one of those artists who seems destined for stardom, if he’s interested. This guy epitomizes prolific. He raps — a lot — about the magazines and the labels, and not giving a fuck. But let’s see what happens. Every record he uploads to Audiomack gets immediate love and stays trending until he unleashes his next one.

hdbeendopeHD Been Dope
This guy’s still a bit of a sleeper. He’s young, unsigned, and another so-called backpacker emcee out of Brooklyn. But he’s caught the attention of The DJ Booth, offering up a freestyle for two of their video series, one solo and one alongside Maffew Ragazino, Kirk Knight, Emilio Rojas and Black Dave; and, dude’s done a million shows already. Not to mention, his contribution to DJ J Hart’s Passport EP was one of my top-three favorites on that top-three album of 2015. I expect great things from this kid, even if he’s not a Bada$$.

afroA-F-R-O
This young man loves and lives Hip Hop. He’s that cat who always had headphones on, kept to himself, and worshiped real emcees. He stayed up late, scribbling in his notebook, hoping to one day present his skills to someone like the great R.A. The Rugged Man. And then, he did. His rap name, a la GURU, stands for All Flows Reach Out. And if you’ve heard one of his freestyles, you know he can rap. Can’t say I love his RECORDS, yet. And he doesn’t exactly have the curb appeal to blow like Timberlake. But with more polishing (perhaps even than RA can provide), A-F-R-O can make a major dent on the indie Hip Hop scene, even as early as 2016.

conway-westsidegunnHus Kingpin, Smoovth, Rozewood and Marvelous Mag; and Conway and Westside Gunn
Sure, it may seem a little odd (if you haven’t been following my monthly playlists for Gonzombies.com) that I, ‘Mr. Protest Music’ himself, would be a proponent of this new wave of street music, but the massive amount of output from this group of affiliated ‘New New Yorkers’ (no Troy Ave) is as Hip Hop as any of the political anthems Jasiri X and I create. The streets birthed Hip Hop, and nobody does the gritty with more gusto. The beat selection, the searing wit, the wordplay, and the wiseguy mannerisms keep me head nodding and feeling untouchable. That’s what rap music can do for you. And nobody right now does it better than these guys. Mark my words: 2016 is the year The Winners and Griselda Records go global. Shoutout my mans, Big Ghost.


dookoomDOOKOOM
You may not have heard of them, but OkayAfrica and Noisey have. David Banner has. I have. And after a May 2015 tour, Europe has. They scared the shit out of the South African establishment with one music video, and it was lovely. Get next, and maybe you’ll catch me working with them before it’s too late to say you were still one of the first.

garycoldmanGary Coldman
I think the first person I saw publicly mention the importance of album art was Nathan Slavik aka Refined Hype of DJ Booth (and I listened). In the case of a new artist, or an artist of whom you haven’t heard, it is definitely true. I caught wind of Gary while curating one of my Gonzombies playlists and, after doing a little research and discovering the consistency in his presentation to the public, decided more time should be lent to giving his music a sincere and thorough listen — and that, up-and-coming artists, is how you end up on a year-end list like this. Off the strength of his ‘catchiest song of the month‘ alone, the cold man may not have made the top 10, but his other two equally icy singles were enough to seal it.

appleby2Appleby
Still rooting for a Coronation, but in 2016 I think Applesgotit.

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The AWKWORD: Top 10 Rappers of 2015? A Look Back

the awkward approved top 10 2015 rappers in 2015 look back

Last year @Awkwordrap picked 10 “emerging” artists that he considered “top prospects” for 2015. In some cases, he picked wisely; in others, not so much. This year, before sharing his next top-10 list for 2016. He’s going to do something that ‘Hip Hop journalists’ never do: critique themselves.

YONAS
yonasI knew he wouldn’t skyrocket to super-stardom — dude had simply been too dope for too long already. But I think I took an L with this one because I heard about Yonas less last year than in years past. His 2015 Going Places EP on iTunes has a near-perfect rating, with a lot of reviews, and his lead single “Live It Up” is at nearly a million plays on Soundcloud and Youtube combined, so I know my mans has emerged. But I’m just not sure if it happened in 2015 or if he’d already reached his — albeit, pretty damn high — plateau.

AG DA CORONER
agdacoronerOff by a year, that’s it. Sip the Nectar drops any minute.

HOMEBOY SANDMAN
homeboysandmanI’m taking this one. Homeboy Sandman went from buzzing NYC underground star to being everywhere in 2015. He made a critically acclaimed album with Aesop Rock that just got the remix treatment from Mike Shinoda, was featured by The Guardian, headlined tours in the U.S. and Europe, and smashed a number of major festivals with his high-energy performances.

CHRIS WEBBY
chriswebbyChris is like Yonas, but on a bigger scale. He already signed a deal with E1 Music in 2013, his debut studio album dropped in 2014 — which is what piqued my attention — and he already had his niche. In fact, he might have lost some of his fanbase, having to share ear time with the likes of Mike Stud and Hoodie Allen, not to mention Lil Dicky. If you ask me, there’s no comparison among Chris and the other aforementioned, but I have to be in a special place for this kind of rap anyway.

Alex Wiley
AlexWileyIt’s Chicago. The New New York. Tough competition. Alex is still doing his thing, and I think his star continued to rise in 2015. But others may have surpassed him. Joey Purp, Saba Pivot, Noname Gypsy, Mick Jenkins and Vic Mensa may all have a steeper curve right now. Plus there’s my favorite, my comrade Malcolm London. But, then again, Wiley’s like 22 and already getting written up in Billboard. So maybe dude’s just beginning. This one’s a toss-up.

Latasha Alcindor
latashaalcindorL.A. was definitely a solid choice. A featured emcee on my upcoming global collab “IAm” (also featuring Modenine of Nigeria, Holstar of Zambia, Wakazi of Tanzania, and DJ J Hart of France, among others), I’m a big fan of what this powerful woman is doing with her words and her voice. And I’m not alone, as she caught the attention of Noisey and other major tastemakers in 2015.

Appleby
applebyNot. Yet. Still betting on this guy, even if I don’t like his new stuff as much as what I heard in 2014. Appleby still hides his face. He still has Amir Abbassy behind him. He still gets free promo from Pigeons and Planes. And this year he got a feature in the print and digital version of Maxim. I don’t see a collab with Da Coroner coming, but I could see this cat cooking up with Raury or getting remixed by Harry Fraud.

Adrian Lau
adrianlauSpeaking of Harry Fraud… It was definitely more of an up than a down year for SRFSCHL member Adrian Lau. He might have been somewhat lost in the shadows, with team leader Harry Fraud increasing his production output for the likes of French, Diddy and Wiz, plus new SCHL member Downtown Dion; but, Lau did land himself a production role on Kanye West affiliate Allan Kingdom’s Northern Lights LP, and he kept busy on his own, dropping an album and a mixtape, and performing regularly in and around the Hip Hop capital of NYC.

Dave East
daveeastWhile he just missed the XXL 2015 Freshmen cover, as a member of Nas’s Mass Appeal roster, Dave catapulted himself in the last year. His hard-hitting DJ Drama-hosted Hate Me Now tape features Nas, Pusha T, Jadakiss and Styles P, and has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. I discovered Dave freestyling on Sirius XM in 2014, and I was immediately impressed. But if I could, I’d remind him: quality over quantity – some of these EASTMIXes for the Interwebs should probably stay on his laptop, even if the fanboys make them trend on Audiomack. Songs like “Numb” illustrate what Nas sees in the young man representing a different side of Harlem, New York. And I’ll just put those on repeat.

Mr.King
mrkingOops. Can I get a take back?

#AWKWORDapproved Top 10 Hip Hop Artists to Watch For in 2016 list will drop soon via NikkiSiixx.com, so stay tuned. Send hate to @AWKWORDrap or info@AWKWORDrap.com.

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The AWKWORD – Approved Top 10 Hip Hop Artists to Watch in 2015

top102015

top102015

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

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