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
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.
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.
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.
HD 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$$.
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.
Hus 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.
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.
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.