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Hailing from northern Paris, 21-year-old Lord Esperanza released his first album at the end of 2017. Only mid-way through 2018, the prolific rapper has already followed up with two projects, the latest being a 7-track drop entitled ‘Internet’. On this EP, the self-proclaimed “kid of the century” shares ‘Boulevard’, a powerful track that illustrates a ludicrous picture of the world that surrounds him. He expresses his distress through carefully constructed rhymes and vivid metaphors, laying his emotions bare over a delicate beat, a touching cry for help coming straight from his heart.
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Born in Oman and now based in the Philippines, model and singer Jason Dhakal is a serious talent. With a penchant for smooth, contemporary R&B, he’s collaborated with Iloilo-based producer dot.jaime on ‘Night In’, a debut EP built for its own name: lonely, late-night feelings. Though he originally began his music career “accidentally” during a sleepover at his friend’s house, Jason Dhakal, at only 17-years-old, now offers an impressive sound full of sultry passion.
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Swedish/Somali rapper Ozzy is a rising star, transferring his life experiences into lyrical excellence. His debut album ‘Ett Öga Rött’ (One Eye Red) is inspired by a Swedish novel of the same name. Growing up in Rosengård, southern Sweden, with all the odds against him, he found an escape in music and literature; as a kid he was often bullied and called names – in which he uses to introduce himself on the first track of the album, reclaiming the abuse he was subject to: “Det är jag som är Ozzy, stor svart tjockis” – (“It is me Ozzy, big black fatty”). Writing songs gave him a lifeline during this troubled upbringing; the song ‘Några Gånger’ (A Few Times) tracks his deep love for the music and the many sacrifices he made for it over the years.
Born into a Christian family in Makwarela, a small town in the northern region of South Africa, Unarine Rambani learned how to produce music, play the drums and piano at a church founded by his parents. Dubbed “The Venda Pop Star” by his growing fan base, the 22-year-old producer/songwriter/vocalist recently dropped a 6 track EP ‘Wavy Baby’, his second commercially released project.
The first track, entitled ‘Good Intentions’ (featuring songstress Thabsie), gently lures the audience into his world, offering a melodic fusion of genres from reggae, soul and trap. This is evident in stand-out track “Murder” which features Nigerian-based singer and songwriter Shayee-Shay and co-producer C-Tea. Una Rams describes the EP as “a love story about a boy and a mermaid. And I know it’s the craziest thing to say to anyone but it’s because a lot of people get into relationships when they are both from 2 different worlds, things fall through the cracks because you don’t understand each well enough, so this EP takes you through the different stages of the relationship, and unfortunately it’s not a happy ending.”
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Born and raised in Pasadena, California to Korean parents, in 2016 Nafla moved from the US to rock the hip-hop scene in the country of his heritage. He quickly became emblematic of the resurgence in boom-bap rap among the new generation; as trap influences began to dominate the Korean hip-hop scene, fresh tracks like ‘Wu’ and ‘Locked and Loaded’ stood out with a fresh take on a classic 90s-influenced hip-hop sound. Nafla’s unique aggressive, sharp vocal tone has won him fans on both sides of the Pacific; after proving his skills on rap, he also explored other styles with songs like ‘Mercy’ showing that there’s no limit to his powerful delivery. Now seen as a trendsetter of boom-bap in Korea, in June he returned with new single ‘B.I.G’, paying respect to the legendary Biggie Smalls.
Not satisfied with producing one of France’s hardest trap projects of the year in 13 Block’s “Triple S”, Ikaz Boi returns with “Brutal”, a debut album of his own that welcomes the audience into his eclectic universe through a portal of diverse instrumentals, features, and interludes. The project counts Ateyaba (fka Joke) amongst its guests, a voice that has become increasingly scarce over the past few years; building on their past collaborations, the pair offer up ‘Pyramid Tokyo’, a vibrant performance that serves as a reminder of why the French scene misses the Montpellier rapper’s unique flow.
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In Andean culture the most important festivity in the calendar corresponds to the summer solstice of June 21st, and it was on this day that Ecuadorian singer Huaira chose to release her first solo EP ‘Ñuka Shunku’ (“I am pure heart”). From the centre of the planet Quito on the day dedicated to the sun, Huaira (meaning “wind” in the Quechua language), the project opens with ‘Semilla Solar’ (“Solar Seed”), a song loaded with timeless Andean elements and beautiful vocals that seems to bring a message from the earth itself.
Maria Beraldo only recently released her first album, but she’s by no means a rookie in Brazilian’s music scene. A renowned clarinetist who has already played alongside significant avant-garde and música popular brasileira (MPB) artists such as Elza Soares and Arrigo Barnabé, on her debut album ‘Cavala’ she crafts an in-depth study of what it means to be lesbian in a country and society where the dominant macho culture is such an undermining force for minorities. The song ‘Amor Verdade’ (Love True) is a moving confession of the artist’s sexual orientation to her parents, with the power of the lyrics emphasised by the minimalistic psychedelic style, encouraging the listener to focus on what the artist has to say.
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G.O.O.D. Music have had one hell of a month. After five consecutive weeks of dominating the hip-hop agenda with the releases of 7-song albums from hip-hop legends Pusha T, Kanye West, Kid Cudi and Nas, last weekend the label’s run finally reached its climax with Teyana Taylor’s sophomore record ‘K.T.S.E.’ (standing for Keep That Same Energy). Despite being perhaps the least hyped up of the five releases, the Harlem-born singer takes her moment in the spotlight with relish, delivering a record of slick, timeless RnB jams. Smooth soulful production comes courtesy of West and Mike Dean, who for the most part leave aside the more abrasive electronic experimentation that they have explored on the previous records, opting instead for a palette of warm keys and classic soul samples allowing Taylor to showcase her powerful vocals, exemplified on the album’s standout track ‘Rose in Harlem’.
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Jess Connelly is a household name in Filipino music and a rising star in the international scene. Commonly referred to as JCon, the singer specialises in delivering smooth and soulful R&B tunes, and has opened for foreign acts like Kehlani and Macklemore at their tour dates in her home country. Connelly often collaborates with some of Manila’s finest producers such as crwn, similarobjects, LUSTBASS and eyedress; despite her growing popularity, she continues to release her music as an independent artist and is passionate about promoting promising local acts to her fanbase. Building on the success of her track ‘Mine’ earlier this year, her latest single ‘On My Way Up’ is an ethereal banger, as she charts her ascendant status over distorted trap-infused production.
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Using her music as an expression of the Afropean movement, the Ghanaian-Swedish singer Aurelia Dey has a unique ability to capture everyday, real-life moments and transfer them into her own sound. Her latest release ‘Sweet Love’ is an infectious summer anthem, paying homage to an unconditional romance, a first class upgrade compared to her past relationships, as she sings “my ex-man boring” over a bashment-infused rhythm.
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Last year, Buenos Aires psychedelic rock/blues band Los Espíritus released their third album ‘Agua Ardiente’. A few months later, while still touring the album, they released a three track EP called ‘Guayabo de Agua Ardiente’. The group describes this extension as containing the songs that were “too spaced out to be inserted in the official album but also too good not to be shared”. This EP ends with the aching guitars and deep, rasping vocals of ‘Ruso Blanco’.
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Leon Vynehall made his name crafting deep, elegant contemporary house, becoming one of dance music’s most talked-about names in the process. However, his latest full-length effort ‘Nothing is Still’ sees the British electronic producer move away from club-oriented music into broader, progressive conceptual territory; it is perhaps notable that despite the success of previous projects ‘Music for the Uninvited’ and ‘Rojus’, he describes this release as his first proper debut album. Following the narrative of his grandparents’ emigration from London to New York in the 1960s, Vynehall vividly scores their journey through rich, instrumental compositions, expertly harnessing his gift for percussion with a gorgeous musicality alongside soaring synths to create a fluid, cinematic piece that has as much in common with classical symphony and ambient electronica as it does with booming house or techno. One of the year’s most adventurous, forward-thinking albums, this is one to be savoured.
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Wanja Wohoro and Jinku’s DUST EP is a Nu-Nairobi gem. With melancholic yet inspirational songwriting, the soulful combination of Wohoro’s sultry vocals against the canvas of Jinku’s delicate production is shifting the perspective of contemporary Kenyan audiences. Where the acoustic and electronic scenes once remained intensely separated, such collaborations are a testament to the scope for these two styles to fuse seamlessly. Underground singer/songwriters and bedroom producers have been experimenting with genre-bending ideas for some time, and the results are beginning to pierce the veil of the mainstream. Following in the footsteps of pioneering Kenyan artists who have stepped out before into the global spotlight such as Karun Mungai and Blinky Bill, Wohoro is on a mission to overcome these barriers, taking the stage beside Jinku, who is perhaps best-known beyond the African continent for his collaborations with globetrotting artists like Jojo Abot.
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Born in Mussoorie India, with roots in New Zealand and South Africa, multi-cultural acoustic singer Jordan Johnson moved to New Delhi at the age of 8. He began experimenting with open chords, tunings and eventually started writing his own songs; fast forward to 2018, and the 23 year old has recently been voted one of the top five acoustic acts in the city. A year of self and musical exploration resulted in a 4 track EP titled ‘Afterglow’ which was released in March this year; single ‘Superman’ was written in the months before he got married, when he found himself at the crossroad of family and self expectations, with the soul-bearing sound of his haunting melodies creating a somber, melancholic vibe. The artist also performs live as the ‘Jordan Johnson Trio’ alongside Akshay Deokuliar (drums) and Harshit Misra (bass) who add different elements and explore more of what the music has to offer.
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With a sound that falls somewhere between contemporary hip-hop and French chanson, Strasbourg’s Arthur ELY enters the fray with a refreshing debut single. On ‘Le Dernier Homme’ the multi-instrumentalist introduces himself with a skillful performance, as his confident vocals ride silky electronic production. One to watch.
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The charismatic DPR LIVE is rapidly making a name for himself as one of Korea’s most exciting new creative talents. As a member of collective/label DPR (Dream Perfect Regime) he enjoyed a successful debut in 2017 with the album ‘Coming to You Live’, weaving together a unique style of intricate raps and soothing melodies. Based between Seoul and Guam, the rapper pursuing experimental sounds incorporating future bass, trap, and soul to craft his own dream-like sound.
With his futuristic aesthetic, DPR LIVE’s visuals have a distinctive modern, technicolour quality; his latest single ‘Playlist’ fuses an up-tempo tribal drum beat with a classic bossa nova sample for a departure from his usual vibe, yet still retaining his rhythm and romantic energy for an undeniable summer banger.
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Yxng Bane has been carving his own lane within the UK’s diverse music landscape. Incorporating elements of trap, RnB and dancehall to create a dynamic blend of styles, his latest visual sees the east Londoner allude to his previous hit ‘Vroom’ as he flexes in a gold motor, showcasing his dexterity as his woozy vocals switch flows either side of an infectious hook.
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Though perhaps better known in Brazil as a producer and composer for new MPB indie artists such as Céu and Lucas Santtana, Gui Amabis is no newcomer to the microphone himself. His latest album, ‘Miopia’, is the fourth in a series which began back in 2011 with ‘Memórias Luso-Africanas’, followed by 2012’s ‘Trabalhos Carnívoros’ and ‘Ruivo em Sangue’ in 2015. ‘Contravento’ is actually a song that was originally recorded by Céu on her album ‘Caravana Sereia Bloom’, but here Amabis crafts a new version that completely reworks the genre and mood of the song: where before there were notes of tropical cumbia, Amabis spins a smooth, melancholic take, adding a philosophical and reflective depth to the lyrics. Amabis handles vocal duties, enlisting instrumental assistance from a band of four; Dustan Gallas (electric guitar), Regis Damasceno (bass), Samuel Fraga (drums) and Richard Ribeiro (vibraphone).
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LA record label Top Dawg Entertainment has produced some of contemporary US hip-hop’s biggest new stars in the last few years, developing the likes of Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Isaiah Rashad and SiR. Amongst such a wealth of fresh talent, west-coast rap veteran Jay Rock has at times perhaps been overlooked; despite being one of the label’s earliest signees way back in 2005, he has thus far struggled to emulate the same level of international commercial success as his label-mates. However this is due to change with the release of his third album ‘Redemption’, a powerful, direct record that expertly fuses Rock’s roots in classic hip-hop sensibilities with the trappier contemporary sounds of the modern-day scene. In the midst of a host of stellar guest appearances from hip-hop royalty like Lamar, J. Cole, Future and Jeremih, the 33-year old Rock more than holds his own, showcasing his arsenal of slick flows and imposing delivery over a diverse range of styles, tied together by a consistent dark energy. Touching on a range of themes including religion, race and gang life in Los Angeles, ‘Redemption’ is a truly enjoyable rap album that is due to elevate Jay Rock to the status that he has perhaps long deserved.