- United Kingdom
- South Africa
- South Korea
- United Arab Emirates
- Hong Kong
- Puerto Rico
- North America
- United States
- Cayman Islands
- Central America
- Costa Rica
- New Zealand
- Latin America
An ensemble of woodwind instrumentation and beatboxed rhythms distinguish the sound of ‘Sistema’, a four track EP released last year by Eric Mandarina. An experienced musician, actor and all-round entertainer, since 2004 he has been studying self-taught percussion, classical guitar and acoustic drums. His latest proposal is a journey that mixes elements of dub and reggae with analogue house bass and funk-infused drum pulses, as lyrics loaded with mundane questions seek to demonstrate the systematic operations that we oppose.
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Rotation combines with fellow member of Sudanese collective nuslang. on banger ‘Affin Affin’. The track adopts a ‘trap-zanig’ style, fusing Sudani instruments with contemporary hip-hop to inject a refreshing dynamic energy. Driven by Rotation’s unique flow and a spine-chilling guitar solo by producer WillyWill, “Affin Affin” is a powerful example of the strength of the East African country’s vibrant rap scene, incorporating Western influences to create new original gems.
Following in the lineage of the city’s rich modern musical history, Detroit has introduced another talented mind in Choker. Last year, his self-produced debut album ‘Peak’ received acclaim for uncannily evoking sounds of Frank Ocean, yet still crafting his own individual sound. His follow-up project ‘Honeybloom’ released this month, creates a unique ethereal atmosphere through its experimental approach and depth, with beautifully expressive vocals driving unpredictable, unconventional melodies. Choker is a truly multi-faceted artist dedicated to pushing boundaries while still remaining accessible through his meaningful lyricism.
Paloalto takes his name from the city in California’s San Francisco Bay Area where the veteran rapper used to live when he was young. After moving back to Korea, he became a founder of Hi-Lite Records, the heavyweight hip-hop label that has been so influential in the country’s scene over the last decade. His reflective messages are delivered in a baritone voice which embodies the depth of his music, built by sincere experience and growth over his lengthy career. Paloalto demonstrates his technical ability and mastery of flow on ‘Joy’, the first track of his newly-released album ‘Summer Grooves’, a laid-back summer anthem with an uplifting vocal melody courtesy of guest Korean American singer-songwriter Ted Park.
Indie-pop duo Parekh & Singh are bringing a refreshing, dynamic energy to India’s buzzing music scene. With dreamer Nischay Parekh driving the melodies, singing and playing guitar, keyboards and synths and the more grounded, logical Jivraj Singh handling percussion and FX, they combine to conjure glowing tracks of cosmic pop that shimmer like an Indian sunset. With vibrant synth lines, stripped-down drum grooves and pop hooks, the duo establishes the addition of soul to their music to create their effortlessly crisp, neo-psychedelic sound. This year they re-released their breakthrough 2016 debut album Oceans as a deluxe version with three new ‘Dream Levels’ versions of standout tracks from the record. From the infectious, melodic opener ‘I love you Baby, I love you Doll’, the music charts the agony and ecstasy of uncertain young love, portrayed in Wes Anderson-inspired visuals that depict them working in a hotel dressed up in vivid tailored suits. Together, they represent India’s cosmopolitan youth, incoporating western influences into their rich cultural heritage; the dreamlike quality of their music and videos is firmly rooted in their hometown of Kolkata, a city frozen in time after decades of communist rule.
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MaMan’s triple-threat ability to sing, rap, and produce with equal strength mark him as one of the most notable talents to come out of Sudan in recent years. Entitled after the year of his birth, his latest album “1991” aptly represents the struggle of a young Sudanese creative fighting their way through the country’s economic and socio-political strife, a scenario that many of the marginalised young generation can relate to. Sonically, “1991” boasts genre-fusing electronic beats and diverse hip-hop flows, running the gamut of emotions as the mood shifts from uplifting positivity to brooding introspection, tied together by dark, swirling production.
Yangze is a fairly new name on the electronic scene, however the man behind the project, Copenhagen-based producer Jakob Littauer, has been an influential figure within the Danish scene in various different roles prior. A part of Copenhagen’s Escho collective which has released music from artists like Smerz and Iceage, he has also performed live with the likes of Liss & Soleima. As Yangze, Littauer draws on his electronic roots, incorporating pitched up vocals and melodic synths, giving his music an avant-garde feel that keeps the optimal balance between challenging the listener whilst still maintaining a very listenable strand of electro-pop.
In 2016 Mercedes Nasta, former vocalist of Mexican electronic rock band Disco Ruido, undertook her solo adventure. Creating her own downtempo, hypnotic brand of cumbia (the carribean-infused folk music of northern Latin America), Nasta took the reins of the project as she developed her production skills; this, combined with her deep poetry, soft voice and the collaboration of gifted musicians under her direction produced a masterful project inspired by basalt, the form of cold lava from which the album takes its name. ‘Basalto’ is a experiment, record with a soulful, psychedelic touch that whispers a nostalgic and mystical lullaby, exploring a range of themes including architecture, internal transformations and pre-hispanic art.
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OLNL has been making waves in the Korean hip-hop and RnB sphere, establishing his own fairytale-like world through imaginative lyricism and escapist imagery. Now he’s teamed up with the childlike rapper and producer Cosmic Boy to create a new collaborative project under the name of ‘Areyouchildish’. On their single ‘Merry-go-round’, OLNL’s characteristic slurred pronunciation floats over Cosmic Boys’ uplifting melodic soundscapes, as they lament the immature behaviour of adults.
21-year-old Azamaan Hoyvoy is carving a niche by applying modern electronic production techniques to influences from RnB, funk, folk & jazz, creating a unique balance of these diverse musical attributes while still maintaining core soulful elements within his material. Currently working on his first EP with the use of vocal harmonies and funk-infused bass lines over minimalistic percussion, Hoyvoy is a member of a burgeoning new generation of Indian artists to watch out for. His single ‘Taking Off’ taps into the wanderlust desires of an individual who travels all over the world in pursuit of spiritual experiences, capturing the emotion with searing vocal intensity supported by a rhythm section focused on boiling funk.
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Vallerie Muthoni raps with the conviction of legends like Foxy Brown and “Left Eye” Lisa Lopes. Delivering subversive content and controversial quips with a smile, laughs and cracks jokes in a collection of dialects, setting up stories in English before the punchlines come in Swahili, drawing listeners into her youthful world and then hitting them with a wisdom that belies her years. Collaborating on the playful energetic, track “Brown Suga”, producer Kahealbeats brings out the best in Muthoni, demonstrating his ability to enhance and evolve his artists’ vocal delivery as Muthoni finds melodic pockets in his hard-hitting beat. “Brown Suga” is the first release off of Muthoni’s upcoming EP “the Wavey Soul.”
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Tomás Justo delighted listeners this year with his debut solo album ‘Ronco y Bruxo’. A former member of successful acts Onda Vada and Michael Mike, the composer and vocalist moved away from constant touring life to create his most sincere and romantic work to date. In addition to taking care of the bulk of the composition and production of the album’s 11 songs, Justo also handles most of the instrumentation, playing guitar, bass, synthesisers and a range of analog and digital percussion, resulting in a unique blend of electronic folk and progressive pop.
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Korean singer Crush has been establishing a reputation in the contemporary R&B world through his sensual vocal presence. Just in time for the sunshine months, the Seoul based artist served up summer-ready EP ‘Wonderlost’, launching the project as a sequel to last year’s ‘Wonderlust’. While the previous release was a collection of downbeat and calm introspective stories, the latest offering is a stark contrast, filled with lighter melodies and uplifting beats driven by Crush’s mellow vocals. Lead single ‘Cereal’ is an infectiously smooth anthem, with guest support from rapper Zico, one of the most striking characters in Korea’s hip-hop scene through his work with the K-Pop group Block B. The chemistry of these two 27-year-old peers pumps the energy of the track up and exemplifies the country’s exciting and diverse pool of talent.
Sudan-born, Ontario-based A7MD is an artist who deserves to be watched closely. Aside from his archives of releases under the pseudonym Skripter, his new moniker and new sound brings a refreshing, original approach to the contemporary trap sounds that dominate North America’s rap scene. His successful single Zombies, produced by DBLCRSS, boasts a distinctive melodic lilt to his bars, and he is equally comfortable flexing his lyrical skill in the verses as he is delivering a catchy mantra in the chorus; “I only did this for squad, and my only witness is God”.
Jada arrived on to the Danish music scene in January with her debut-single ‘Keep Cool’, giving a taste of her her personal brand of of honest, emotional wisdom. Her strong, confident vocals drive the carefully layered, minimalistic production that mixes elements of 00’s r&b with electronic nuances. Her style is sincere, presenting a refreshing break from classic templates, and has caught the eye of fans both within her home country and abroad.
Gifted with a unique voice that contains traces of traditional Punjabi folk singers, Prabh Deep is widely acknowledged as one of the best underground MCs in the country. With a flair for lyrical dexterity and a ear for big anthem hooks, his music paints a vivid picture of growing up in a locality that’s reeling from high unemployment rates and the recent influx of drugs into the community. His debut album ‘Class-Sikh’, produced in collaboration with Sez, was released in 2017 to widespread critical acclaim, with the album declared by Rolling Stone India to be one of the best releases of the year and Deep chosen as the Spotlight Artist for the month by Apple Music India. Pithy, crowd-pleasing single ‘Suno’ led fans to classify him through various lenses; the outspoken “underground” rapper poised to take over the burgeoning Indian hip-hop scene, the classically humble artist with no airs, and the good Sikh boy spinning rap flows out of traditional Punjabi folk rhythms.
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During the last few years a new wave of female rappers has emerged in Central America, using hip-hop as a force for social change. One of them is Nakury; born Natasha Campos, she first came into contact with hip-hop culture at the age of 13 through graffiti, alongside names like Mush, Sneak and PSK. As an activist, MC and social commentator, Nakury writes rhymes on social, philosophical themes to spread her message of inclusivity. Drawing from her experiences growing up in an environment of domestic violence, her desire to write about resilience and change distinguishes her from many of her peers. Her 2017 album ‘VIA’ is a 16-track project which she described “as the road, as the present, the now”, and features collaborations with artists such as Rebecca Lane, Barzo, Kumary Sawyers, YOGI beatbox, Nacho Páez, and Guadalupe Urbina. Nakury explains that she sees ‘VIA’ as an “introspective adventure that shows life as a way that gives you knowledge and spiritual power to face individual or collective situations”. Over a refreshing mixture of boombap, breakbeat and trap, she delivers lyrics that encourage a return to the roots and love of nature; Nakury speaks of protest and female empowerment, and sees hip-hop as a tool to approach women’s communities rather than an ends in itself, so that the voices of resistance can find an amplifier in her music.
Two members of the Tribal East collective, Somali-born HasH and Hand Bandz combine their creative talents to create ‘Darkside of the Moon’. Bandz’s haunting melody is difficult to shake once heard, and is offset by his emotionally charged bars, delivered over the chilling production of Evrgreen (now known as AKA Blobby).
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21-year-old Egyptian artist Pharaohgamo creates music with a maturity that even veteran artists struggle to achieve. On his debut mixtape Survivor Series, released in December 2017, the Virginia-based wordsmith pens lyrics with an engaging balance of intellectual social commentary alongside clever punch lines and humour. With imposing, gravelly vocals that have iconic potential, Pharaohgamo’s dark tone and contemporary twists on old-school flows is symbolic of the struggle of artists who must rebel against the restrictions of their culture in order to push the envelope for those who wish to follow in their footsteps.
Berlin-based, Argentinian producer and feline fanatic Catnapp combines rap, breakbeat, drum and bass and more to create an intense, nostalgic atmosphere. Fat beats are driven by lyrics confessing the deepest childhood memories over huge, compressed pads and synths, resulting in a unique, original sound. ‘No Cover’, her most recent release, is an aggressive two-track EP engendered by feelings of deceit, disappointment and anger. Heavy breaks and broken glasses give ‘No Cover’ an air of invincibility, belligerence and empowerment.