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Rising from the underbelly of Virginia’s dystopian suburbia, Ms Proper experiments with a unique synthesis of sweet talking R&B and filthy mouthed Trap, all at once spouting melodic insults and adlibs of forgiveness in her signature, tender vengeance. Reflected in the blend of fierce low end production and smooth chords from collaborator LA Chase, her song ‘Wicked’ is a slow wind of whispered secrets. This month she drops her latest project ‘The Aquarius Tape’ that addresses everything from old lovers across the spectrum of the zodiac to her moving to Los Angeles with nothing but $5 in her pocket and a ruthless dedication to her pursue her dreams.
Minneapolis based multidisciplinary performing artist Dua Saleh showcases their unique and eclectic sound on debut EP ‘Nūr’ which is executive produced by Psymun. The five track project boasts the newcomer’s poetic wordplay, intriguing flow and subtly smooth voice over bold and captivating soundscapes. From the haunting, self-produced opener ‘Sugar Mama’ to the equally arresting ‘Warm Pants’ and ‘Kickflip’, Dua Saleh effortlessly tackles everything from politics and gender identity to self expression, proving why she’s one of the most exciting creative voices around.
Based in Minneapolis, Lizzo is a playfully fierce wordsmith and dynamically diverse artist. Practising powerful versatility, she bangs out unconventional bars and in the next breath, breaks to belt out a classic bridge. Lizzo is responsible for lyrical revolutions in the modern rap world that most might first recognise from groups like Grrrl Party, but she’s since set a steadily burning fire under her own “Big Grrrl Small World” solo career. She spans genres, styles and aesthetic personas from funk infused battle raps to pop inspired ballads and soulful glam slams like her latest single, ‘Juice’.
Intentionally acclaimed duo The Reminders offer an eclectic blend of beats born from hip-hop’s classic era with soulful vocals and funk filled bass lines, founded upon a lyrical focus toward fiercely positive, empowering poetry. Their high energy shows weave wild dance breaks with anthemic choruses and reggae drops in a unique collage of shamelessly openhearted, self expression and a diverse style that is entirely their own. Married in life as well as partners in music, The Reminders, who’re comprised of Brussels-born Big Samir and Queens-born Aja Black, purposefully share their personal stories to inspire people to transcend any separation that might exist between the artists and their audiences, reminding their listeners that we are one family. This is wonderfully embodied in their brilliant track ‘I Remember’ which is lifted from their ‘Born Champions’ album.
Ethiopian-American musician and songwriter Mereba yields a voice that heals, warms and soothes on gorgeously textured songs that evoke the deepest of emotions. Her latest offering, the unequivocally beautiful and relaxing ‘Bet’ which dropped towards the end of last year, sees the L.A. based artist capture a love that’s worth fighting for against all odds. Mereba’s golden tones flutter across the gentle guitar-laden soundscape, before lifting off in an unexpected but poetic spoken word piece that adds another layer to the track. With her debut project set to be released later this year, allow the tranquillity of ‘Bet’ to soothe your soul.
Dead Wicks is a self proclaimed “psycho-delic grunge-hop” group of New York-grown artists wielding a unique talent for re-working motown songs. Their recently released debut EP ‘Curses’ gifts its listeners a pandora’s box of irreverent genre-bending anthems filled with unusual chord progressions and twisted guitars through alt-pop craftsmanship and poetically chaotic lyricism. The first track on the EP, entitled “Glyph Trip”, kicks things off with a hard electro funk bass line and breathy staccato vocals, before flipping into sitar sounds echoing in a void of synth breakdowns and soulful wails.
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Chicago emcee Elton makes a profound and soulful introduction with his debut EP, “Elevated”. Sitting at 6-tracks deep, the breakout project is packed with soulful jazz-infused production and introspective lyricism, with the young newcomer’s powerful versatility making it one of 2018’s most impressive new hip-hop offerings. Featuring a slew of his peers in fellow Chicago artists Phoelix, Akenya, Blake Davis and Luke Titus, with this effort Elton has created an impressive foundation for his inevitable ascension.
‘Koopa-Cabras’ is a unpredictable celebration of monsters and folklore. The latest release of Tropa Mágica, the musical project of brothers Rene and David Pacheco, the track stars modern mythological creature Koopa merged with a more cryptic Latin-American character in The Chupacabras, who’s name comes from the beast’s reported habit of attacking and drinking the blood of livestock.
The track starts with synth arpeggios that mark the “arcade videogame ultimate villain feeling”, before suspensive percussion appears followed by a bassline and surf style guitars that creates the tropical punk mood characteristic of the Pacheco Brothers. The siblings, based in Los Angeles but of Mexican roots, collaborated in this occasion with two other Latin artists: Fredo Ortiz and César Mejía.
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Ninth Child’s ethereal voice is etched delicately into the soulful edges of her heavy drops with a psychedelic style that provides a sonic refuge for listeners. With a fiercely feminine energy that is welcome in the growing festival scene, her audiences bathe in the reverberated echoes of her emotional lyrics and adventurous electronic soundscapes, which she writes, produces and visually embodies herself through her own creative and artistic direction. Her “LOVERS” EP dropped early in 2018 to a positive reception, alongside her intense high-energy shows, featuring projections, free-form dance and unique costume design.
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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.
Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins announced his new album by sharing powerful new banger ‘Bruce Banner’. The 27-year-old flexes his lyrical muscle as he unleashes his inner Hulk, channeling his aggression into a dense, intricate flow spat over a menacing instrumental from producers NEZ and RIO. A track packed with endless quotable bars, his declaration that “honestly, can’t nobody come for me except Kendrick” has already created a significant buzz, and will only heighten the anticipation for the release of his sophomore LP ‘Pieces Of Man’ this coming autumn.
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Innanet James has been keeping things lowkey for a minute now. Following the breakout success of his 2016 debut project ‘Quebec Place’ and its hit single ‘Summer’, the Maryland rapper has taken his time to perfect his follow-up record, and the 22-year-old does not disappoint with his long-awaited return. ‘Bag’ is an undeniable banger from the first kick drum, as James flows effortlessly over soulful keys and a playful trap percussion infused with a bossa nova rhythm, serving to build the excitement for his forthcoming EP slated to feature the likes of Pusha T, Rexx Life Raj and Mac Ayres.
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Atlanta native Father makes a powerful return with his first drop of 2018. The alternative trap artist and founder of independent label Awful Records has been off screen for minute now, but revives the energy that catapulted him to notoriety with two brand new tracks that will only build anticipation for his forthcoming album. Alongside ‘Lotto’, a collaborative effort with ABRA, ‘We Had A Deal’ is a stripped-back, direct trap anthem with an undeniable slap to it, as Father showcases his distinctive left-field delivery over fat, bass-driven production.
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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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.
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Ethiopian-American artist Kelela’s first entrance came in 2013 with her mixtape ‘Cut 4 Me’; since then, hundreds of thousands of listeners have gravitated towards her masterful ability to fuse pop and RnB with elements of modern cinematic sounds and neo-soul. Take Me Apart, her 2017 debut studio album, received critical acclaim for its original sound and refreshing energy; standout track ‘Frontline’ demonstrates the breadth of Kelela’s range, with choppy raps acting as a powerful contrast amongst airy, effortless vocals. Since her youth, Kelela’s Ethiopian roots and perspective on music and freedom of movement has influenced her nomadic style and unique approach.
After the success of his 2017 debut album ‘blkswn’, St. Louis rapper Smino returns with his first single of 2018. The track sees him delivering his distinctive melodic falsetto vocals and trading slick verses with Chicago’s Mick Jenkins over a slow, bumping groove produced in collaboration with with THEMpeople. The contrast between the two lyricists style is a lethal combination, Jenkins’ smooth, laidback flow serving as the perfect complement to Smino’s unorthodox, staccato energy, skipping across pockets in the distorted beat as the infectious bassline keep the listener’s head knocking.
Grammy-nominated producer Gwen Bunn takes an official step out all on her own with her debut solo project ‘Safe Travels’. Incorporating rich jazz and funk influences, ‘Yours’ is the the stand out track on the eight-track EP, a soulful affair filled with sultry vocal tenderness exploring themes of desire and commitment.
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LVRN/Interscope’s newest R&B starlet, Summer Walker, dazzles with her earworm of a debut, ‘CPR’. With classic instrumentation, smooth production and her own raw approach towards songwriting, the Atlanta native is creating music that captivates listeners with her sultry vocals and alluring melodies.
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Oakland’s own multi-talented artist Elujay comes with brand new energy on his fresh soulful single ‘Starchild’. Though more commonly known for his approach to melody through the rap lens, Elujay is no stranger to classic crooning, and his husky vocals take the lead on this love letter written with sensuality and vivid imagery.