If you were asked to identify this year in music, the Top 5 Underground/Emerging Artists with one specific quality, your answer would probably result in question marks. I’m not sure how anyone could do that with the unfolding of fire music pretty much throughout all of 2017. With such a broad range of artists and styles, there hasn’t been one set person to set the pace and open the door for artists to come through and follow with similar styles. This year has provided so many unidentifiable songs and projects that artists from all over had room to make their own noise, no matter what everyone else sounded like. 2017 felt like the 1990s. Rap clearly evolved, whether we agree with the trap/mumble rap stage or not, but R&B, seemed to blossom harder than ever.
It wasn’t easy to do, but this year’s pick for the most popping underground and emerging artists are headlined by a group of soul singers who have penetrated everyone’s “in your bag” playlists at some point or another, and if not, I’m about to put you on; and two gritty young rappers reppin’ the Bronx & Brooklyn to the tee. In a rapid era where a Soundcloud rapper can appear all over your TL, or where that glossy singer from an open mic night can appear on one of your syndicated playlists, this has been a year of noteworthy discovery. When someone possesses a tremendous amount of talent at a young age, we go crazy for it. Not one of these artists below were born before 1995, so I think it’s safe to say that they’ll be around for a while. As we gear up for the musical flood that shall rain in 2018, this is who you should be looking out for come next week.
Here are the Top 5 Underground/ Emerging Artists of 2017.
“She see money all around me… I feel like I’m the man…” Damn right Brent, because now we don’t even think about “Crew” when we hear his name. Originally hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Brent Faiyaz was appearing on the aux cord each time someone new plugged up. As questions of, “Have you listened to Sonder?” flooded conversations about music, I finally caught onto the wave and realized what all of the hype was about. His group, in collaboration with producers Dpat and Atu, Sonder, released two projects in the year 2017 with the first dating back to January. Into would serve as a validated preview of what their artistic potential could officially result to. In the 4th quarter of 2017, we saw what that potential was when the group released their first official studio album, Sonder Son. The entire album has no skips, and hits hard enough to make you go back and download his previous two projects, Into & A.M. Paradox, which equally can be played the entire way through. His voice will put you to sleep, in your bag, and in a dream world 3 seconds into a song. When we think of the new R&B movement, Brent certainly resides as a general to the army. If he ends up winning a Grammy for his feature in “Crew” by Goldlink, I think we all would say it’s well deserved.
Plug this up, please.
She’s definitely no stranger to the spotlight. Oftentimes when we see a child star in their adult form, they’ve either drastically changed, or have completely fell off. In this case, H.E.R. has just gotten closer to reaching her final form. Hailing from the edge of the west coast, as a child, she was basically all over TV where a young aspiring singer could be, making notable appearances on The Maury Show, The Today Show, Nickelodeon, BET, & The View. Just a few short years later, Gabi Wilson would evolve into H.E.R. and land a record deal with RCA with the support of her idol, Alicia Keys. Like DVSN, for a while, no one actually knew who she was. Considering how beautiful her music was, her mysterious persona added both frustration and interest to fans. In the year 2017, she released 3 official EP’s via RCA entitled H.E.R. Volume 2, H.E.R., and H.E.R. Volume 2 – The B Sides. She has clearly had the talent for years now, making her marketble from an industry perspective. RCA got a steal with this one, because in the year 2017, she has been every females goto artist. She is the pure definition of a calm yet blissful contemporary R&B ballad.
You don’t even need to know her real name, you just need these sounds.
This is the life we all wanted to live when we were 15 years old. Reppin’ the Bronx, Smooky Margielaa is single-handedly the youngest and best rapper to break the ice of 2017. More often than not, kids who grow up musically inclined are restricted in a school setting. Whereas for Smooky, school would be his opportunity to meet his future manager, and start taking over rap with one of New York City’s finest, ASAP Rocky. Smooky Margielaa is the newest addition to ASAP Mob & AWGE, where instead of being groomed for battle, he would clearly hold his own. He’s listed on 5 songs on ASAP Mob’s Cozy Tapes Volume 2; Stay Cozy, released back in August of 2017. It was only a matter of time before the world caught on, when suddenly this young man went from the classroom, to headlining articles on The FADER, XXL, & Complex. What does it for Smooky is his delivery. He’s not one of those young kids who has potential, or needs assistance from OG’s in the game. As we saw in the year 2017, he’s got it already. He’s going to be around for some time now. However, it’s dope to witness it all from the start.
See what the hype is about; I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
I’ve been telling y’all that Canada is full of hungry artists who are slowly but surely breaking. Daniel Caesar dropped the first single from his debut album, “Get You” featuring Kali Uchis back in October of 2016. As listeners, we couldn’t put words onto what we were witnessing, but we knew it was something special. Daniel Caesar reminds me of Bryson Tiller in the sense that from his first popular single, he had our interest. By the time we received the album, he certainly had our attention. Underground R&B listeners were hip way before the 4th quarter of the year, but it didn’t reach a countrywide level until he appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbart in September with Chicago native, Chance the Rapper. Chance would bring go on to bring out Daniel Caesar to perform an unreleased song entitled “First World Problems”. In just four short minutes, Daniel took us on an angelic trip that had your eyes dimming as you leaned back in your chair; at peace. From this very moment of being intrigued, new fans would go back and listen to his first album, Freudian which was actually released in August. The power of sound would elevate him as one of the best singers to hit the scene of music in 2017, and earn him two Grammy nominations for Best R&B Performance for his song “Get You”, and Best R&B Album for Freudian. I almost thought for a second that no one would take over past PARTYNEXTDOOR, Bryson, and Tory, but this new wave of singers, is headed by the best with Daniel being one.
Whenever you feel like getting lost, let this take you away.
What good are you as an artist if you don’t pass the torch? In addition to taking off in his own career, Rich the Kid has done of great job of finding artists that could come up with him like Famous Dex & Jay Critch. Reppin’ Brooklyn, NY Jay Critch has been able to build a solid fan base of his own due to the fact that this man, raps for the love of music, not the need for fame & money. It’s sad that some rappers that hail from the streets switch up once their lifestyle does; we can see that won’t be a problem for Critch. Signed to Rich Forever, Jay Critch has made thunderous noise without a single project of his own. He appeared on both Rich Forever Way by Rich the Kid, & Rich Forever 3 with Rich and his labelmate, Famous Dex. His singles are strong enough to speak on their own, but what does it for Jay Critch is the fact that in a time period where new rappers aren’t as lyrical, he has a perfect balance of being lyrical while still capturing the sounds of trap/mumble rap. If Jay Critch in 2017 did anything other than make you point your head, he would also make you think about the craziness that is yet to come in 2018 because this past year, was a perfect stepping stone.
Check out his Soundcloud now.