2017 was the year that hip-hop and R&B snatched the crown as the top genre for music consumption. And, while streaming services continue to give the industry a face-lift, so did a bombardment of newcomers. Rapsody gifted the LP, Laila’s Wisdom putting on for not just women, but hip-hop at large. Amidst a sea of “Lil” MCs, the current of teeny boppers like Lil Pump and Lil Skies thrived challenging OGs concept of what rap consumerism necessitates.

For all that believe in artful mastery, R&B circulated a refreshing batch of soloists. SZA sonically eclipsed peers past and present with her musical masterstroke, Ctrl. Sabrina Claudio’s About Time served nostalgic hymnals, while Jessie Reyez’s spectral range cracked open our chests on the Kiddo EP. H.E.R. jolted a sold-out nationwide tour, and Jorja Smith propelled from a More Life interlude to the Hot 100.

Still, in an age where not all gifts get the clicks, it is essential to acknowledge the borderless genre constructs which fill our speakers globally. These are 15 acts up to keeping the rhythmic momentum in their respective lanes.

Smokepurpp

Spotify Favorite – “Audi”

City – Miami by way of Chicago

Instagram 

Age – 20

When it comes to who is next to blow, rhymer Smokepurpp’s bass-rattling “Audi” and its “Fuck Donald Trump” song intro dominated SoundCloud — before flooding mainstream spheres. With the viral support of the youth, Purpp’s tracks “Glock In My Benz” and the Miami bounce, “OK,” featuring Lil Pump, amassed millions across streaming service platforms. Under Todd Moscowitz’s Alamo Records, the demand for Smokepurpp’s commercial debut, Deadstar, lived up to its hype.

Bangers “I Don’t Know You,” alongside Chief Keef and Yo Gotti, as well as, the Juicy J assisted “Streets Love Me” thrust the MC towards his most prominent cosign yet, Travis Scott. Not only did the duo boast the get money anthem, “Fingers Blue,” but La Flame inked Smokepurpp to his imprint, Cactus Jack Records, too.  Monster Energy Outbreak Tour announced Smokepurpp would headline their 28 city stint. At the same time, the rapper passed the word of his hometown appearance at 2018’s Rolling Loud Festival.

Kelela

Spotify Favorite – “Rewind”

City – Washington D.C.

Instagram 

Age – 34

Ethiopian-American R&B songstress Kelela’s lyricism has long pierced listeners since the release of her mixtape, CUT 4 ME, but the most valid mark of her multidimensional artistry was breathily upsurged through her debut LP, Take Me Apart. Its movement kicked-off 2018’s North American and European Take Me Apart Tour, as well as, Kelela’s director credit for her retro animations in the “Frontline” music video.

The Warp Records star’s womanist narrative and effulgent imagery have secured her eccentric showgoers. Additionally, she boasts a 2018 #MyCalvin’s campaign, alongside Solange Knowles. This is going to be a big year. Her limitless virtuosity is everything her genre has been yearning to see.

A.CHAL

Spotify Favorite – “Love N Hennessy”

City – Queens, New York by way of Peru

Instagram 

Age – 28

A freshly inked Epic Records deal only proves the genre-bending Peruvian-born singer, A.CHAL, is on the cusp of something extraordinary. His indigenous fuse of hip-hop and R&B intrinsically flow through his independently released, Welcome to Gazi, and On Gaz. Beyond the upward trajectory of A.CHAL’s bilingual soundscapes — inspirations like Bob Marley, Kurt Cobain, Prince, and the Freebandz founder, serve as a looking glass reflecting his wave of music. The recent earworm, “Love N Hennessy,” was swiftly supported by millions alongside, Future and Nicky Jam.

Candice Boyd

Spotify Favorite – “Damn Good Time”

City – San Bernardino, California

Instagram 

Age – 27

The hymns of her father’s preachings established the siren-like vocals of the R&B luminary, Candice Boyd. Before her television spotlight on The Four, the singer was under-the-radar supporting mainstays such as David Guetta, Nicki Minaj, Tank, and beyond. All the while, Boyd broadened her musical arsenal with a (then) Epic Records deal at the side of NE-YO and his Compound University collaborators.

Her single “Damn Good Time” with French Montana garnered the attention of millions. Just the same, Boyd’s stunning performances near music’s upper echelons wowed DJ Khaled and Diddy. Although Evvie McKinney left as iHeartRadio’s “On the Verge” artist and a Republic Records signee, Boyd, too demonstrated her genius on TV. The soloist’s renditions of Mary J. Blige’s “I’m Goin’ Down,” and Rihanna’s “Stay,” marked her as a dynamic talent within the independent circuit.

YBN Nahmir

Spotify Favorite – “Rubbin Off The Paint”

City – Birmingham, Alabama

Instagram 

Age – 18

A SpongeBob SquarePants sample and learning to record from a gaming console lead to the unexpected Hot 100 entry from the teenaged emcee, YBN Nahmir. The part-Puerto Rican, part-Black lyricist, accumulated over 100 million views on the “Rubbin Off the Paint” music video — which YBN filmed on his Alabama stomping grounds for a whopping $150. The viral success of his first visual triumphed support from Chris Brown and tributed “Rubbin Off the Paint” remixes from Bryson Tiller and Vince Staples. His instinct for storytelling moderately derives from his love for Bay area hip-hop. “Bounce Out With That,” YBN’s latest single, plows through a generation of mumble rappers, with clutter-free wordplay.

Mahalia

Spotify Favorite – “Sober”

City – Leicester, England

Instagram

Age – 19

Small town artist turned international sensation, Mahalia, was placing verses on paper and strumming guitar strings by the age of eleven. But, the gifted prodigy’s voice caught the attention of Ed Sheeran and was soon inked as his labelmate on Asylum/Atlantic by the age of thirteen. And, even so, this well-developed teenaged songbird is freshly receiving her rightful praise.

After building a fan base with her playthrough project, Diary of Me, she earned her place on Jorja Smith’s European tour. But, Mahalia’s smooth breakout hit, “Sober,” detailing a love-drunk romance fizzling out solidified the soon-to-be star on major airwaves. “Proud of Me,” her vulnerable single, follows suit by extending gratitude towards her musician parents and friends. All her paying dues lead to this moment, as Mahalia headlines venues throughout the U.K.

Joyner Lucas

Spotify Favorite –  “I’m Sorry”

City – Worcester, Massachusetts

Instagram

Age – 29

His conscious raps have long gone over the heads of mainstream radio. Atlantic Records MC, Joyner Lucas force-fed listeners opposing race relations perspectives on the song, “I’m Not Racist.” If the history surrounding the divided American climate under the Trump administration was not exasperating enough — Lucas opened the “I’m Not Racist” video with a man rapping in a Make America Great Again cap.

Somewhere between blatant bigotry, and ugly truth, the record exploded. Its lyrical content inspired distressing dialogue. Still, the rhymer’s dexterity extends beyond political buzz. Lucas and Chris Brown are gearing up to release a dual project, Angels & Demons, to much fanfare.

Amara La Negra

Spotify Favorite – “Se Que Soy”

City – Miami, Florida

Instagram

Age – 27

Dominican songstress Amara La Negra has entertained the masses since her childhood television break as a 4-year-old Sábado Gigante star. Cheers have followed the multifaceted Afro-Latina at an array of pageants, talent shows, and Latin American festivals — which served as the backdrop to her performances dancing for icons, such as Celia Cruz. And this was long before the popularity of her dazzling us on Love & Hip Hop: Miami or her curves blessing timelines arrived.

Beyond her infectious blends of dancehall, hip-hop, reggaeton, and Brazilian funk, Amara continues to tackle mainstream colorism head-on. In an age that frequently attacks all the black beauty that is La Negra, she breaks barriers in pop culture spheres that failed to acknowledge her experience. Still, 2018 brings Amara closer to the global notoriety she is worthy of, as she is newly contracted to BMG Recordings and Fast Life Entertainment Worldwide.

Hardy Caprio

Spotify Favorite – “Unsigned”

City – Croydon, England

Instagram 

Age – 21

Rapper Hardy Caprio gained buzzed throughout the UK when he fused Caribbean vibrations with South London subject matter, earning a nomination for GRM’s Get Rated Award. But, it was his freestyle over Tinie Tempah’s “Wifey Riddim” on SBTV’s Warm-Up Session that alarmed his urban and grime scene contemporaries.

Caprio’s EPs Hardy Season and The Hollywood EPs tracks blew up on Soundcloud before he garnered millions of streams on hits, “Super Soaker” and “Unsigned.” With his eyes sets on mainstream, the MC’s London show tickets sold out in under 2 minutes and aimed towards a Euro tour. Caprio’s garage-influenced flow and forthcoming project under Virgin EMI, reiterate he is worth checking on from across the pond.  

Snoh Aalegra

Spotify Favorite “Nothing Burns Like The Cold”

City – Stockholm, Sweden

Instagram 

Age – 30

To be clear, Persian songster Snoh Aalegra is no musical novice. She penned her first song at nine years old and signed to Sony, by the age of fourteen. Despite being in the game for a minute, mentorship from Prince and playthrough projects — the soul starlet evolves and remains on the wave of what’s new. Her breakout canticle, “Bad Things,” boasted a mysterious verse from Common, gaining There Will Be Sunshine EP enthusiast.

Moreover, the production of her hypnotic effort, Don’t Explain includes No I.D., and Boi-1da — whisking her towards acclaim. To follow, the Logic-assisted “Home” (Remix), left amourous bars on the tips of listeners tongues. Even Drake co-signs her brilliance. The final track of his “playlist” More Life, “Do Not Disturb,” sampled Aalegra’s song, “Time.” But, the singer’s intoxicating album FEELS under ARTium Recordings has global charm. Sentimental collabs with Vic Mensa, Timbuktu, and Vince Staples caught the attention of headliner Daniel Caesar, with whom Snoh performed on the Freudian Tour as his opener.

03 Greedo

Spotify Favorite – “Never Bend”

City – Watts, California

Instagram 

Age – 30

The power of manifestation is endorsed no better than on rapper 03 Greedo’s “Living Legend” face tattoo. The Alamo Records representer is by no means commercial thuggin’ — 03’s Grape Street Watts Crip vexations on wax are from experience. “If these projects walls could talk” became the line on his esteemed record, “Never Bend,” that resonated throughout the West Coast to hoods all over. In fact, the universality of his lengthy mixtapes Money Changes Everything, and Purple Summer, serve as an ode to friends lost to violence, bouts with addiction, tremors of paranoia within communities, gang ethos and how collateral shifts jurisdiction. It’s raw.

Amidst run-ins with law enforcement, the MC continues to create distinct melodies, most unpredictably on the R&B effort, First Night Out. The tapes’ Jordan Downs housing homecoming tracks were recorded the evening he was last set free from jail. Still, legal obstacles ensue — 03 has two pending felony charges. And, with his recent debut LP, The Wolf of Grape Street, fans hope his moment won’t be cut short.

Rainy Milo

Spotify Favorite – “‘Bout You”

City – London, England

Instagram 

Age – 22

Jazz melodies met runway chic for London’s Guyanese and British songstress, Rainy Milo. Her complex time bomb soulfulness is striking in a sense; you haven’t seen anything like her around. Milo credits Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and her older sister’s love for Tupac tracks as the blueprint of viral favorites like, “Deal Me Briefly,” and “‘Bout You.” With the release of her Rebel Mgmt project, I Knew I Had a Heart (Because I Felt It Breaking), her straightforward approach to intimacy and millennial breakups is compelling. She is empowering. The message of her latest poetic, “Hope & Glory,” is simplistic, “Love Thyself. The End.

Audri Nix

Spotify Favorite – “Crow”

City – Ponce, Puerto Rico

Instagram 

Age – 22

Puerto Rican rapper Audri Nix’s witty tongue positioned her at center stage in the male-centric Latin trap game. Before her bars laced Spotify’s “Latin Urban Queens” and “Latin Divas” playlists, she studied mainland hip-hop. The Spanish-language MC not only made her name in the underground realm of Puerto Rico, but toured Mexico, the remainder of the Caribbean, and developed a UK fan base.

Island smashes like “Venemo,” and “Más,” brought headlines, and Nix calls it as she sees it. Her art’s universal truths cover political platforms confronting Donald Trump’s anti-immigration policies, the devastation following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and the centerfold of Playboy Mexico. In 2018 Nix is gearing up for significant announcements and making her way towards big screens.

DaniLeigh

Spotify Favorite – “Play”

City – Miami-born and LA established

Instagram 

Age – 23

South Floridian triple-threat, DaniLeigh spent her adolescence dancing and expressing herself through song covers on YouTube before The Purple One took her under his wing. By the age of 18, the Dominicana scripted, directed and starred in Prince’s “Breakfast Can Wait” music video. With her directorial ambitions fulfilled, DaniLeigh developed her stage presence and built her brand backing up acts like Pitbull, Meghan Trainor, and Pharrell.

Her sweet and saucy around-the-way girl persona resonated throughout Hollywood and showcased as lead dancer for TimeFlies, Daddy Yankee, and Nelly Furtado. Def Jam had their finger on the pulse and added her to their roster at the top of 2017. With a major in place, the Kap G-assisted trap-tinged, “Play,” and its colorful visual introduced her animated charisma. The tune’s aftermath “Lurkin,” from her debut project, Summer with Friends chin-checked social media stalkers. So, as DaniLeigh’s standout flair continues to transfix, we prepare for elevation.

Smooky MarGielaa

Spotify Favorite – “Stay 100”

City – Bronx, New York by way of Mali, West Africa

Instagram

Age – 15

A$AP Mob’s energetic head nod, “Bahamas,” thronged a seven-man cipher, one of which’s voice had yet to crack. A$AP Rocky’s AWGE teenaged protégé, Smooky MarGielaa began uploading bars from his cell phone to SoundCloud in between middle school bells. Nonetheless, the singer-MC of African descent initial eruption took place at the age 7, touring beside his father, Malian artist Abdoulaye Diabaté.

The pair studied how Michael Jackson finessed audiences, and today MarGielaa applies his findings as he elbows through with raspy raps, that slap like his preceptor’s. Fans spazzed each night A$AP Rocky announced the youngster on the Too Cozy Tour. Meanwhile, his high school tutor-turned-manager continues to instruct him in between studio sessions for hits like, “Stay ‘100’,” and “Not Right.” Thus far, the minor managed to complete his homework on tour buses, earn FaceTime guidance from Diddy, appeal globally, get co-signed by Tyler, the Creator, and Kanye West — just in time to commence his MarGielaa Madness World Tour.

By Bianca Alysse Mercado | February 2018

About The Author

Bianca Alysse is an incurable music junkie, who lives for dance, art, and urban culture. She has worked alongside some of the most ingenious entertainment moguls. Her ink covered hands grabbed her BA in Journalism and ran to New York City.

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