The ever-so-complicated Recording Academy’s Best New Artist Grammy category possesses the craftiest of parameters within any given category. As the digital age continues to unlock countless doors for emerging artists, music lovers are frequently left wondering wtf happened to their favorite streaming platform’s newcomers.

If you didn’t know, there is a Grammy board that establishes its “new artist” nominations on a number of different parameters. Often times, even if the artist isn’t brand spanking new, but they released an album that resonates with the masses, the artist will be considered for a nomination. This project may or may not be their first musical effort before or within the (eligible) year.

Still, bearing in mind the award’s well-stitched loopholes, music’s previously bypassed champions, and forthcoming noteworthy underdogs– VIBE is acknowledging ten ascending musicians worthy of Grammy recognition.

1. Cardi B

Cardi B went from being the no filter social media queen to becoming the first woman to have five top 10 records simultaneously on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. And, although the Bronx rapper is hitting the Grammy stage alongside Bruno Mars, and holds nominations for both Best Rap Song, and Best Rap Performance — Cardi B managed to do so prior to the release of a debut album.

“Bodak Yellow” not only served as her first single under a major but solidified her as the first female rapper to own the top spot on the Hot 100 since Lauryn Hill’s 1998 smash, “Doo Wop (That Thing).” So, as Jimmy Fallon and the rest of the world stans over the lyricist, Cardi B’s anomaly of accolades do not negate from her fresh arrival. She is by far the most impactful emerging artist within the past year.

2. Daniel Caesar

Amidst two critically acclaimed EPs, Canadian-born R&B songster, Daniel Caesar’s 2017 debut album Freudian flourished nabbing a nod for Best R&B Album. And, in conjunction with the announcement of touring his talents overseas, the 60th annual Grammy Awards news flooded in.

Alongside, the soulful Kali Uchis, hit, “Get You,” went certified gold scoring consideration for a best R&B performance award. Still, with Caesar’s first LP’s buzz, some admirers took to social media to express their confusion surrounding the sensation not being honored with a Best New Artist nomination. All things considered, Caesar is merely gearing up to blow.

3. Bad Bunny

Trap en español continues to prove its cultural impact and introduce stars like the highly underrated artist Bad Bunny. He, like many Latin artists, grossly surpass the streaming numbers of well-celebrated mainstream urban acts. And, without the backing of majors, the Puerto Rican-American MC has collaborated with radio favorites that include Nicki Minaj, Daddy Yankee, and Becky G.

Also, at the biggest night in Latin music, his feature on J. Balvin’s “Si Tu Novio Te Deja Sola” received a nomination for Best Urban Fusion / Performance — and he accompanied Balvin to rock the Latin Grammy Awards stage. But, still, with an overwhelming virtual fanbase, sold out concerts across the globe, and the significance of El Conejo Malo through the Caribbean and beyond, Bad Bunny has yet to receive his just due on the mainland.

Ordinarily, few Latino artists are considered outside of niche Grammy categories. Additionally, Latin performances during the ceremony are even more infrequent. And, with the power of Latino voices, like Bad Bunny’s, continually moving the needle forward, calls for diversity are essential. Nonetheless, the 60th annual Grammy Awards will shine stage lights on a handful of Latino superstars: Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Bruno Mars and Cardi B.

4. H.E.R.

The anonymity surrounding the timeless vocal textures waxed on EPs, H.E.R. Volume 1, and H.E.R. Volume 2, pulled in hundreds of millions of listeners. She also served as the opening act on Bryson Tiller’s “Set It Off Tour,” and made waves with the release of her Daniel Caesar-assisted ballad “Best Part.”

H.E.R.’s well-penned subject matter and never-ending cosigns, speak for themselves. Not to mention, she sold out her first headlining stint on last year’s, “The Lights On Tour.” Even so, the promising 20-year-old musician with the ability to play five instruments readies herself towards the inevitable arrival of a gold-plated gramophone from the Recording Academy, and her debut LP.

5. Jorja Smith

British songbird Jorja Smith is not a representation of today’s prepackaged radio-friendly R&B soundbites, and will in time be Grammy bound. With a voice that channels jazz greats of the past, it’s no wonder; she became a global success. After the release of her socially conscious single, “Blue Lights;” the indie’s fast-growing devotees stretched across streaming platforms with her heartfelt poetics.

And, soon after, Smith’s debut EP, Project 11, caught the attention of the 6 God, himself. Withal, not only did she serenade two song’s,”Jorja Interlude” and “Get It Together,” on the rapper’s play-through, More Life — but Drake shared his U.K. performance stages with her, too. Most recently, Smith’s first-ever American tour proved her talent is not a fluke. Furthering her outreach, she and fellow millennial soulster, Kali Uchis, made for a badass duo on their rhythmic, “Tyrant.”

6. Kali Uchis

The genre-leaping Kali Uchis once responded to teenaged homelessness with otherworldly musicality. Sonically inspired by the rarest of gems, such as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, artistic glimmers of them irradiate through her perennial soundscapes. Today, the Colombian-American artist has already been nominated for the highest of honors, “Record Of The Year,” at the 18th annual Latin Grammy Awards — supporting Juanes, on their hypnotic collaboration, “El Ratico.” Still, a majority of Uchis’ tunes are in the English language.

Her debut EP, Por Vida, served a delicious melting pot of metaphoric doo-wop tracks, fresh cut riddims, and sauced-up poesies. And, with her debut album in route, it’s leading single, “Tyrant,” is now approaching 12 million streams on Spotify alone. So, in light of Uchis’ lionhearted journey, her cross-continent touring, A-list supporters, and growing catalogue: manifestations of nominations, beyond her slot in the Best R&B Performance category for her feature on Daniel Caesar’s “Get You.”

7. Jessie Reyes

Torontonian vocalist Jessie Reyez’s guitar-smashing “Figures” music video cracked open the all-too-painful narrative of infidelity. Not only has the lead-single to her debut EP, Kiddo amassed nearly 30 million streams on Spotify, it emphasized her gnarly around the way girl aesthetic. The crooner’s tuneful effort opened the floors to play larger stages, including New York’s Governors Ball, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and her intense performance of “Figures” at the 2017 BET Awards.

Moreover, with confirmation of the Colombian singer’s feature on Calvin Harris’ approaching 6th studio album — arguably, her most impressive release to-date is the short film, Gatekeeper. The brazen flick illustrates sexism behind the scenes within the music industry.

After all, Reyez’s truthtelling and ability to breathe art from her darkest experiences, is garnering global praise. So, a continuation of excellence like that of which she exudes, in the “Best New Artist” category would serve a win for the culture.


R&B duo, dsvn (Daniel Daley and Nineteen85), inked a deal with Drake’s OVO Sound and immediately sexed up airwaves a few years back. Their Apple Beats 1 radio premiere of, “With Me,” was backed by millions of newfound lusty listeners. Its stealthily suggestive wordplay amplified the twosome loud enough to substantiate the virally successful follow-ups, “Too Deep” and “Hallucinations.” Nonetheless, it was the group’s heart-throbbing appearance on Drake’s LP, Views, that readied their demand beyond the bounds of the Canadian border.

Even so, dvsn’s (non-single) Views assist, “Faithful,” was their only nod from the Recording Academy — as Drake was nominated for Album Of The Year, at the 59th annual Grammy Awards. So, without overlooking the celebrated release of their second LP, Morning After, Daley being deemed a “mentor” by rising stars like Jessie Reyez, it is a wonder that dvsn’s “moment” still awaits.

9. Ella Mai

English singer-songwriter Ella Mai caught the attention of DJ Mustard on Instagram and was swiftly inked to his label, 10 Summers Records. The empowering spirit she developed from her Jamaican mother and upbringing between London, and New York City is laced through three applause-worthy EPs. The back-to-back releases of TimeChange, and Ready serve as a “Mustard on the beat” boasted contemporary R&B ode to women who unapologetically know themselves, maintain through the hiccups of romance and fail to overlook disloyalty.

Ella Mai’s syrupy-sweet voice most recognizably bossed up on Ty Dolla Sign during their collaboration, “She Don’t.” Her not-so-passive music’s narrative is not offered up to those who feed themselves from low-hanging fruit. And, fellow starlet Kehlani is here for progressive artistry — even extending her SweetSexySavage World Tour opening to Mai. That love and momentum pushed the singer towards her debut (sold-out) headlining, Time Change Ready tour. And fans can only hope, Mai’s remarkable talent will soon be recognized by The Recording Academy.

10. Ozuna

Puerto Rico-born trap en español newcomer Ozuna managed to lock Hot 100 spot on three separate occasions. His dancehall-inspired track, “La Modelo,” alongside Cardi B, and features on Wisin’s, “Escapate Conmigo,” and Natti Natasha’s, “Criminal,” made the difficult entries look easy. Charted appearances from Spanish-language MCs are a rarity. Yet, this cross-genre Hot Latin Songs charts mainstays’ fluidity effortlessly follows his late (Dominican) father’s footsteps — a former dancer of the reggaeton pioneer Vico C.

Ozuna debut album, Odisea, boast kingly appearances by traperos, De La Ghetto, Zion y Lennox, and Anuel Aa, to name a few. Moreover, his promising multi-million song streams inspired a cross-over collaboration, with Nicky Jam and Post Malone for the “Rockstar” (Remix). As a leading threat, not even the No. 1 charted Hot 100 Posty can overlook Ozuna’s influence. Still, the new artist has well over a billion views on YouTube, and no evidence of a professional critique from the Recording Academy. Ozuna received no nominations from either the 18th annual Latin Grammy’s ceremony and the forthcoming 60th annual Grammy Awards.

Who else is perplexed?

By Bianca Alysse Mercado for VIBE

About The Author

Bianca Alysse is a creatively driven Bronx-born writer and editor. Before becoming The Knockturnal‘s music editor she served as Latina‘s creative coordinator and was a contributor at Billboard. The Boricua scribe has a lengthy resume in the music industry and has penned for Universal Music Publishing Group, Epic Records, G.O.O.D. Music, Compound Entertainment, Artistry & Récords, and Arcade Creative Group. Her work has been seen on platforms like VIBE, mitú, TIDAL, Remezcla, and behind the scenes at New York Fashion Week. As an independent contractor, she has written for Sony Music Entertainment’s global business affairs department, Warner Music Group, and currently Roc Nation.

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