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#BreakingGround: The best new acts of 2016

Recognizing this year's new crop of stars.

The transition from SoundCloud newbie to headlining superstar has become shorter than ever. After last year welcomed established stars like Fetty Wap and Bryson Tiller all under a year, 2016 opened up more doors for eccentric oddballs, esteemed vocalists, and undeniable sensations who will undoubtedly have all eyes on them in 2017. Here, REVOLT celebrates the new class of creators who are #breakingground.

Young Paris

REVOLT fave Young Paris landed himself a deal with Roc Nation, played AFROPUNK Paris and Atlanta, and genuinely glowed up in 2016. The artist represents what’s next for music, as he blends traditional African rhythms with EDM and hip-hop. He wraps conscious lyrics in a pretty package, leaving you substantive party favors as you shake your butt. On the song "Your Wine" he does what he does best, making you dance and love yourself, while never letting you off the hook: "That light skin, that dark skin / that melanin, we winnin' / Your pretty face, I love your moving, but are you down with the revolution?" — Driadonna Roland


Okay, I don't blame you if you heard 6lack and initially thought you were listening to PND, Tiller, et al. But his debut album Free 6lack proved he had his own story to tell. 6lack was an exciting artist in 2016 because he took trap&b, the genre of melancholy men struggling with women problems, and breathed just enough life into it to make us pay attention, with his knack for melody and relatable stories. — DR

It was Summer 2016 when I discovered 6LACK on SoundCloud. I was browsing as usual, and saw that ATL rapper Raury had reposted two random songs so I decided to check them out. Who knew that I'd go on to discover the greatness that was 6LACK. Being that he only had 3 songs on SoundCloud for maaaad long I bumped those three songs ("Ex Calling", "Prblms", "Loyal") religiously thinking no one else even knew about this guy. Then rumors surfaced about him getting signed and he then dropped an album that's most definitely in my top 10 of 2016! 6LACK's debut album, Free 6LACK made him this year's Bryson Tiller, a SoundCloud artist who obtained what seemed like overnight success and went on to drop a fire album (yes, it was better than Starboy, way better). I'm hoping he can keep up the momentum and not fade away next year! — Asia Howard


Hands down my favorite new artist for 2016 is H.E.R. Aside from the fact that she kept true to the R&B sound and her songs got crazy numbers, it was solely and only about her music. There was really no info out about her and there weren't any pictures really showing what she looked like. So, the focus wasn't on how attractive she is or any hyper-sexualized image. It was solely about her music. Quality Music. That's why she is one of my favorite new 2016 artists. — Erin Simon

21 Savage

You can't have a Best New Artist of 2016 list without mention of the auteur behind "Issa Knife." The evolution from The Slaughter Tape to Savage Mode, one of the 2016's standout releases, saw 21 Savage go from buzzing to booming. In 2016, he went from growing up to blowing up. Between collaborations with Drake and Meek Mill to securing RIAA-certified plaques for "No Heart" and "X," 21 Savage was on fire this year and the next should find him showing no signs of letting up.

Lil Uzi Vert

While I love 6lack's project, I'd be a complete liar if I didn't say Lil Uzi Vert wasn't a standout favorite this year. Personally, I've been championing Uzi ever since we crossed paths in a dark, dirty, and sketchy Philadelphia warehouse because of Dirty South Joe and SwizzyMack. A few years ago I met Uzi and heard some of his music and knew he was destined to be a star. I used to play "Motorola" in the office and people would be like " What is this?" Where is this from?" And all i could say is bro is from Philly. Fast forward to 2016, Uzi is a f—king rockstar — a legitimate fucking rock star that opened a playing field up to all walks of life that wouldn't have normally connected outside of his music. — Mack Pittman


The Brooklyn native went from Future-influenced knockoff to No. 1 charting star, who gave G.O.O.D. Music its first number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in three years. The last artist to do so was John Legend with "All of Me" in 2013 and the last rapper to pull off that feat was Kanye West with "Stronger" in 2007. One time for Brooklyn. — Ralph Bristout


Oakland rolled out the red carpet for us this year in introducing its latest star with hitmaker potential: Kamaiyah. Her debut tape A Good Night in the Ghetto is filled with plenty of highlights and reasons for why her name rang bells all year long. Her swaggering aura backed with an independent grind, a rare versatility, and ear for slapping production are just some of the many qualities that make this burgeoning Bay Area star one to take notice next year. — RB

Sir the Baptist

Best hip-hop newbie of 2016 goes to... Sir the Baptist. Sir's sound caught my ear a little late in the game, around early November after I randomly saw him perform at an event REVOLT was covering. Sir's stage presence and audience engagement is what drew me in. His sound is similar to old Kanye when he made "Jesus Walks" and all the trap/gospel mixes on TLOP minus the a**hole and celeb shaming references. He's a storyteller and motivator, taking a similar lane to Chance the Rapper preaching messages of positivity, love and elevating the culture. He's been added to my Apple Music favorites playlist and I have a feeling that he will go on to be one of the most influential rappers in years to come. Sir the Baptist, you lit. — Deena Morrison

Anderson. Paak

This time last year, many only knew of Anderson .Paak as the guy who'd decorated Dr. Dre's Compton album, appearing on more than a third of its tracks. As the LP that replaced the long-awaited and -anticipated Detox, it was a helluva launchpad for .Paak, but it’s what he did with it afterward—see: put us in a musical headearlock—that made 2016 all his. He released Malibu at the top of it (officially embedding into our psyche his tangibly distinct voice, experimental genre-blending sound, and knack for storytelling); signed to Aftermath a month later; wowed audiences again and again with his seamless multi-instrumentalist skills at festivals across the nation; guested on equally-applauded efforts from Kaytranada, ScHoolboy Q, Mac Miller, and A Tribe Called Quest; dropped another LP (Yes Lawd!) under NxWorries, his duo with producer Knxwledge (which charted even higher than Malibu); and topped off the year with two Grammy nominations: one for Best Urban Contemporary Album and the other for, well, exactly what I'm arguing: Best New Artist.— Danielle Cheesman

Kodak Black

Even though he spent several months of this year locked up, the 19-year old Florida native has been consistently releasing bangers all year. From being named one of XXL's 2016 Freshman, to releasing his acclaimed mixtape Lil B.I.G. Pac and hit singles like "Lockjaw" and hood classics like "Like Dat", the streets are already calling him the next Lil' Boosie of this generation. I'm excited to see what he delivers in 2017 and beyond. — Cena Zarin


I don't know if it's his intense ass falsetto, his bomb ass late night show ("Fallon"/"Corden") performances, the jittery jerky dances moves or the fact that he went to NYU), but Gallant is undoubtedly one of the best things to come out of 2016 . His music paints pictures of crushes, love and heartache. I saw Gallant perform for the first time at this year’s SXSW Fader Fort just a few weeks before his debut album Ology dropped. Watching him perform "Bourbon" had me sold and I realized he was the voice behind "Weight In Gold." He's just dope! He has want I consider a multi-purpose project I play it: going to sleep, working out, in my car and at my desk #NOSTALKER. I truly hope 2017 lends itself the same successful journey times 10 and some collaborations. — Dana Jeter

A Boogie with da Hoodie

Earlier this year, we asked the question: who is A Boogie wit da Hoodie? Six months later, we have an answer. A Bronx native, New York sensation, and an undeniable star that is poised to shake the game on its head. While critics are quick to compare him to other artists, A Boogie is busy building a rare buzz that hasn't been seen in quite a while. Despite not having a No. 1 single or headlining tour, the BX native has been just as ubiquitous as those who did. He earned co-signs from Drake and DJ Khaled, released three standout projects, and became the new face of the Big Apple — all in under a year. — Ralph Bristout

Don Q

If his standout performances on records with Fabolous, Meek Mill, and this Funkmaster Flex freestyle wasn't enough of an indication, listen to Don Q's Don Season mixtape and learn why he will be one to watch next year. Like A Boogie, Q already has the ear of the streets, while the media world continues to play catch up. Evoking that vintage '04 mixtape era New York feel, while marrying the hard sound with that of today, Q has the recipe for success and 2017 should see him take it further than where he's already started. — RB

Dave East

Dave East is a man with no gimmicks, no shtick, and anything of that sort. His 2016 saw plenty of success (XXL Freshman cover, No. 1 album on iTunes) all off the strength of hard rhymes, a quintessential New York aesthetic, and a story that has captivated an audience that grows on every East-mix, guest appearance, and moves made. To think, he wrote his out of the P's to land in the Top 50 of the Billboard 200. Next stop, "Forbes List." RB

Young M.A.

Brooklyn rapper with summer on lock sits down with REVOLT at the legendary Apollo Theater.

Enough said.

Honorable Mention: Lil Yachty, Noname, dsvn, Roy Woods, Dreezy, Saba

REVOLT's 2016 Year-End Review: #FirstTake | #RestUp | #CrossTheLine | #NoRules | #SimplyTheBest | #BreakingGround | We Need To Talk About Drake's 'Views' | Best Music Videos

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