Newcomers are becoming mainstays quicker than ever, as the sliding scale from SoundCloud novice to established superstar is increasingly becoming shorter. No longer are fans waiting years between albums by musicians, when artists like Fetty Wap are serving up singles now and figuring out where those songs will live as part of a body of work later. In 2015, we were lucky to witness the rise of a diverse flock of such artists, ranging from DIY princesses (Kehlani) to throwback vocalists (Leon Bridges) to soul babies who touch the future with their sounds (Bryson Tiller and Alessia Cara, respectively). Here, REVOLT celebrates the new class of creators who are #breakingground.
All hail Leon Bridges, the crown prince of 2015’s groundbreakers. The Atlanta-born/Austin-bred sensation piqued all curiosities (and interests alike) by veering far from modern ATL’s norm (see: glistening synths, rapid fire hi-hats and indiscernible vocal inflections). Bridges’ debut player Coming Home instead opts for ’60s-style gospel and soul with a touch of high-waisted trousers, superior class and unbridled seriousness, earning Leon a Grammy nod and the all-too-coveted position of Saturday Night Live musical guest.
Plenty of accolades and the kid still stays mature and grounded… but Bridges knows when to let “loose” (Leon hit the dab during the closing credits of his SNL episode). Ground breaking, indeed.—Hannah Rad
Alessia Caracciolo is me: a “once” 19-year-old of southern Italian descent full of hope, honesty, brutal emotions and wisdom beyond years.
Alessia Cara is all of us: a face of this generation’s paradoxically demure “we got this” presumption even when faced with ultimate feels and fears.
The Def Jam-signee notched high on our collective radar with “Seventeen” and “Here” (the latter of which boldly flips Isaac Hayes’ essential tune “Ike’s Rap II,” which, mind you, had already expertly been worked over on Portishead’s “Glory Box” back in ’94 before. Cara. Was. Even. Born.)
That move, paired with her raw talent, the production gods Pop & Oak (see: Nicki’s “The Crying Game,” K. Michelle’s “V.S.O.P.” and Rihanna’s “Numb”) and titling her debut album Know-It-All proves Alessia Cara is befitting of the #BreakingGround crest.—H.R.
Kehlani makes it hard not to champion for her. Most of us met her at 16, when she made her TV debut on America’s Got Talent with Poplyfe, her band at the time. Others, just became acquainted with her upon the release of debut album, You Should Be Here, which peaked at number 5 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop albums and has since been nominated for a 2016 Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary album.
The Bay Area baby is the new girl next door, tattooed, heart on her sleeve and working her way up the ladder one rung (and show) at a time. She continues to not only gain the hearts of those who hear her, but also prove that her accolades, in due time, will be many. Catch the wave early.—Kymmi Cee
Bryson Tiller steadily and slowly made a name for himself this year. Flourishing in a world where a cosign from arguably hip-hop’s greatest in the game (right now) could have easily hindered him, Tiller instead is living up to the hype. His recently released T R A P S O U L debuted at number 11 on the Billboard 200 and, to date, has sold over 100,000 copies domestically.
More than sales, Tiller has earned cult status, from his shows, where fans mouth every word to his songs, to his growing stock of followers, which include celebrities and an army of social media zealots. Not bad for a newbie—not to mention he’s crossed over to appeal to men, women and foreign Uber drivers. Not bad for a newbie.—K.C.
Fetty Wap’s reign in 2015 was as dominant as it was unexpected. Last year, “Trap Queen” emerged as a surprise hit, powered by its spring-board synths and the Patterson, New Jersey native’s warbly vocals. What seemed like a one-hit wonder situation instead flipped into four, as he introduced us to his stove and whipped up more hits. As “Trap Queen” gave way to this year’s “My Way,” and then “679” and “Again,” Fetty Wap earned praise from Drake and Eminem, notched four simultaneous Top 10 hits on the Hot Rap Songs chart and he eschewed big-time collabs over putting his crew on.
Firmly established as star, he released his self-titled debut in September and reaped critical praise for his work. The 17 tracks (20 on the deluxe) feature no big names, only the Remy Boyz; “My Way” is reverted back to its original with Monty over Drake, as, in interviews, Fetty credits Monty with the song’s origin. Humbled and hungry, is there any doubt things went his way this year?—Jayson Rodriguez