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It’s something special when you discover an artist while they’re young and on the come-up. Hip hop fans felt this when listening to Chief Keef spit bars for the first time on “I Don’t Like” at the age of 16, and when Lil Wayne made his debut feature on “Back That Azz Up” at the age of 17.
Nowadays, with social media platforms being an artists’ best friend, Gen Z has the biggest advantage in the game due to the fact that they grew up with social media and have an immediate understanding of its ins and outs. Artists such as, Toosii, Flo Milli, and Erica Banks have already began to use this knowledge to their advantage by making use of the popular social media app ‘TikTok’ to promote their singles that later skyrocket to the top of the charts.
There are plenty of young artists on the verge of making a large impact on the game, but here are 11 who everyone should be keeping an eye on.
1. Dee Gatti
With only five singles and an EP, Dee Gatti is already finding her way onto every editorial playlist out. Her biggest single thus far is “Caught Up,” a smooth, guitar-led track that instantly appeals to any fan of today’s R&B. Putting on for the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Gatti is one of the leaders of a new movement of the genre. Her latest single is “Clear My Mind,” a track that embodies a trapsoul vibe that her vocals just flow so effortlessly on.
The current state of rap is moving farther away from its roots of hard-hitting bars to a more melodic sound that requires rappers to have a singing voice. MiloXO refers to himself as a “rapper who happens to have vocals” and he’s a perfect example of where hip hop’s sound is heading. The artist has been creating music on social media for years — he was apart of a duo with another artist named Dom — but it wasn’t until 2019 that he decided to hop back into the game with a new focus. His biggest single is “Beg,” a track where he melodically rides the beat. He released his long-awaited debut album, Forever, on June 21 and the hype built around its release is surreal.
3. Marco McKinnis
Authenticity is the name of the game when it comes to Marco McKinnis’ sound. His 2019 EP, E’Merse, embodies such an authentic and smooth vibe that’s hard to be found anywhere else. He’s modernizing an intimate, neo-soul influenced sound of R&B that was prevalent in the ‘90s, but seems to be missing today. The rising star’s social media pages indicate that he has a project in the works, and it’ll be interesting to see where he continues to take his sound.
Speaking of authenticity, on the female-led side of R&B, UK-native Mahalia is spicing up the game with her confessional lyricism and addicting production. In 2019, she released her album Love and Compromise with features from other up-and-coming R&B stars including Lucky Daye, and Ella Mai. In April, she did a performance for BBC 1Xtra’s Live Lounge that gained a ton of traction on social media. It’s only a matter of time before she gears up for her next release, and her trajectory is looking extremely good.
5. Jvck James
Jvck James is another UK-based R&B artist making a name for himself in the game. In March of this year, he released his second EP, JOYRIDE, which he described as “R&B on steroids.” His single “No Drama” is a bouncy track that has already garnered him attention on TikTok. R&B is lacking a bonafide superstar, and has been since Chris Brown was at his peak. With James’ ability to craft a hit, and also dance and produce, that empty spot is looking like it could belong to him sooner rather than later.
6. Kyle Lux
Kyle Lux struck gold in October when he released his EP Projectors, which featured his breakout single “Are You In Love?” He experimented more with a R&B heavy sound and found success by doing so. If he continues to progress with the sound he experimented with on his EP, he may just have more hits on his hands.
NO1-Noah is Summer Walker’s first artist signed to her label Ghetto Earth Records. He made his first appearances on her 2020 EP, Life On Earth, where he was given two guest spots on “White Tee” and “SWV.” He released his latest single “Ridin For My Love” in December where his wavy rap-sing flow immediately pulled listeners in. As both a producer and songwriter, it’ll be interesting to see where NO1-Noah takes his career next.
8. Kaash Paige
Kaash Paige is another artist leading the R&B movement heating up in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. “Love Songs” was her breakout single and, since then, she’s released two projects building on her sound. Her latest project, Teenage Fever, was released in 2020 and featured artists like Don Toliver, 42 Dugg, K Camp, and Isaiah Rashad. With her unique ability to deliver emotion through clever yet honest bars, there’s absolutely a place for her in the game.
Florida’s rap scene is exploding and its latest act Hotboii brings the energy and melodic bars fans love. His single “Don’t Need Time” caught the attention of fans and artists alike, and its remix featured Lil Baby. Hotboii is only just getting started and as his career begins to heat up, all eyes are on the Florida native.
10. J.I. The Prince of N.Y.
It’s been nearly six years since the world was introduced to J.I. on Lifetime’s hit show, “The Rap Game.” Since then, he’s grown as an artist and found mild success with singles such as “Need Me” and “Blame on Me.” J.I. is one of the primary artists pioneering a new sound of hip hop stemming from New York along with other artists like A Boogie wit da Hoodie. He is already set to embark on a multi-city tour this fall and has been teasing singles throughout the year. The artist is truly on the verge of blowing up.
11. Jay Loud
Jay Loud is such a unique artist due to his ability to switch from authentic trapsoul-influenced R&B to heavy melodic rap. He’s already finding early success with his latest EP, Deep End, and the Seattle-native is absolutely putting on for his city. Loud hasn’t been in the game for long, so it’ll be interesting to see where he decides to take his career. But, one thing can be said for certain, he’s definitely on the right track.