Within recent years, music lovers everywhere gradually traded in their physical CDs and made accounts on their preferred digital streaming platforms, and before we knew it, streaming giants like became unavoidable as a means of new music consumption. TIDAL entered the scene shortly after — built on the promise to put the artists first. One of the main pillars of this pledge was the creation of TIDAL Rising.

The program is dedicated to discovering and supporting the next generation of music. It launched back in 2015 with a commitment to unveiling more frequent content showcasing new up-and-coming talent, and this was achieved through carefully curated playlists, hand-picked artist spotlight content, representation on TIDAL’s stage at Made In America, and much more. Notable Rising alumni include names like 21 Savage, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, Mr Eazi, Chloe x Halle, and Alessia Cara, who were all embraced by the program long before they went on to flourish in their respective careers.

Fast forward to 2021, the program is still prospering. The spotlight now shines on fresh talent like Sinead Harnett, Latin artists like Eladio Carrión, and hometown heroes like Duke Deuce.

“It was just the real vibe,” Deuce tells REVOLT about his experience with the Rising program. “There was nothing fabricated and everything was genuine how we went about it. I just felt comfortable so I could really get into it.”

Each TIDAL Rising documentary conveys the aspect of an artist’s journey they feel will help fans understand their intentions more deeply. For Deuce, it was his family. “You got people depending on you in this game,” he says. “My daughter is who I go hard for. I used to talk to her when she was three months old, and I used to pray and just tell her I’m going to make it as a rapper and get us out of this situation. I did it.”

One of the dedicated team members leading the charge is Jason Kpana, who currently holds the title of SVP of artist and label relations over at TIDAL. Kpana has been with the company for over six years and has closely watched the Rising program evolve exponentially from its inception. He says the genuine passion his team has for music still undoubtedly remains as the main fuel that propels the work they do, and that’s not changing anytime soon.

REVOLT recently sat down with the TIDAL exec to speak about the initiative, what it’s like to play a key role in an artist’s journey, the most fulfilling part of his job, and much more. Read below!

What are some of the main factors you look for when deciding to work with a new artist?

It’s a number of different things. We try to take chances on artists that maybe haven’t gotten many opportunities elsewhere yet. We love those opportunities where we’re sticking our neck out and giving them our co-sign by playlisting that artist and their song.

A number of things come into play if we want to decide to take things further. If it’s music, we’re pinpointing and we see it starts to react somehow and we feel like we have something special, we’ll always ask ourselves, “What else can we do?” It’s a collective effort. The team, we collectively bounce ideas around on a daily basis. Like I said, we’re fans of the music. We definitely try to give love to artists where we feel like, “This is something special.”

The Rising program initially launched in 2015. What has it been like watching it grow?

You’re speaking to just me right now, but I represent an amazing group that works on a daily basis to give everybody their fair share of shine. TIDAL is just a full team of people who really are genuine fans of music and every week, we try to bring to our members artists that will be around and artists we feel they’ll be interested in.

Every new addition seems very intentional.

Human curation has definitely been an important part of the platform. It’s not that we don’t have algorithmic playlists because that’s what we do, as well. But, we definitely have teams and there are people who are experts in their respective genres that actually pick out songs, and we share songs with each other.

Who is one of your most memorable artists who has been featured in the past?

One of the most notable ones from the historic TIDAL days, around 2015, was Alessia Cara. She was featured on the TIDAL Rising playlist and Jimmy Fallon actually saw her on the playlist, and listened to her song and booked her on “The Tonight Show” based on that. He actually spoke about it on the show and he said he discovered her through TIDAL Rising.

Us being a young company at the time and being a small team, that really gave us the confidence that made us feel like, “Oh wow, we’re really doing the right thing.” We weren’t just solely featuring artists based on streaming numbers and things like that. We’re giving artist opportunities based on the music.

I’m sure it feels great to be able to pinpoint the exact ways TIDAL has been a part of artists’ journeys early on.

That was one of the early memories and I also remember making a cold call to 21 Savage’s manager very early on and asking her how we can get involved with him. He was getting ready to go on tour to open for Young Thug at the time for the “HIHORSE’D Tour” and we did the tour documentary. It was 30 days with 21 Savage and they gave us the glimpse behind the curtain and let us follow him around through that tour and post weekly videos on what life on the road was like. To see where his career has gone and his trajectory, it’s incredible. We went on to do shows with him a few more times since then.

Most recently, Duke Deuce is featured on our TIDAL Rising playlist and it led to us having conversations around doing content with him and we wound up doing a TIDAL Rising documentary with him. Then, it led to him performing on the TIDAL stage at Made In America. Those are the stories we love to be able to tell. It starts off with the music but it can definitely grow to something else.

One artist that stuck out to me on the TIDAL stage is Capella Grey. You guys seem to have caught onto his momentum before a lot of others. How did he come onto the radar?

Another record that started with us simply supporting, probably on one of our Slack channels sending it through, playlisting it early on, watching it grow, then watching him get signed. He was one of the last slots on the TIDAL stage and we were really pushing to make that happen. His story, man, it’s growing right in front of our eyes. We all want to share that feeling as fans of “We were there first.” We want to bring that to life, and we do that through things like the playlist and the stage at Made In America.

How often do you see the efforts from the program translate into real-life opportunities like that?

The TIDAL stage definitely is a physical representation of the work we do all year in the TIDAL Rising program. We have so many more examples of [Capella Grey]. Lil Yachty performed on the TIDAL stage back in 2016. A Boogie performed on the TIDAL stage in 2017. Juice WRLD, rest in peace, he performed on the TIDAL stage in 2018 and the very next year he was on one of the main stages. Same thing with Roddy Ricch and Megan Thee Stallion. Before Megan was on that main stage, she was doing content pieces and performances with us. To be able to say we were even a small part of these artists’ journeys as they grow on their path to success is why we do this work.

What would you say is the most fulfilling part of your role at TIDAL?

I’ve been working in this industry for many years, and the most fulfilling part of my role at TIDAL is being able to support an artist solely because of the music. You don’t have to be “signed to my label.” We support because we believe in them and because we think this artist has a chance and they deserve a shot. To see some of the artists we’ve supported early on grow and become these superstars, it’s just icing on the cake because we’ll support you whether you make it there or not. There are artists that we still support to this day regardless.