If there’s one thing that gets most of us through the day, it’s music. Whether we’re scrolling through Soundcloud looking for mood tunes to get us through a case of the Mondays or listening to a mixtape someone has sent our way, not a day goes by without some kind of music playing in our office.
Since our inboxes tend to get inundated with lots of projects from artists interested in coverage, we decided to spotlight some of the names we’ve been hearing about every month.
Take a look at past installations here.
Bronx-born singer, songwriter and former battle rapper Tish Hyman is the silent pen behind the songs of some of your favorite artists. Kanye West and Alicia Keys are only a few of the names on her roster, and with throaty vocals and a poignant approach to dropping a verse, Hyman’s own projects are evocative of a youthful Lauryn Hill.
Songs like “Subway Art,” Hyman’s debut single, are keenly observant, stealthily political and painfully heartfelt. Her natural feel for lyrics is only bolstered by production from William Larsen, who also worked on the Nico and Vinz smash hit “Am I Wrong.” Grammy Award winner, Bink, who counts Jay Z and John Legend as resume standouts, also co-produced the track. Since releasing the single Hyman has also collaborated with Fabolous on the track “You Made Me,” and assisted with penning Ty Dolla $ign’s “Free TC,” and was also featured on Diddy’s single “Everyday” alongside Pusha T, Jadakiss and Styles P.
We all remember Talib Kweli’s soulful dedication to Lauryn Hill after the magnum opus that was the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. “Ms. Hill, you got skills, that’s a gift, it’s real get ill, what you spit got the power to uplift the heel,” he raps. The same kind of soulfulness in Hill’s music, well, it’s present in Hyman’s too.
Atlanta-bred, New York-based singer and songwriter TOTEM seems poised for a breakout 2016. His new single,”Bubblegum,” was recently selected for Apple Music’s “Best of the Week,” and he’s also headed to Lollapalooza in Chicago next month.
TOTEM’s smooth R&B vocals first hit the internet in 2013 when he released two EPs respectively titled Pride and Echoes. The artist, who chose to remain anonymous for quite some time, cut a mysterious figure from the onset. Despite the enigma of his identity both projects were widely praised.
Three years later one can see the natural metamorphosis in TOTEM’s style. Despite the expected artistic maturation he has retained an enviable ability to pen yearning tunes laced through with upbeat vocals and catchy elements of electro-pop. There’s also his recurring romance with the unexpected: for all the visions a song titled “Bubblegum” may conjure, it’s actually nothing like the bubble gummy Taylor Swift-esque ditties about ex-lovers one might expect. That doesn’t mean it isn’t catchy or relatable though, there’s just a bit more substance to sort through in TOTEM’s case of the ex.
Washington D.C. native D’Anthony Carlos or GoldLink first burst onto the scene after the release of his 2014 mixtape The God Complex. That said, it wouldn’t exactly be fair to call him “upcoming,” especially considering his first majorly recognized project caught the attention of legendary producer Rick Rubin. Rubin went on to mentor GoldLink through the process of making his debut album, And After That, We Didn’t Talk Much. Effervescent and lively, GoldLink’s music is refreshingly authentic while still tinged with a satisfying grit.
And though the lyrics are often swaggering and brash it’s all undercut with an unrestrained and utterly ebullient meeting of house and hip-hop. There’s something about the combination that makes even the most gruff turn of phrase feel cushioned by an aura of warmth and playfulness. It’s the kind joyful noise that ends up playing in a loop through your head, and that’s far from a bad thing.
Los Angeles-based singer AMARA previously went by Viola Ellis before settling on her current moniker. Her first offering under the rebranded persona points to the singer’s fearlessness — she chose to sample Kanye West’s emotive homage to his daughter, “Only One.” Produced by longtime friend and collaborator, Charles Black, AMARA’s version is a minimalist reflection on life and abiding love.
Her ethereal vocals play hauntingly over spartan arrangements, imbuing the track with a startling sense of fragility and heartache. When asked why she chose to cover the song, the singer stated, “To see two musical legends (Kanye West and Paul McCartney) team up for something so sincere and so built on the energy of love was honestly breathtaking. My mum and I had a pretty turbulent relationship during my later teen years so the idea of her singing this to me or me singing this to my daughter one day…it was powerful. So powerful that the recording session for this was very emotional for me and very cathartic.”
AMARA will release her upcoming debut album, Porcelain, in three parts over the course of six months. The first of the trilogy, Kaolin, is slated for release at the end of July. She’ll follow that release with Fluxes and then the finale, Vitrify.
Singer and songwriter Nakaya is a Los Angeles native who currently resides in New York City. She’s also a fairly new talent who first came to major attention only last year after the release of her EP, Out of Breath. The project’s lilting, melodic tone fearlessly epitomized the thrill and pain of pining after love, immediately capturing the attention of platforms like Afropunk, Earmilk and Fader.
Her newest single, “Lost It Too,” offers another glimpse into the singer’s psyche, which she shares through lyrics that are at once innocent and alluring. Layered over production that seamlessly fuses folk, electronica and R&B, the single is a cerebral stoner’s paradise. Nakaya has shared that Sade, Sia and Norah Jones are among her inspirations, and with recurrent themes of love and self-reflection, the parallels aren’t difficult to see.
Brooklyn-based, Haitian-American singer and songwriter Moxiie describes the lush mashup of R&B and electronica that defines her signature sound as “jungle pop.” Slipping easily between a girlish falsetto and a sultry, growling alto, Moxiie displays the force of character from which her stage name is derived. As it stands, if you’re a fan of atmospheric, slightly seductive tracks with contemplative lyrics her newest song,”FVRS,” will likely pique your interest.
Produced by Fredrik “Fredo” Odesjo, who has worked with Alessia Cara among others, “FVRS” details a familiar struggle many people in relationships have encountered. That being finding the balance between taking ownership of who you are and resisting the urge to change purely to please a partner. Moxiie is currently working on new music which will be released under the title, “Young Blk Madonna Project.”
Nokana Mojapelo and TRA$H GODD
Hakim Malema also known as TRA$H GODD and his collaborator, Nokana Mojapelo, form the new wave-influenced duo Booty Call. The moniker also happens to be the name of their latest EP, an extension of a 2015 project of the same name. Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, the pair are part of a group of youthful tastemakers who’ve coined themselves Spova Gang. Their interest in fashion and internet culture sees them regularly featured on style websites and performing with the support of major brands and platforms like MTV and Redbull Music.
Malema’s interest in music was perhaps inevitable as his father was an activist and musician during the apartheid era in South Africa. Mojapelo, who comes from a generational family of garment makers, also draws from his personal history, incorporating elements of his past into Booty Call‘s futuristic sound.
“It was inspired by some vapor wave elements and a future weird sound,” shared Malema. “The EP comes at a time when a lot of young artists are looking for inspiration at home. We though it was important to employ our vernacular in the lyrics and visually embrace an African and South African aesthetic. We don’t want to sound like the rest of the world, we want to be seen as peers in the international music scene and as people regurgitating American or European styles,” he added.
Basher Bazanye or Double S, as he’s more readily known, is far from a new name on the grime scene. Raised in Tottenham, North London, the singer, songwriter and rapper was a founding member of the collective Shoddy Crew which originated out of Northumberland Park Estate. Among the group’s most notable members was Chipmunk (now Chip).
Double S, who went by Street Sounds when he first began rapping seriously, has also collaborated with other Tottenham-raised names in the scene including BBK founder Skepta, and most recently the Konnichwa rapper’s brother, JME. Their collaborative track, titled “Style & Flows,” sees the duo tag-teaming to destroy the beat. Double S employs masterful, witty lyricism while JME falls back on his signature storytelling style. The track was produced by Heavytrackerz who has also worked with Dizzee Giggs and Meridian Dan.
Also check out a 2009 video of Double S, Skepta, Temper T and Shorty Frisco battling below.
Talent isn’t necessarily genetic, but in the case of 20-year-old rising singer and songwriter, Mabel McVey, it seems her musically-inclined family indeed influenced her career aspirations. Her mother is experimental ’90s pop singer Neneh Cherry, and her father is celebrated producer and songwriter Cameron McVey, best known for his work with Massive Attack. Despite this heritage, Mabel remained disinterested in pursuing music for many years. It wasn’t until she enrolled in music theory and production classes in college that she formulated her debut single, “Know Me Better.”
Influenced by icons of the ’90s such as Lauryn Hill and Destiny’s Child, Mabel’s voice is refreshingly honest while managing to still feel sure-footed even in its rawest state. So far, she’s landed on Spotify’s “Ones to Watch” list and secured a nomination for BBC’s “Sound Poll.” Most recently, Mabel has collaborated with SBTRKT, released a video project through Tate Modern and made festival debuts at Glastonbury and Great Escape. Her newest single, “Thinking of You” is a surprisingly unguarded reflection on the dynamics of intimate relationships during times of upheaval and change.
In late 2013, Phoenix Martins, then a budding singer and songwriter based in London, released “Heart Strings,” her debut single. Since then, the song, a slowly building ballad with a certain soulful steaminess, has been streamed over 17,000 times on SoundCloud and propelled Martins to the precipice of indie pop superstardom.
On her latest release, an EP entitled 47, Martins sings smolderingly over softly-set soundscapes, ably demonstrating her unique ability to effortlessly incorporate the sounds of ambient electronica with self-assured vocals. On the aptly titled “Echo’s,” the fourth and final track off the EP, Martins sings as if stuck in a vast tunnel, her voice reverberating around her in a reflection of sounds that makes for an arresting aural effect, and leaves a lingering sense of loss in any listener looking to catch some serious feelings.