Khalid is an 18-year-old R&B singer from El Paso, Texas. His most successful song “Location” embodies the feeling of teenage love, as Khalid’s smooth, gentle voice croons over a slow, simplistic beat. Perhaps one of the most surprising fact about him is the that has only been making music since the winter of 2015, yet he sounds much more experienced than that. Despite still being a new artist, he has displayed flexibility, although he mainly specializes in slow jams, his song “Hopeless” shows that he can definitely speed things up if he wants to. A quick look at the images he’s selected for his singles shows that he has a clear vision in mind, and is building an aesthetic for himself. It seems like he already has a set direction that he wants to go in, something that many new artists struggle with. Khalid is a military child, so when he was growing up, he moved around a lot. In recent interviews, he has stated that despite this, El Paso feels like home. It was the first town where he really felt welcomed, and as a result of that his album is heavily influenced by the culture in El Paso. It’ll be interesting to see how those influences manifest in his music, especially when El Paso isn’t known for its musical artists. Khalid has already started 2017 strongly, releasing a new single “Saved” which he claims was actually the first song he ever made, as well as being featured in Alina Baraz’s song “Electric”. He recently embarked on a month long tour around the country, and his debut album, American Teen, is due out on March 3rd. (listen)
Sampha Sissay is the UK act with probably the most anticipated release. With previous notoriety and acclaim from him numerous collaborations with electronic artist SBTRKT, and unique, stand out features with Lil Silva, Jesse Ware (and more), the next common progression is to see where his original releases will be. Preceding his debut LP, Process (out February 3rd 2017), Sundanza EP and Duals EP showcase an artist as emotional and calculated as his vocals are distinct. His choice instrument, the piano, allows the range and distinct sound to pair with his falsetto pitch and melancholic tone. And yet, there is a simultaneous quality to his vocals which is bright, hopeful and angelic – perhaps this is why he was chosen for the evocative single “Don’t Touch My Hair” with Solange on one of 2016’s most powerful albums. On top of this, he is a self-made producer – the only sensible way to match his own vocal artistry – which tries on complex, tactile rhythms and sounds. Airy and carefully crafted synths also aid in his production skill for a one-of-a-kind listen each time, and varies with significance to previous works on electronic albums and features. His album won’t be as focused on this, though, but what is known is that he has been picking up speed on his variety of appearances over the past 2 years and dropping emotional, deep and passionate singles, all gearing up for Process. We have little doubt that it will be anything short from excellent. (listen)
Evander Chantz, best known by his stage name Evander Griiim is another young artist from El Paso, Texas. He’s only 19 years old, and has only been making music since February of last year. Many compare him to Swae Lee from Rae Sremmurd, because he has the same level of energy and a similar style. The Rae Sremmurd influences are evident in Evander’s music, but he’s able to do it very, very well. “The Step” has an infectious chorus, and relentless energy, and the music video for it really captures this lively enthusiasm. However, he’s proven that he can make melancholic music as well with his track “A Very Long Drunk Text”, a very hazy song that expresses anguish. His song “Right Now” has garnered the attention of Rich the Kid, and Gucci Mane. Both of which have made remixes of the song with verses of their own. A picture posted on Twitter has also revealed that Evander has been in the studio with Rick Ross. If Evander continues to put out more music, and get attention from other major artists, he’ll be hitting mainstream appeal quickly. He certainly seems to have the determination for it. Disobeying his mother, he saved up enough money to buy himself a home studio, in order to pursue his dream of being a rapper instead of going to college. In less than a year, he has released several songs, recorded a music video, and done many live performances in his home town. If he continues to work as hard as he is now, Evander Griiim will definitely be someone to look out for. (listen)
Adam Aminé Daniel is a rapper from Portland, Oregon, best known for his single “Caroline” and his obsession with the color yellow. His most recent project is an EP titled Calling Brio, it was released in 2015, and has a heavy tribal influence to it. It features production from Pasqué, Tek Lun, Kaytranada, and Amine himself. Despite all the different producers on it, the EP is still very cohesive, and Amine adapts well to all of the different beats. His most popular song “Caroline” is a bit of a deviation from any of his past work, but it is really catchy, and just makes you want to get up and dance. The music video for it is really lively, and it captures Aminé’s amusing personality. It really just seems like he’s hanging out with his friends, having a good time with his music. However, during his live performance of “Caroline” on The Tonight Show, he added an extra verse at the end in which he expressed his opinion on Donald Trump, which shows that he wants to do more with his music than just have fun. He understands that as an artist, his voice is heard by many, and he can influence his listeners. (listen)
Jaden Smith has slowly released music over the years. Right now he has two mixtapes, and a collaborative EP out, and he has a new project, Syre, that’s been announced. He has also worked with the producer Ta-Ku, Rich the Kid, Childish Gambino, and Kid Cudi. His newest single, “Fallen” is one of his most polished so far. It seems that he found his own personal sound now, and if Syre has the same sort of style, it could be a really good project. The amount of creativity that Jaden Smith puts into anything he works on is very impressive. He has released several music videos, and the one for “Fallen” was thought provoking. On top of working on his music, he has continued to pursue his acting career, and was part of the main cast in “The Get Down”. He’s also taken a stance on several social issues, most recently joining Shia Labeouf for his “HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US” campaign. He has also pushed back against gender roles by posing for photoshoots while wearing women’s clothing. One of Jaden’s biggest obstacles is probably being taken seriously. Given the reputation that he has due to his strange teenage tweets and his eccentric style, a lot of people discredit him. People view him as a child actor, or simply just “Will Smith’s son”, not as a musician. However, he has been putting in a lot of work, and if he commits to it he shows some serious promise. (listen)
After being featured on The Life of Pablo, Sidney Selby, better known as Desiigner, got an explosion of popularity. “Panda” dominated the charts for a long time, and was heard everywhere for many months. However, that popularity is very quickly fading, and if he doesn’t release a full project soon, he’ll be just another one hit wonder. Despite claimed similarity to hip hop artist Future, Desiigner still fills a certain niche by himself. Desiigner brings a lot more aggression and a different energy to his music than that of Future, with a reported fun-loving personality. Desiigner is basically living out his dream at only 19 years of age, yet he has had the opportunity of working alongside some of his idols, both in recording and performance. Desiigner is also broadening his horizons a little bit, and has a clothing line at rue21.
In terms of exact music, however, his 2016 mixtape, Old English, felt very incomplete. It had a few tracks with a lot of potential, but they were all too short and unfulfilling. As a result the mixtape went mostly unnoticed. Desiigner has potential, and his song “Timmy Turner” showed that he has good singing abilities as well – it would be really interesting to see him develop that more – and he might even be more successful with his singing than his rapping. Ultimately, he is still very young but without an album he will fade. Desiigner has the tools and resources to produce a project, now signed to G.O.O.D. Music, so all we do is wait for the day. (listen)
Vic Mensa already sort of missed his first wave of popularity. He got a lot of attention after releasing Innanetape, and he continuously teased an album titled Traffic, but never followed through. Eventually, fans became miffed for teasing Traffic so much but never showing any progress on it other than a few singles. A big reason for this was his reported struggle with drug addiction, which seems to have been overcome now. Last year he released a mixtape, There’s Alot Going on, a heavily political release with reference to police brutality and corruption. Despite being a solid mixtape, it didn’t receive a lot of attention from the mainstream audience which it demanded for the sake of his relevancy. Vic Mensa has always made sure his voice is heard and has fought for social justice on several occasions, such as joining protesters at Standing Rock during the No DAPL protests. During a reddit AMA, he mentioned that his album will still contain political elements, but will also be very personal. If he is able to weave his stories well, put a strong emphasis on his political activism, and make the album as intense as his past projects, it could really launch him towards popularity. (listen)