It all started out as a bet, of sorts.
Maybe more like a challenge...
In 2015, when a previously unknown artist gets called the next big superstar after their first YouTube video, what does "new" really mean anymore? Just like it's (nearly) impossible to come up with a Google search that yields only one result, is it possible to find a new artist with "Under 1,000" legit Twitter followers? And better yet, is it possible to find an “Under 1,000” artist who's any good? Turns out, yeah, as long as you are willing to put in the work, it is pretty fuckin' possible, so possible that this a regular thing; and by regular, I mean we do it from time to time when we are in a giving mood. Finding those needles in a haystack of "Back to Back" freestyles and bringing them to your doorstep is what we live for and why we continue to be excited about this series. So let's get right into it, shall we?
Alxndr Nate (@AlxandrNate): 509 Followers.
Sometimes, when you find a talented unknown it takes a little bit of imagination, a little foresight. Often, up-and-comers don’t have the experience or resources to make music that accurately reflects their talent. There are moments, however, you hear an artist and think, “He must already be famous, right?” Alxndr Nate is the latter. When I first heard his work, I just assumed he was already well over 1K because, well, just listen. His voice reaches out and slaps you in the face and the instrumentals are perfectly produced, mixed, and mastered.
Nate's sound is so clean, so refined, it’s just remarkable this music is not being produced by a major label artist. Maybe he is already? It’s not often you come across an unknown talent this obvious, this destined for success, this “wow.” He is only two songs deep, (both of which can be found right here on DJBooth), but I’m sold already.
Behaviors (@BehaviorsNYC): 8 followers
A new Under 1K record! Behaviors only have 8 followers (including yours truly)! EIGHT?!?! Now I know what you are thinking, “This isn’t hip-hop!” You're right, but there two reasons why I’ve decided to include their work. The first (and most important) is that they are really dope. Like Alxndr Nate, they don’t have the popularity, but they have that refined sound.
This isn’t Jimmy from down the street recording Drake freestyles using a talkback, this is a highly-produced, quality effort that goes down so smooth. I really hate comparisons, but I’m going to offer one up here because I just keep coming back to it. Behaviors sound like a new-age, less-sad Oasis. It’s the vocals and the hazy vibe that give me that feeling, but they also have a much more colorful sound (at least based on the handful of Oasis records I am familiar with the most). Be warned, this record creeps up on you. You’ll find yourself stuck on it... for days. I enjoyed what I had heard after just one listen, but I moved on because I wasn't sure if it fit Under 1K (they are most definitely not hip-hop). But then I kept going back to the record and now, by days end, I’ve listened to it 15 times.
And my second reason? While Behaviors aren't your typical DJBooth feature artist they do have some hip-hop ties. “Don’t Fight It” was produced by Frans Mernick, who produced a few songs on A$AP Rocky’s last album, A.L.L.A. So there you fucking go...
Monark (@MisterMonark) 849 followers
An Under 1K first! Not only does Monark have the necessary follower count, but his Twitter is also protected. He’s underground like El Chapo. The New Jersey emcee might have to open up the account right quick though, because I suspect there's quite a few social media savvy hip-hop heads who are going to want to be kept in the loop. Most of the time when I’m digging for an Under 1K prospect, I’m listening with my hands over my eyes. I’ll usually get sucked in by a dope beat, but then inevitably the artist appears and promptly ruins the track with an ill-advised flow or a horrible lyrical display. It's songs like “Forgive Me,” though, that remind me why it’s always worth sifting through the layers of crap.
The record starts off nice--shoutout to the beatsmith, Sean One--but I wasn’t ready to dive in until I heard Monark rap. As soon as those first few bars on the second verse hit my ear, any uncertainty I had was quickly quelled. I wasn’t watching with my hands over my eyes anymore; I had to use my hands to do my little turn up dance. I was really impressed by Monark’s razor sharp flow. I love the way his nasally, raw vocal really helped bars jump out at me. It’s impressive how he’s able to take such a different flow and create a traditional, pure hip-hop sound out of it; he packs a punch.
While we all wait for his new project, In The Basement Vol.1 (coming soon), dig into his older material, in particular his Illamentary tape; the title-track is a doozy.
As always, stay tuned for more underground dopeness and, in the meantime, share these cats with your friends so when they blow up you can say you called it and look really really cool.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]