Former DJBooth squad member Lucas spent his days here writing about music, an artform that he loves dearly. I always knew he loved music due to his refreshing passion for discovery - Lucas was a true seeker of new sounds and voices, so deeply rooted in the underground he was rarely swept up in the mainstream’s current. He cared more about the underdogs who were further from the spotlight, but deeply connected to the art.
It made perfect sense that he started “Under 1,000 Followers,” a series dedicated to finding artists on social media that had the talent, but lacked a massive following. It wasn’t the brightest light, but he made sure to use our platform to acknowledge these artists, showing them someone was listening with the hopes others would follow. Even though Lucas has departed the Booth to pursue other endeavors, we wanted to keep the series he started alive. With that said...
Here are four new artists, all with less than 1K SoundCloud followers, and all I believe are making music worthy of your ears.
Jabbar (Lousy Bar) - 599 Followers
Raw. It’s the first word that comes to mind when listening to Jabbar’s “Chicken Chicken Freestyle.” Southern is the second word - raw and southern - there’s no better way to describe this New Orleans rap artist. The beat is dirty, but it’s Jabbar’s voice that adds the extra grunge and grime that makes the song feel absolutely filthy. You can envision the Newports in his pockets, the gun riding passenger, the girl in the car, her vagina stuffed with drugs - Jabbar puts you in a setting that most can only live when playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
After a short stint in jail last year, Jabbar has consistently released new material this year. New Orleans is his birthplace, but he currently resides in Douglasville, Georgia, where he’s a member of the Lousy Human Bastard! rap group. I saw the group perform opening for Vince Staples during the Summertime ‘06 tour. But I think the first time I heard Jabbar was on “Riches,” a song that features fellow Lousy Human Snubnose Frankenstein. You can hear their starvation over the banging trap production - I didn’t know if I was being introduced to a new rapper or a future bankrobber. The two recently released a music video for the joint single.
Based on the music featured on his SoundCloud, my favorite selection has to be “Luv Don’t Live Here.” Jabbar has natural knack for bringing you into the very soil of his world - a world without a father, a detail that adds even more weight due to the sampling of Rose Royce 1978 classic. Each time she sings, “You abandoned me,” the song becomes even heavier. He still has some growing to do, but there’s a raw potential that reminds me on why I love rappers from the South who can capture their world in words.
Namebrand (Akanamebrand) - 852 Followers
I found Namebrand while searching through songs recently posted to DJBooth. The title “Summertime” made me believe that the song would be perfect to play as we slowly reach the early days of autumn. It starts off with this warm, plucking production that feels like waking up in sunny California. There’s a pleasant voice that begins singing about the summertime, but then the song makes a drastic change around the :30 second mark: “A lot of killing in the summertime, they gonna try and take some of mine, killing season.”
The production doesn’t change from lush and lovely, and Namebrand continues to sing/rap in the same warm tone, but the subject is anything but fun. He details a summer full of loaded weapons, body bags, R.I.P. t-shirts and mourning mothers. He intertwines the season most known for being fun and free, contrasting the reality that it gets hot in a variety of ways. It reminds me of Chance The Rapper’s “Paranoia” - the same subject, the same fear, but instead of dark and dreary, the production is bright and vibrant. It’s the perfect representation of reality - bullets fly, bodies are buried and hearts are broken when the weather is the most beautiful. The song is heaviest in the second verse, when Namebrand describes his cousin being a victim to gun violence. The song ends with gunshots interrupting the beat and bringing the song to an end - feels like hearing someone do a drive-by on a rainbow.
The Long Beach rapper/singer doesn’t pretend that his life is perfect. There’s no disillusion in his words. He’s a realist that doesn’t use music to escape, but to highlight his reality. The song “Struggle” articulates this perfectly. I gravitated toward his more serious subject matter, but there’s a mixture of lighthearted records that show range and diversity. “I Don’t Wanna Know,” featuring the ever-so-soulful BJ The Chicago Kid, has a breakthrough vibe - a cool, modern song that has mass appeal. I like the way Namebrand approaches records: he has a vision, a purpose for every word he raps, and that’s the trait of a serious artist who wants to be heard.
Earl St. Clair (Earlsaintclair) - 395 Followers
I didn’t know what to expect from Earl St. Clair’s “Man On Fire,” but it was one of the best surprises of 2016. The name Earl. St Clair just looks old, like it should belong to Parisian aristocrat, or painter from the Renaissance era, or a name passed down through a generation of sons in the deep South, but not the name that would belong to modern day trap rapper. So I wasn’t surprised that Earl wasn’t rapping, but his voice, a deep, husky, bluesy tone, took me right out of 2016 and dropped me off somewhere in 1976. The drums thump, the horns blow and the background singers support as Earl sings his blues. His name, his voice, his sound - nothing feels like the sound of today, but also seems distant enough from his influences. Earl isn’t trapped in time, he has conquered it.
I was surprised to discover that Earl is signed to Def Jam. He has a bio on their website, but Def Jam has made it impossible to navigate their web page. I did discover, however, that Earl has been featured on Machine Gun Kelly’s “Rolling Stone,” Dee-1’s “Real Fun” and Avicii’s “Pure Grinding.” It’s not a Drake co-sign, but these guest spots show that Earl has definitely been picking up steam in the industry. He hasn’t yet become a household name, and I wonder if he can become a star in this age, but I can’t help but gravitate to his voice. It’s strong, full of emotion, and refreshing hearing someone sing without any audio effects. After all the Auto-Tune it’s nice to hear someone who sounds human. There are only a few songs on his SoundCloud, including an acoustic remix of “Hotline Bling” that feels like he took the lyrics from Toronto’s big city down to the country cornfields of Alabama, but quality over quantity all day.
Jim Caesar: (Jimcaesar) - 505 Followers
There’s only two songs on Jim Caesar’s SoundCloud, but both have exceeded 9k plays even though he only has 505 followers. Followers and song plays shouldn’t be used to weigh the quality of a record, but the minute I pressed play on “Soul Purpose” I knew exactly why so many people had been playing his song - it’s cut from the same pop cloth that’s reminiscent of Michael Jackson. Comparing a singer to Michael Jackson is like comparing a basketball player to Michael Jordan: taboo. It creates an expectation that is impossible to meet. But when I first heard Jim’s voice - soft as a pillow, light as a cloud, gentle as Aubrey Graham, I couldn’t help but think of the King of Pop. There’s an Auto-Tune bridge that I wasn’t completely enamored by, but overall the song was like floating on a magic carpet, another feeling I still get from the late great MJ.
“5050” also displays a pop/R&B fusion that feels both new and nostalgic; drop this song off in the future or the past and it won’t sound out of place. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jim Caesar studied the greats before pursuing a career in music. The United Kingdom songbird doesn’t have much to show, or many followers to show it to, but diamonds in the rough are still diamonds that glow. Jim has the glow.
By Yoh, aka 808 Yohfia, aka @Yoh31.