It’s been four months since Yoh last spotlighted artists under 1,000 followers, in which time Donald Trump became president, Pete Rock said more not-very-nice things about young rappers, and a Soulja Boy versus Chris Brown boxing match is about to be a real thing.
In other words, it’s about time we just shut out the rest of the world and bury our heads in the sand SoundCloud in search of something completely fresh.
Unlike the stuff DJ Z’s inbox gets flooded with, I’m not trying to put you onto the next Drake or Future or Meek Mill. I’m not even pretending to be a major label A&R by picking artists I think will blow up and become huge stars.
These are just four artists who don’t have a ton of followers right now but do have some great music to their name. Hopefully, you agree.
Sab $tory (@TheSabStory)—950 Followers
I don’t understand how “VYBE” has over 120,000 spins while Sab $tory only has 950 followers, but I’m not mad because this guy deserves spotlighting. The Arizona singer only has a small following across social media, but he clearly understands the importance of aesthetic—his Instagram page is basically a mosaic of emojis and Tumblr-ready press shots. Oh, and there’s already a short film about him.
If you were to say Sab $tory reminded you of, say, B. Smyth, you wouldn’t be wrong: “VYBE” is basically a juiced up version of Smyth’s similarly titled 2013 single “Vibe” (it’s unclear whether it’s a remix or they leased the same beat). But it has to be said, Sab did it better. Way better.
Rest assured, Sab $tory’s SoundCloud contains more than just Nike dad cap records: “Triple Beam” is a hard-hitting, Biggie-sampling heater that showcases his smooth flows, while “Dreams”—a loosie from 2015—is what big ambitions mixed with social anxiety and sleepless nights sounds like.
Aaron Alexander (@Ignant_a)—409 Followers
You know that thing where you think you’re pretty good at something and start promoting it like crazy online, only to look back in a few years and cringe at how bad that shit was? I don’t get that feeling with Aaron Alexander. For someone with fewer than 500 followers, this Kansas City kid sounds scarily polished. Just take his latest single “Storm,” which ebbs and flows like its title suggests: unleashing fierce raps and rumbling bass on your ears one minute, easing them with lush pianos and soothing vocals the next. This is a well-crafted song if nothing else.
Aside from “Storm,” last year’s rAdiAnt Redone project is Aaron Alexander’s only other offering. It’s a more soulful, jazzy listen that wears its Erykah Badu, Roy Ayers and Charlie Parker influence on its sleeve, suggesting that the only thing more interesting than Aaron’s voice is his ear. Plus, Chance The Rapper follows him on Twitter, which is never a bad thing to put on your résumé.
Linzi Jai (@LinziWhoo)—643 Followers
I had a tough time choosing between “Noah, What’s Love” and “Not Broken” to highlight Linzi Jai’s talents. It was like trying to choose between Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes for breakfast. Both of those cereals will rot your teeth, and both of these songs will touch your soul. In fact, “Noah, What’s Love” was “made after watching a video of my homie WISHLADE [proposing] to his soon to be wife Pam,” according to Linzi. “I had him send me [an] audio clip of his son Noah talking about what love means to him.”
I’m not crying, I, just, uh… got something in my eye.
Strado (@1Strado)—432 Followers
The name Strado (formerly Malik Estrada) might ring a bell if, like me, you spend 23 hours a day glued to rap blogs. In 2014, the South Carolina rapper (now living in New York) dropped the Community Service EP with Childish Major, the Atlanta producer best known for Rocko’s “U.E.O.N.O.” The following year, Strado had the rare honor of rapping alongside the late Aaliyah on Timbaland’s King Stays King mixtape ("Shakin"), which only makes his follower count an even bigger mystery.
Social media metrics and big-name collaborations aside, it’s Strado’s gravelly-voiced delivery that stands out from the pack and grabs you by the scruff of the neck. Most of his music makes him sound like if C-Murder had a conscience, but that doesn’t mean Strado doesn’t know how to “go crazy.”
By Andy James. You can follow him on Twitter.