Though it’s been four weeks since Andy wrote the last installment in our “Under 1,000 Followers” series, it has been nothing short of an exciting month. We saw not one, but two new albums from Future, the implosion of the Beyhive following Beyoncé's announcement that she is pregnant with twins, and Chance The Rapper make history by winning three GRAMMYs.
That being said, Chance’s win is another reminder of the importance of supporting independent artists in music’s current landscape—and of small beginnings. Not every artist is an overnight success; the grind takes practice, patience and focus.
Through an enduring amount of digging, though, we've found four promising artists who—despite small catalogs and less than 1,000 SoundCloud followers each—are worth a listen.
Yonkwi (@Yonkwi) - 408 Followers
Even with a small catalog, you can tell when an artist has talent. Cue Yonkwi: Born in Tokyo and of Cameroonian origins, the now-New York-based rapper, producer and singer certainly has a dynamic background from which he finds inspiration.
One of the most evident sources if his Central African provenance; French, one of Cameroon’s official languages, appears on one of his older songs “Besame.” These moments heighten his music—and you can see this part of his artistry continually develop, particularly on his most recent cuts, year-old “Your Room” and five-month-old “Ripe Plantain.”
The upbeat “Ripe Plantain” is his most standout effort to date, as Yonkwi’s light, accented vocals offsetting the whirring bass, melding elements of Afrobeat with alt-R&B and rap almost perfectly.
LEGIT (@chicagolives) - 878 Followers
Chicago rapper LEGIT first appeared on my radar in 2014, when he was featured on Chicago rapper Saba’s song “Comfort Food,” from his tape ComfortZone. It’s a song knee-deep in Saba’s brand of neo soul, and though that isn’t necessarily LEGIT's preferred lane, he does a phenomenal job of recasting his sound for that role.
Over the past year, he’s guested on “World In My Hands” from Saba’s project Bucket List and dropped four loosies, the latest of which LEGIT released yesterday (February 28). Titled “...It's not a Lexus,” the song features a pared-down, jazzy, boom bap beat, which really allows his lyrics to shine, shouting out mild sauce—a Chicago chicken staple—the South Side, and the Route 394 Illinois freeway.
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But pinpointing LEGIT's aesthetic is a bit difficult; while he’s been releasing music for several years, it still seems like, with every new offering, he’s exploring another facet of his sound. By comparison, his previously released “a+favor+returned” is wildly different, choosing instead a study of his vocal effects and abilities: Driven by a piano, his voice pitched low, the song has a sensual quality. Still, as a listener and fan, there’s a particular joy in watching an artist blossom and find his aesthetic, which is exactly the case with LEGIT.
D.Graves (@its_dgraves) - 871 Followers
With 39 tracks in total on his SoundCloud, Chicago rapper D.Graves has been churning out music at a swift pace over the last two years. One of his most exceptional records, though, is “Black Clouds,” a bass and piano-propelled cut, centered on the idea of remaining hopeful.
Since “Black Clouds,” he’s released two more singles, “Mumble Me a Song”—a meta track, where he waxes poetic on sacrificing for this rap shit—and “Purest Souls,” where his flow is rushed and his tone dripping in urgency as he rebuffs fear, and focuses on the third eye.
D.Graves isn’t as hyper-focused on Chicago as LEGIT, choosing instead to employ a more relatable throughline in his music, on themes that everyone can identify with.
CE (@artistknownasCE) - 689 Followers
There is something subdued and haunting about CE’s sound. It can be immediately heard on his earliest SoundCloud record “Mudra," where he serenades the mudras, or the symbolic Hindu and Buddhist hand gestures often practiced in traditional yoga.
The San Francisco to Brooklyn transplant intuits that hushed aesthetic on his track “Fuggit”—the first time we hear him really flex his rapping skills—and on the gritty rap record “Goddamn.” But on his latest offering “Soulstiss,” he frames that spirit in a different way, this time his voice smooth and angelic.
Whether CE is singing or rapping, he infuses his music with an energy that is somehow both ghostly and calming. It’s something already noticeable, even with just four tracks to his name.