A million plays on a single song on Spotify sounds like a huge deal. After all, that could mean a million people around the globe have heard an artist's sound, been exposed to their style, and converted into full-fledged supporters.
Despite our dedication to even the most obscure indie artists, a million ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s now not only possible to hit seven-figure streaming numbers without any real commercial relevance in the mainstream, but thanks to the popularity of playlists, it's highly likely.
To be clear, earning a million plays on any platform is an important and remarkable threshold. In fact, if an artist is able to cross the million play marker, it usually signifies that they’ve resonated with an audience in some capacity (unless those plays are bought or the system gets otherwise gamed).
There’s no one way to predict who is going to break into the upper echelon of commercial success next, but a proven track record is a great place to start. Each of the ten promising artists below has hit more than a million plays on at least one song on Spotify, though none have so far reached the five million mark. Thanks to some combination of great music and that indescribable “it factor,” we believe all ten are primed for a big breakthrough.
Rexx Life Raj
Rexx Life Raj has a sound that’s so modern, so fresh, and yet so timelessly groovy that you can almost feel his moment approaching. He fits neatly into the current scene as a rapper/singer with laid-back vibes, but there’s also plenty about Rexx that stands out. From a technical standpoint, the Berkeley, California native has skills that a lot of his peers in the “chill” camp just can’t match. Just listen to a song like the double-time, heavy “Shit n’ Floss” and try to picture another artist who sounds like Rexx coming in as hard. At his best, though, Rexx Life Raj is a unique songwriter with a relatable tone and the ability to seamlessly blend his vocal arrangement into the sonic landscape behind him. Peep his biggest hit to date, “Handheld GPS,” and see how long it takes you to hit that replay button.
Hopefully, this isn’t news to anyone reading, but the Bay Area has been holding it down for hip-hop for a very long time. San Francisco’s Adam Vida, who formally rapped under the name A-1 and rose to underground prominence alongside the TeamBackPack movement, is currently one of the nicest MC’s keeping that storied Bay lineage alive. Vida's 2015 album Thurlian is an artistic triumph and an underground gem, but it's his bouncy single "I'm Juiced"—which packs plenty of Bay swagger over a beat from frequent collaborator Mr. Carmack that highlights Adams contagious originality—that has started to gain him national traction.
Across the bay from Adam Vida, Oakland’s Kamaiyah has been making huge waves since her 2016 debut mixtape A Good Night in the Ghetto seemingly came out of nowhere to take Cali by storm. With a YG verse on her acclaimed debut and her name next to Drake’s on YG’s “Why You Always Hatin?," Kamaiyah has already proven she can shine alongside huge co-signs and positioned herself as a future superstar and not just another mixtape artist. With a catchy style and heaps of lyrical prowess on her more introspective selections, Kamaiyah is the complete package with an undeniable sound.
A rapping duo from Atlanta with a creative ear for catchy melodies and a great taste for unique beats? Yes, the OutKast comparisons are obvious, but Atlanta’s EarthGang brings so much to the table that people will soon be forced to recognize their talent on its own merit. With several albums already in the can, the duo, made up of Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot, has built a loyal fanbase the old-fashioned way. Currently, the former DJBooth Top Prospects are on tour with Ab-Soul and have a major distribution deal to their name for the first time. Add to that their collaborative history with frequent collaborator and fellow Spillage Village member and budding star J.I.D—who just announced his signing to Dreamville—and it’s not difficult to foresee their flight plan taking shape.
Sometimes you find a song on the internet and you're genuinely surprised isn’t already on the radio. KR’s “Complicated” has that kind of magnetism, and it’s also a good representation of the 21-year-old LA native’s potential. KR thrives on mystery, with all of his social media handles being a play on “Who is KR?” but most rappers who are hard to find through a Google search usually aren’t getting linked to TDE or dropping radio-ready R&B crossover tracks. It’ll be interesting to see if KR can turn the intrigue into a career, but for now, the quality of the music he's releasing should be enough to ensure the California crooner keeps the buzz going.
A year ago, Buddy had so much buzz and such a promising sound that chart dominance seemed right around the corner. While he has yet to enjoy commercial success, the Compton-based rapper’s moment has far from passed. As a signee on Pharrell's i am OTHER imprint, Buddy has the right tastemakers and industry figures in his corner. With fresh songwriting and heaps of swagger, he’s also got the kind of wide-ranging appeal that today’s stars are made of. Hopefully, Buddy's next project will find the five-year veteran hitting his artistic peak as a singing-rapping dual threat who can impress with a wicked 16 as easily as he can carry a catchy melody.
Pittsburgh’s Hardo has been around for a minute, but due mostly to jail time stemming from a drug conviction, his career momentum has waxed and waned. Today, though, he’s a free man and making music with more commercial appeal than any of his older work. As a close friend of Mac Miller, Hardo hasn’t ever had a hard time racking up co-signs. His two biggest songs to date on Spotify—“Today’s a Good Day” and “Who Ya Gang”—are assisted by Wiz Khalifa and 21 Savage, respectfully, showcasing his status as someone with a deep and varied Rolodex. If he can continue making good music that fits bridges the street lane and stoner crowd, something’s sure to hit. At this point, Hardo’s got the skills and the appeal for a big commercial career, and he’s very likely just a hit away from being a bona fide mainstream star.
Brent Faiyaz has the kind of voice that sounds like it was built by a mad scientist following a recipe for “hot and trendy.” Part Weeknd, Part Miguel, with Anderson .Paak’s melodic sensibility and Frank Ocean’s rich harmonies? That’s Faiyaz, along with plenty of parts that are all undeniably Brent’s own sound. At just 20-years-old, the Baltimore native has an incredibly refined take on new wave R&B, and has shined not only on his solo releases but on the tremendous work he's done with his group Sonder and on GoldLink's excellent new single, "Crew."
The West Coast has seen a resurgence in popularity over the past eight years, largely thanks to artists like Kendrick, ScHoolboy and YG, who are bringing a fresh take on a classic sound to the charts. With a raw, unfiltered viewpoint and tireless work ethic, Mozzy could be next, though it remains to be seen if he can channel his formula into a mainstream hit. While the Sacramento native relies on production and sounds that fit seamlessly into the Cali lineage, his voice cuts through the beat and gives his music a distinct flavor. Mozzy gained serious buzz following a 2015 winning streak that saw the release of his acclaimed Bladadah album, and his latest album, Fake Famous, kicked off 2017 with guest features from G-Eazy, YG, Jadakiss, Dave East and more.
A year ago, we named Cousin Stizz a DJBooth Top Prospect. Since then, nothing’s changed but the music. Stizz has honed in on the hard-to-define style that caught our attention—and Drake’s—in the first place. Boston, incredibly, still doesn’t have a nationally known hip-hop act associated with the city, but Stizz has everything it takes—delivery, cadence, charisma—to change that; his 2016 album MONDA is proof positive. As long as the music stays this good, the sky’s the limit for Stizz.