Indeed, SoundCloud used to be a place where independent and underground artists could thrive. Unfortunately, the service seems to be going downhill, from the uninspiring foray into paid subscriptions with SoundCloud Go to continuing outcries over copyright infringement disputes regarding DJ mixes and remixes to general clogged feeds from an overabundance of reposts.
That said, it's still possible to discover hidden gems, those independent artists who haven't quite hit their stride when it comes to building a fan base but who still elicit a spark of promise. In other words, artists making great music who have yet to surpass the 1,000-follower mark.
Today, we continue our "Under 1,000 Followers" series with yet another batch of must-hear artists who surprised us, and who is worth a listen for that reason alone.
MaZhe (@mazhethegod) — 901 Followers
MaZhe is a rapper, reminiscent of hip-hop’s golden age. Just listen to recently released lyrical exhibitions like "MAD" and "Statement" for clear examples of his advanced flow and wordplay capabilities at work. MaZhe packs the ability to go deeper than impressive bars over a beat, though, keeping his technical prowess intact on "Gettin Real," a laid-back jam that finds him ruminating on the future. Most impressive is his standout track "Phone Calls," where, over a smooth and jazzy beat, MaZhe delves deep into a past love, which unfortunately ended in heartbreak. His flow is just as menacing as the production, and his lyrics can run circles around the listener’s ear.
MaZhe has a way to go, but he's shown improvement since his earlier material and his recent output proves the San Diego spitter has tremendous promise.
LyriQ The Misfit (@lyriqthemisfit) — 241 Followers
By now, most hip-hop fans are aware of the artistic and cultural renaissance taking place in Chicago. But even as musicians like Saba, Noname and Jamila Woods are blossoming, the next wave of artists are beginning to take shape.
I first discovered Chicago rapper LyriQ The Misfit at Young Chicago Authors' open mic Wordplay, the same open mic where the aforementioned artists honed their talents. Even though LyriQ is young, his delivery and cadence—whether he performs a cappella or with a track—are really what make him stand out. He has a tendency to rap in a staccato rhythm, drawing out the last line of his verses in a singing, warbling voice. He best showcases these traits in his song “Wake Up Call” from his debut album Indigo Soul, a 10-track project dedicated to his city.
SunBLVD (@sunblvd) — 465 Followers
Though Chicago is definitely not lacking in musicians, there does, for some reason, seem to be a scarcity of women who rap. Cue Chicago emcee SunBLVD. While she only has one EP to her name—entitled One Way Conversations—it’s a pretty stellar introduction of her skills as both a rapper and singer.
“Intro 2 Sunny” is an exceptional track; producers Zikomo and Mvjor sample Ms. Lauryn Hill’s song “Doo Wop (That Thing),” and over it, Sun waxes poetic on her youth. She shows us that she’s already been through a lot in her young life, and that music has become her cathartic release. The track is as sunny as its name suggests.
Lily Rayne (@raynenotrain) — 669 Followers
I first discovered Lily Rayne last year, through her energetic rap song “On!” Since then, she’s released only a few more songs, including “Problem?” where we see Rayne trade rapping for singing.
“Problem?”—featuring Jaguar XX—employs airy keys and a fluttering synth, as Rayne flexes her stance and prowess. It’s a braggadocious, laid-back anthem from the Providence, Rhode Island musician who’s slowly trying to sculpt her sound.
Other recent releases like "Rhode Girl" point to that sound being well-suited for the atmospheric, late-night hours.