The one aspect of SoundCloud I love unconditionally is that it gives you a glimpse into music’s smaller, more unknown worlds. And while regionality doesn’t necessarily impact sound, knowing an artist’s hometown provides context for how he or she grew up, their values and culture, and who and what inspires them. These are elements I take into account while browsing new music; a hometown provides the framework, while the actual music fills in the lines.
For this edition of #Under1K, we found a wide swath of artists from across the world for you to sift through. We do the digging so you don’t have to.
Deezie Brown (@deeziebrown) — 720 Followers
Hometown: Bastrop, Texas
From the looks of Deezie Brown’s SoundCloud and Twitter, it’s safe to assume that the Texas rapper is hiding out in his hometown, plotting on new music. At least that’s my hope: he teased a new song in mid-January, but the most recent release we saw from Brown was last year’s 12-track album Judith, which has only partially been uploaded to his account.
From the few songs that he shared from Judith, “A-V-entador to the Hills” is the most promising. Brown quickly finds his pocket in the piano-driven beat while he harshly reprimands those who have doubted him, and lays out his accolades, one after the other. About two minutes in, the beat pulls back; Brown’s given room to spit, flexing both his pen game and ability to flow. The song closes with a cinematic chord progression and with Brown’s manipulated vocals, as he riffs off the song’s title.
Brooklyn West (@brookywest) — 525 Followers
Hometown: Nassau, Bahamas
Nassau, Bahamas native Brooklyn West relocated to Georgia to work on her music, and it sounds like it worked. In 2017, she released her EP R69M, which largely features her singing, but is also where she explores other facets of her skill set.
Still, her latest song “Beautiful Morning” is one of her most successful cuts yet. Singing over a pared-down beat, a comparison to pre-TDE SZA can be easily made; like SZA, West’s voice is muted and delicate, almost sparse. But when West abruptly starts rapping, it’s a welcome switch. Her flow has the same intonation as her singing voice: light, airy, and alluring as she effortlessly rides the beat.
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LOS (@los601) — 243 Followers
Hometown: Jackson, Mississippi
Mississippi rapper LOS, 20, is still in the infancy of his career. Though his SoundCloud only boasts seven songs, the brief selection makes clear the man can spit. Though he hails from the South, LOS looks to be borrowing from the East Coast rap canon: soulful, bass-driven, full, rich beats, with an emphasis on sharp lyricism.
“Combination,” released in summer 2018, is an impactful synthesis of those aforementioned elements—LOS dives right in, sparing no one, his flow, words, and tone as boastful as ever. The song’s bio reads, “strictly raps,” and like many of his tracks, “Combination” is an exercise in lyrical prowess, in both figurative and literal language (he even samples lines from Raekwon’s verse in “C.R.E.A.M.”: “the combination made my eyes bleed”).
The artwork is reflective of his mindset too: LOS is pictured in between Jesus and Buddha, a reference he makes in the track: “I’m so high, I sit with Jesus and Buddha.” While it’s a fairly presumptuous analogy to make, sometimes you just have to go for it.
Ness Heads (@nessheads) — 700 Followers
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
The voice of Chicago artist Ness Heads has a soft malleability. Sometimes, it’s almost as if she’s singing and rapping at the same time, inhabiting space between the two. And while she hasn’t exhibited wide range as a singer, she’s not here for that; she’s here to construct a vibe.
She does just that with her latest track “Freak Show,” featuring fellow Chicagoan Jean Deaux. On the song, Ness’ voice skips along the beat, her ad libs and hook making the song something of an earworm. Deaux’s guest verse is a perfect pairing, her pithy, punctuated flow a stark contrast to Ness’ relaxed delivery.
Aux Zilla (@tom-washington-jr) — 101 Followers
Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans artist Aux Zilla has the uncanny ability to make the ordinary seem almost heavenly. He does this throughout his 2018 EP Figure Out, a layered, manipulated, luxurious, and honest vocal piece that waxes poetic on mundanity.
Though the project is only five songs, you'd be hard pressed to choose a standout selection. From start to finish, the EP exists in a dreamscape, and on each song, Aux Zilla chooses a different side of his artistry to feature and explore. On “Westside,” though, there’s something about the sentiment of moving to California that’s all-at-once gripping and identifiable. It’s an often typical dream, but through the lens of his emotional vulnerability, he somehow makes the thought new again.