It almost feels like an oxymoron to say there’s a new wave of talent bringing Los Angeles rap back to prominence, but right now, that’s exactly what’s happening on the West Coast. In a city with one of the most storied legacies in all of hip-hop, there’s a palpable sense of excitement because of what’s on the horizon as a fresh crop of talented artists looks to make their mark on the industry.
To be fair, the new wave isn’t exactly new. In fact, locally, it's been rising for years, acting as a microcosm of the national hip-hop scene with artists whose stranglehold on the city is no less firm than Travis Scott’s grip on the rest of America. There have been brief moments of convergence with mainstream recognition, but for the most part, a true breakthrough has eluded the grasp of those who have carried the torch, hindered by legal troubles that have suffocated the progress of superstars in the making such as Drakeo the Ruler, Frosty Da Snowman, and 03 Greedo.
As Blueface’s “Thotiana” continues to rocket up the Billboard Hot 100, however, that long-awaited moment might finally be upon us. In the past several months, the Famous Cryp has stormed into the larger conversation with his head-turning punch lines and freeform flows, but the blueprint for his success was laid by many who came before him, creating the prototype for the sound that’s come to define the surging movement. Now, as the bust down dance craze continues to spread across the country, eyes are rapidly returning to LA, where there are already droves of readymade-stars awaiting the look that will propel them to new heights as well.
Every month, DJBooth will spotlight five rising artists from Los Angeles, breaking down their individual style and describing their persona. Many of these artists are linked by the overarching sound that connects the region as a whole, but there’s diversity in their flows, moods, and delivery that’s worth highlighting. LA is back on the map.
Welcome to the New Wave.
AzChike raps with a venomous wrath, a cutting delivery that seeps through speakers with devastating effect, making his words hit even harder than the teeth-rattling percussion underneath them. Some of his biggest hits to date are as empty as they are thunderous, like “Licked Up,” with a skeletal instrumental that supplies little more than isolated claps and resonating kicks. Even on a song like “Myself,” where there’s more to fill the background, AzChike's looming vocals still hold center stage as he raps “I ain’t feeling like myself” over a swirling inferno of a beat.
In 2018, AzChike released his most complete body of work to date, My World, a well-received compact project that doesn't stray from the apocalyptic energy first introduced on its intro. He also made multiple appearances on Rucci and 1Take Jay’s joint 2018 mixtape, The Winning Team, with “Tax Season” becoming a runaway hit thanks in large part to Chike’s show-stealing introduction. Still, it was 2017’s “Burn Rubber Again” that has garnered the most attention, filled with resounding proclamations that crash into focus over a sample of Too Short’s 2003 hit “Burn Rubber.”
In a way, you could say AzChike is LA’s answer to an early 21 Savage, matching his snarling, unforgiving energy with a sound that’s steeped in an infectious West Coast bounce rather than Southern trap drums. He’s one of the most exciting prospects in Los Angeles, and as much momentum as he’s accumulated to date, there’s no reason why 2019 shouldn’t be his to own.
“Burn Rubber Again”
Listen to just one song by 1Take Jay—seriously, pick a song, any song—and it’s unlikely you’ll forget him anytime soon. Jay's unmistakable “Wait, hol up” ad-libs have been ringing out at parties throughout LA for the past year, while his Wait, Hol Up album has helped to solidify him as one of the city’s next titans. Once the racing piano keys enter the scene on intro track “Arco,” the energy never dies down, making for a roaring listen-through that’s built for the function.
In late 2018, Jay joined forces with Rucci for The Winning Team, a coronation of a mixtape that saw both artists rightfully reveling in their banner year, while his profile was boosted by a steady stream of singles, many of which have racked up well over a million streams. On “Wallflower (This Beat Hit),” a cavalry of percussion pounds into your skull, while Jay dances over the beat with swaggering flair. Elsewhere on “Hello,” he and producer Low the Great flip the standard iPhone ringtone into an ex-hating anthem.
Jay is not so much rapping to you as he is roasting you, his voice climbing up and down the register to fully accentuate the jab of the moment. Pair his amusing delivery with a cartoonish smile the size of the Hollywood sign, and you have one of the biggest personalities in the city who’s only a few hits away from being the next LA artist to shoot off into the national spotlight.
“This Beat Hit”
“Can’t Tell Me Shit”
Unlike most of the talent on this list, KB Devaughn’s catalogue is more inward-focused, delving into his personal journey toward prosperity and the struggles that arise along the way. His deep, resonating vocals add a weighted sense of gravitas to his lyrics, burying each word into your eardrums to make you feel like you’re a part of his story.
On 2018's 4 Me, Not U, listeners were provided a deeper look into his narrative, featuring slurred production and mellow beats that relax the listener into agreeance. Highlights include “105 West, 110 North,” which is centered around KB’s inner thoughts while crawling down LA’s congested freeways, and “For You,” on which he serves up a flawed yet honest devotion to his number one lady, admitting his shortcomings while praying they can still make it work.
In 2016, Devaughn made a splash on Boogie’s “Fall Before the Climb,” and now three years later, he’s about to hit the road with his fellow LA native to support the Shady Records rapper's newly-released Everythings For Sale. A full-circle moment.
"105 West, 110 North"
Any time Kalan.Frfr pops up on a track, he elevates the song to a higher level. From shining on the hook of bouncing cuts like G Perico’s “Play Wit It” or contrasting Chris O’Bannon’s icy melodies on “No Rush,” Kalan's knack for displaying seamless chemistry with his collaborators is undeniable. However, it was his own TwoFR project that displayed his peak prowess, a refreshing drop in the middle of summer 2018 that wasted none of its 27-minute runtime.
Since the project's release, Kalan has been expanding his range on tracks like “Love Song,” crooning soulful notes next to Damar Jackson. To kick off 2019, however, he turned heads with an aggressive freestyle in “Hot N Ready,” spitting barbed verses (“Arjay looking at me, like I thought you were gonna sing, n*gga”) that even had the track's producer doing a double-take.
Kalan is a natural hitmaker, with an uncanny ability to craft brilliant hooks that stick in your head and make you want to move. His versatility means you’ll never know what’s coming next, but his talent ensures that you’ll love whatever that may be. It’s only a matter of time before this promising artist becomes a household name.
“Right Wit It”
If Kee Riche$ wasn’t busy promoting his latest release in 2018, he was already hyping up the next one. Of all his 2018 drops, though, Raised Off Rosecrans was his most impactful, showcasing his versatility and shedding light onto what motivates his ferocious work ethic. On “Northwood & Tajauta,” Kee treats the booth like a confessional, airing out personal demons and pledging his loyalty with battle-tested resolve. Throughout the tape, he wins with earnesty, positioning himself as a passionate storyteller unafraid to show you his heart.
Kee's impact extends beyond music, too, with a focus on making a difference in his city through philanthropy. In 2018, he held Thanksgiving and Christmas drives to uplift those in the community, and earlier this year, he visited his local high school to teach students the art of professionalism. Do you know how to tie a tie?
“Get Rich to Give Back” is the motto for Kee, and the hunger that pushes his every move is undeniable. With an impressive discography that continues to improve with each new release, there’s plenty of reasons why sooner rather than later, he should be climbing even higher.
“Faith” ft. Rucci