It’s almost time for SXSW, which means it’s almost time to get to know a fresh crop of emerging artists. To make things easier for music fans, Audiomack and Leaders of the New Cool have partnered for a showcase of up-next talent in R&B and hip-hop. These 12 artists have their finger on the pulse of where hip-hop and R&B are going, with alternative twists on the classic sounds that make the genre such a withstanding cultural entity.
For those who will be in Austin for the festivities, make it a priority to come witness this crop of talent live.
What: HWE & Audiomack present Leaders of the New Cool: 10th Anniversary Showcase
When: March 14, 2019. Doors 8 pm | Show 9 pm
Where: Antone's Antone’s Nightclub (305 E. 5th Street, Austin)
*SXSW badges and wristbands receive priority entrance. General admission available based on capacity.
For those who won't be making the Texas trip, we have you covered. Here are the exciting artists who you need to know and hear, complete with standout selections of their music via Audiomack. Time to get familiar.
Wynne is a rising rapper for Portland, Oregon. She blends the political and the personal with a breakneck flow and impressive visuals that have racked up nearly a half million views on YouTube alone. There is a fearlessness to Wynne that makes her one of the most exciting young acts to follow. She is unafraid to dive into any topic and her music carries the same ferocity.
When she's not dropping lyrical bangers and setting herself up to be a verbal assassin, you can catch Wynne remixing a popular cut like “Gucci Gang,” giving it her own flair and flavor. Her staccatoed flow and breath control may be the most impressive thing about her, that is until her raps break the time signature of the track and she takes her songs into another world of her own making.
Make sure to keep up with Wynne on Audiomack.
Melat is an R&B singer hailing from Austin, Texas. In her own words, “Mélat tells a story that is both challenging and inspiring crafted from her very own life experiences. It is a pure and honest reflection of her soul. From love, lust, success, to failure Mélat sings of what it means to be a human being simply longing to ‘be.’” If this sounds at all ephemeral and exciting, that’s because you should be excited. Melat uses her voice to create a sonic world for the listener to dip into and get lost within.
In particular, her track “Weak” is a bare display of soul. Melat plays in her upper register and puts together an open and honest plea for forgiveness. In an era where fans are pining after the authentic, Melat takes vulnerability to new heights. Of course, it helps that her vocal tone is something like a cascade of silk and washes over us as we are ever endeared to Melat and her honesty.
Make sure to keep up with Melat on Audiomack.
Alex Mali hails from Brooklyn, but I didn’t have to tell you that. Spend one minute with her music, and you can hear the influence of the borough permeate each track. She has a tempered fire and bite that makes her specific brand of R&B punchy and evocative. Going to school for jazz and making music from the heart certainly helps. Her musical background gives her tracks a bounce and knowing quality, making them irresistible.
Everything Mali does comes from an organic place. As she told Viper in 2017, “I’d get depressed in school and the only outlet I had was music. I decided to figure out what I could create so I found some production, recorded over the track, reached out to the producer, and this was way before I knew anything about studios or anything like that.” The innocence and pursuit that colors this story only serve to make Alex Mali a more attractive and compelling artist.
Make sure to keep up with Alex Mali on Audiomack.
Dua Saleh is a well-traveled poet and artist who bucks the “genre-defying” qualifier to create a lane of cultural production all their own. Based in the Twin Cities, Saleh makes grumbling and questioning music that sounds of-the-earth and works to bring us closer to our base emotions. Their EP Nūr has a remarkable presence and shape, feeling like a cohesive project but also an entity entirely separate of Saleh. Their work is far from hollow—poetry for poetry’s sake—and often scratches at unnamed itches that swarm our subconscious thoughts.
“I like the grungey, distorted sound,” they said in an interview with The Current. “I feel like that was my attraction to GarageBand. And the fact that it was so cheap — it was kind of a dig at consumer culture. All these producers always want the technology, and I’m not trying to dog that, because I definitely would love more technology to play with. But also, you can do a lot with minimal resources.”
Kevin George is Connecticut’s R&B golden son. His debut single, “High Like This,” is enveloped in a warm haze and glaze of neon lights and slurred words. Plucky guitars and a breathy delivery give this song a hip-hop edge as well. When people ask where the genre-blend of hip-hop and R&B is going, where alternative R&B is going, look no further than a track akin to “High Like This,” which blends the genres and plays as a self-effacing tribute to getting fucked up in the face of love.
“High Like This” was followed by two full-length projects—Fortina and LOVELAND. Both projects negotiated heartbreak and naysayers by way of warm vocals and a tender delivery. All of this is very impressive when we consider that George is a self-taught artist. “I got a keyboard and my laptop and just working with those sticks and stones it made my process so natural. I do everything myself,” he told The Line of Best Fit in 2018. Truly, it seems to be working in his favor.
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Kemba is a rapper from the Bronx, deadass. He makes some of the most evocative politically-charged music coming out of New York, deadass. His album, Negus, was one of the best records of 2016, deadass. His new single, “Deadass,” is a wonderful ode to New York and to Kemba’s hustle. Currently on tour with Brasstracks, Kemba’s music flies in the face of all who claim hip-hop to be dead. Kemba is hip-hop to the bone.
With a co-sign from Kendrick Lamar under his belt, the music industry is Kemba’s for the taking. “Music is super personal to me. I like writing and creating a whole experience,” he told The FADER in 2017, and we can hear it in the music. There’s gravity and an air of tenderness and care that permeates every track. Press play once and you’ll realize that Kemba is on to something.
Make sure you keep up with Kemba on Audiomack.
Zacari may be best known for his Top Dawg Entertainment affiliation. His feature on Kendrick Lamar’s “LOVE.” stole our hearts, quite literally, and his solo singles have been just as affecting. He also appeared on Isaiah Rashad’s “Wat’s Wrong” and Ab-Soul’s “RAW (backwards).” With the voice of a golden pop star and the songwriting acumen of a seasoned artist, Zacari is poised to take over R&B the moment he drops a fresh full-length record.
As we wrote in 2017: “A trip through Zacari’s SoundCloud reveals solid pop sensibilities and a voice that seems to float through the air despite packing soulful emotion."
Yung Baby Tate
Yung Baby Tate is for all girls everywhere. One of Atlanta’s freshest rising stars, Tate is a marvel of an artist, playing with as many styles as possible and representing for all types of women. Her latest record, Girls, is an anthem for every woman, celebrating femininity in all its forms and without passing judgment. Tate dips her hands in R&B stylings, straight raps, and a blend of the two that catches the ear and holds our attention. With Girls, Yung Baby Tate proves herself to be boundless.
Perhaps most exciting is how self-made Yung Baby Tate is as a creative. “I make all of my beats—I'm fully creating everything that I do,” she told XXL. “I'm really, really talented. I'm not just some little popped-up, popcorn rapper. I don't consider myself a rapper—I'm a singer first, then a producer, then a songwriter and then a rapper. Because I feel like when I'm songwriting, it's super easy to write a rap. You don't have to find a melody to that. You just gotta get a cadence. I'm built for this, I'm made for this and I'm trained for this.”
Make sure to keep up with Yung Baby Tate on Audiomack.
Yes, Choker sounds like Frank Ocean, and now that that’s out of the way, we can talk about how Choker is one of the most exciting voices in alternative R&B. He experiments with layers of sound and the art of brevity in a way few in his class have the mind to do. Choker scoffs at the notion of polish and makes music that celebrates the rough edges and unfinished ideas that spill out of us at our most vulnerable.
Pressing play on either Peak or Honeybloom, you will encounter an artist that is maturing from song to song before our very eyes. That’s not to say Choker is underbaked, but rather that he fleshes out his complexities in real-time, and the great pleasure of his work is that we get to unpack Choker together. Choker is a truly electric and eclectic artist who flies in the face of boundaries and traditional R&B to create something only he could make, Frank Ocean comparisons be damned.
The Nigerian-born, Brooklyn-raised Thutmose is a fiery new act with one of the most compelling stories in hip-hop. As we wrote earlier this year, “Thutmose was nine years old when a SWAT team raided his family’s apartment in Brooklyn, pointing a gun to his father’s head as he looked on in horror.” His chaotic upbringing would suggest that Thutmose is all tapped out, but his perseverance is his cardinal trait, making his debut Man on Fire a true show of ferocity.
“It’s about introducing myself in a fiery way,” he said. “That was always the word I was using, being brought up in a fiery environment, in Brooklyn.” All of this comes across in the way his music is urgent and immediate. There is not a wasted drum loop, word, or rhythm. Everything on Man on Fire is purposeful and poignant, with Thutmose at the center of it all telling his story with a bark that would frighten and inspire any seasoned rap vet and newcomer alike.
Make sure to keep up with Thutmose on Audiomack.
Savannah Re is a Toronto R&B star-in-the-making. Her most exciting offering might be last October's "Best Is Yet To Come," an evocative track meant to invite in the listener and have them sink deep into Re's emotive vocal tone. Her writing is self-effacing and giving. It's rewarding to listen to Re pour her heart out with her lax and cooled off style.
On top of being a tight singer, Re is also a capable spitter. Looking in her back catalog, we find a track like "Count 'Em Off," which is part bar-fest, part statement on the rap game. In an interview with Noisey, Re takes a clear stance on women in the game: "I was tired of hearing how I'm/women are disposable." One minute with Savannah Re's music, and any thoughts of dispensability go out the window.
Make sure to keep up with Savannah Re on Audiomack.
Kari Faux is a Childish Gambino co-signed rapper-singer extraordinaire, originally from Little Rock, Arkansas. Her sound is multiple and reminiscent of Junglepussy in vocal tone. With her latest EP, CRY 4 HELP, Fau presents herself as a boundless artist with the ability to work in myriad soundscapes and ranges. CRY 4 HELP blends R&B sensibilities with hip-hop beyond the present fashionable trend of doing so, to create something fantastical and holistic.
In 2015, Faux told Noisey: "I care about my craft, and I want to get better. I know I’m OK now. I’ve made a lot of progression since I’ve been here, but I want people to give me the room to grow." From her first single in 2014 to CRY 4 HELP, she certainly has grown. It will be her eye for detail and penchant to improve that keeps her in the rap game for longer than a minute. She's more than a Gambino co-sign; Kari Faux is a lane.