Sometimes you're early on a rapper, and you feel like a real boss when everyone else catches on. But, sometimes, you're simply late on rising talent. No shame in that, of course, but it does happen.
To give some shine to the artists who somehow flew under our radars, we asked Managing Editor Donna-Claire Chesman and Senior Writer Yoh to discuss the rappers they simply "missed," but now cannot get enough of.
Their conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
yoh [4:08 PM]
Happy Thursday afternoon, Donna! We are chatting later than usual this week. My apologies, I had to catch a flight to Miami. It's very warm here. How are things on your side of the world?
donnacwrites [4:13 PM]
Happy Thursday, Yohsipher. I hope Rolling Loud treats you well tomorrow. Meanwhile, in Philly, it's a little gloomy, a little sunny. The usual May weather. It's also my mother's birthday, so a nice day.
Today, I wanted to talk to you about being late on artists or missing them completely. Working in music, we try to stay on top of everything, but it is damn near impossible and sometimes artists just slip through the cracks. For instance, the last artist I missed was Roddy Ricch. His big single, "Die Young," just never hit my radar and it wasn't until I was doing a morning listen of The Rap Writers Show podcast that I got my introduction to the Compton crooner. I have to admit, I was blown away. The blend of polish and street makes him one of the most compelling trap music acts.
Who's the last artist that you missed and came back to later on?
yoh [4:27 PM]
Happy Birthday to Momma! I hope she knows I wrote that in my best Migo impression. Wonderful topic. Kudos to you for finding Roddy, he's a trap music gem. I was also a bit late on him, I got acquainted last year sometime. I'm almost certain it was our former managing editor, Brendan Varan, who lead me to the greatness of Feed Tha Streets II.
Admittedly, I was late on the late Nipsey Hussle. I remember being introduced to Nipsey after the Drake-featured "Killers" in 2009, and his 9th Wonder-produced "Face The World" really blew me away, but the time to dig through his discography really didn't present itself until his passing. I was driven to revisit some of the older, acclaimed mixtapes like TMC and the Mailbox Money. Hearing them now, I'm so impressed. It's music to write business plans to. The motivation Nipsey gives me now, I wish I had all those years ago.
Now, I know you listen to everything. On the chance you do miss an artist, like with Roddy Ricch, does it make you want to search for other artists you may have missed? I know I feel encouraged to open my ears to everything.
donnacwrites [4:32 PM]
I always find myself searching for something. That's the fan in me: always chasing the high of that incredible first listen, that moment of pure discovery. Since I abstain from playlists, I have to rely on my friends and the related artists tab, and the timeline, to get me my new music fix. But maybe I should expand my horizons more and use more podcasts and other such media to tap into what's really going on. Of course, I read as much as possible and catch up on all the cover artists, but who else is really bubbling?
I found Roddy through a podcast conversation, but typically I go to the related artist page on Spotify and just click through the fifth name a handful of times until I'm down a rabbit hole. That's how I wised up to UnoTheActivist, who I got to by clicking my way through starting all the way at Drakeo The Ruler.
yoh [4:43 PM]
The search has changed so much! It's still one of my favorite thrills, the feeling of discovery, yet, I think about the saturation of music often and how there's more music to hear than hours in a day. The rabbit hole doesn't end.
I love your fifth name click method. Eventually, that related artist tab will lead to someone new without completely leaving the musical space that you like. I don't listen to podcasts often, but I know a few friends who discovery artists that way. Instagram is often cited when people tell me how they find new music. Personally, I'm still a word-of-mouth listener. I found out about Richmond's Michael Millions because a friend recommended his music while I was in having a family visit to Virginia. Another favorite of mine is Pink Siifu and I only found him due to our friend and fellow DJBooth scribe Dylan Green being such a loud and passionate advocate. I love having friends who share what they're listening to.
Do you remember the last artist who reached your ear due to a friend's suggestion?
donnacwrites [4:48 PM]
It might just be Siifu, thanks to Dylan's suggestion. Dylan also put me on to Megan Thee Stallion, but at this point, if you're missing Megan, that's willful ignorance. You put me on to Wiley From Atlanta, and my dearest Clarissa Brooks has no idea, but it was her suggestion that brought me to my beloved Jack Harlow. He's an artist I almost missed, but thankfully, she either mentioned him to me or tweeted out "Dark Knight" and it was a wrap from there. I often wonder what artists we would miss if it weren't for our circles.
Who's the last artist you came close to missing, and how would that have impacted your tastes? For me, missing Jack would have been such a hit. I had one of, if not his first, long-form profile. I was there at his first Philly headlining show. He's my favorite upcoming rapper. I could not imagine having that void, not having someone to root for.
yoh [5:06 PM]
Wow! I didn't know Clarissa lead you to Jack. Your love for his music is so large I could've sworn you came into the world a Jack Harlow fan. Man, I would be late on so many artists if it wasn't for friends and peers. That's why it's important to share music; it's an unselfish act that may lead someone to their most beloved artist.
Such a good question, though. I almost missed Young Thug. He was, for the lack of a better word, unusual. The noises he would make and the ways his words would morph into flows was like being hit by a screeching bulldozer. I loved the Lil Wayne influence, it was in the DNA of his style, but struggled to get past the fact Thug wasn't rapping like a martian, he was a martian rapping like a man, sometimes. One day, I took a friend to work and played the radio for early morning nostalgia. It happened to be the day they premiered T.I.'s latest single "About The Money," which, of course, features Young Thug.
Now, we all know, that song belongs to Thugger. He is this mindblowing, shape-shifting ball of energy. "About The Money" was obviously a radio single, but it didn't feel commercial. Thug wasn't an interchangeable feature; you couldn't call The Dream or any hitmaker and ask him to replicate that magic. I went back and really dug into the Rich Gang mixtape and 1017 Thug. After getting past my own taste and initial bias, I learned to appreciate just how creative and daring his style is.
donnacwrites [5:07 PM]
That's such an important note for us to close on: learning to listen past our initial tastes and bias. There is so much music bubbling up right under our noses, and a rigid music diet just won't cut it if you're looking for the high of finding something new.