As music writers, we’re supposed to have our fingers on the pulse of the industry. While this is often a tall order, what it results in is our ability to pinpoint who is up next and root for them with all our hearts. As 2019 comes to a close, these are the artists we believe will make big waves in 2020. Enjoy, and make sure to press play.
Florida singer-songwriter Savannah Cristina has been releasing music for a minute. In 2019, she captured our hearts with “Self-Care,” a song she skipped work to write and recorded at the beach, which now has over 2 million views on YouTube. The record even caught the attention of Joe Budden, who was ready to purchase the song before it even hit streaming. Cristina’s stock is rising, and she has a solid back catalog to support any label interested in her. — Ronnia Cherry
With a collaborative relationship with TDE and two acclaimed, full-length projects under his belt already, Baby Keem’s star will only keep rising. His artistic tool belt contains anarchic energy, an ear for melody, an impressive economy of language, and all the other prerequisites a rapper needs to stand out from the crowded pack in the modern era. His greatest skill, however, is his delivery. Boasting an all-time rap voice that transcends its production, Keem’s songs are always memorable, even if they’re not necessarily the most focused. — Hershal Pandya
There is a certain incomparable feeling when you hear an incredible talent for the first time. Often it is some form of chills; with Baby Keem, that feeling is more like a wave of sledgehammers. Keem’s 2019 project, DIE FOR MY BITCH, is an avalanche of menacing, lyrically dexterous shit-talk, steal-your-bitch talk, and young kid about to be very rich talk. Keem possesses rare energy that’s palpable whether he’s flirting, inciting a mosh pit, or indulging in punk-rock screams over an ex. And he has room to grow as a storyteller, which is both thrilling and terrifying. — Zachary Miller
I hope everyone’s stock rises in 2020, but an artist I’ve had my eye on is Baby Keem. His 2019 album, Die For My Bitch, was one of my favorites of this year. He’s also worked on some legendary projects such as The Black Panther and Jay Rock’s Redemption album. With a track record of creating exceptional music, his talent is sure to take him to the top within the next few years. — Simi Muhumuza
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Rucci’s time has come. This past summer, the LA rapper dropped his most complete album to date in Tako’s Son, showcasing both high-energy bangers and pensive introspection. In the time since, he’s embarked on his first headlining tour, hitting major festivals like Day N Vegas and A3C as he brings his supreme stage presence across the country. The music has always been there, and now that he finally sees the fruits of his much-deserved push, there are even brighter moments on the horizon. — Kenan Draughorne
There’s an argument to be made that Leikeli47, whose music has been featured in an episode of HBO’s Insecure and on the soundtrack to coming-of-age comedy Booksmart, and whose records (see: “Girl Blunt”) have generated strong numbers on YouTube, has already broken out. In my opinion, she’s just getting started. Leikeli47 is a rap unicorn, a ferocious, ridiculously clever lyricist with an ability to craft just about any brand of rap song. The best part? She does it without ever sounding awkward or unsure. — Matt Wilhite
Yung Baby Tate
I already knew Yung Baby Tate was a star when I saw the cover of her 2019 debut GIRLS this past February. She radiates confidence as the head of a squad of Black women standing on bleachers, ready to storm the fronts of the music industry. With a feature on Dreamville’s Revenge of The Dreamers III and viral moments (a remix of Nicki Minaj’s “Megatron” and a guest spot on Ashnikko’s TikTok-certified smash “STUPID”) on her 2019 résumé, Yung Baby Tate is on the cusp of stardom with enough clout to knock down doors whenever she’s ready. — Dylan "CineMasai" Green
All recording artists aren’t stars. Talent plays a factor, but there’s something else—a quality that separates the Michael Jacksons from the Memphis Bleeks. Yung Baby Tate has that unidentifiable yet distinctive star power. You feel it when you meet her, you hear it when you listen, and you see it while she’s performing on stage. This year alone, following the release of her self-written, self-produced, women-empowering debut album GIRLS, Tate toured with Leikeli47; featured on Dreamville’s Revenge of The Dreamers compilation; received acknowledgment from Nicki Minaj during the MEGATRON Challenge; and collaborated with Red Bull as part of their first-ever Atlanta Music festival. Stardom is a series of chain-reactions, and Yung Baby Tate, in 2019, has pushed over the first domino. Watch as they fall. — Yoh
I will be rooting for Jack Harlow until my lungs collapse. From 18 to Gazebo, to Loose and now Confetti, Jack has had a growth spurt from project to project. Where Loose was missing introspection, Confetti delivered Jack’s most heartfelt song in “RIVER ROAD.” Where Gazebo and 18 were missing the thrill of youth, Confetti is a substantial dance party with Jack as the DJ. I’ve watched Jack go from performing for 100 kids in Philly for the first time, to selling out the city and having to add extra tickets. Every release gets better; every music video is an improvement in quality and reception. A star, I tell you, a star is in our midst. — Donna-Claire Chesman