Here at DJBooth we do more than just pride ourselves on being ahead of the curve, we consider finding new artists and giving them a platform an essential, fundamental part of our jobs. Sure, we all want to talk about that new Jay Z verse, but hearing an artist for the first time who makes you feel some type of way? That's the feeling that keeps us loving music, and that's why we're launching our new Top Prospects series. And yes, we won't traffic in subliminals, let's just be direct. In many ways this is a response to XXL's Freshmen list, that ambiguous designation featuring "new" artists that DJBooth, and many of our brethren, have been working with closely for years. Kendrick Lamar? Macklemore? Big KRIT? They all played the same DJBooth showcase at SXSW way back in 2011. Wiz Khalifa's first post? January of 2008. We won't pretend to be humble, we've got an impressive track record of spotting artists early that we're proud of, and Top Prospects is our way of more officially planting a proverbial flag.
Noun: an apparent probability of advancement. Anticipation; expectation; a looking forward
Verb: to search or explore
So what does being a DJBooth Prospect mean, exactly? Let's start by laying out what it doesn't mean.
It's certainly no guarantee that an artist is going to "blow up" or be the "next big thing." One, because we're really not sure what blowing up means in 2014. Is an artist who builds an intensely loyal fan base independently less "blown up" than an artist who signs to a major label, gets some radio play, but couldn't sell out a venue in their hometown?
Two, we've seen so many artists come and go that we know there are no guarantees, especially in the music business. Life happens: parents pass away, children are born, supporters at the label get new jobs and leave artists stranded. There are any multitude of reasons an artist fades from the public eye. Or an artist meets Kanye outside of a radio station and it changes their life. Ultimately, only the talented, smart and hard working go on to have long careers, but it's still nearly impossible to accurately predict who's going to end up successful (if we can even agree on a definition of success). And who would even want to? That would turn into a far less interesting exercise in deciphering the music industry; figuring out what the new trends are, who's got a well-connected manager, who's been secretly signed to a major label.
Which brings us to what being a DJBooth Prospect does mean. First, we want to focus on newer artists. It's an admittedly subjective and hazy term, there's no literal point at which someone goes from unknown to famous, especially in the age of the internet, but we're highlighting artists the average music fan, even the average underground music fan, likely doesn't know (yet). Second, and more importantly, it means they're making music that deserves your attention, regardless of genre. Will they ever land in a Sprite commercial? We don't know, and we don't particularly care. But we do know that they're bringing something unique to the table, putting out music that feels alive, that even this relatively early in their careers we could see ourselves listening to for years. They give us that hard-to-describe mix of joy and excitement that comes when you hear something dope for the first time and know you're one of the first.
We know you come to DJBooth for that same feeling, and that's really while we're launching Top Prospects. Every three months (quarterly, for all you business majors out there) we'll name four new artists that have come onto our radar, publish in-depth profiles on them, and then drop an EP featuring exclusive music from those artists. You may not love them all - anyone everyone loves probably isn't worth loving - but they do need to be on your radar too.
And so, without further ado, drum roll please.....here are our inaugural Prospects:
Over the course of the next month keep an eye out for those aforementioned in-depth profiles and exclusive music from these artists, and if you can click any of the names above to get a taste of their music right now. Let's go...
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast form and appears on RevoltTV. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]