It all started out as a bet, of sorts. Maybe more like a challenge. In 2015, when a previously unknown artist gets called the next big superstar after their first YouTube video, how "new" can you really get? Just like it's (nearly) impossible to come up with a Google search that yields only one result, is it even possible to find an artist with "Under 1,000" Twitter followers? And better yet, is it possible to find an Under 1,000 artist who's any good?
Turns out, yeah, as long as you are willing to put in the work, it is pretty fuckin' possible, so possible that this a regularthing; and by regular, I mean we haven't done it since October. Finding those needles in a haystack of "0 to 100" freestyles and bringing them to your doorstep is what I live for and why I'm excited to do this. So let's get right into it, shall we?
Kai Straw(@KaiStraw): 33 Followers
There is so much new music, so much to review, so much to tweet about that, sometimes songs can get lost in the shuffle. Because I always have new music to check out, if I'm not sure about a song, I'll let it go. If a day, a week, a month later I get a craving for that song, or it lands back in my lap by chance, it's truly worth a space in my steady rotation. Sure, "American Cotton" faded into the twilight for a little bit, but recently, for the past month and some change, I've been craving it multiple times a week; rap game Chipotle. When I first discovered it, it was that Zay beat that drew me in; I love Glass Animals and that sample is phenomenal. I swear that band is littered with dope shit to sample.
Anyway, the more I listened, the more I started to focus on Kai; that's when this song really cemented itself in my rotation. I love his unique voice and that cascading flow, and I also love me a good grind anthem, but a lot of them have an aggressive tone. This one though really motivates me; it also has a little bounce, but still gets me ready to get my focused hustle on.
"American Cotton" can be found on the Kaleidoscope EP, which I highly recommend. This dude is different. He has a very unique, dense style that I'm really fucking with. Plus, his videos are remarkable. They are so vivid and so jarring you can easily get lost in them, but really listen to what he is saying and how he is saying it. At times it's almost more spoken word than rap. Just take a look and listen to his "Suburban" videos. Part 2 is so crazy I had to include it below.
Jarred AG (@Jarredgoldmedal): 548 Followers
Chicago is bananas right now. I fundamentally can't grasp the quality, quantity and diversity coming from the Windy City. Well, here is another artist to add to your list. Meet Jarred AG. Like "American Cotton," Jarred's "Barbarians" always seems to come back to me. The difference? I have only known Kai for a few months, but "Barbarians" has been a constant for over a year. That's a long time for any song from any artist to stick around. What stands out to me the most about Jarred is his flow. I like my emcees to have some power and some bite, but I don't like when they get overly aggressive; I don't want to be yelled at. Jarred does a great job of giving me the punch I need but not over doing it. He lets his strong flow do the work instead of trying so hard to prove he's tough, all while adding a cool, laid-back flavor to the overall product. The punch is nice, but it's that subtle fluidity that does the trick. I want "Barbarians" in my smoking playlist and my workout mix; any emcee that can blend those two vibes deserves a follow. In addition to "Barbarians" be sure to check out his work on "No Look" as well as his Luxury Tax EP.
Curtis Harding (@Kirk_Underwater): 961 Followers
Phew! 961? That was close! I would have been crestfallen if Curtis had just 39 more followers because then I wouldn't have had the chance to share his smooth, soulful stylings with y'all. I'm a hip-hop head till the casket drops, but there is truly nothing like the feeling from a soulful tune. It hits me in a completely different part of my soul in a completely different way.
"Keep On Shining" was my introduction to Curtis and it delivers that soul and then some. Every time I listen to this effort (which has been a lot lately) I have a big fat smile on my face. Even the video has charm! When I dove into the rest of Harding's debut album, Soul Power, I was expecting nothing but carefree, soul-splashed cuts, which means I wasn't ready for what he had in store for me. Harding has a much more gritty, darker side to him that, at times, sound more like blues than soul or R&B. He has the soul, found on songs like the melancholy "I Need A Friend," but he also has the power, the grit, and the growl of a blues singer (see "Cruel World"). So call it blues, call it soul, call it whatever you want, just please, go buy this album, at the very least stream it here. It's one of the best projects of the new year. Curtis Harding is an incredible artist and quite frankly I'm baffled he is under 1K, but I guess that's why I do this...
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]