Five Artists to Watch in 2017

A new year means another year of new music and breakout artists. Last year was a monumental year for music, bringing both major album releases and newcomers to the forefront. That being said, here are five artists that are sure to impress this year.

Smino

The St. Louis, Missouri native has already gained a following with the release of two EPs and as an opening act on Mick Jenkins’ recent tour. Now Smino is prepared to enter the spotlight with the release of his debut album blkswn early this year. Though a release date hasn’t been announced yet, Smino has been teasing its release with snippets of new songs on his snapchat as well as a new single, taking the same name as the album. Expect the album to be packed full of bars and smooth production, both staples of Smino’s craft. Listen to “blkswn.”

Ravyn Lanae

Ravyn Lanae has slowly made her mark through features with notable rappers, including Mick Jenkins, Noname, and Saba. Her debut EP, Moon Shoes, established her as a strong solo act, making effective use of her angelic voice and versatility to create songs that can be both groovy or moody. Her busy year has already begun, opening for Noname on tour (in Seattle February 15) and hard at work on her debut album, which is set to drop sometime this year. Be on the lookout for Lanae to drop new music soon and possibly perform in a city near you. Go hit up Moon Shoes.

Aminé

Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Aminé has already made a name for himself with the smash hit “Caroline”. His performance last year on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon further elevated him status when he added an additional verse to the song, addressing the recent presidential election and his disapproval of its unfortunate results. His unique style and upbeat flow are a joy to listen and dance to, even though his library of work is relatively small (he has two singles on Spotify and one album on Soundcloud). Although he has yet to announce an album release this year, more new music is expected to come from the young star, so make sure to stay alert. Watch Aminé’s performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Kaiydo

Florida has recently become one of the hottest spots for new artists, introducing the likes of Denzel Curry, Kodak Black, Twelve’len, and Marcellus Juvann. Kaiydo is another one to add to the group. His typically bouncy songs have caught fire in the hip-hop community. My personal favorite, “Arcade”, has an incredibly bangin’ beat paired with a catchy hook. Kaiydo’s library only includes a few singles, but he told the music blog Pigeons and Planes that his debut mixtape Kartoons is on the way. Hopefully his mixtape includes the same catchy songs that he has released so far. Be sure to listen to “Arcade.”

Khalid

Khalid uniquely fuses electronic and R&B to create a genre all his own. His breakout single “Location” has already amassed over 30 million plays on Spotify, and his performance at ComplexCon has helped him gain national attention. He recently kicked off a tour to promote his debut album, releasing March 3. Khalid manages to create diverse music, as is evident on the song “Coaster”, a piano-driven ballad, and “Hopeless”, a song that sounds like an ode to 80s electronic music. Make sure to give Khalid’s album a listen when it releases, as it is sure to blow up in the weeks following its release. Definitely check out “Location.”

-Archie O’Dell

Album Review: West-Chicago Rapper Saba Unleashes New Bucket List Project

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The Austin, Illinois native brings hope and energy to his neglected neighborhood with poetic lyrics and organic production dripping with neo-soul

2016 has been a year filled with soulful projects stemming from young Chicago artists, including; Noname’s ‘Telefone’, Mick Jenkins’ ‘The Healing Component’, and of course Chance the Rapper’s explosive ‘Coloring Book’. Saba, an independent poet-turned-rapper, has consistently collaborated with each of these artists, and on his new ‘Bucket List Project’ (Released October 27) he establishes his role in Chicago’s progressive music scene. This project is the follow-up to the 22-year-old’s 2014 mixtape, ‘Comfort Zone,’  which highlighted his creative storytelling and impassioned beat selection. 

A bucket list typically consists of goals and aspirations one dreams of achieving in their lifetime. On his new project, Saba pushes the importance of utilizing ambition through lyrical anecdotes and scattered voicemails regarding the bucket lists of various friends and fellow musicians. Luscious production provided by frequent collaborators Phoelix, Cam O’bi and Monte Booker serves as a perfect backdrop for the album’s poetic reflection on West-Chicago’s repressed neighborhoods. Tracks range from warm and intimate to blunt and intense, but remain focused on inspiring optimism in “the part of the city that they don’t be talking about” to quote the fiery track, ‘Westside Bound 3.” Saba addresses the influences of childhood experiences and relationships in songs like ‘Church / Liquor Store’ and ‘Stoney’ while demonstrating his determination to chase his dream. By speaking on the obstacles obstructing his hometown’s community, Saba finds beauty within the struggle and poetically reinforces the prospect of a brighter future on tracks like ‘Most’ and ‘California.’ All in all, the vibrantly vivid ‘Bucket List Project’ encapsulates the importance of fulfilling goals and living life to the fullest while reflecting on the difficulties of developing in a harsh environment. I highly encourage curious readers to give this innovative project a listen, you won’t be disappointed! 

Listen to Saba’s ‘Bucket List Project’ here

Favorite Tracks: Photosynthesis (ft. Jean Deaux) // Church/Liquor Store (ft. Noname) // Bucket List (ft. Matthew Santos)

Robert B

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