5 Emerging Musicians You Need to Know

... and the stars who remind us of these emerging ones

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Mr Eazi / Joseph Okpako/Getty Images

Anyone can get attention, but only the best can become stars. During a time when anyone with a laptop and a working internet connection can release music, it’s harder to stand out among the crowd. But here are five incredible artists in the right place in their career with the right music to become stars. We looked at the commercial appeal of each artist based on their talent and the career trajectory of similar artists.  

1. J.I.D

When J. Cole deemed 28-year-old East Atlanta flame spitter J.I.D “the closest thing to me” after borrowing the young MC’s hypersonic flow for his song “Off Deez,” he wasn’t being facetious. J.I.D is a brilliant lyricist with an intricately abstract flow that can fit any beat and can give any lyric the impact of a wrecking ball breaking through your concentration to demand your attention. How many artists would put a Brown v. Board of Education punchline in a rap song charting on the radio (“Down Bad”) and make Nickelodeon cartoon references sound haunting (“EdEddnEddy”)? Not many. Well, there is one: Kendrick Lamar, and he’s become such a big star via a style he and J.I.D share that he won a Pulitzer Prize for a rap album.

Lamar and J.I.D aren’t related by blood but by rhyme. Just listen to the lyrical acrobatics on songs like Lamar’s “Rigamortis” and J.I.D’s “151 Rum,” where each rapper packs in a feature-length movie worth of visuals in less than three minutes with fast-paced flows. Before Lamar stamped himself as the next rap king with his classic debut album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City in 2012, he was a show-stealing highlight on Drake’s 2011 multiplatinum album Take Care. Lamar’s solo mixtapes Section.80 and Overly Dedicated made the Compton MC an internet phenom similar to J.I.D’s DiCaprio 2 and The Never Storymixtapes. Only time will tell if J.I.D’s being the most featured artist on Dreamville’s chart-topping compilation album Revenge of the Dreamers 3 can have the same star-making effect as Lamar’s appearance on Take Care.

2. Dreamers

It takes a certain type of skill to inspire people to dance through tears, but three-man alternative rock group Dreamers has it in spades. Lead singer Nick Wold’s voice perpetually exists between a cry and a yell, perfect for making self-deprecating lyrics like “It’s alright, I know you’ll love me half of the time” sound both intimate and intense. No wonder the song is featured in the beachfront melodrama that is MTV’s revival of The Hills. Their entire Listen Out Loud album is the sort of festival of sounds that puts this trio one hit away from the big stages.

Successful alternative-rock band Cage the Elephant and its penchant for sorrowful anthemic music is the first band that comes to mind when Dreamers comes on. Similar to Wold, Cage’s lead singer, Matt Shultz, and his wailing vocals pierce your heart on songs like “Too Late to Say Goodbye” with the precision of someone who’s had their heart broken enough to know exactly what notes and points to hit to elicit the same feeling. Cage has a number of gold and platinum plaques to its name, but “Social Cues” is only four spots ahead of Dreamers’ “Die Happy” on Billboard’s Top Alternative Songs chart. It might not be long before Dreamers becomes the new star of the alternative-rock scene. 

3. Mr Eazi

Here’s a challenge: Keep your body still while listening to Afrobeats dynamo Mr Eazi. Whether it’s a tropical-sounding ode to a love he misses (“Miss You Bad”) or quenching his fire with holy water (“Pour Me Water”), the Nigerian’s music moves into your ear on a soundbed of danceable grooves. Eazi’s music massages the senses while igniting the dance floor, just like Afrobeats megastar Wizkid. 

Wizkid’s inclusion on Drake’s chart-topping song of the summer in 2016 (“One Dance”) helped broaden his already internationally renowned profile. Mr Eazi has yet to be part of a song or album that’s sold enough to receive a gold or platinum certification from the RIAA. But after being featured on the Beyoncé executive produced soundtrack The Lion King: The Gift a month after shouting out “the whole of Africa” at Coachella, his star is bound to shine. 

4. Mahalia

Mahalia’s star power rests in the almost whispered sincerity of her voice. The softness is inviting and her lyrics are honest.  On “No Reply,” the 21-year-old singer tells an ex-lover trying to re-enter her life that she “won’t let you drown me” firmly enough for you to believe. She makes a dance floor out of the pages of her diary as the latest artist to mine the nostalgic stylistics of ’90s R&B with a modern interpretation.  

Ella Mai—with her pure R&B chart-topper “Boo’d Up”—is another such artist. Mahalia was an opening act on the second leg of Ella Mai’s sold-out The Debut Tour earlier this year, and the artists’ pairing was a stylistic fit. Both have the same temerity of women rightfully fed up. 

5. Tomasa Del Real

Tomasa Del Real is more than a future star, she’s the queen of a movement. In 2016, the Chilean singer coined the phrase “NeoPerreo” to describe the music she was making. It was a subgenre of traditional reggaeton that favored the do-it-yourself, all-inclusive lifestyle of the digital age. Del Real’s vibrant personality makes songs about hooking up at the club (“Nena del Callejon”) and the star that reggaeton has made her (“Toto”) infectious.

Her unapologetic assertiveness is similar to Brazilian singing sensation Anitta telling people to get out of her face while she “works on a different wave” on her Snoop Dogg–assisted song “Onda Diferente.” Anitta’s 2019 album, Kisses, peaked at No. 4 on the Top Latin Charts thanks in part to the same explosion in Latin music consumption that makes Del Real’s stardom a matter of inevitability. In 2017 and 2018, Latin music revenue grew by double-digit percentages, with Latin artist Ozuna being YouTube’s most-watched artist in 2018 ahead of artists who had gargantuan success in 2018, like Drake. 

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