Meet the Black Rising Stars of Music
By Joshua Eferighe
There was a time not too long ago when music could be divided into genres fairly neatly. Today, even seemingly polar opposite strains such as country and hip-hop are merging. And Black artists are leading this bold new world. As America celebrates Black Music Appreciation Month and as we journey to Juneteenth, meet the rising star musicians who are breaking boundaries and could soon shatter records. This Daily Dose is a song of change.
Rap It Up
Baha Bank$: When Vivian Bolden — better known as Baha Bank$ — released “Shake Dat A$$” with Chance the Rapper last year, it was a surprise to everyone: the music industry, her friends — even her. “[Rap] was never initially the plan,” Bank$ told OZY. “My grandpa still knows nothing about it.” At the time, she was finishing her degree in biology and sustainability at Roosevelt University. Today, she’s fast emerging as the latest rap sensation, releasing “Drip” and even nabbing a spot as a performer in the upcoming Summer Smash Festival. Read More on OZY.
Akeem Ali: With his shirt wide open, a nicely picked afro and a 1,000-watt smile, you wouldn’t know the braggadocious Jackson, Mississippi, native is a newcomer with just one EP, Mack in the Day Staring Keemy Cassanova, under his belt. But you’re allowed that cheeky confidence if you’re already racking up the kind of numbers Ali is: His single “Keemy Casanova” has exploded online with nearly 2 million views. If he keeps up this momentum, you’ll be seeing much more of his ’70s-style pimpin’ persona.
Nate Joël: The rapper has spent the past year releasing the smoothest, cleanest string of freestyles you can imagine, with accompanying videos. These are MTV production quality videos, and while they’re only racking up modest views now, the Maryland native’s approach shows signs of catching on: On Twitter, his videos have secured thousands of views and likes. Will he break big? Stay tuned.
Brittney Carter: Write, rap, shoot, upload . . . repeat. For a while, the process was Carter’s way of practicing her craft, she told me. It worked. The routine has led to hundreds of thousands of views across various platforms, a local distribution deal and shoutouts from rap royalty like Missy Elliott and members of the label TDE, which is home to stars like Kendrick Lamar. Carter’s skill comes from her spoken-word roots, and her debut album, As I Am, a full-circle culmination of both faith and persistence, is a must-listen. Read more on OZY.
Bktherula: Just 18 years old, this Atlanta, Georgia, rapper’s unique style, flow and following is one to be reckoned with. In just 10 months, the Fulton County native managed to flip the success of her 2020 debut mixtape, Love Santana, into a record deal with the hit “Tweakin’ Together,” — with 5.5 million views — leading the way. Earlier this year, she released Nirvana to similar acclaim. Born Brooklyn Rodriguez, music’s in her genes: Her mother was a vocalist and her father was in a rap group that once opened for A Tribe Called Quest. The way she’s going, other bands might be queueing up to open for her soon.
Armani Caesar: You want a gut-punching, soul-scraping vibe? Then you want Griselda Records’ Armani Caesar. The label, known for its raw street sound, debuted Caesar’s The Liz last year with the standout single “Palm Angels.” It’s a moment Caesar’s been preparing for: She started writing rap music at the age of 8 and was putting tunes on wax by the time she was a teenager. Fitting, given that her mom was in a choir, her grandma was a huge hip-hop head and her uncle was a DJ.
The International Set
Fyah Roiall: Born Brandon Wedderburn, this up-and-coming Jamaican rapper is part of the new “grimehall” wave — an exciting fusion of trap, U.K. grime and dancehall. His debut album, Underrated was released last year and offers a glimpse of the Caribbean island’s street vibe that many of his dancehall contemporaries have struggled to capture. Rapping in his hometown patois, Roiall brings authenticity to his videos “Nobody” and “Soda.”
Gaidaa: The 22-year-old Sudanese singer from the Netherlands is making waves on the R&B circuit with her mix of powerful ballads, acoustic instrumentation and vulnerable lyricism. The daughter of a psychiatrist and a musician, she’s never felt entirely Dutch or Sudanese. Which is fine, since her music is unique, too — though she wears her Sudanese heritage proudly. She was first discovered by Dutch-Armenian producer Full Crate after he’d heard a Kehlani cover she had recorded, which eventually led them to collaborate on her breakout track “A Storm On A Summers Day,” which has been streamed over 7 million times.
Prettyboy D-O: He’s an artist you’ll be selfishly reluctant to share — like your favorite lesser-known cafe or clothing store — just to keep the goodness to yourself. But with a talent like his, good luck. Representing part of Nigeria’s growing alté movement — an experimental form of music that’s recently taken off — this 30-year-old’s sound blends classic R&B and dancehall with deep African rhythms. I dare you to try standing still as you listen to his track “Police n Teef.” Don’t worry, the U.S.-born artist isn’t standing still either.
Shaybo: She’s the self-proclaimed queen of South London, and in many ways, Britain’s answer to Nicki Minaj, dominating the country’s rap scene. Born Shayon Brown, she moved from Nigeria at the age of 6 and was freestyling by the age of 13 — at which time YouTube clips of Shaybo freestyling into a camera were already drawing 20,000 views. Overnight. And that was a decade ago. Since then, her singles “Dobale” and “Anger” have helped propel her to national acclaim and she’s even worked with big acts like Jorja Smith. Stay tuned for her upcoming EP, Queen of the South featuring her new single, “No Pressure.”
Rock of Ages
Mario Judah: After making beats as a teenager, the 22-year-old Atlanta rock star with distinctive red hair decided to get behind the mic himself, debuting with “Crush” in June 2020. His second release, “Die Very Rough,” went viral in October and he hasn’t slowed down since. Whether breaking into bouts of screaming rage in interviews or performing an impromptu concert on top of a car, Judah is someone to keep your eyes on.
Guitar Gabby and The TxLips Band: This rock group is as a collectiveof 15 Black female and nonbinary musicians who are looking to shake up the industry’s status quo and inspire people of color to pursue any area of music their hearts desire. Led by 30-year-old Atlanta native Guitar Gabby, the band has previously performed as the backing group for a member of hip-hop group Crime Mob, and its touring lineup is based on where Gabby is and who is available. “Whenever I have different shows, I’ll build my band based around the sound that I’m looking for,” she says. That sound could range from rock instrumentation and R&B vocals to grunge-influenced tunes. Listen to “The Dead Pool.” If you’re not a rock fan already, their inspirational music will make you one.
Winter Wolf: In proper rock fashion, “f— everything else” was the sentiment behind this band’s inception. At the time, bassist and singer Jehiel “Jay” Winters, now 35, was diagnosed with a rare bone marrow cancer. His former band had fired him. But the Harlem native bounced back, forming a band whose name represents cold, desperate hunger. And they’ve created a sound to match: It’s raw and full of passion. While they’re mainly a thrash and punk band influenced by legends such as The Clash and Municipal Waste, Jay says they grew up singing and playing in gospel quartets. “That’s where rock comes from in the first place — the church,” he tells OZY. A very intense church, in the case of Winter Wolf.
Fousheé: The world knew her voice before it saw her face. Thanks to rapper Sleepy Hallow, who used an instrumental sampling of her voice, and TikTok’s algorithm, the New Jersey native experienced anonymous second-hand success — then she successfully petitioned TikTok to credit her. Now that Fousheé’s name is attached to a song with tens of millions of views, she’s used the virality to further her own soul sound. With a mother who was the drummer for a female Jamaican reggae band, music runs deep in Fousheé’s family — she started writing songs at 6 years old. Check out her new project Time Machine and music video for “My Slime,” which she directed.
Reggie: With a talent homegrown within the walls of his Houston church, Reggie can’t hide his music’s moorings in soul. Watch the performance of his new single “Ain’t Gon Stop Me” or peep the video for his 2020 jam “Southside Fade” and tell me it’s not instantly one of the most authentic hometown anthems you’ve ever heard. After getting kicked out of his parent’s home, Reggie settled in L.A. and counts Kirk Franklin and Smokey Robinson as vocal influences. He started off as a conscious or political rapper until his younger brother began to pull away from his music. That made the 25-year-old switch to melodies, where he was able to get his message across more effectively. We’re glad he did.
Savannah Cristina: This South Florida songstress has a touch of Ella Fitzgerald in her. Yes, that’s a very bold statement, but bold is probably the best way to describe Cristina, who grew up with parents who loved Stevie Wonder and Gloria Estefan. Her journey to stardom started with the song self-care. It was 2019, and she was struggling mentally. So one day, she called in sick to work to spend a day at the beach recording music instead and performed a song about — you guessed it — self-care, with the crashing waves serving as a backdrop. The video went viral, leading to a deal with Warner Records a year later and her debut album, Self Care.
Breland: When Lil Nas X’s record-breaking “Old Town Road” won big at the Grammys in 2020, many wondered if his infusion of hip-hop and country rhythms was a one-off hit. Breland, a 25-year-old New Jersey native, is showing us that it wasn’t. His 2020 single “My Truck” has garnered a casual 40 million-plus views on YouTube, firmly establishing him as the heir to the country-rap throne. Now, he’s building on that momentum with his new single “Cross Country,” which mixes gospel, country and hip-hop.
RMR: That’s pronounced “rumor,” and when it comes to his music, there’s little doubt that RMR has it. This L.A.-based singer with sonic uniqueness works anonymously from behind a mask. That air of mystery and freshness surrounds his songs, too. Sample “Rascal,” which went viral this year, and his album Drug Dealing Is a Lost Art.
Rvshvd: If his remix of Roddy Ricch’s “Ballin’” at 7 million-plus views isn’t proof of the chemistry between rap and country, his music video “Dirt Road,” which has crossed the million-view marker, certainly is. Powered by his 800,000 TikTok followers, the South Georgia country artist uses his buttery smooth vocals to cover hip-hop songs like Drake’s “Toosie Slide” and Lil Mosey’s “Blueberry Faygo.” Now, he’s showing off original music of his own. Check out his newest single, “Raised Up.”