Why you should care
Because these artists broke the musical mold. So we’re re-sharing their great stories.
Ruby Ibarra, a 5-foot, 26-year-old dynamite of an MC, wants to put female rappers on the map — and prove she can hold her own among her male peers. Philippines-born and Cali-bred, Ibarra describes her style as reminiscent of ’90s hip-hop, driven by a hard-hitting flow and an arsenal of poetic — sometimes political — lyrics, influenced by years of performing spoken word. She released her debut mixtape Lost in Translation last May. Today, she’s touring and working on her second mixtape, expected to drop before this summer. Her music has spoken — and we can’t stop listening.
“If you’re trying to put me in a box, you’re probably someone I don’t wanna know,” says 29-year-old rapper-singer Johnny Polygon. Which is exactly why Polygon — born Johnny Armour — named himself after the multisided geometric figure. Not quite R&B, not quite hip-hop, his style is hard to categorize, often labeled “quirky” and “out there” by critics. His latest album is a kaleidoscope of psychedelic soundscapes laden with darkly personal rhymes — which might have something to do with his “enhanced” creative process — set to a laid-back flow and an unexpectedly soulful, haunting falsetto.
If you’d asked Alicia Hall Moran how she was feeling a year ago, fresh off the heels of a Broadway run, the Harlem-based opera singer would sigh and say it was like finally getting “off the treadmill.” But nailing hard-to-execute routines has been the norm for Hall Moran throughout her career. When she’s not singing from the Porgy & Bess book, she is applying her voice to genres stretching far and wide. “I’ve departed from the classical mold, which is that you’re assigned music, you learn it and you perform it,” explains the mezzo-soprano. “I’m co-creating the music now, which is highly improvisatory.” That sounds fancy and hard and innovative, but what does it actually mean? Lots.
Brandon Niederauer: Remember that name. He is a prodigy. Full stop. Is this what Hendrix or Clapton sounded like in grade school? The question, when you hear Niederauer, doesn’t seem out of place. It’s not just about the licks, which he trades with greats like Warren Haynes. It’s the confidence. How many adults would feel comfortable jumping onstage, after just a few years of lessons, with seasoned journeymen who have decades more experience? Or facing a packed house of cheering adults with nothing between you and the fans but a scaled-down guitar? And then have the cojones to flat-out rage the strings? Just listen for yourself.