We are constantly inundated with new artists who are just below the commercial notoriety that some of them deserve. Phumlani S Langa rounds up who we should be keeping our eyes on.
Represents: Ennerdale, Joburg
Projects out: One studio album, sbxts (2019)
Blow-up factor: 3/5
Sio is an electronica singer whose name I’ve been hearing. Her debut, sbxts, is 17 songs deep and although this genre is associated with intoxicated partying, her music harbours raw emotion.
She breaks up the impressive production with poetic interludes that are mixed almost seamlessly into the next song. Place to Run reminds me a bit of US soul singer Erykah Badu, who I’m sure is an inspiration to this homegirl. It might be a little niche for our fickle markets, but we’re talking art here, not margins. Sio was selected by Apple Music this month as the New Artist Spotlight.
Represents: Eldorado Park
Projects out: A string of singles and one album, Phoenix (2016)
Blow-up factor: 3/5
Unlike Sio, Nizreen’s sound is leaning a lot more towards full-blown House music with club appeal. I’ll be honest, another house singer is not what we need, even though Nizreen has been co-signed by the likes of Fistaz Mixwell.
Nevertheless, she does have vocal capability and some variation. Beautiful Inferno is an Afrobeats song and she even has an Ice Prince feature. I prefer the way she sounds on Aphrodite, with its mystic chants and an almost primal force driving her towards some invigorating notes.
THE BIG HASH
Projects out: Two mixtapes – Young (2019) and The Big Hash Theory (2018)
Blow-up factor: 4.5/5
A child of the new era, by age 18 this dude had songs with A-Reece and Riky Rick, both met with appreciation from the streets.
His flow is steered by the efforts of artists such as Drake and other flimsy-sounding foreign rappers. Nevertheless, the beats on his latest project, Young, are well selected and his delivery astute.
The vibes he generates do get to slapping the ear drum in a welcoming way, and although his pen game and subject matter are at times a little young, I will be checking for Hash from now on.
Projects out: One EP, Revenge Season (2019)
Blow-up factor: 6/5
I’m not going to mince my words with this artist – this project has me shook. In my heart of hearts I believe this may be the most complete piece of work I’ve heard all year – from the trippy intro, Dead on Arrival, to the eerie build up to WAE (When All Ends), which emits the perfect fusion of hip-hop and soul but with that new-era sheen to it. Her vocals are delicate but her lyricism growls with conviction. I met her briefly a few weeks ago and I had no idea what a game changer she could be.
This EP is classic, and Lordkez’s entire arsenal of artistic creativity is poised to cause a stir. Sign her, now!
Represents: East Rand
Projects out: Two tapes – Look At The Team (2018) and Accordin’ to Jim (2019)
Blow-up factor: 5/5
Jimmy Wiz and Lordkez are my favourites on this list.
This guy is a deadly spitter and it angers me that the streets don’t know more about him. The sound is grown, and I love how he used 90s R&B singer Tamia’s So Into You and gave us his take on that urban ballad.
This homie first blipped on our radar after his attempts on the contrived Vuzu talent search show, The Hustle. Since then he’s proved that he didn’t need that show. My issue is why everyone will call Kwesta for all their features instead of Jimmy. His link up with ShabZi Madallion is as potent as hearing Youngsta CPT and Priddy Ugly on a song.
This guy has found himself a cosy spot in my top five emcees right now.
Blow-up factor: 3/5
Represents: Richards Bay and the east side of Johannesburg
Projects out: Two singles and an EP, Believe the Bloom (2017)
This sound is adjacent to exports that appeal to the overseas market, such as BCUC and Yugen Blakrok as well as acts yet to break internationally, like Faka and Fortune Shumba. Blacks with quirk, yeah? The visual cadence and production give this package an old-school feel with enough edge to still be relevant and even pioneering. It’s like kwaito got a face-lift and you can hear this on the banger, No Match, released in January this year.
Their sound is one that's shaped by local culture but will probably be shunned by South Africans. It makes me sad, but they could end up in studio with Elton John and that’s word to Nakhane.
NOT QUITE BUBBLIN’
A few artists didn’t quite make the list. South African cricketer Kagiso Rabada is apparently cooking something up at the Red Bull studios, so that’s something to look forward to.
We were also looking to add Lean Team to the list, but those guys will actually have to make some more music first.
A special shout-out to DJ Sliqe, who is perhaps a little more vaunted than some of the acts on this list, but whose next project we are looking forward to.
Lastly is Thoba Ndlovu, who is an affiliate of Fortune Shumba, and we’ll be looking to engage with his work in a more in-depth way.