Rising Artists to Watch in 2019

2018 has been a rich year for music as has expanded the limits of its genre, style, and more. With the start of 2019, learn more about who will expand and lead the music scene for this year.

The Sound is a column on all things music written by Charles Park (’20) and Mark Park (’20). -Ed.

Zacari
Zacari is a new signee of the most prominent Indie Label, Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) which consists of artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, SZA, and more. Comparing himself as the “lone wolf,” Zacari delivers a new style of music—an amalgamation of Jazz, Soul, Hip-Hop, and lo-fi. The R&B singer first appeared in the public by featuring in Kendrick Lamar’s song “Love.” The song gained significant spotlight due to his mellifluous voice and unique R&B beats style. Then, he featured in the song “Redemption,” Black Panther album, one of the best Original Soundtrack for 2018 consisting of major artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, Khalid, and Swae lee. Recently, in 2019, he posted his first single, “Don’t Trip,” which has been on the rise for popularity in all music streaming services. The new single has already been appraised by critics, gleaming hope for his upcoming project many TDE fans.

Prominent songs: Don’t trip, Love, and Wat’s wrong

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Source:XXL Magazine

Gesaffelstein
The French DJ was already producing with major artists such as Kanye West, A$AP Rocky, Daft Punk from 2013; however, the public did not know him as he worked behind the spotlight of these artists. The recent album, “My Dear Melancholy,” by The Weekend solely features Gesaffelstein, gaining attention from the public. Following his feature, he releases a new single in collaboration with The Weekend, topping the charts. Unlike other EDM and techno artists, he carries a dark and threatening yet enchanting style of music. Finding himself in the public more than usual, many are keeping an eye on his punk-rock EDM music.

Prominent Songs: Lost in the Fire (feat. Weekend), Pursuit, Viol

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Source: BBC

XXX
The South Korean Hip-hop duo XXX-rapper Kim Ximya and producer FRNK-is an outlier in any Hip-hop scene. Rather than gaining popularity from Korea, they first caught the eye of the international community. In 2017, they were the first Koreans to feature in Maison Kitsune Fashion Show playlist for its after work exhibitions. Despite their relative silence with only two album releases, XXX is considered as one of the most subversive hip-hop groups. Working with frenetic electro beats and dark and vitriolic style, the duo continues to be on the rise while being the outlier in the music industry.

Prominent songs: Flight Attendant, Sujak, Dior Homme, and Ooh-Ahh

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Source: The Korea Herald

Aries
Starting from a home-made youtube channel that remixes popular songs, Aries only has 8 songs released, yet most of the songs were able to rack up 1 million streams on Spotify. Merging late-stage emo and modern hip-hop, his music delivers a wide range of emotion such as rage and sadness in a flip of a dime. There’s not a lot of information about Aries, yet his music is a paradigm of the current trend in rap music-emo. However, unlike Lil peep and other emo-artists, his songs feature some light moments, establishing a diverse spectrum of his style.

Prominent Songs: Carousel, Racecar, Sayonara

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Source: Youtube

Masego
Though an underground musician, Masego continues to establish a strong fan base, transforming avid, hardcore hip-hop fans into fans of jazz and soul. With his hit song, “Tadow,” Masego represents the younger generation of jazz hip-hop (as jazz was one of the most used genres in hip-hop beats by many hip hop legends). Collaborating with few R&B and unique artists such as TDE’s SiR, Masego’s style soothes out every R&B song.. Employing modern DJ sets and his iconic saxophone, his music has the elements and formula to become one of the most funk-styled artists such as Outkast.

Prominent Songs: Navajo, Pink Polo, and Tadow

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Source:Vibes

Ella Mai
With her first debut album, “Ella Mai,” two of her songs were nominated for Grammys; moreover, her song, “Boo’d up,” was considered as a ‘breakthrough hit’ by charting in the Billboards. Although Ella Mai may be considered as a typical now-days R&B singer, she is able to have the perception of 90’s heartthrob emotions with break-up anthems, soulful ballads. In other words, she was an affinity for classic R&B artists. The already bright start of her debut album illustrates the bright future of her career, hyping many R&B fans.

Prominent songs: Trip, Boo’d Up, Whatchamacallit, Everything

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Source: Billboard

Blueface
Blueface has stirred almost all hip hop community debating about his style and controversy. Coming from the Crip gang, the Los Angeles Bluface represents the younger generation of gangster rap with the mix of trap and trendy beats. The carelessness and young energy engendered by the rapper attracted many younger followers to his fanbase. Most of his beats conform to the trend; however, his offbeat flow is what catches Internet’s attention, polarizing many rappers and fans. Consequently, the stirred controversy left the young rapper in the spotlight, getting co-signs by Drake, Lil Uzi Vert, and other artists (even Kendrick Lamar took Twitter to acknowledge his young presence).

Prominent Songs: Thotiana, Bleed it, and Studio

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Source: Youtube

Colde
Appearing as the third Korean artist in the Colors Studio-an aesthetic music platform channel in Youtube-the R&B singer Colde is on the rise in the Hip-hop scene. Originally, Colde was in the OFFONOFF hip-hop duo; however, he currently came off as an independent artist, fully revealing his talents. Having a strong connection with mainstream artists such as Dean, Crush, and Punchnello, Colde continues to dominate the Korean music charts. Similar to Dean and DPR Live who both performed in the Colors Studio, Colde continues to build an international fanbase.

Prominent Songs: Your Dog Loves You, Poem, String

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Source: Pinterest

Reason
As the newest member of the indie label TDE (along with Zacari), the Compton native Reason is one of the most anticipated rapper this year. His debut album, “There You Have It,” fully divulges his true rhyming skills, accounting his life story of how his come-up from Compton. Similar to major artists in TDE such as Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar, Reason excels in telling his success story and the struggles of his neighborhood.

Prominent songs: Better Dayz, Situations, and There You Have it

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Source: Rolling Out

2018 has already been a bright year for avid hip-hop and R&B fans. Rising artists topping Billboard hits with singles, not to mention old artists making a come back to the music industry. There are a handful of others that deserve this title and achieved more last year (such as all the members in 88rising Entertainment) yet these artists seem to hold the most amount of potential. All of them holds the prospect of being able to expand the limits of music.

Featured Image Source: Complex

Mark Park (’20)

Hip-hop: the Safe Haven for Domestic Violence

As much as we love rap, controversy always trailed rap’s trend. For more than a decade, Hip-hop has served as a political medium for representation of their community, proving to the world the power of free speech. However, trending artists brought domestic abuse and physical assault as a norm in the Rap Scene, aggravating rap’s image.

The Sound is a column on all things music written by Charles Park (’20) and Mark Park (’20). -Ed.

As much as we love rap, Hip-hop has perpetually related to violence. Hip-hop is starting to become a major division in the music industry; it has expanded the scope of influence. The genre was not only a culture enjoyed by the black communities, but it also became a part of a global trend. At least 40% of the songs are categorized as Hip-hop in the Billboard charts; Hip-hop has become the most popular genres in all streaming services.

Assaults and domestic violence in Hip-hop started in the 1990’s with Dr.Dre’s assaults on Dee Barnes. The allegation has put Dr.Dre in the spotlight, damaging his rising career. From the Rolling Stones interview in 1991, he was notoriously unapologetic to Barnes, saying “I just did it, you know. Ain’t nothing you can do now by talking about it. Besides, it ain’t no big thing, I just threw her through a door.” From the recent Netflix documentary, “The Defiant Ones” and other movies based on Dr. Dre, they have censored his assault of Dee Barnes which the allegations resurfaced again. Later on, Barnes accepted Dr. Dre’s apology which was directed after “The Defiant Ones”. There were only a few rappers who were accused of domestic assaults such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and more in the past.

 

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Rapper Kodak Black (Source: Youtube)

Throughout the recent years, trending rappers always have faced charges for their violent behavior, yet, their controversy never stopped their rise. For instance, Rapper Kodak Black was convicted of a first-degree sexual assault charge on a teenage girl. While it brought harsh criticisms from the community, his songs from Spotify and other streaming services still gained popularity during that time. Similarly, rapper Famous Dex was caught on camera assaulting his girlfriend. Although XXL Magazine snubbed him from the Freshman list, he already gained 1 million streams from Spotify in a week from his debut album “Dex Meets Dexter.” As Hip-hop continues to grow and influence other trending genres, this violent pattern of behavior has entered into designers too- more specifically streetwear. Designer A$AP Bari faced domestic abuse controversy when he posted himself hitting his girlfriend on social media. Bari faced many criticisms from other colleagues, including his own teammates, A$AP Rocky. Even though his career was damaged, his fashion brand, Vlone, is still one of the most popular brands in streetwear. It seems as if the rap community views the artist and his or her songs differently, disregarding the artist’s action when evaluating their music.

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XXXTENTACION Donating to Charity (Source: The Blast)

There is still positivity that flows in Hip-hop as the genre gives room for redemption. One of the most popular rappers was the South Florida rapper, XXXTentacion (Rest In Peace Jahseh Onfroy). He was faced with seven felony charges including kicking his pregnant girlfriend while he was gaining massive popularity from the free music streaming base, Soundcloud. In early 2017, XXXTentacion was held for 8 more charges for witness tampering. All throughout 2017 and 2018, XXXTentacion has stirred controversy of constant assaults of his fans, yet, his music always charted in several streaming services. However, in late 2017, XXXTentacion started to redeem himself by starting donations challenges for orphanages and spreading positivity through his new music. His album “17” and “?” deals with depression from his actions, bringing critical acclaims of his messages and how it has saved many lives. Onfroy continued to redeem themselves, helping people in need, until his tragic end. Still, more than a handful of people protest against his music due to his past events. Therefore, it brings to the question: Should people be given second chances?

Hip-hop was always under the spotlight for its perpetual relationship with domestic violence and physical assault. The new generation of rappers is constantly troubled with allegations for sexual assault and physical harm as they create music that focuses on themselves rather than the struggles of black communities. Such controversial cases should taint their career, yet it only seems to boost their profits and confidence.

As much as I love Hip-hop, I do really see a problematic pattern within the community. Even though I know their controversial past behaviors, I still listen to these rappers such as Famous Dex, Kodak Black, or XXXTentacion. Honestly, Hip-hop is a controversial genre despite its great significance in today’s society. But if we were to only listen to those who uphold the behaviors we support (not only Hip-hop), half of our playlists should be deleted.  I’m not saying we should support these controversial behaviors, but I wanted to convey that it’s a difficult choice to make on how we judge the artists. We just have to hope for the best that these artists on our playlists do the right thing.

Featured Image: The Daily Beast

-Mark Park (’20)

The Rebirth of Neo-Soul

Neo-soul has been on the rise again after its decline in the last decade. With the reappearance of this genre in many mainstream songs, it is important to know the current trend of neo-soul and its emerging artists.

The Sound is a column on all things music written by Charles Park (’20) and Mark Park (’20). -Ed.

Neo-soul originated in the late 1980’s as few artists started to deviate away from contemporary R&B by incorporating other genres of music. Neo-soul (neo meaning new) is an alternative version of soul, blending in more genres such as R&B, Hip-hop, and Jazz. It has always been difficult to differentiate Neo-soul and alternative R&B as they consist of similar elements of music. Neo-Soul is derived from 1970’s style of Hip-hop with Soul R&B while contemporary R&B originates from more pop funk genres. However, in current music industry, both genres are treated the same as there is no clear line of definition that separates the two genres.

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Lauryn Hill (Source:Twitter)

As neo-soul started to gain popularity in the underground music, prominent artists such as Prince, Joi, and Maxwell started the ‘neo-soul’ movement. In the 1990s, popular artists, such as D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill integrated neo-soul into other genres. Throughout the 2000s, neo-soul reached its apex as these artists brought neo-soul into the light of mainstream music; soon, the genre established its identity in the music industry. However, the genre quickly died out due to its rise of Southern Hip-hop. Throughout the last decade, only a few neo-soul artists entered the mainstream industry such as John Legend, Frank Ocean, and Bilal. Its popularity declined in the mainstream music until 2017 when a few artists started to categorize their music as ‘neo-soul’ again.

 

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Source:Chicago Reader

 

It all started with Frank Ocean, releasing his sophomore album, Blond. Although he released his first album, Channel Orange, in 2012, gaining high appraisals, Channel Orange was considered contemporary R&B. On the other hand, Blond was a neo-soul album, influenced from the works of Erykah Badu and D’angelo. Ocean was able to create a more unique style of neo-soul, emphasizing the story and lyrics-which is what soul is about. Songs such as ‘Nike’ and ‘Nights’ have been able to explore the more diverse genre of music with auto-tunes and eclectic beats, expanding the types of Neo-soul.

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Source:Genius

Unlike Ocean’s style, Daniel Caesar’s music consists of simple guitar and gospel beats. The Toronto-based Soul singer is on the rise as he delivers the traditional vibe of neo-soul. With the recent release of his album, Freudian, he instantly became one of the most popular R&B/Soul artists. The full-length album was able to deliver the contemporary version of Gospel songs as their similar tempos and lyrical themes gave the audience a new feeling. Although the album is more shifted towards contemporary R&B, the integration of vocal elements and gospel music can be identified as a new type of soul music.

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Many R&B artists started to consider their work as neo-soul because the genre was able to integrate other types of music. One significant genre that has been a catalyst to neo-soul’s popularity is Hip-hop. Throughout the evolution of neo-soul, it is apparent that the relationship between neo-soul and hip-hop has been firmly established with artists such as D’Angelo and Lauryn Hill. In the recent release of Tyler the Creator’s fourth studio album, Flower Boy, it introduced the mainstream audience into a more alternative version of R&B and neo-soul. Featuring new soul and R&B artists, Tyler the Creator utilized a diverse genre of beats such as funk, jazz fusion, and electric blues. From its remarkable composition of the music, it is important to recognize some of featuring artists as they were the ones who led the trends of neo-soul.

Known as an indie pop and neo-soul artist, Rex Orange County has been gaining popularity from his vibrant and intricate beats. Having released only two albums, Rex Orange County has explored the genres of fusion jazz, *lo-fi, *indie-pop, and funk, showing the flexibility of his style into different genres. Over the past two years, he has shown how diverse neo-soul can be in the styles of music that he has created.

Another artist that has brought neo-soul to the mainstream genre is Kali Uchis. Her soothing voice from Tyler’s song, ‘See You Again’ has gained her popularity. Currently, she has only released one song, featuring Tyler the Creator, which has been highly appraised of its mixture in jazz and electric funk while it was able to blend well with Tyler’s hard rap.

A final artist that has brought neo-soul to the mainstream genre is Steve Lacy. From his demo EP, made mostly from his iPhone, Lacy has created higher expectations for his upcoming album with his rap group, The Internet. His first project shows the audience the classic Southern California funk and soul. As a rising artist, Lacy brought attention to a more funk-styled soul with electric lo-fi* pop, expanding the fan base for neo-soul and indie* pop.

Neo-soul has been a vaguely defined genre throughout the music industry due to its ephemeral popularity in the mainstream industry.  But as more artists have been popularizing this genre, neo-soul can be integrated into any types of music. There are more artists that have continued the legacy of neo-soul other than from this list (such as Solange, Aloe Blac, Emlei Sande), but they have already been famed for their unique styles. As these emerging artists expand the diversity of this genre, make sure to listen to their songs before they hit the charts.

*Lo-fi: A sub-genre of music that is recorded with the lower quality compared to urban mainstream standards. Lo-Fi, meaning “low-fidelity”, highlights the imperfection of the artist’s quality, having a more artistic effect (such as Do-It-Yourself trends).

Ex: Beck, Pavement, XXXTentacion

*Indie-pop: A music genre that combines guitar pop with the style of mainstream pop music.  

Ex: Lana Del-Ray, The xx, Lorde

Featured Image Source: Kubashi

-Mark Park (’20)

Introduction to THE SOUND

Let’s admit it: music isn’t what it used to be.

Your old Spotify playlist is stale, the “Discover Weekly” playlist only recommends trashy pop songs, and you’re just too busy to spend a few hours on Youtube digging through old records. We’ve all been there.

That’s why we created The Sound. We cater not just to giving you a taste of new music, but also expanding your realm of audio entertainment.

Are you bored of listening to music through your phone? Do you want a new way to enjoy your favorite albums? Well, maybe you should consider starting a vinyl collection. But where do you even begin? Do you opt for the $50 Crosley players on Amazon? Or do you get a vintage one from the 70s? Where do you even begin to look for the records themselves?

Are you tired of the mediocre sound quality of your Apple earpods? Maybe you’re looking to invest, but there are so many options, and so many AP tests to study for. What’s the difference between earphones and In-Ear Monitors (IEMs)? Why does it matter how many drivers there are in one ear? And what’s the difference between passive and active noise cancellation?

Do you think you can do better than all your favorite artists? You should look into starting your own music career. Are you inspired by the “Bedroom Pop” playlist on Spotify, and how to make an aesthetic music video in the likes of Clairo or Mac Demarco? Where do you even start? How should you produce your own song? How will you gain a following on Soundcloud?

The beauty of music is that there are more questions than answers. It’s an endless, abstract, arbitrary plane of vibrations and frequencies that have been put together as a construct and medium of entertainment. And thus, it should be made clear that The Sound’s purpose is to ask you more questions than we answer. Ultimately, music is an incredibly personal, intimate experience; no one can tell you what kind of music to enjoy. We hope that with each new article, you’re at least one step closer to finding The Sound.

– Charles Park (’20)

Featured Image by Crescentia Jung (’19)