For fans of: J. Cole, Maxo Kream, Ab-Soul
Listen to these songs first: “Can’t Call It,” “Mom’s Whiskey,” “Lot to Give”

Marlon Craft is a Hell’s Kitchen-born MC, whose father played in the city’s eclectic scene while his mother worked on plays just a stone’s throw away from theater’s brightest stars. Craft’s eclectic upbringing reverberates throughout his work, as he blends the NYC street rap he grew up on with a poetic attraction to the way words sound. One of his breakthrough hits from this year, “Can’t Call It,” isn’t particularly flashy, but his ability to blend heady wordplay with the innate musicality of his voice makes him one to watch in 2021. Elsewhere, his collaboration with Kota the Friend, “Mom’s Whiskey,” has become a staple in NYC with his bars about tanking this year like he’s the Knicks. On “Can’t Call It,” he eloquently lays out the middle ground between artistic achievements and commerce: “Therapist say I got trauma, Manager say I need commas, I just think I really need solace.” It’s an intimate look at an artist wholly dedicated to their work, chasing a dream even when it doesn’t seem logical. Wasting no time, he’s already started 2021 on a strong note, dropping “State of the Union” and announcing his new album will arrive in February. —Will Schube