A dollar and a dream. Sticky melodies and faith the size of a mustard seed. Points of view rooted in Hyde Park’s Haitian pews. Millisecond tonal shifts that color a gray lyric blue. Suffolk County slim reaper Clark D keeps it positive without pulling punches—a versatile Optimus Prime cut from the laid-back lineage of Isaiah Rashad and Curren$y, still repping MA from his new ATL homebase. Audio engineer by trade, natural star by default.
Watch any of D’s videos and you’ll encounter “produced by me” in the description. He’s a Dilla disciple who’s got time for both Drake and Dijon. The rare striver who knows how to clock in and live life: a mix of punching in and revision, natural inquisition and craftsmanship. From the streets but not in the streets, as he puts it.
“My father was very heavy into Latin jazz, Haitian twoubadou, and classic old R&B records, and he had a massive CD collection at the crib. Growing up Seventh-day Adventist, we didn't really have rap music outside of the radio and YouTube until my oldest brother introduced us. Over time I gravitated toward people that had stories in their music and still kept stuff spicy.”
On “Life Goes On,” he raps, “I ain’t a cruel man, and that makes life worse… [But] I’d rather be a bridge than let my people see the dirt.” Then there’s this couplet on the endearing rise-and-grind record “Corner Store Story”: “When the killers hit the street we don’t want no part… These n***** almost made me sour but I found a better love.”
That same song rides out with a message lifted from Spike Lee and Denzel Washington’s Malcolm X: sidestep the white man’s poison. In other words, it’s feel-good music with a backbone. Good luck trying to maintain a poker face while watching Clark have the time of his life rocking fur hats in front of Boston Latin (soundtracked by the subtle triumph of “Shake Em Off”) or stop mid-verse to lovingly clown his friend for driving a Hyundai (as he does in the video for his instant ear candy release “4LIFERS"). Any ire hiding behind the smile never metastasizes or ricochets toward others in his orbit. The only thing catching a stray in the 15+ songs I’ve heard of his was the state of Kansas.
“‘Shake Em Off” was a slow cooker experience,” he tells us. “That intro was a voice note I recorded about seven years ago. Me and the homies were in high school. We used to chant random song ideas and freestyle together. The plan was to film at the show we sold out, and then go around to different locations in Boston that was significant to the era of life I was highlighting in the song. I love the video because it did just that.”
The son of a green card carrier turned home owner, operating alongside his brother Guyclaude under their Family Famous banner, Clark carries in him a KG mentality: anything is possible if you make it.—Alex Siber
yunè pinku is a producer, singer, and songwriter based in London. Half-Malaysian and half-Irish, her childhood listening included the trance music that her mother would play in the house, relatives introducing her to traditional Irish instruments, and her own love of music from the '70s and '80s like Joni Mitchell, The Kinks, and the Bee Gees as a teen. Add to that her online explorations of the wide world of electronic music, and a lot went into the creative melting pot as yunè pinku started playing around with GarageBand and making lo-fi soundscapes in her bedroom.
By 2021, she was confident enough to share demos and in 2022 her debut EP Bluff was released. The sounds of the UK's rave and dance music culture can be heard in yunè pinku's music, especially the garage swing, breakbeats, and synth stabs of Bluff, but they're paired with introspective vocals and an anxious energy that reflects the lockdown period these songs were made in. Her second EP, BABYLON IX, came out in April and it's a stunning collection of futuristic pop songs with powerful production and undeniable hooks that bring to mind Visions era Grimes' and The Knife in the mid-2000s. (And not just because one of yunè's standout songs is called "Heartbeat.")
"[From Bluff to BABYLON IX] I'm definitely a lot more confident, and willing to be a bit bolder and vulnerable," yunè tells us. "I think Bluff was very much about bravado, and BABYLON is about finding strength in vulnerability. Also production wise, I think BABYLON is a lot broader, less tied to a certain genre." She adds, "I’ve spoken about this a lot but I love this sort of ethereal genre that’s been bubbling for a while. Kind of the reigniting of older kinds of vocals drawing back to yodeling or church choirs, or straight sort of gut-screaming, which I think people like Eartheater, Yeule and Caroline Polachek are all playing with under the guise of electro-pop."
Alongside the impressive music, BABYLON IX comes with striking imagery, from the EP artwork to the visuals. Of her vision, yunè explains, "Fantasy and otherworldliness are a big part of the way I like the visuals to come across. I think they’re such an important part of world-building. A lot of the symbols scattered across the artworks are from traditional runes, I’m really interested in the meaning behind old symbols though, they’ve existed in every part of the world, past and present. But I’ve always loved this idea that you could draw a circle of symbols and summon a world or even a creature."
Making her presence felt in the traditionally male dominated world of dance music and building universes with each release, yunè pinku is soaring right now.—Alex Gardner
When it comes to the enigmatic London-based trio, bar italia, everything exudes a quiet allure. Comprised of Nina Cristante, Jezmi Tarik Fehmi and Sam Fenton, each have developed a sound independently. When brought together, bar italia finds a sweet spot, pulling on older influences with their own timeless spin. Biographical details may be sparse on the threepiece, but that’s precisely the point. The appeal of bar italia isn’t in being spoon fed a story. Instead, they thrive in the shadows, embedded in a sense of quasi anonymity that lets the music speak for itself.
Their first recordings—including 2020’s Quarrel, 2021’s bedhead—were released via Dean Blunt’s esteemed World Music label, further heightening their intrigue and introducing the off-kilter world the band appear to inhabit. With their latest album Tracey Denim, bar italia solidify their position as alternative outliers. Increasingly cohesive, confusing yet consistent, they’re quickly establishing themselves as one of the most enticing upcoming bands.
Hazy vocal delivery introduces each member, with their back and forth capturing recurring binaries: arresting seduction, detached nonchalance, holding on, letting go. In “my kiss era,” Cristante leans into the existential (“They don’t believe in heaven / Seen around here anywhere”), whereas the exchange between Cristante and Fehmi in “Punkt!” continues the narrative of destruction, these elements of vagueness within their music giving space to its listener. Produced themselves with mixing by Marta Salogni, post-punk, shoegaze and dream pop influences create a hypnotic backdrop. Though more refined than their previous releases, there’s still a pervading sense of rawness, and the nuances in production, from slower moments to more noisy walls of sound and controlled crescendos, steer its listener and find the band in their element.
The appeal of bar italia is very much in the music, but also in their approach. Interviews with the trio are rare, and their socials are made up of grainy shots, mostly obscuring their identities. About to embark on a string of sold-out shows in The States, bar italia prove that in an industry obsessed with grabbing attention, social media clout, and an insight into all aspects of an artist's life, it’s still possible to exist and do things your own way.—Rani Boyer
Snow Strippers are the ghosts in the Dance Dance Revolution machine. Though they are anchored to Detroit’s EDM legacy, Tatiana Schwaninger and Graham Perez’s sound is like a creature born of bedroom-darkness, the harsh glare of a computer screen and an entire internet’s worth of influences. It’s like cruising down the empty highway of some cyberpunk cityscape; it’s trashy and decidedly off like a Harmony Korine film; it’s the virus-haunted file you burned from LimeWire in 2006. It’s both excessive and empty, a product of the past yet hurtling towards a darker future. And it’s fun.
The pair are somewhat removed from the real world, with more blanks surrounding them then answers, but the facts are that Snow Strippers’ beginnings can be traced to 2021 in a sushi restaurant in Clearwater, Florida. With their third record April Mixtape 3 released earlier this month, their near-constant torrent of releases makes it seem as if they’re in an arms race with their own talent and ambition. They cut their teeth with bloghouse floor-filler "Keep Holding On" before venturing into witch house fairy rings with "Tragic Surprise," resurrecting microgenres from a far more expansive, less self-conscious internet. In their world, banshee screams, ominous laughs and gothic bell-tolls are plundered like any other instrument.
The release of their latest mixtape, however, sees the duo doing things a little differently. Having partnered with their friends at New York collective Surf Gang Records for a distribution deal, it marks their first release working with a label other than their own. More than that, it also marks their first collaboration, inviting Lil Uzi Vert on a remix of their 8-bit electrocutor ‘It’s A Dream’. Snow Strippers might have existed in a different plane of existence, but now, it seems that they’ve set their sights on carving out a space for themselves in our shared reality.—Sophie Walker
Timeless music is an oddity in itself. Resisting industry trends and generational styles and sounds helps to avoid the pitfall of obscurity by straddling the sonic past and present. C.S. Armstrong is an artist who revives sound by transcending its musical stereotypes, tied to neither genre nor generation. Molding together gospel, blues, and hip-hop, his soulful ballads revel in the past, yet his uniquely drawn-out delivery searches for clarity and healing in the future. Funneling stories of love, trauma, and family into his music, the artist's style is bluntly poetic, orchestrating projects that calmly pass on understandings of one's truth, whatever conditions may come.
The self-proclaimed bluesman is best understood as an artist re-emerging. In 2016 Armstrong moved to New York to pursue music, collaborating with artists like Statik Selektah on “In The Wind” (featuring Joey Bada$$ & Big K.R.I.T) along with Bun B, Prodigy, and Remy Banks on “Where’s Your Leader.” After joining Action Bronson on tour, the young singer moved to LA where he released his first couple of solo projects and caught the attention of Dr. Dre. After signing with Republic Records, Armstrong felt constrained and ultimately left to explore the origins of gospel-inspired sound that inspired him to start creating in the first place.
A newly liberated C.S. Armstrong is now devoted to curating a more authentic approach to music. “Being independent has allowed me to dig deeper within myself to really understand what I want to say and how I want to say it, without any distractions," he says. "I’m very excited to see God’s promise develop."
The nostalgic fervor of Armstrong's most recent music weaves together the affliction of life's inconsistencies with the familiar touch of gospel and blues, a soothing harmony equally disruptive and comforting in execution. Armstrong finds solitude in rewriting his story, both sonically and in narrative. On “Patience,” for example, he croons alongside the soulful swing of church choir background vocals, the desperate cry depicting questions of individual purpose via the contours of universal timing. Devoid of layered harmonies and tangled metaphors, his craft reflects emotional transparency and outspoken vulnerability.
C.S. Armstrong's new project The Southwestern Love Songs is a testament to emotional healing built through spiritual melodies and earnest vocal riffs. For Armstrong, love is incomplete without pain, and life’s journey is wrought with messy consequences of fate. While some of Armstrong’s approach is rhythmically traditional, his singular style offers a modern take on genre-bending. The three-song project is stacked with contrasting elements between who he used to be and the person he is today, an archive of his own life so far. Careful not to erase his early influences, he is purposeful in how he distills the mix of sound into a timeless montage of perspective. Armstrong's new music is a testament to a kind of spiritual reinvention recognized by both past and future holdings.—Sundhya Alter
Off the heels of their first studio album release, I Am the Dog, five-piece garage-rock ensemble Sir Chloe mesmerizes in an understated manner. Sometimes their riffs create crunchy textures you feel reverberating through your bones, and other times they gently slide down your spine like sweat. Dana Foote’s lyrical push and pull between submission and feralisation establishes a duality of chaos and control. Their tonal changes are precise and calculated, like a dog cowering in a corner only to lash out when the intimidator’s guard is down.
Years of writing made up Sir Chloe’s 2020 EP Party Favors and contrasts their post-pandemic songwriting. After captivating online masses with the ballad “Michelle,” written in singer Dana Foote’s college dorm, they’ve done well to walk the line of familiarity and unearthing new ground. They pulled in Grammy-winning producer John Congleton (Lana Del Rey, St. Vincent, Angel Olsen) with songwriting assistance from Teddy Geiger (Caroline Polachek, Sylvan Esso, Lizzo) and Sarah Tudzin (Weyes Blood, Amen Dunes, Slowdive), contributing to a more mature and focused sound.
“When we started writing IATD we were writing with a cohesive body of work in mind, which wasn’t the case for PF. We started the project with intention,” said Foote. With an already promising discography, Sir Chloe used synths and assembled instrumentalists to "cook" their sound more and add textural density.
“Much was learned through collaboration. You go from having two friends in a room making decisions to ten people passing down cryptic notes like trolls under a bridge giving you their riddles three.” On this rare occasion, trolls add value.
IATD kickstarts Sir Chloe’s international ascension to rock adepts. Shortly after the album’s release, the band embarked on their headlining tour, I Am the Tour, and is currently in their European phase. They return to the U.S. in August to play about 30 more shows—nearly half of them supporting Phoenix & Beck’s Odyssey Tour. If their live performances contain even half the gravitas their studio music delivers, fans are in for a thrill.
When comparing the mid-pandemic release of Party Favors to their highly-anticipated debut album, Foote contains her excitement well: “I’m mostly experiencing curiosity. I’m interested to see how the next year shapes up.”—Patrick Ong
Growing up in New Jersey, Jerimiah Ochoa was immersed in music early on. His father rapped, his mom was a DJ, and by the time he was 13 years old he was making his own songs. He started sharpening his own perspective by listening to acts like Nas and Eminem in high school. “They helped me realize that no matter how troubling or isolating your upbringing may seem, there should be no fear in sharing how you got to this point.”
Now 20 years old, he goes by Wiseboy Jeremy and his 2022 album Still Chldrn is the product of taking a transitional stage of his life and using that as fuel for a turning point in his career. “The last few years have been very important,” he explains. “Between trying to find my heart through music and getting closer to the source, I've been traversing a path of love for sure. And music is my chosen medium to spread my light.”
As his stage name suggests, Jeremy comes off as wise beyond his years. Over jazz-tinged, contemplative production with a little bit of classic East Coast grit, he showcases the kind of natural delivery you’d expect from someone who’s been active in hip-hop since childhood.
What makes Wiseboy Jeremy most compelling, though, is his commitment to speaking on what’s real to him and pulling from the deepest parts of his life and surroundings. “Writing has always been an outlet for me,” he says, “and everything I rap about I've lived, experienced or witnessed in some way. In my head I believe the human experience has specific nuances in relation to every being, so I just write what I feel in hopes that people relate. And if not, here's my story.”
The last track on Still Chldrn is standout “Travelin Local,” and that song points to a still expanding POV. Wiseboy Jeremy admits that he doesn’t have it all figured out just yet, but his willingness to seek, grow, and share the trials and tribulations along the way is far more interesting.
Coming up, Wiseboy Jeremy has an album with Kirti Pandey that he calls his best music yet, and he’s also been working with his 8THWORLD collective on multiple other projects. Stay tuned.—Jacob Moore
Seattle's musical landscape has birthed a new sensation, Highway.
Whether it’s Highway’s distinctive fusion that seamlessly taps into emotional depth while enamoring with infectious energy, or his poignant lyricism and haunting melodies. Highway has an uncanny ability to pull at the heartstrings, evoking a profound sense of vulnerability. It's an intoxicating balance that can have you deep in your feelings one minute and headbanging the next, but Highway's allure extends beyond his musical prowess.
With an air of mystique and a penchant for creativity, this Seattle rapper redefines the status quo of an up-and-coming rapper. His persona and visuals lend an aura of intrigue, drawing listeners into his world and leaving them eager to unravel the enigma that is Highway.
“I want my fans to know that they are my twins, I love them, and that they should remain patient just like me, step like me, and that I got them. I got us”
Given Highway's prominent position in furthering the progression of music, I was curious to learn his perspective on the trajectory of the art and how he envisions his own role within it.
“I see music becoming more accessible to anyone who is willing to use their brain to create or just truly dedicated… To say the least, I believe technology will be what changes music the most, which will take lots of brain/hard work but will make it easier for anyone willing to create”
What's next for Highway? His response: "Hiweezy."—Jack Sperling