Best New Artists is back, and this month we've got a mixed bag of rising artists who have little in common other than great music. We love months like this—months when we could put all of our new favorites on a playlist and it would make no sense. And you know what? We will put them on a playlist anyway, and if you end up being a fan of Xanman, Grace Ives, Kota The Friend, Baby Rose, and Christian Alexander, then here's that playlist.
$NOT already has tens of millions of streams, co-signs from Chief Keef and Billie Eilish, and a song placement in Drake and Future the Prince's upcoming show Euphoria. He's well on his way to being one of the next independent rappers to make a mainstream splash, but you wouldn't know it by talking to him. "I can be quiet—if you talk to me then yeah, I’ll talk—but sometimes I don’t have anything to say," he told us earlier this month. "I didn’t know it all was going to happen to this extent, and it hasn’t really set in yet."
Unlike many of his Florida peers, $NOT keeps a low profile on and off record. On songs like "GOSHA" and "Excuse Me," he keeps that same energy, barely stretching his delivery beyond an inside voice over dreary, booming production anchored by catchy loops. $NOT's got a very particular kind of charisma, and one single at a time, everything's clicking.
We highlighted Yeek earlier this year when he played our No Ceilings show in New York with Dominic Fike, Deb Never, and Quadry, but his new EP IDK WHERE feels like a leap forward after years of releasing music and building a fanbase from the ground up. Yeek was born in New Jersey but grew up in Naples, Florida where he found a creative community that included friend and collaborator Dominic Fike, who also features on the new EP.
Yeek's music incorporates influences from hip-hop, R&B, and DIY rock, tied together by pop sensibilities that are sharper than ever before on new songs like "Cleaner Air" and "I'm Trying." Unbounded by genre and making music that's distinctly his own, 2019 has already been an impressive year for Yeek, and there's more to come.
Read our interview with Yeek here.
Grace Ives describes her approach to music like so: “keep it simple, stupid.” The Queens-based singer/producer started off wrtiing songs inspired by pop stars like Britney Spears and Rihanna, but it's all filtered through a DIY approach and the Roland MC-505 that brings her ideas to life. What came of it was an album called 2nd, a project made up of equal parts punk energy and irresistible pop melodies. Sometimes simple is good.
"I definitely made the choice to do everything myself, which I guess is why the record has a DIY feel to it," she tells us. "For this record, I initially recorded the whole thing on GarageBand, and posted it to BandCamp, where it lived for about 24 hours before I decided to work with the label, Dots Per Inch. That allowed me to re-record 2nd in an actual studio, with actual sound engineers, which was so cool because I had never heard my music sound that good. Going forward, I definitely will continue to write and produce everything myself, but am excited by all the opportunities coming my way, that give me the chance to work with people on the more technical side of things to help me glow up my sound."
18-year-old Maryland rapper and producer Xanman is a free man after serving six months behind bars, and he came out hot with the "PINK" video. Xanman can sing too—his most popular song on Spotify is "Gucci Down"—but songs like "Heard Cuz Was Hot" and "PINK" have popularized his commanding voice, inventive one-liners, and unrelenting delivery that usually hits harder than the beat itself. He's one of the fastest rising rappers out of the DMV right now, but he's aiming for more than a quick payoff on some buzz. "I wanna make history with my stuff," he told us over the phone while he was still in jail. "I wanna be with the JAY-Zs, with the Lil Waynes. Someone that goes down in history, that’s still relevant no matter what they do."
Kota The Friend
KOTA The Friend has been on our radar for a minute now, but the New York rapper's new album FOTO is his best work yet, and the momentum is palpable. "I've been happy for a while now," KOTA tells us about what seems like a turning point in his career. "It was really the moment I started to focus on my fans directly that my career took a turn for the best. I appreciate where I am in life. I can make the music I want to make, provide for my family and I can still take the train. It's a beautiful life."
FOTO is a personal project and a family affair, with his uncle delivering a monologue, his elementary school teacher playing saxophone throughout the album, and his friend Oshay doing background vocals. "I went deeper into my past on this record," KOTA says. "I was tapping into memories that I was suppressing for a while now. I paid more attention to the details."
Rather than posturing or trying to impress, KOTA The Friend is at his best when he gets real. His genuine nature shines through on the entirety of FOTO over mellow, jazzy production—mostly handled by KOTA himself—and introspective storytelling. It's a deeply rewarding alternative to the meme soundtracks and escapism anthems that often dominate our timelines, and spending time with this album is a much-needed snap back to reality.
Christian Alexander is a 21-year-old from Preston in the North of England, a former industrial town that he describes as nice but lacking in any sort of music scene or community. As so many young people do today, he turned to YouTube, discovering a whole new world of creativity from Tyler, The Creator and Frank Ocean to Blood Orange and Mac DeMarco.
His debut project, Summer '17, is a deeply personal, affecting body of work that he wrote, recorded, produced, mixed, and mastered in his bedroom. The home-recorded hiss doesn't detract from Christian's music—it adds to the intimacy of his quirky left-of-center pop songs, pulling listeners into his world.
Read our interview with Christian Alexander here.
Megan Thee Stallion
Megan Thee Stallion’s ascent to fame has been a gradual one; since 2016, she’s released three mixtapes: Rich Ratchet, Make It Hot, and Tina Snow, but her big break came in the form of the viral “Stalli (Freestyle),” which won fans over with her signature hard hitting one-liners and palpable star power. It’s difficult to predict the trajectory of an artist’s career so early on, but Megan’s innate potential is apparent even in her earliest cyphers. Eventually, she caught the attention of 300 Entertainment, and became the label’s first and only female signee. Though she’s naturally talented, her success can be equally attributed to the work she’s put in, both musically and otherwise. Even now, as she criss-crosses the country daily performing one sold out show after another, in moments of quiet she’s spent her time dutifully completing assignments, finishing up a degree from Texas Southern University.
This juncture in her career is a bittersweet one. This spring, her mother (and manager) died after battling a brain tumor. Rather than slow down or quit, Megan made the conscious decision to go harder, embodying her mother’s spirit of dedication and perseverance to carry her through a tough time. “My momma wasn’t a weak person, and she wasn’t a complainer,” she told The FADER’s Lawrence Burney. With her label debut, FEVER, every bar of every verse is dripping with that same energy: she’s already at her peak with no ceiling in sight, and 2019 is hers for the taking.
Atlanta-based singer Baby Rose is a 24-year-old with an incredibly rich and soulful voice. She seemed to come out of nowhere in May with three new songs and cosigns from SZA, Kehlani, and J. Cole, as well as an opening slot on Ari Lennox's US tour. It's not hard to see why there's such excitement around Baby Rose—that voice!—but the range of styles and subject matter across her SoundCloud suggest that this young artist has a lot more to share.
Listen to "Borderline" below and check out the rest of Baby Rose's music on SoundCloud here.
Myles Cameron is a 21-year artist from Westchester, NY making modern R&B and pop music that makes perfect sense in a post-Frank Ocean world. Myles works with producer Frankis and the two mix moments of sleek modern production with a more classic approach to songwriting. Throughout all the songs on his new EP, Lonely Suburban Blackboy, Myles' autobiographical lyrics stand out.
"[The project] is a character portrait," he explains. "It’s based on two major themes: blackness in white spaces and warm colors and aesthetics. The process of writing it was pretty difficult honestly. I had to do a lot of digging into myself and put some of my biggest insecurities and worst memories on the page. After having gone through that whole process though, I feel more confident and secure in myself than ever before."
Listen to Lonely Suburban Blackboy here.
Iranian-Swedish artist Nadia Tehran has a lot to say on her new album, Dozakh: All Lovers Hell. A smorgasbord of genre experimentation mixed with cutting-edge production and pointed commentary, Dozakh is one of the boldest debuts of 2019 so far. Tehran paints an apocalyptic picture of turmoil, both political and emotional, above instrumentation that veers towards the dark and violent. It can often be as subtle as blunt-force trauma, but it's no less effective for its immediacy.
From the get-go it was clear that Tehran was capable of producing something special, and with Dozakh she's lived up to that potential. In 2016 she released a video she shot illegally in Iran with her dad, violating Sharia Law. That sense of fearlessness is carried over to her debut full-length, unapologetically exploring the pain of war in one moment and the joy of killing nazis the next. The vitriol the world deserves is what Nadia Tehran has come to deliver.