Speed on the Beat’s (Some of the) Ones To Watch in 2016

Like any self-respecting journalist worth his weight in salt (and, depending on when you ask me, that’s a slightly fluctuating weight), I’ve been out and about listening to artists and their music. Why? Because while I didn’t discover The Weeknd or Logic, I can help discover the next big thing. Some of these artists have been featured on the site before. Guidelines to being featured on this list are as follows:

  1. You must have put out new music in the past year
  2. You can be from anywhere (so, no. It’s not a full-out DMV love fest, even though I love the DMV).
  3. If you’ve reached out to me, you’ve legitimately reached out to me and not just dropped a bunch of links in my inbox. I can’t really rock with artists who do that.
  4. This list will evaluate you on your music, not if you’re BFFs with me or something. 

Pretty simple, right? Well, let’s begin. Please note that this list is not in any specific numerical order. Nor is it definitive. I REPEAT, THIS LIST IS NOT IN ANY REAL ORDER, NOR IS IT DEFINITIVE! If you didn’t make the list, that doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t rock with your music. It just means that there’ve been a LOT of artists to pop up in my view over the past year-plus. And, again, as this is not a definitive list, it can be edited as the year goes on. Hell, I may actually add in some non-rap-influenced acts if someone catches my attention.

Charlie Too Much (@TooMuchCharlie)

I met Charlie a year-plus ago through a concert he did at Looney’s College Park. As I’ve said on many occasions, the young man’s got talent and can switch up from the rappity-rap to some melodic harmonies if needed. It seems like people are becoming wise to what I’ve known for the past 12-plus months. The dude’s legit, hopping on tracks with artists such as XXL Tenth Spot nominee Jay IDK. Be on the lookout for his #NoFilters project, dropping soon.

Tate Kobang (@Tate_Kobang)

You can’t really have a list of this manner this year without having Tate Kobang on it. The Baltimore native burst onto the national scene with “Bank Rolls,” a flip of the classic Tim Trees song of a similar name (if you’ve never heard Tim Trees’ version, stop what you’re doing now and listen to it. It’s a thing of beauty, like Trees’ discography of Baltimore-flavored hip-hop). While Kobang has been out in the area for a minute, many people gave him the look he deserved after hearing “Bank Rolls,” which was followed up with “Oh My” and an upcoming album.

For real, the Baltimore-centric hip-hop scene is deep…

For instance, Jay VerzeJay Wyse, Lee Mitty, and Eva Rhymes (f/k/a Jinxxx) (below) all come from the Baltimore region. And they all bring something to the table that isn’t the norm. They approach their music in unique ways that usually work in catching your ear. For instance, Eva is about a Lauryn Hill-esque approach to her tracks, effortlessly singing on the hook before coming back and cracking your head in with some poignant bars. Mitty, from what I’ve heard of her thus far, is often more of a straight spitter. She opts to attack the beat in a way that’d make even the most-chauvinistic of dudes double back and say “damn, she can spit.” All in all, the artists I’ve listed each represent what makes Baltimore unique and beautiful musically.

But, that’s before we go back to the Mullymans, Skarr Akbars, Bossmans, Rod Lees and other legends of the area. There, don’t say I never fucked with your music, Baltimore. I rock with the entire scene (from rap to club to alt-rock and everywhere in between). I’m putting it, as a whole, on here because people tend to overlook Baltimore’s music scene.

Ezko (@goezko)

Like Baltimore has a lot of talent, the Dope Music Village collective has a lot of artists you can listen to and vibe with. For instance, Brain Rapp and Nature Boi further proved that they’re a formidable duo with “Jada & Styles” earlier this year. The whole collective deserves a +1 in my book. So, it’s only right that someone from the DMV (who’s also from the DMV) get a spot on this list. Ezko, like Tate Kobang, has been at this music shit for a while. But, it was his Sleep EP that got my attention. The 10-track album feels fresh and from a good place. That’s something you can’t always say about artists, newer or otherwise. 

<a href=”http://goezko.bandcamp.com/album/sleep-ep”>SLEEP EP by Ezko</a>

A-F-R-O (@Afro_allflows)

While this is a bit of a controversial choice (A-F-R-O has been everywhere the past couple years, even appearing in the VH1 pilot movie The Breaks), he’s still an “on the come-up” artist in some ways. He’s an incredible lyricist that doesn’t just bust out a bunch of rhyming words because reasons. Plus, he’s still young. If he’s dropping the stuff he is at 18, I can only imagine what he’ll be like when he hits his prime. I just need him to drop an album on new beats.

Raven Felix (@RavenFelix)

I’ve championed Raven’s music since coming across her via a MyLikes ad back when that was a thing. It’s fun but still can pack a wallop of an emotional message. However, the twenty-something Valley native and Taylor Gang affiliate still brings a sound that’s pretty unique which finds its origins from a wide variety of artists, as she told me in our first interview in 2013. She knows her way around a beat as well. Raven’s music, specifically her Snoop and Nef The Pharaoh collabo “Hit the Gas,” has been featured in venues such as the recently released Meet the Blacks flick. Not bad for a “bad lil’ bish from the valley.”

Team DAR (@TeamDAR)

Team DAR is full of dope-ass lyrics and they let the fun shine through on any track. As a disclosure, yes, I do work with DAR on a regular basis (mainly in a writing capacity for the DefineaRevolution.com site). However, their placement on this list is more about their diversity than anything. Translation: I don’t do nepotism, folks. Anyhow, you get your rappity-rap bars with True, your existentialist smoker thought with Apollo, and then your lyrical turn-up with AX. But, the key to DAR is the ability of its members to switch roles on the fly, with AX sometimes bringing the lyrical heavy-lifting while True’ll get on some straight up “ignorant shit.” All in all, your ears’ll thank you if you peep some of their stuff.

dvsn (@dvsndvsn)

At this point, I think it’s safe to say that dvsn is going to blow. They’ve got this 90s R&B feel to them that sounds as fresh as it does throwback-y. The duo is signed to OVO Sound, so, like A-F-R-O, it may be a “controversial choice.” However, their music backs up this placement. They’re soulful, sleek, and downright awesome.

see.francis (@seefrvncis)

The NJ native came across my radar a couple months ago and hasn’t left since. With songs such as “All I Wanted,” see hits the sweet spot between “real talk” and something that actually sounds great in music.

Fat Trel (@FATTREL)

Another “controversial” choice, given his affiliation with MMG, but Trel does have something about him. In prep for an upcoming interview with Angela Byrd, creator of MadeintheDMV, she and I discussed Trel’s ability to connect with his audience in a way some artists lack. Byrd ain’t lie to me yet, and she hasn’t started now. Say what you may about his content being graphic or whatever, you can’t deny that this man has that skill to bring people into his world.

Charlie Heat (@GOODWorkCharlie)

Do I really need to discuss why Charlie is on this list? From working with Lil Uzi Vert (someone you should check out as well) to Kanye West, this guy’s been everywhere over the past year or so–and rightfully so. His beats bang.

Justin Justice (@JusXJustice)

For more info on Justin, check out Drizzle’s PA review of his music in the our first indie showcase.

So, here we have it, some of the artists you should keep an eye on in the coming months and beyond. Again, this is not a definitive, written in stone list. Names’ll probably be added (hopefully none will be taken away) as the months pass. But, above all, check these artists out and, if you rock with them, support their releases. 

Speed on the Beat

Whatever you need to know about me, you can find out on speedonthebeat.com

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