This year’s Top 10 to Watch For is a bit different from years past. I have reached out to some fellow journalists to provide picks of their own to supplement the Da-What Top 10. To be honest, while I stand by all of my prior lists of talented artists, they don’t all demand the attention in 2016 that I thought they would! It takes more than just talent as we’ve seen time and time again. That being said, check out Da-What+Friends’ Top 15 to Watch For. I’ve assembled a talented team of 7 people from all around the world that really KNOW their music. The panel represents California, Michigan, Oregon, Washington, Canada, the United Kingdom and Ghana. Find out what we had to say about Anderson .Paak, Ar’Braf, DLRN, Fountaine, J. Lately, Little Simz, Maestro IV, Mic Capes, Montana of 300, OSHUN, OSIYM, OverDoz, Tasha the Amazon, Tom Misch and Worlasi.
Montana of 300 – Clicking play on a remix/freestyle by Montana of 300 is the musical equivalent of walking straight into a tornado. You won’t die, but the experience is life changing. The days of Lil Wayne destroying your current favorite beats are over, and from those ashes rises, Montana of 300. In Captain Philips, there’s the infamous “I’m the captain now” scene, and I imagine that’s how Montana takes every beat.
Aside from his murderous rampage, Montana proves to be a nice songwriter. Not in a sense that what he’s made thus far could be a huge hit, but it’s in the beginning stages of it. He’s melodically driven which is evident on several songs off Gunz N Roses. Combining both sides of this coin makes him a complete artist who will definitely leave his mark in 2016.
Anderson .Paak – As a contrast to my first pick, Anderson .Paak is a superstar in the making. He’s unique, diverse, and makes some of the catchiest hooks of any new artist. Just ask Dr. Dre, who featured him four times on Compton. You know this story already. His new album, Malibu, is on the most anticipated album lists in my mind. Based off the singles, it’s going to be a treat. “Am I Wrong?” has been stuck in my head all year, and I honestly hope it remains there with the rest of Malibu when it drops.
@SpecialSays, host of The Mansion Show on 106.1 KMEL San Francisco, Ca
DLRN – They’re constantly evolving and growing with a sound that listeners (myself definitely included) essentially grow along with. The vibes of their live show is euphoric and I’m excited to see what their new sound this year will be.
J.Lately – This man works hard in every aspect, especially behind the scenes. Last year he chose to be the road manager for Zion-I but also released his best project yet Let’s Just Be Friends. His live show includes the fundamentals of hip-hop but enhanced with a drummer, yet soulful and almost spiritual for anyone who’s been in a bad break-up (who hasn’t?).
Tom Misch – A UK producer and multi-instrumentalist who makes really dope jazzy beats. Perfect music to vibe to, whether in instrumental form or when he works with some of the most talented up and coming UK rappers and singers around.
Still Dope Radio – Michigan
Ar’Braf – Heavily influenced by MCs like Mos Def, Common, Black Thought, and Nas, just to name a few, Ar’Braf (B.R.A.F. = Beats Rhymes And Flows) paves his own path by making music that overflows with poetry, and varying subject matter. His balance of style, substance and stage presence is moving and refreshing. The sky’s the limit for this lyricist whose motto is “persistence beats resistance.”
OSHUN – A musical duo comprised of DC natives Niambi Sala and Thandiwe Young. These young artists describe their sound as Iya-Sol, a refreshing mixture of the most vital kinds of music: Neo-Soul, Hip-Hop, and Spiritual.
OSIYM – There are very few rap duos in the game right now, and even less in Toronto – but OSIYM (oh-sigh-em) is absolutely breaking a lot of those boundaries. Their infectious personalities not only play off each other flawlessly, but also serve as the thread that ties their music together – that is, of course, alongside high-energy production, crew anthems, lyrical diversity and an amazing live show. If you ever have a chance to see them live, run towards the stage!
Tasha the Amazon – Tasha The Amazon has come a long way from her pop days. She has ultimately reshaped her career, and music, as an out-of-the-box rapper; one who’s eclectic and not afraid to take a chance. Put it this way – if Travis Scott’s “Antidote” and Rihanna’s “BBHMM” had a baby, it’d result in a Tasha The Amazon project. Tasha’s ability to serve up a bold attitude alongside fearless hooks, as well as her ability to craft almost all of her own production solely to cater to her strengths, makes her an artist to keep your eye on.
Mic Capes – Since teasing us with the 6-track EP “Concrete Dreams: The Singles” in 2015, Mic is rearing to release his second full-length project by late Spring. Portland’s most commanding MC couldn’t miss last year, and from what I’ve heard, the other two-thirds of his project are just as hot.
Fountaine – The glue guy in Portland’s young rap scene, Fountaine raps, produces, and has a flair for the theatric. His introduction, “Black Sushi”, turned heads in Portland, and a handful of powerful live performances seem to have put the rapper on the map for good. Fountaine also stars in the newly-released hip-hop web series, “X-Ray”, rocked a sold out crowd at the video premiere, and is reportedly working towards releasing new music in 2016.
Maestro IV – Maestro IV can speak the life he sees and lives in the ghetto using all 3 languages that are major in Zimbabwe: English, Ndebele and Shona. He relates to people through his music as they can feel what he is about when they listen. Above all he is an entertainer that can take charge of the stage and let people have a great time.
Worlasi – Honestly, Worlasi is a breath of fresh air. His organic approach to lyrics, themes and instrumentation sets an authentic tone to a rare music trend. The path he chose to thread in a “one eay” Ghanaian music “industry” obviously sets him apart. If you are a cultural enthusiast, Worlasi is the guy to look out for. A Rare Breed Indeed!.. EASY! [His chant]
@DaWhatBenja, Co-Founder of Da-What.com
OverDoz – I first heard about OverDoz from an interview with NPR’s Microphone Check at SXSW last year. I am admittedly a bit late as the Los Angeles, Ca four man group has been gaining more attention for over 5 years now. Some of their biggest admirers include Pharrell who ended up producing “Last Kiss”. Hopefully this is the year that we will finally get 2008!
Little Simz – After Age 101, a 5 drop EP series over the course of the last two years, London’s Little Simz independently released her debut album in 2015 A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons. The Euro-Spitter’s cadence and flow help demonstrate her mastery of each word that she rhymes; possibly due to her acting background and television roles. Thanks to the Internet, those around the World have access to her music but according to her website, she’s only touring on her continent for now.