Why: One of Atlanta’s best-kept secrets, 6Lack seemingly came out of nowhere in 2016 to release his self-titled debut project Free 6lack, but he’s been around for a minute; A faulty record deal had the vulnerable crooner on lock since 2011.
With a lucrative record deal in place with Interscope Records, the 24-year-old rapper/singer born Ricardo Valentine has made his presence felt. Over a medley of dark backdrops-comparable to The Weeknd-- 6lack pens scribes of both his personal and professional life. Free 6lack plays out like diaryl of the past few years of his life minus all the glamour and glib of garnering a record deal.
With the backing of Interscope and his talent for songwriting, don’t be surprised if 6lack grows into one of your favorites artists.
Project: Free 6lack
Dope Songs: “PRMBS,” “Ex Calling,” “Loving U”
Why: The 20-year-old Bronx native’s come-up is a testament to how powerful the streets can be. The streets have been saying that A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie will be next, and we trust their ear.
After an ugly break-up with a cheating ex-girlfriend, Boogie delivered radio-friendly and catchy singles like “Friend Zone” and “My Sh*t.” These tracks were ubiquitous on every block and in every New York City borough as well as every station on the radio. Proving that he’s more than catchy radio-friendly singles, Boogie bounced back with a gritty-radio banger dubbed “Jungle.” In less than one year, the Bronx rapper went from the Highbridge Housing Authority houses to opening up for Drake and meeting with record labels. His songwriting isn’t bad either.
Projects: TBA, Artist: The Mixtape
Dope Songs: “My Shit,” “Timeless,” “Jungle,” “Friend Zone”
Team: Highbridge Tha Label
Soundcloud: A Boogie Wit da Hoodie
Why: Bibi Bourelly is one of the most talented songwriters that you’ve never heard, yet she’s poised to become of a household name. The 22-year-old fills her notebook with tales of love stories with bad endings.
At the age of 19, the Berlin native moved to L.A. to pursue her music career. There, she penned songs for Usher, Selena Gomez and has worked alongside Lil Wayne and Nick Brewer. That year, she penned “Higher,” a song that would appear on Rihanna’s Anti album and introduce the world to a brutally honest and bold songwriter.
Bourelly’s raspy voice, mesmerizing pen game and disarming use of the F-word (and other negative adjectives) make her vivid stories addictive. Now that she’s got a taste of success with songwriting credits, a tour and the release of her Def Jam EP Free The Real Pt. 1, look for Bibi to create the soundtrack to our lives in 2017.
Projects: Free The Real Pt. 1
Dope Songs: “Flowers,” “Ballin,” “Ego,” “Perfect”
Team: Def Jam
Why: The Atlanta native’s infectious single “What U Mean” had the clubs going crazy during summer ’16. A year prior to “What U Mean,” the 23-year-old held down a gig as a construction worker. In fact, Dae Dae penned “What U Mean” on his phone in between taking breaks on the job.
After a few open mic performances, “What U Mean” caught flames in the streets of Atlanta. After inking a deal with Nitti Beatz, Nitti took Dae Dae to 300 Ent. bosses Lyor Cohen, Kevin Liles and Todd Moscowitz, who inked the rapper to a record deal based off the strength of his music. Proving that he’s more than a one-hit wonder, Dae’s follow up “Spend It” received remix treatments from heavyweights Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz as well as Young M.A and Young Thug. Dae’s most recent single “Dej Loaf” is shaping up to follow in the same path as “Spend It” and “What U Mean.”
With the momentum of Dae Dae’s radio-friendly singles and embarking on the Young Thug’s HiTunes tour with Lil Yachty and Rich The Kid, Dae Dae now has the success and confidence to push it to the limit in 2017.
Dope Songs: “Spend It,” “What U Mean,” “Dej Loaf”
Projects: 4 Reasons, The DefAnition
Team: Nitti Beatz/300 Ent
SoundCloud: Dae Dae Love Life
Why: Leikeli47 first appeared on our radar after her track ‘F**k the Summer Up” appeared on Jay Z’s F**k the Summer Up Tidal playlist. In fact, when Leikeli created the “FTSU” beat, she had Jay Z in mind. If the Jay Z salute isn’t enough to convince listeners that she’s worthy of attention she also received love from DJ duo Diplo and Skrillex. The EDM DJ’s brought the masked rapper on stage as a special guest on their Jack U New Year’s Eve concert.
The Bed-Stuy native has vowed not to reveal her age, and wears a mask a la early Ghostface Killah—she has about three garbage bags full of masks—so fans can focus on her music as opposed to her looks and age. Keli’s sixteens are packed with witty and entertaining rhymes. Along with loads of sh*t talking verses, she drops fearless talks of feminism—she’s so New York. Leikeli also has the irresistible charm similar to that of Tink and is equipped with an addictive creativity that’s reminiscent of Odd Future and Nicki Minaj.
Projects: Leikeli47 II
Dope Songs: “Money,” “Drums II Clean,” ‘Fuck The Summer Up” “Heard Em Say”
Team: Hard Cover/ RCA
Why: Nick Grant has a book of rhymes that are packed with passionate wordplay and messages of moral instructions, a deep reverence for women and a celebration of blackness. Lyrically, the 28-year-old wordsmith can spit alongside any rapper in the game—including Kendrick Lamar, J.Cole and Drake—but he just hasn’t been given the chance yet.
Alongside Killer Mike and Big K.R.I.T. on “Royalty,” Grant exercises his lyrical dexterity. He proves his worthiness by rapping, “Ain’t no other kings in this rap thing they trap queens.” Later he raps: “I address a b***h n***a like a Madea scene/Your honey want to lay up with the dream team/I hit the box from the bottom like a nicotine fiend.”
The Waterloo, S.C. native brings more to the table than just hard-hitting sixteens. He’s blessed with auspicious songwriting skills. On songs like “Black Boy, White Boy,” he addresses stereotypes that are worthy of a few teardrops. On “The Sing Along,” he holds a mirror up to the music industry for producing trap stars. On the same song, he also expresses conflicting feelings of supporting black men’s uninspiring musical catalog in an effort to help black men who’ve made it out of the streets stay out of the streets. With the guidance of Jason Geter—the guy that’s partly responsible for delivering T.I. to the masses—and his project The Return of the Cool set to drop in January, there may be some serious problems in the rap game.
Projects: A Seat at the Table (Plus One), ’88
Dope Songs: “The Sing Along,” “Vintage Luxury Rap,” “Black Boy, White Boy,” “Contradiction,” ‘Trouble,” “The Plan,” “Royalty,” “Royalty (Remix)”
Team: Culture Republic/Epic
SoundCloud: Nick Grant
Why: Harlem’s own Nino Man has been under the tutorship of The Lox, who recently inked a deal with Jay Z’s Roc Nation. The Lenox Ave product has built a solid street following with his gritty wordplay and personal stories of growing up Black Manhattan. Nino is one of the hardest working up-and-coming rappers in the game. His consistent release of freestyles are—for the most—always solid. Nino’s strong lyricism and relatable content are what’s responsible for his growth on the underground scene. And the freestyle he recently bodied on Funk Flex Freestyle #025 sounds as if Nino went months without a meal. The kid is starving for success. It’ll be interesting to see if Nino turns up the notch in 2017.
Projects: Hungry for Success, Hungry for Success 2
Dope Songs: “Phuck Dat,” “On My Bullsh*t” featuring Uncle Murda, “Arm In Ya Face,” “F**ked Up,” “I Dubbed You.” “Feel It In the Air”
Team: Billion Dollar Dream
Why: Hailing from the gritty section of East New York, the same ‘hood as Desiigner and Uncle Murda, Phresher is not your traditional BK spitter. While the self-proclaimed humanitarian—he’s a little league basketball and football coach—is a fan of his Brooklyn BK forefathers Fabolous, Maino, Biggie and Jay Z. Phresher’s animated rhymes, similar to Desiigner and/or Busta Rhymes, are also heavily influenced by southern hip-hop.
After coming off tour with Riff Raff’s Peach Panther back in June, Brooklyn native Phresher touched down in Kings County only to find that his club banger “Wait A Minute” was getting spins in every New York City club and radio station. Adding more momentum to “Wait A Minute,” the energetic song was remixed by 50 Cent and Remy Ma.
Projects: Take It Personal
Dope Songs: “Wait a Minute,” “On the Low” Featuring Desiigner, “My Circle”
Team: DGYGZ/Broken Boundaries Inc
Soundcloud: Phresher DGYGZ
Why: At only 17-years-old Baton Rouge native YoungBoy NBA (Never Broke Again) climbed his way out of the stifling chains of poverty. The young bull did it by waxing relevant tales of having an absent father, growing up in poverty and stealing to put food in his mouth. Studying from the school of Kodak Black, Z-Ro and Boosie Badazz, the rapper born Kentrell Gaulden reminds the world of why hip-hop is important. Like the aforementioned, YoungBoy gives listeners insight on environment that create knuckleheads in the ‘hood, while painting a dark picture of Baton Rouge, La.—the city that raised him.
In fact, on YoungBoy’s earlier work, his Mind of a Menace series, one can hear the influence of Boosie and the late Lil Phat and owner of Trill Ent. But on his most recent project, 38 Baby, the North Baton Rouge native came into his own. Unfortunately, like his reality-rap forefathers Boosie, Z-Ro and Kodak, whose pasts caught up with them at pivotal moments in their rap careers, YoungBoy was recently arrested by the BRPD and charged with two counts of second-degree murder.
Let’s pray that he’s able to get back to his promising career and not experience the same fate as Bobby Shmurda and his fellow GS9 comrades.
Projects: Mind of a Menace, Mind of a Menace 2, 38 Baby
Dope Songs: “How I’m Live,” “Hell and Back,” “H.A.M.”
Team: Never Broke Again
SoundCloud: YoungBoy Never Broke Again
Why: In the tradition of pioneering lords of New York City street-hop, the ruffian Young M.A drips bold, fearless and disrespectful raps. The East New York spitter gained recognition with her “Chiraq (Freestyle),” back in 2014, which irked Dr. Boyce Watkins who claims that M.A glorifies killing on wax. Young M.A’s team reached out to Dr. Boyce to no avail.
The prolific pen of M.A, short for Me Always, composes emotional verses about forlorn relationships and breakups with her ex-girlfriends and seedy street talk. Thanks to the hard work and the backing of the streets, The Brooklyn rapper owned the summer ‘16 anthem with “Ooouuu.” The fun-filled and hater-proof anthem inspired remixes from the likes of 50 Cent, her favorite rapper, Remy Ma, Yo Gotti as well as Nicki Minaj. And Young M.A is serious about her rap career. She was recently offered a role in the Fox series Empire, but declined because she didn’t want to be known as an actor-turned rapper. With many big looks in 2016, look for M.A. to go harder in 2017.
Projects: Sleep Walkin’
Dope Songs: “Ooouuu,” “Quiet Storm,” “Summer Story,” “Money Power Respect,” “Eat,” Body Bag”
Team: Red Lyfe