Best New Artists of the Month (October)
Some of our favorite rising acts in music, featuring Grip, Gracie Abrams, Rema, Fireboy, BENEE, Hanzo, Grandma, and more.
It can seem like artists today come out of nowhere. One day they’re working a 9-5 job in their hometown, and the next they’re getting tens of millions of streams per song and touring the world. Technology and connectivity has certainly accelerated the process, but when you dig deeper, you realize that almost every overnight success story is preceded by years of preparation.
Some artists prepare by sharpening their skills, some by learning the industry and getting a foot in the door, and others by building their audience. But every artist who makes it has one thing in common: when they get their big shot, they’re ready to take advantage of the moment.
It’s 2019, and if you are a really talented rapper, you get called things like a “rapper rapper” or “rappity rap” by new fans who grew up with a different set of standards. At this stage in the game, being very good at rapping is almost a disadvantage, but there are always exceptions.
With his new project Snubnose, Grip can’t be denied. The up-and-coming Atlanta native raps well, but it’s deeper than that. Instead of pointless tongue-twisting bars and lyrical exercises, Grip’s music is delivered with a message and a sense of urgency. His stories, perspective, and concepts are bursting at the seams with substance—it’s why we called him Atlanta’s next great storyteller in 2018. You could listen to Snubnose 10 times and on the 11th listen, you’ll probably catch something new.
Grip told us that he looks up to T.I., André 3000, JAY-Z, and Nas, and that “10 years from now, I want to be in the top five, no questions.” He’s aiming for greatness, and Snubnose has him one step closer.—Jacob Moore
For years, Gracie Abrams has been releasing clips of short homemade performances on social media. Without releasing one official single, she’s built up a following of over 200,000 on Instagram, and this month she finally released her first single, “Mean It.”
The song doesn’t stray too far from the intimate performance clips that won her over so many fans in the first place. It’s a beautifully simple song with Gracie’s stirring vocals and songwriting at the forefront, and it’s a crystal clear display of the massive potential in an artist who has been quietly honing in on her vision for a long time.
“I’ve been posting little pieces of my songs for years,” Gracie says. “It’s been funny because they’ve existed on my Instagram as 45 second clips while I’ve had the full songs fully written. I think it got to the point where both myself and the people kind enough to listen to messy, unfinished versions of songs wanted more tangible versions of them to exist in the world beyond Instagram. ‘Mean It’ felt like the right song to start with.”
“I wrote it with Blake Slatkin, who also produced the song,” she continues. “We made it in one afternoon and it just felt like the most natural choice. A huge part of my readiness in releasing anything at all was about trusting myself and trusting him and trusting our collaborative process which was ultimately the most empowering part. The tone of the song kind of bridges the gap between the videos of me playing bits of songs alone in my room and the rest of the music that I really can’t wait to share.”—Jacob Moore
Nigerian artist Rema has released three short projects in 2019, launching him to stardom at home (he topped Nigerian Apple Music charts with “Dumebi” from his self-titled EP in March) and marking him out as an artist with massive crossover potential. His latest EP, Bad Commando, encapsulates everything that’s exciting about the Afrobeats star.
“I am inspired by the goal to create a universal language with my sound,” Rema tells us. “I tend to influence my sound with different cultures to appeal to different audiences beyond Africa.” Rema’s 2019 output is the sound of popular music evolving, of young artists being inspired by global sounds and making music that is fresh, new, and totally authentic. There are party songs, love songs, and reflections on life’s ups and downs, but the most exciting moments come on “Spaceship Jocelyn,” a futuristic anthem that’s been on repeat since it came out.
“Bad Commando is a sound of my identity,” Rema says. “It’s a raging sound for the force that I represent, the new generation. This sound is a statement, recognizing my place in the game as part of the special force standing in the frontline, sent to raid the world with the new sound.” Listen to the Bad Commando EP here.—Alex Gardner
Three years ago, KIRBY released an impressive song called “Loved By You.” Since then, the Memphis-born, Mississippi-raised artist’s output has been sparse—one song in 2017, another earlier in 2019, and now “Don’t Leave Your Girl.” Behind the scenes though, she’s been putting in work as a writer for years. Her track record includes songs with Beyoncé, Kanye West, Demi Lovato, and Ariana Grande. “I stopped writing for artists in 2017,” KIRBY says. “That same year I moved back to Mississippi and invest in myself as an artist I didn’t have management or a team at the time but I was determined.”
The decision to focus on her solo music wasn’t an easy one, and it didn’t work out overnight. “I left the mountain top of one career and went to the valley of another,” she explains. “But believe me, I see the mountain ahead. And it’s beautiful.”
KIRBY’s own music has a timeless quality to it, rooted in soul and R&B and steeped in musicality. Listening through her small catalog so far, you’d be hard-pressed to guess which decade she comes from. She strips things down to the basics, often letting her powerful vocals do the heavy lifting.
With “Don’t Leave Your Girl,” KIRBY might have her most accessible song yet. This time around, she’s blending the vintage with the modern—you’ve got the bouncing piano, crisp drums, and a horn section, but she mixes in a playful rapped section, some record scratches, and a big hook. There are tones of Amy Winehouse and Lauryn Hill, and that’s exactly what she was going for. As she puts it, “My dream for this song is for Ms. Lauryn Hill to hear it and say, ‘Yasssss, lil sis you did that. You made me proud.'”—Jacob Moore
For a 22-year-old man who goes by the name of your mother’s mother, Grandma has already displayed an incredible range of genres and styles with the select handful of singles he has released. Growing up with a musician for a father, the New Orleans-born, Atlanta-based vocalist always had music around the house and instruments ready to play.
Grandma’s tracks like “Downtown Life” provide a modern spin on the very best of what ’80s post-punk had to offer, while “Shallow Water” is a funky, soul-stricken exploration into the depths of betrayal and heartbreak. Considering that he produces and masters all his songs himself, Grandma’s single “Out of Your Mind” featuring 6 Dogs is one of his most impressive—what starts off as a melancholic, jazzy ballad unexpectedly evolves into a heart-racing European club hit.
Despite citing Echo and the Bunnymen, The Clash, MGMT, and Phoenix as inspirations, Grandma affirms that it is his own friends and collaborators who are his greatest influences. “My friends and I came up off the SoundCloud scene with no idea what we were doing,” Grandma explains. “[We’re] just trying to live by the principle that you make the music you want to hear.” On November 5, Grandma is releasing his first long form project entitled Even If We Don’t Get It Together, which features Rico Nasty, Father, Hanzo, and more.—Jack Angell
Many of today’s emerging pop acts don’t fit the mold of what a pop star used to be. There’s more room than ever for artists who take pride in being different, and BENEE is one of the fastest rising. The 19-year-old New Zealander attributes some of her own individuality to her hometown: “The creative scene in NZ has its own kinda thang going on,” she says through email. “Because of our physical isolation, I think we’ve also all developed a strong sense of our own identities.”
BENEE’s music is immediate and addictive, driven by impossibly catchy hooks and radio-ready melodies. But with BENEE, the songs are never sterile or robotic. She’s been working with artist/producer Josh Fountain of the band LEISURE, and each song has a unique flare, whether that’s jazzy undertones, unconventional bounce, or psychedelic flavor. Paired with her own vibrant songwriting, it’s the perfect storm of dynamic musicality and compelling personality.
Her songs are already amassing tens of millions of plays, and it’s just the start. BENEE says she’s got plenty more music and videos coming soon, and she’s not overthinking things: “This past year has been super crazy! Everything is going too fast and I kinda still don’t really understand what’s happening but it’s coooool! At the start of the year I had noooo idea that my music would have the attention it does now, so I’m super stoked about it all.”—Jacob Moore
Kyle Lux is a 19-year-old South Carolina native who is a sophomore at USC in the pop music program. His debut single, “Rollin’ Stone,” was released earlier this year, followed by two more smooth, nostalgia-tinged songs, and now there’s an EP on the way too. The music Kyle Lux has released so far has been rooted in the sounds of classic R&B, with lush production and elegant vocals—a sound that he describe as autumn transitioning into winter.
On his upcoming debut EP No Roof Access, Lux covers more sonic territory, more accurately reflecting the influences he namechecks: Gabriel Garzon-Montano, Frank Ocean, Solange, and James Blake. Of the EP, Kyle tells us, “This project confronts a subconscious dialogue that’s been going on in my head for some time now. It acknowledges my insecurities, then releases them. It’s honest and you might question my sanity in certain moments. I did too. Now that it’s said and done, I’m just excited for everyone to experience what I felt.”
The No Roof Access EP is out November 15. Watch Kyle’s video for his latest single, “Lightyear,” below.—Alex Gardner
Making music out of his bedroom, Hanzo is the perfect case study for what an artist in the age of the internet is capable of. On one hand, he’s produced for artists including Hoodrich Pablo Juan, Lil Pump, and 6 Dogs, even landing on the Good Boys soundtrack earlier this year with his credit on Lil Pump and Lil Uzi Vert’s “Multi Millionaire.” On the other hand, the Atlanta native has built a strong following around his solo work, recently signing to Awful Records with songs like “Frozen” and his most recent, “Blue Toes,” leading the way.
Whether in his solo work or producing for others, though, Hanzo refuses to be anything other than himself. “I like listening to older pop records—my favorite is Steely Dan. Melodically and harmonically, with the complexity of their music, they really go for it, you know? I want to incorporate that into songs that are still easy to enjoy.”
With a sound mirroring the genre-blurring strides that music is heading toward, Hanzo’s artistry is ready for the masses, but without losing sight of its individuality.—Seamus Fay
We’ve always taken direct submissions for P&P. It’s one of the only ways to make sure we’re giving artists a shot to be heard and not only considering the same music that every hired music publicist is emailing to hundreds of other outlets. But keeping up is not easy—we get thousands of emails a week, and most of them are not great. Last week we tried something new by letting artists share snippets on their Instagram Stories and tagging us so we could hear. We had low expectations, but the quality of music was better than any other round of submissions. This one song, the soaring “Ladybug” by Ottawa-based duo Garçons, was an immediate new favorite.
Garçons is Deelo Avery and Julian Strangelove, a pair of collaborators who met at a mutual friend’s house that became a sort of hub for creatives in the area. The duo is influenced by classic artists like Nina Simone and James Brown, but inspired by the individuality of more modern acts like Tyler, The Creator and Erykah Badu. They’re also equipped with a DIY mentality. They write, record, produce, mix, and master everything themselves, and direct all their own videos. “We are independent,” they explain. “Very independent.”
“It’s hard to say what’s next,” they say. “You never know what direction things might take. We just try to follow our intuition and focus on writing the best music we can. We want it to be as raw, real and authentic as it can be. Being as human as possible is what we strive for. It’s the foundation of our personalities and the music we make together. We always want to come back to that feeling.”—Jacob Moore
Ayoni is a 20-year-old singer with a stunning voice and sharp pop sensibilities. Born in Barbados and going on to live in Singapore, Indonesia, and now South Central, LA the young artist jumps between genres and moods on her debut album Iridiscent. Her voice is the centerpiece throughout, whether it’s the post-Lorde pop of “Divine,” the dreamy R&B of “Rap Songs,” or the lofty ballad “Me and My Light Lit Lover.”
“Iridescent is a good night when you realize it,” Ayoni explains. “The dance floor at 3 a.m., the arms of your lover, a freeway ride, and newfound freedom. It is also the morning after, the train ride home, and the silence when the door closes and you’re alone again. Created as a chronology to my first year in South Central from Jakarta, Indonesia, this record is everything at once. It relishes in the intensity of the heights because it knows that the lows will come, and it holds you through them.
It’s early days for Ayoni, and it feels as if she could take her sound in so many different directions, anywhere from full blown chart pop to throwback soul. Wherever she takes things, we’ll be paying close attention as she plots out her next moves. Listen to the full Iridescent album here.—Alex Gardner
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