Ones To Watch
Through breathtaking neo-soul vocals over smooth, intricate production, Ocia's debut single Running immediately caught our attention at the end of last year. The song is both mellow and powerful, and we witnesses her explore an “inner dialogue” with naturally articulate lyricism. Matched with an ethereal black and white video, this first offering is outstanding. Currently there is neither a live show nor record deal on the table; a situation no doubt set to change very soon.
North London's 18 year old Ama Lou is another promising singer/songwriter. The combination of her rich vocals and deep bass/clap beats end up creating uplifting, dreamlike R&B tunes. Though the sound is bouncy and fresh, her slightly sombre lyrics are used to express views on issues from activism to the media. It's the ability to interweave catchy melodies with socially conscious content that makes this newcomer a standout.
The three songs of Bakar that we saw posted on soundcloud last year document a visible progression. On the wrong time demo and little secret we hear him gently croon over melodic guitar and minimal percussion, then lean more towards an R&B style in the autotuned sharing is caring. Whilst all of these are decent offerings, it's in the recently dropped Big Dreams where Bakar really finds his feet. It's refreshingly unique, with an energetic, feel-good vibe accompanied by fresh visuals celebrating a style and attitude that could only have come from London.
We first came across Benny Mails in 2014 freestyling in the back of a car with Cecil B Demented, Jadasea and Rago Foot (check them out if you don't know), and since then his progression has been mad. The release of Western saw a laid back, sinister flow clocking over half a million hits on Youtube, though recently Mails has switched up to a more hard-hitting production style and aggressive flow with I Blocked My Dealer. An ex ballet dancer with long bleached hair, he exemplifies the variety in the demographic of UK rap.
Cosmo Pyke is the jack of many trades and seems well on his way to mastering them too. The skater/artist/model/musician caught a glimpse of the limelight when cast for Frank Ocean's Nikes video, and has since then put out a stellar EP titled Just Cosmo off the back of hugely successful first single Social Sites. His influences seem to range through jazz, blues, reggae and hip-hop, and he's currently on a tour of the UK: not too shabby for an 18 year old.
Our initial glimpse of Crave Moore's talent came from his brief verse on Rejjie Snow's Meddling Loops and then his track with Jesse James over Dilla's Trashy. From then he seems to have stayed relatively low-key, letting his music do the talking. He's lyrically intelligent and his beat selection is strong, but his main skill appears to be in delivering fast, complex lyrics with total ease. Check him showcase this on the recent politically minded verses of Jay Jay Okocha for Colors Berlin, or sample some smoothness below.
The last we properly heard of MC Pinty was back on 2015's sharp tongued Midnight Moods, which saw a bunch of playful rhymes go in over a mix of relaxed electronic hip-hop and garage beats. Jamie Isaac's Loose Grip mixtape gave us a Pinty's Interlude, but other than this the internet hasn't been given much by way of material, other than the odd bits with Maxwell Owin for Twinkat Soul, and Black Mack for NTS. However, those attending a performance at the end of last year with Sub Luna City were promised that '#newtunesgunabepoppingoff'. We're hoping this means a project is in the works. Stay tuned.
JESSE JAMES SOLOMON
To call Jesse James up and coming is unfair and untrue, as he's been killing it for a few years now, but with talk of a debut album coming this year we couldn't leave him out. His effortless rhymes are quiet and introspective, often having more in common with spoken word, which sets him apart from other rappers on the scene. Combine these with the silky, atmospheric beats he raps over and you get an eclectic backing soundscape reflecting gritty snapshots of London life. Notable features are included on projects from the likes of Milkavelli, Edgar the Beatmaker, Rejjie Snow and Ratking's Wiki, and solo projects Jesse from SE and The Ride Home EP solidify his position as one of the most important young artists out there.
The recently formed, all female jazz septet Nerija are a superb reflection of London's cultural diversity. Jazz, hip hop and afrobeat lies at their sonic core, though they bring together South African, West African, Caribbean and contemporary British sounds. Their self titled EP is exciting and original, with The Fisherman being the most notable track.
Hailing from London's South-East, Sumochief are a live jazz hop collective taking heavy influence from the likes of J Dilla, Madlib, The Roots, The Robert Glasper Experiment and D'Angelo. The quartet are recognisable from their progressive jazz cuts and deep grooves, and collaborations with a host of talented MC's. Check out the earlier beat tape SumoBeats, though the real gem is their more recent release, SumoTreats, an impressive and striking fusion album with a wicked feature list.
S4U are an innovative duo shaping a new sound of British R&B. Through the multi-layered production of hard hitting drums and electronic undertones, we hear them draw heavily on a 90's influence, but the lo-fi feel and soft, dreamy vocals bring entirely original elements to the table. These girls are elusive and under viewed, but definitely not underrated. Keep an ear out.
Yellow Days, a guitarist, vocalist and producer, has a crooning voice far beyond his years. Aged only 17, he creates music with a depth which mirrors the broody teenage angst it emanates. The bedroom production is bluesy and upbeat, complementing the apathetic melancholy which resounds in the emotional lyrics, prompting comparisons to artists like Archy Marshall of King Krule. The Harmless Melodies EP is an impressive body of work, and it will be interesting to see where the young artist goes next.
Words by: Richard