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Ones To Watch 2019: Hip-Hop and R&B

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Hip-hop and R&B are genres constantly teeming with great talent, but we thought we'd take the reigns and spotlight some of the biggest and brightest names to watch in 2019.

These artists are all levelling up, constantly evolving their sound and creating their own unique styles reflecting their unique personalities. The New Year will be big for each and every one of them.

Kojey Radical via Songkick

1. EARTHGANG

Compared to J. Cole and fellow signees to his record label JID and Bas, all of whom dropped albums in 2018, the dynamite duo of EARTHGANG were relatively quiet. They did still come with a beautiful, jazzy EP Royalty early in the year, and hit hard later on in the year with a stupendous performance of a still officially unreleased song, ‘Up’, on COLORS. The duo has a highly anticipated album Mirrorland dropping February 2019, and given their diversity in style and sound, it is definitely one to get psyched about.

2. Kojey Radical

Anybody who has seen Kojey live on stage will know why he is one to watch for 2019. The man has so much charisma, stage presence, and can command a crowd well: all hallmarks of a star. Most people will know of Kojey through his feature on Mahalia’s ‘One Night Only’, or on his track ‘Water’ which landed itself on the FIFA 19 soundtrack. Each new song he releases is a different vibe to the last, and all never fail to bring a smile to one’s face. Opening for Pusha T’s show at O2 Forum Kentish Town, he let it be known that he will be back next year having sold it out himself; I’m inclined to believe him.

3. Blueface

Californian rapper Blueface blew up recently as a meme rapper who apparently couldn’t rap on beat. That was his whole shtick: he was just comically off-beat. As it turns out, he can rap on beat and is pretty damn good at it, sounding like a gruffer E-40. He was just trolling to generate a buzz. He now has a buzz and some talent, so 2019 should be a big year for Blueface. Well played.

4. Flohio

South London MC Flohio is another who caught people’s eyes with her COLORS performance. Fast flows, high energy, classical grime production and an aggressive delivery are all brilliant attributes for a grime MC to have and Flohio has all of them with a little something extra. Her latest single ‘Wild Yout’ is another old school grime head-banging, distorted, high-energy banger. She’s been featured by Vevo as being an artist to watch in 2019, and I can’t say I disagree.

5. Summer Walker

Whilst the mainstream of R&B is veering towards trap-heavy production and style, just beneath the surface exists a string of singers keeping the spirit of R&B alive. Atlanta native Summer Walker is one of those singers. R&B has always been about bringing out the fullest of emotion, the depths of pain and the highs of love’s embrace, over slower and smoother instrumentals: Summer Walker does all of this, and it is beautiful. She dropped an album in October, and that momentum should carry over into a big 2019 for her.   

6. Octavian

The only constant in Octavian’s music is its genre blending. Grime, drill, trap and assortments of electronica all regularly get manipulated to the French-born Londoner’s will. 2018 was a big year in his career, getting a Drake co-sign and being a runway model for Virgil Abloh. 2019 will be even bigger if his melancholic trap banger ‘Move Faster’ is anything to go by.

7. YBN Cordae

Cordae got busy in 2018. One of the few new age rappers coming from the US with actual lyrical ability and a flow that isn’t always a triplet. He blew up with his response to J. Cole’s track ‘1985’ from his album KOD, which was essentially a self-help guide for new age rappers, to which Cordae responded with some tact. Since then he has dropped nothing but heat, which has set him up perfectly to release a major studio album in 2019 and kill it next year.

8. Jevon

Jevon comes from the mould of a rapper who sings as well as he raps. What’s refreshing about Jevon is that he has shown himself to not be afraid of incorporating influences into his music beyond just the UK sound. Taking flows, sounds and cadences from American artists and adding his own spin to it, collaborating with Spanish artist Zetazen, as well as making an appearance in Tokyo, are all features that create that worldly mesh of beautiful melodic sounds that go into his music.

9. Emotional Oranges

The Californian R&B duo have so far only released two tracks, but they are both mind-bendingly good for a brand-new outfit. The mix on both tracks is probably the most surprising facet of the group, beyond their funky, acid jazz, R&B fusion and soothing vocals, since newer acts tend not to have the crispest production, and yet Emotional Oranges sound so clear. The duo saw a big rise in following due to co-host of the Joe Budden Podcast, Rory McFarrell, playing their song on the hit podcast as his ‘sleeper’ pick. With a project coming in 2019, expect big things from Emotional Oranges.

10. Mahalia

Birmingham-based R&B singer Mahalia had a strong 2018, releasing an EP towards the back end of the year which featured a warm old school neo-soul sound, with brief touches of more contemporary R&B to give it some appreciation of the times. Despite being so young she has been in the music industry for 6 years, having been signed to a record label since she was 13. That experience combined with her talent and sound, should see her have a big 2019.

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