As always, Soundset’s organizers at Rhymesayers Entertainment have done an admirable job curating buzzing hip-hop newcomers for their festival’s 2018 lineup, which also includes already-hot hitmakers Migos and Logic and veterans Wu-Tang Clan and Ice-T.
Last year, our list of the fest’s new acts to watch included Denzel Curry and Lil Uzi Vert, the latter of whom certainly blew up; never mind that he didn’t actually show up (last-minute cancellation, with no explanation). Here are five names to look/hope for in this year’s lineup.
Young M.A: This 26-year-old Brooklynite already had a good buzz when we caught her boozy and bawdy live set at Texas’ South by Southwest festival in 2016, and then her Nicky Minaj-mixed single “Ooouuu” exploded via SoundCloud that summer. She has since issued her jittery, slow-bobbing but slyly lyrical debut album, “Herstory,” and become a music correspondent for HBO’s “Vice News Tonight.” Not only is she a strong pick to help fill the festival’s gradually improving roster of women artists, but she has also become a strong advocate for the LGBT community.
Pell: The fact that both G-Eazy and TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek have collaborated with this New Orleans-raised rap wiz tells you something about his poppy but adventurous, experimental style. He was transplanted to rural Mississippi by Hurricane Katrina in his teens and turned to music for solace, lending a dramatic back story to his 2014 debut album “Floating While Dreaming.” He since released a flurry of well-reviewed singles and EPs but hasn’t had his commercial breakthrough. Yet.
A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie: The 22-year-old Bronx native broke out last year with the Kodak Black-accompanied single “Drowning” and became the youngest act prominently featured in the Netflix rock-doc series “Rapture” (alongside fellow Soundset 2018 players Logic and Rapsody). His wiry, sing-songy, sometimes AutoTuned style of rapping — as heard on his debut album “Bigger Artist” — is part Future and part Drake. The latter artist recently hand-picked A Boogie to open his three Madison Square Garden shows.
Jaden Smith: Maybe you saw this Hollywood kid on screen in the 2010 “Karate Kid” remake? Or maybe you know his sorta-famous actor parents, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith? Now 19, he’s going in an opposite trajectory from his dad and has set aside acting to be a rapper. His debut album, “Syre,” was a genuine hot mess, but he might be a dynamic live performer. Coincidentally, his dad’s original musical partner, DJ Jazzy Jeff, is also on this year’s lineup.
OG Grip: One of five local rap acts on the lineup, this Minneapolis MC has so far made his mark via YouTube with a series of impressively cinematic music videos, including “Them Days,” a track featuring none other than Houston legend Scarface of the Geto Boys. Other guests on his debut album, “Lurkin,” include Devin the Dude and Cookie Monroe. Born Monroe Dunbar to Liberian immigrants, he delivers his dark, story-driven tunes in a distinctively deep, gravely voice that sounds far from Minnesota Nice.