Hip-hop moves fast. Even in this accelerated internet age, where music seems like it’s here today, gone before I finish typing this sentence, rap’s always thrived by having someone new always around the corner to introduce new styles and flip the game in an instant. With so many regions nationwide boasting exciting scenes spawning new styles, we’re giving you the heads-up on five new voices we’re excited to hear more from in the new year. Here are five rap artists to watch in 2015.
New York audiences are notoriously tough to win over, and if you’re an out-of-towner, “tough” can be “near impossible.” For St. Paul–based rapper deM atlaS, his opening slot for Atmosphere and Prof at Terminal 5 last November might have been mistaken for a high school’s star quarterback being named prom king, given the unbelievable adulation he educed from the crowd at his first-ever New York show. An energetic MC whose live performances perfect the party vibe, as Rhymesayers artists are known to do, deM atlaS has managed to replicate this same vibe on recordings. His latest, DWNR, is a promising sophomore release from an artist we’re sure to see live again in the new year.
While some had picked 2014 to be Rast’s year, his Across West 3rd Street mixtape’s excellent traditionalist New York grittiness was somewhat overshadowed by Your Old Droog mania becoming the hot New York hip-hop topic. Still, word of mouth helped spread the tale of Rast’s unique perspective. With a knack for storytelling about his street escapades, and instead of trying to replicate his youthfulness or overtly bemoan his former lifestyle, Rast stands out with time-won wisdom. He presents his tales with both objective detail and subjective narration, giving listeners something new to discover every time they press play.
The growth of Los Angeles rapper Speak’s cult following in 2014 was long overdue. His charismatic personality and eccentric interests made his Gnarly Davidson vs The Marlboro Man and Summer Time Radness EP both sleeper hits, as well as gateway drugs to his work. Rounding out the year with the release of his Caleb Stone–produced Sex Quest EP, the former ghostwriter who co-penned “Gucci Gucci” further cemented his status as one of the most well-rounded artistic voices in the genre. With word spreading like mono on a college campus, the increasingly prolific Speak should find 2015 to be his biggest year yet.
Not much is known about Atlanta rapper 31, and in this era of rapper media hyper-saturation, it’s kind of refreshing. A relative unknown whose buzz got a boost when his video for “Crooks & Castles” was uploaded by the same YouTube channel that carried ILOVEMAKONNEN’s “I Don’t Sell Molly No More,” 31’s already found an ardent supporter in Trinidad James, who’s helped spread the word about 31’s Scale Tales mixtape that dropped on New Year’s Eve. With a flow that finds a perfect balance of raw emotion and meticulous accuracy, 31 seems like the next step of where rap’s emotive aggression is heading in the next twelve months.
Brooklyn-born Little Pain’s earlier work had, as his name suggests, been pretty synonymous with sadness. His newest mixtape, L.I.T.T.L.E. (Lost in the Times, Loving/Loathing Everyday), makes it sound like he’s doing a bit better, but the trembling timbre of his voice obtains in his signature flow. While Pain’s received a lot of attention for the overt sadness of his music, he’s not some emo kid having a mope party. Pain’s an excellent songwriter who keeps getting better, as evidenced by his Adventure Time–inspired single “Marceline.” Sounding halfway between Lost Boyz’ “Renee” and Kilo Ali’s “Love in Her Mouth,” if Organized Noize had a Brooklyn affiliate, it would be Little Pain.