With the UK music scene exciting as it is, Phaze of Star One gives his recommends for 2017’s ones to watch.
After reading many of ‘Ones to Watch’ and ‘Hot for 2017’ lists, the overall feeling I was left with was one of disillusionment. Yes, AJ Tracey and MoStack are set for a big 12 months, but having already amassed millions of views and industry support, it’s such an obvious a choice even my four year old niece can tell you that.
Of course I get it, the corporations and blogs throw their neck on the line to openly support someone and in return they want to make sure that the artist smashes it. This makes them look good, allowing them to bask in an ‘I told you so’ glow. The problem is that people tend to choose the safe option and the resulting lists are a little stale and predictable. So with that being said, here are 10 artists who’s music we think you should listen out for in 2017. It needs a snazzy name doesn’t it? So let’s call it the ‘2017 Watch List’. The list isn’t defined by an artists buzz, label, industry support or any of that gas. It’s simply artists that I personally can’t wait to hear new music from in 2017.
The distinctly South London style of drill inspired rap has taken over in 2016 and deservedly so. The only problem is that sometimes things can start sounding a little samey. That’s why Jords is a much needed breath of fresh air. In a similar way to which Chicago has birthed both Chief Keef and Chance the Rapper, Jords gives the South London scene some balance.
Stumbling across his debut album Means to an End in September, it’s been on heavy rotation ever since. I was blown away with how mature and complete the record was for a 22 year old that I had never heard of before. Everything is on point, from the production, the features to the general portrayal of life growing up in the capital. It is one of only projects this year I still listen to from start to finish without skipping. For me, it is the 2016 winner of the poisoned chaliced ‘Most Underrated’ award. If he can come up with anything half as good in 2017 it’ll be well worth a listen. I just hope enough people start listening to him to ensure this music isn’t wasted.
Young T n Bugsey:
These two are hella wavey. The lazy comparisons to Rae Sremmurd and Krept and Konan do not do them justice, they are very much creating a lane of their own. It is a mark of the developing UK scene how the Nottingham duos sound has been so readily accepted nationwide. Showing their promise with 3 big 2016 releases – Glistening, No Mickey Mouse Ting and Monster – I think these guys have the potential to go global. Their flow is reminiscent of 90s hip Hop but their swag is very much UK. Co-signs from Stormy and Drake probably go some way to explain why Black Butter have signed the pair. Big tings ahead.
The state of the UK Garage scene leaves me feeling slightly conflicted. It’s definitely seen a resurgence as of late, yet hasn’t exploded onto the mainstream in the same way it did as in it’s heyday. Many of the popular ‘house’ anthems of the last couple years have been UKG tracks in disguise whilst the pioneering UK Garage artists are enjoying a DJ renaissance as throwback UK Garage raves become more popular than ever.
Yet it’s the trajectory of Kurupt FM and the comeback king Craig David that are perhaps more telling of where the UK Garage scene is currently at. Popular for sure, but I’m not entirely certain if it’s taken seriously on a wide scale. The emphasis around the UKG scene at the moments seems focussed on past rather than looking to the future. Perhaps the scene has moved on (to bass house?), but bar a lukely warm received Shift K£y single this year, no one seems to be able to push the scene forward on a national or commercial scale.
Within this backdrop, enter 22 year old Bristolian producer Conducta. Spending the last few years perfecting his craft with club ready bangers, Conducta showed us a different side with his latest release ‘Still You’. The record showed a progression into songwriting and hinted at slightly more popular sound by merging RnB vocals to his signature basslines. If he carries on in this vein, Conducta could well be the one to take the UKG sound to the masses (without any nuances of comedy).
His Bl@ckbox freestyle – Need I say more. I hadn’t heard of Gen before that but the way he killed Zxph Ellis’ – Rhythm n Zeph beat was enough for me to include him in this list. With the clarity of Roachee, mad punchlines and a flow on point like P Money, Gen looks set to be a problem for 2017 if he can back up his freestyle with consistent releases.
UK bass producer Skepsis has enjoyed a breakthrough year on the club circuit smashing raves across the country and building a loyal fanbase who go crazy for his heavyweight bassline drops. The bass house scene continues to grow throughout club land and Skepsis is one of the leading lights. Some of the previews of his upcoming material are mad and are sure to rattle the bass bins in 2017.
Berna hasn’t released a track yet but has set the levels very high with his Bl@ckbox, GRM, Link Up and and Mad About Bars freestyles. His flow is just crazy! What makes it even more remarkable is that even though he looks 23, he’s only 17. There seems to be a general feeling within the scene that Berna has the potential to go far in 2017.
V Love is a singer/songwriter from London. All she has on her Soundcloud are rough acoustic recordings, but even on these her star quality shines through. Her cover of Drakes – One Dance is a brilliant example, she creatively makes the track her own by flipping the lyrics to create a new powerful political message.
Yet it’s her original material that is the most exciting. It is a rare talent when an artist is able to take you deeply into their mindset through their songwriting, this is something V Love does effortlessly on tracks like UnLoveable and Furniture. Black R&B/Soul singers have struggled to break through to the masses as of late but talent like this is hard to overlook. I hope she continues her development with some polished studio music in 2017.
Afrobeats may well just be prove to be the sound of 2017 in a similar way to which dancehall music made it’s presence known throughout commercial and underground music worldwide this year. One shining light of the scene who has enjoyed a phenomenal year is the UKs Maleek Berry. He’s perhaps overqualified for this list having amassed millions of YouTube views and Spotify streams but the pop sensibilities shown in his debut EP Last Daze of Summer show the potential of an artist who could transcend the genre to become a star on a wide commercial scale.
Weed and hip hop just go so well together. No artist encapsulates this more for me right now than Abnormal Sleepz. His ‘Meditape 2’ mixtape is wavey as hell and a great introduction to his self proclaimed ‘Anti-Cool’ movement. My highlight is Queen Aswad featuring fellow future Mancunion starlet HMD. As I was writing this, Sleepz just dropped a video for new track ‘Wavey Davey’ which is his most professional visual to date, a good sign of things to come.
Has any artist risen as quickly as Kojo Funds in 2016? Six months ago he was best known for his sweetly sang but gully as fuck diss track to J Hus,- ‘Arriba!’. Fast forward to the end of 2016 and he currently has the biggest track in the clubs with Dun Talkin featuring AbraCadabra (Mist might argue with that), it always gets about 3 wheel ups whenever dropped at Visions. His collabs with Yxng Bane and Trizzy Trapz plus his track My 9ine prove he’s also not a one hit wonder. I’d be very surprised if Kojo Funds records do not contribute to the sound of summer 2017.
Phaze is a DJ/Producer and half of Star.One. Argue with him about his artist choices on twitter – @StarOneUK