Any avid gambler will tell you that you can never have too many good tips. And while, in this case, tip-offs about 2014’s likely breakthrough artists come a dime a dozen, here are a selection of bold, up-and-coming artists that deserve your attention.
The buzz around this 24-year-old south Londoner has reached a new high. Already a runner-up in the BBC’s Sound of 2014 list and many others, new single ‘Too Much’ confirms the excitement is warranted. Sampha’s harmonious, falsetto vocals were first heard by most people on SBTRKT’s 2011 self-titled album. Since then, he’s recorded with Jessie Ware and Drake. Following his Dual EP on Young Turks last year, Sampha is due to release a number of new tracks in the run up to his long-awaited debut album.
Listen to: Too Much
2. Bishop Nehru
It might sound ludicrous to call Markel Scott, aka Bishop Nehru, a ‘young Doom’, but that’s just what he is. Heavily influenced by the masked rapper, 16-year-old Bishop quickly got the underground hooked after releasing two mixtapes in 2013. Nehruvia, his debut mixtape, showcases his talents as he raps about his struggles as a young adult. Slick production – with cuts from Metal Fingers, Skipless and Ghost McGrady – and humorously ‘unbling’ skits make it akin to a Danger Mouse’s Ghetto Pop Mix. No wonder he’s already working on album with Doom himself, expected later this year.
Listen to: Nehruvia
2014 is going to be a busy year for female rap and R&B artists. Angel Haze’s debut album has had moderate attention this month. Iggy Azalea drops her own in March. And if she can stop slagging off her producers, ‘rival’ musicians and everybody else, we might finally get to hear Azealia Banks’s “anti-what’s-
But it’s Solana ‘SZA’ Rowe who could prove to be one of 2014’s most surprising new acts. Despite being signed to Top Dawg Entertainment, home of Kendrick Lamar and Ab-Soul, SZA is closer in sound to Frank Ocean or the Weeknd. A troupe of female artists, such as Tinashe and Kelala, have been cited as embodying this new wave of chilled R&B. But the restrained production and SZA’s sultry vocals make her effort utterly irresistible. She’s released two free EPs so far and toured with Little Dragon. Expect much more from this New Jersey R&B queen-in-the-making.
Listen to: S EP
4. Denai Moore
Listening to her music, you might not twig that this 19-year-old grew up with an obsession for Lauryn Hill, because of the singer’s honesty. It’s the likes of folk artists such as Bon Iver and Lucy Rose that the Jamaican-born singer-songwriter brings to mind. Having impressed Plan B, who’s co-written and produced her upcoming debut album, Moore has picked up a following after performances at the Green Man Festival and on Later last year. Moore’s own honesty comes through in her voice, which twangs with pain and longing, and she could well be speaking to a generation who feel the same.
Listen to: The Lake
5. Charlene Soraia
Like Sampha, Charlene Soraia isn’t ‘new’, strictly speaking. But she is a talented, and surprisingly innovative, artist who continues to be sadly overlooked. Her music may be filed under ‘folk’, but drawing on pop, rock and soul, Soraia’s music is not your typical girl-with-an-acoustic-guitar combo. The 25-year-old from Sydenham, London, is influenced by Bowie, the Beatles and Pink Floyd. Her debut album, Moonchild, brims with quirky lyrics and head-turning arrangements. With her second LP due out this year on Peacefrog Records, fans of Emmy the Great and Laura Marling should keep a close eye on Soraia.
Listen to: Ghost
OTHER ACTS TO LOOK OUT FOR
This feisty-looking teen could be the Rihanna of west London. Check out her song ‘Right Before My Eyes’.
Showcased on Radio 1 several times in 2013, this year looks set to belong to the electronic-orchestral four-piece from Hackney, who are signed to the label that broke Rudimental, Black Butter Records. Listen to ‘Rather Be (feat. Jess Glynne)’.
Chuck Lightning and Nate Wonder of Janelle Monae’s multitalented musical clique, Wondaland, released their own funk rock mixtape, Runaway Radio, in 2013. Look out for more delights from the duo and other Wondaland members.
Along with Disclosure and Bondax, Gorgon City are another young dance music production duo that you’re sure to hear in 2014. Track ‘Ready for Your Love (feat. MNEK)’ has been doing the rounds on Radio 1 for weeks now, and it’s not hard to hear why.
Acts on PMR Records
Okay, sticking a label in an ‘artists round-up’ is cheating, but a label like PMR doesn’t come around every year. Fronting new material from DJ/producer T Williams, Jessie Ware’s ex-drummer Dornik, Canadian producer Cyril Hahn and more, the label behind Disclosure and Sam Smith is poised to dish out yet another series of potential dance and pop mega-hits.
Image: Press photos of Bishop Nehru, Charlene Soraia, Denai Moore, Sampha, Sza belong to their respective owners