Springtime is the start of new beginnings. Meet five young music talents who are just beginning to blossom and are already showing signs of greatness to come.
From an LA rap crew bringing back the sound of 90s hip hop to a south London producer rebelling against the selfie generation, these are the mavericks and melody makers who are brightening the music scene in 2016.
“Gangster folk” is how south London’s most unusual underground duo sum up their sound. Led by mesmerising guitarist and frontwoman, Marisa Hylton, AOSOON make arresting urban folk tinged with honey, like Kelela meets Ghostpoet meets Denai Moore. At a recent Anne Mac Presents showcase at the ICA, London, Hylton calmly set hearts aflame with her lucid vocals and defiantly poetic lyrics. Last autumn, the group released their second EP, Alot of Something Out of Nothing – an appetiser that’s easy to get hooked on. It’s the stuff of opposites attracting and tense hearts meeting in deserted streets. And it sounds stupendous.
Sounds like: Denai Moore, Sherika Sherard
Porter Shields is a smooth operator. Born in Memphis, raised in Atlanta and now living in London, this singer fronts suave and seductive R&B. Shields, who has worked as a professional backup singer, follows in the steps of Usher, Justin Timberlake and Chris Brown. His tone is smooth, his words confidently suggestive, and he knows how to engage a crowd. His first EP, the arousing Red Velvet, was released last year. Shields is currently working with producer Sunny Kale (Eric Bellinger, Joe Budden, Tiffany Evans) on a new single due for release this summer.
Sounds like: Usher, John Legend
Leisure are an unassuming electro-pop four-piece from east London. Band members Beth Horak-Hallett, Jon Mason, Anya Pearson and Nick Taylor generate a heady blend of pop that’s somewhere between AlunaGeorge, First Aid Kit and Shura. The group’s three-track EP, Falling, is a marvellous mood-setter for afternoons spent slipping cool drinks and lounging in golden sunlight. Leisure’s first mixtape, collecting songs by them and friends of theirs, is an example of the inclusivity and out-and-out vibrance driving their approach to music-making.
Sounds like: AlunaGeorge, Shura
Nabihah Iqbal is an academic, an activist and a maverick producer. She has a PhM from Cambridge in African history and has worked in human rights law. The London-based producer and NTS Radio host, who goes by the alias Throwing Shade, released her debut EP, House of Silk, on Ninja Tune, at the start of the month to high praise. And no wonder: her luminescent beats and jittery electronics are flushed with feeling. Lead track ‘Hashtag IRL’ is a strong statement, and it feels like Throwing Shade has plenty more to share.
Sounds like: Floating Points, Little Boots
Villain Park are the must-hear rap group nobody but the LA underground (and discerning music followers) are talking about right now. These four cats – Classicko, kilaM, Niftee and Smokey V – hail from LA and are reviving the sound of early 90s hip hop, with their rootsy beats and mischievous rhymes. The group cite The Pharcyde, A Tribe Called Quest and Slum Village as some of their influences – vibes which you feel immediately from the group’s supple productions. Their Same Ol’ Shit EP, released late last year, is awash with moreish Madlib-style beats, smooth flows and humorous, yet conscious, lines. The group has new music on the way, so look out for more from these West Coast rogues.
Sounds like: People Under the Stairs, The Pharcyde
Other acts worth listening to
Already writing heart-wrenching love ballads you’d expect of 26-year-old – expect she’s only 16.
Conscious hip hop for serious word-lovers, over delicious live jazz instruments.
A Philippian R&B star-in-waiting.
Soft soul for wanderings the canyons and caverns of the city, while thinking about who you are.
Crisp, intoxicating R&B that’s hot like fire from this up-and-coming south London sister.
A 19-year-old Glaswegian making stylish pop.
Honest, jazzy old-school rap for contemporary times by this talented south London wordsmith.
Slick pop-shined grime and rap from this rising Woodford star.
Intergalactic R&B that takes inspiration comics, films and video games from this sensitive Houston-based music maker.
Vibrant, effervescent, earthy alternative electronic soul from one of London’s little-known production stars.
Images: AOSOON at ICA (main) (Aaron Lee); All other images belong to respective owners: AOSOON (courtesy of AOSOON/PR); Porter Shields (courtesy of Porter Shields); Leisure (Sam Brolan); Throwing Shade (Ninja Tune/PR); Villain Park (Villain Park/PR)