Despite its low points, 2016 was a great year for encountering new music. It was exciting to see a swelling interest in jazz — partly propelled by references in house and hip-hop, or bands like Kamasi Washington and BadBadNotGood — and the many live acts that came about as a result. Live instrumentation also seemed to garner more reverence, at a time where everything is live-streamed, and we also enjoyed the intelligent lyricism coming from all directions: pop, grime and hip-hop.
From a young grime collective to the newest Stones Throw signee, take a look at the best emerging talents we’re looking forward to seeing more of this year.
1. Moses Boyd
With a prophetic name like ‘Moses’, you can expect the 18-year-old, south London-born drummer to be nothing short of visionary. Though his musical roots stem from the jazz greats — Sun Ra, Art Blakey, Bobby Hutcherson (Standard Time Vol 1 by Wynton Marsalis was the first jazz CD he ever bought) — his sound is flavoured with underground hip-hop tones like that of DOOM and Madlib. Listen to the thundering Rye Lane Shuffle, or watch the live session on Boiler Room with his band Moses Boyd Exodus. Better yet, keep your eyes peeled for one of his upcoming live performances — coolly and effortlessly, he’ll move through difficult rhythms, silencing the crowd with electrifying compositions. With a forthcoming EP, and already a winner of the MOBO Awards, The John Peel ‘Play more Jazz Award’ and Gilles Peterson Worldwide Awards, the year is looking pretty dazzling for the young percussionist.
Our ears first perked up at Noname’s raw, vulnerable rap-singing on Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap. In Lost, the love song injected with naivety and narcotics, she stole the show with her off-key, beat poetry style performance as Noname Gypsy: “My druggy, love me when I’m ugly / hug me when I’m bummy, scummy.” The Chicago native, born Fatima Warner, banded together with local talents to create her debut Telefone last year. Laid over with production by close friends Saba, Cam O’bi, Phoelix in that sunny, sing-songy Chance-style energy, the rhymes she spat are particularly piercing. From the way she tells the story of an abortion in a forgiving, comforting way, to her grandmother’s passing and the volatile nature of fame, her writhing words, which give voice to black women, is much needed in 2017.
3. Nilufer Yanya
Recently, as a part of The Line of Best Fit’s festival (which celebrates the best of new music) I had the fortune of coming across Nilufer Yanya on stage. Holding her glittered, baby blue electric guitar, she self-consciously mutters intros to her songs, then closes her eyes and transforms into a magnetising, soul-wrenching force. Her voice is low, rich, drawling (think King Krule), laden with that choppy, London rude gal patter, in which single words just barely see their last syllable. The band, which consists of a saxophonist, drummer, and keyboardist, blends r’n’b with funk, pop and electro.
She started playing the piano at six, and as she tells i-D, her father played a lot of traditional Turkish music in the house, while her nan played Irish folk and her mum classical — perhaps this variety exposed her young ear (she just turned 21) to receive and create the wide range her compositions span. Her EP Small Crimes / Keep on Calling, released late last year, has already received worldwide attention, and we can’t wait to see her quietly forceful talent do its own thing in today’s hype-heavy music landscape.
4. Injury Reserve
Last year, the album Floss from Arizona rap trio Injury Reserve was a dose of fresh force welcomed by many in the underground hip-hop community. Featuring producer Parker Corey and rappers Steppa J. Groggs and Ritchie With A T, their confident lyricism is balanced with chill, catchy, jazzy beats — though they’ll just as quickly slip in the odd Internet-age trap bass we know so well, or very directly reference mid-2000s Fergie (Oh Shit). It is this skilful manoeuvring between genres, influences and styles that makes them so appealing, and the intelligent and adaptive sound we’ve been craving.
5. Chaos in the CBD
One from London’s house music scene, New Zealand brothers Chaos in the CBD has been accelerating in momentum since the release of their EP on Bradley Zero’s Rhythm Section label. The fan favourite Midnight in Peckham, with poetic production by younger brother Ben Helliker-Hales, and sedative, mournful horns played by Isaac Aselli, seem to thaw the grimiest, iciest London winter, while simultaneously embody the very melancholy it stems from. (If you’ve ever been on a cold, damp night bus, heading home on your own, pensiveness stoked by the warmth in your headphones, you’ll know what I mean.) Last week, they announced the new record label, In Dust We Trust, an ode to their buds back home which they’re starting with childhood friend and fellow house producer Jon Sable. The first release will be Accidental Meetings, a four-track EP emanating the deep moodiness and the stratified, ear-catching rhythm-making they’re known for.
MCs Saint, PK and Lyrical Strally make up the grime collective, and 2016 has seen them spitting from the booths of BBC Radio 1 with Logan Sama to takeovers on NTS and Radar Radio. Originally met in school as teens, the three has a bond that sees them picking up flows from each other, without pause and in that satisfying, lightening fast speak that cyphers originated from. After a promising 2016, we can’t wait to see what lies ahead for YGG in 2017.
7. Sudan Archives
It’s hard not to be completely overwhelmed by master manipulators of instruments. In October last year, Stones Throw records put up this enchanting video of Cincinnati-born Sudan Archives. Recreating Kendrick’s King Kunta, she sings in an unblemished voice while skilfully swapping between folk fiddle-playing, classical violin motifs and plucks of tribal staccato, all the while a loop pedal bops in the background. A few more absorbing tracks can be found on her SoundCloud, whose complexities make you want to listen to them over and over again. She is currently working on her debut album for the LA label, so watch out for its release later on in the year.