Once again, we talked to 10 of the hottest artists who are climbing the charts, breaking the Internet or just dominating our office stereos. This month: Chance the Rapper cohort Noname, K-pop trap crew Blackpink, "Ooouuu" hitmaker Young M.A and more.
Sounds Like: A perfect marriage of K-pop and A-town trap
For Fans of: CL, 2NE1, Ariana Grande and Fifth Harmony's harder moments
Why You Should Pay Attention: "K-trap" may not be an actual genre but Blackpink, YG Entertainment's new girl group, are on the verge of breaking with a unique fusion of bubblegum pop and hard-hitting hip-hop. Each member of the group underwent a rigorous training process anywhere from four to six years before the group debuted this summer. The group had been teased over the years before finally releasing the two-song Square One EP. "I couldn't believe it; it was such a long awaited debut that it was hard to tell if it was all a dream or not," says member Jisoo. "However, once we did debut I also felt a sort of emptiness in my heart thinking that I've reached my goals. But now I have even bigger dreams to fill that emptiness. We've accomplished the first step by debuting, but I'd also like to achieve other bigger goals soon."
Singing and rapping in both English and Korean, the bilingual group each grew up on as much of a fusion of genres as their music displays, with each member citing everyone from Lianne La Havas to Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande as influences. "I feel like we are well-prepared for any music style and dancing," Jennie says of their eclectic backgrounds. "We have a strong color as a group, which we will reveal through our music."
They Say: Blackpink credits their executive producer Yang with their name. "We considered so many different names just like any other group," Jisoo explains. "Most of those names were created by Yang and Blackpink was also created by him. He always wanted us to show our different colors at all times, which is why Blackpink was chosen."
"We had many names over the years until we officially became Blackpink," Jennie adds. "I feel like Yang wanted to make a name that represents our two strong features, which is being a strong performer on stage but also our natural selves off stage, just like how black and pink are two opposite, contrasting colors."
Hear for Yourself: All low-end boom and high-end tweets, the infectious "Whistle" feels like perfect pop update of the similarly chirpy Ying Yang Twins classic "Whistle While You Twurk." Brittany Spanos
Sounds Like: An introspective conversation at a mid-August barbecue between Lauryn Hill, André 3000, and Jay Electronica
For Fans of: Chance the Rapper, Anderson Paak, Mick Jenkins
Why You Should Pay Attention: A frequent collaborator with Chance the Rapper (she appeared on both Acid Rap's "Lost" and Coloring Book's "Finish Line/Drown"), the Chicago artist's debut mixtape, Telefone, has gained a significant amount of attention since its July 31st release – including being asked to open the first three shows on Lauryn Hill's The MLH Caravan: A Diaspora Calling! Tour. Telefone is an online smash thanks to its neo-soul-based production, striking lyricism and guest appearances from Raury and Xavier Omar. Beginning her career as a rapper performing at cyphers and poetry slams in Chicago, Noname has spent the last few years honing her sound and sharpening her lyrics in order to cement her place in the rap game.
She Says: "I pretty much grew up in my grandparents house up until I was like 13. … My granny low-key only listens to gospel, Michael Jackson, and the blues. So that's kind of what I grew up listening to … mainly the blues more so than anything." She dubs Nina Simone and Andre 3000 as her musical relatives lyrically, while stating that, "in terms of creativity, freedom of expression, and fearlessness, I'd definitely have to throw Missy Elliott in there. … She is one of the most creative-minded artists ever."
Hear for Yourself: "All I Need" is slow and groovy neo-soul track backed by Xavier Omär. Raaziq Brown
Sounds Like: The throbbing, synth-heavy soundtracks to imaginary Seventies and Eighties flicks – most likely found in VHS shell cases
For Fans of: Tangerine Dream, Giorgio Moroder, John Carpenter
Why You Should Pay Attention: You may have heard Survive's Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein providing the soundtrack to Netflix series Stranger Things, the year's most celebrated nostalgia trip. But together with fellow Austinites Adam Jones and Mark Donica, they make up this warm, goosebump-centric band that explores a darker, more grandiose breed of cinematic menace. After releasing a handful of cassette and vinyl releases since 2010 (earning the attention of Stranger Things creators the Duffer Brothers in the process), Relapse is releasing Survive's most high-profile album yet, RR7349, a moody giallo full of vocoders, zombie-stepping drum machines and swooning melodies. The band will tour the U.S. throughout October.
They Say: Dixon credits I Luv Video, Austin's self-proclaimed "oldest and largest video store in the world" for helping him expand his horizons. "I Luv Video is literally one block from my house, so I just walk down there. I try to rent from them as often as possible. … They have a huge horror section, so a lot of times I'll just get stuff if it's got a Goblin or a Tangerine Dream score and just see what it sounds like. They have a huge Argento collection, so we get to see all that stuff, and then, like, Sorcerer. There's a Tangerine Dream score for Sorcerer that's great. I've rented that one a few times. The Keep. I think you can only get The Keep on VHS.
"I'm a huge fan of Giorgio Moroder's soundtracks," says Stein. "and the stuff that he did with Harold Faltermeyer. Just, they have, like, a weird romance vibe. I don't know if it's some modal-style of playing, but it's … really ingenious. Obviously John Carpenter's films. That brooding kind of … awesome use of dissonance and just propelling scenes.
Hear for Yourself: Album opener "A.H.B." stomps through gritty horror-flick atmosphere and sweeping bloody valentines. Christopher R. Weingarten
Sounds Like: Strolling down a Brownsville sidewalk with your girl and your pet pit bull
For Fans of: Bobby Shmurda, French Montana, 50 Cent
Why You Should Pay Attention: With her New York anthem "Ooouuu" cracking the Billboard Hot 100, Young M.A has brought an astonishingly original image to the rap world. She's a street rapper who talks unapologetically about sexing the ladies, downing bottles of Hennessey and bringing enough lyrical skills to "body" any rapper – male or female – that opposes her. "Ooouuu" is the latest peak for an artist who has been uploading her freestyles and tracks to the Internet since she was in high school. After forming RedLyfe with some Brooklyn friends, she released a freestyle over the late Young Pappy's "Chiraq" that has earned 5 million YouTube views since 2014. Other viral hits followed like "Girlfriend" and "Karma Krys," where she raps about her relationships with women with tough love and sensitivity. But it's "Ooouuu" that has broken her out of the NYC rap ghetto, earned remixes from veterans like Jadakiss and Nicki Minaj, and major labels offers from Universal and Atlantic. "Beyoncé used the record on her Instagram video," she says appreciatively. "That's the one that got to me the most."
They Say: Before "Ooouuu" took off, Young M.A got an offer to join the cast of the TV soap opera Empire. "I actually turned it down. I just didn't want to be known as a character from Empire before I was known as Young M.A," she says. "They was trying to make me, um … some type of girl name in there, I think it's Freda Gatz? The initial name was Betty Bars. Everything they wrote, like, everything [rapper/actress Bre-Z] is playing in the scenes was written for me. That's why she's from Brooklyn in the show. But I turned it down, that's why they got someone else to do it. It just wasn't for me."
Hear it for Yourself: On "Summer Story," Young M.A celebrates the warm months over a loop from Audio Two's "Top Billin'." Mosi Reeves
Sounds Like: Every room at a killer warehouse party, shaken and stirred
For Fans of: The actual spirit of PLUR taken to its musical conclusion: love for all genres
Why You Should Pay Attention: As electronic dance music continues to contract into more and more exclusive microgenres, Mija's ready to huff, puff and blow all those walls down. The Phoenix-raised, L.A.-based producer's ethos came across loud and clear on a popular mixtape, Fk a Genre, which has garnered some 132,000-plus spins on Soundcloud. It eventually birthed parties of the same name, dedicated to booking big names to play out of their comfort zones. Now, the Fk a Genre tour is hitting 12 cities this fall featuring acts like A-Trak, Lunice, Kill the Noise, Boogie, Joey Purp and Jack Beats
Mija's original material, too, happily skips across tight confines. A single track might draw on sounds from the drum'n'bass from her early raving days, the house on which she cut her DJing teeth and the new vibes she picked up in L.A.
She Says: "Moving to L.A., I got really into hip-hop and trap music and basically a lot of the sounds you would maybe normally see in a festival. For whatever reason, I was so involved in vinyl and house at the time, I didn't even know that I liked trap. [The expansion in musical taste was] probably the opposite for me that it is for most people.
"In the studio, like to start with just words, depending on how I'm feeling. I'm huge into poetry. I have so much poetry that I've written, so I love writing words down and figuring out melodies I can sing over them. Whether or not I use those vocals or not, it really helps build a foundation."
Hear for Yourself: Mija's new track for OWSLA – where all the cool, genre-hopping L.A. kids are seemingly landing these days – sees her teaming up with labelmates Vindata for a chirping, stuttering slab of optimism that alternates between old-school jazz'n'bass breaks, major-key synths and sugar-rush vocal snippets. Arielle Castillo
Sounds Like: Amy Winehouse jamming with Kyuss at a desert LSD party
For Fans of: Black Sabbath, Blood Ceremony, Windhand
Why You Should Pay Attention: This Southern California-based doom-psych quintet has been garnering major raves from the metal blogosphere thanks to their newly released self-titled debut. The primal punch and serpentine swirl of the band's guitar-bass-organ-drum attack mesh beautifully with the commanding clean vocals of vocalist Feathers, whose jazz- and blues-influenced stylings soar above the crunch. And this is all before you attend their theatrical live show that includes smoke machines, psychedelic projections and a pair of corpse-painted dancers – the Rigormortettes – who perform ribbon and hula-hoop routines before ritually "killing" Feathers at the end of it.
They Say: "People have said our live shows are like being on a drug trip without any drugs actually being involved," laughs bassist and co-founder Octopus. "Audiences don't know what to expect, but they love it; we often leave them with their mouths hanging open. But it's been kind of interesting trying to book the band, because we're so different.
"We wanted to have that sense of a fourth wall, that sense of theater and mystery. There's no mystery with so many doom and stoner bands; it's like, 'That dude looks like the guy who works on your car!' Which is cool, and we respect that; but at the same time, we feel like some of the genre has become derivative, and we wanted to stake out some new territory. We absolutely are part of the stoner/doom world – but when you're stoned, sometimes you see things differently!"
Hear for Yourself: A fuzzed-out journey to the center of the psyche, "Glowplug" – from the band's self-titled debut – impressively showcases Old Blood's power and dexterity. Dan Epstein
Sounds Like: A Janis Joplin-Aretha Franklin hybrid with a mic … but a Lucinda Williams-Bonnie Raitt hybrid with a pen
For Fans of: Alabama Shakes, B.B. King, Mavis Staples
Why You Should Pay Attention: After Potenza's spellbinding blind audition yielded a four-chair turn on NBC's The Voice, a visibly moved Pharrell Williams told her she was "giving this generation something they've never seen before." Potenza is to the blues what Adele is to pop: a colossal-voiced singer who merges her old-school influences with a modernistic sound. Her new album, Monster, solidifies endless Janis Joplin vocal comparisons but also colors between the lines of Memphis blues, Nashville Americana, New Orleans funk and L.A. punk. Its lyrics are personal and personally therapeutic, as she empowers herself through tunes denouncing industry naysayers and embracing her fuller-figured, boisterous self.
She Says: "It's hard for a size 16, 36-year-old woman," says Potenza of catching a break in the music industry. But she's come to realize those numbers actually work in her favor. "I've never opened a door with my looks. Because I've always relied on my personality and my talent, I've really flourished and feel strong and confident. I don't know how to get someone to buy me a drink in a bar, but I'll sing you a song!"
Hear for Yourself: "The Cost of Living" is like a powerful sermon delivered in a smoky blues club. Beville Dunkerley
Sounds Like: A sleek and trendy party without an exclusive invite list
For Fans of: Amy Winehouse, Nelly Furtado, Jessie Ware
Why You Should Pay Attention: "Hotter Than Hell" is a hit in the U.K. and the Warner Bros.-signed synth-popper will be touring with Troye Sivan soon. At 15 years old, Dua Lipa moved back to her hometown of London on her own after living with her family in her parents' hometown of Kosovo. "That was just when I really decided to take my fate into my own hands and was like, 'Okay, I'm actually going to try and do this,'" she recalls. Thanks to a manager she found through social media, Lipa spent five days a week in the studio in between a job as a restaurant hostess. Now, the 21-year-old is ready for the release of her self-titled debut album in February 2017. "[I remember] being like, 'I really want to get up on stage and perform these songs. Now I'm currently living that and actually doing what I always wanted to do."
She Says: Lipa's music fuses together everything from soul to EDM but there is one genre that has always had her heart. "I've always been such a fan of pop music," she says. "The first album I was given when I was quite young was the Whoa, Nelly! album by Nelly Furtado. After, I also got the Missundaztood album by Pink. That's when I was like, 'Oh my god, I want to be just like them!' I love the way Pink has especially grown in her career. I admire her a lot. I feel like whatever they do or put out, I'm a fan of. I'll always listen to it. I think because I loved them when I was so young, that has left such an imprint that really inspired me in what I do right now."
Hear for Yourself: "Blow Your Mind (Mwah)" is a sassy kiss-off. Brittany Spanos
Sounds Like: Swooning falsetto, leftfield R&B and dark electronic drama
For Fans of: Björk, Anohni, Arca
Why You Should Pay Attention: Brooklyn-based Josiah Wise is a unique personality living in the worlds of both future-soul R&B and post-club electronic music. For his commanding EP, Blisters, he teamed with the Haxan Cloak – the artist/producer known for booming ambient doom as well as studio work with Björk – and Tri Angle Records, the hip label behind crinkling, creeping music by Evian Christ, Lotic and Rabit. Wise also tips his cap to R&B star Brandy and the legacy of gospel – not the first points of reference one might imagine for an artist with a pentagram and the word "suicide" tattooed on his head.
He Says: On the moniker: "The name is my passport, my license, my permission to be the most seductive being that I can be. People ask what pronouns I use – I typically use "he" for myself – but that conversation is not that interesting to me, even though I think it's important. To me it's important to see how I can be seductive as a person. It's not about gender, politics or sexuality. When I think about snakes and serpents, I think about fluidity and resourcefulness – this agility to move through spaces in a powerful way."
Hear for Yourself: Earthy piano sounds commune with alien electronics in "Flickering," a song in which Serpentwithfeet's sweet but venomous voice unfurls. Andy Battaglia
Sounds Like: A "Hulk smash" to white supremacy
For Fans of: Fucked Up, Negative Approach, Bad Brains
Why You Should Pay Attention: There is a new wave of D.C. hardcore – referred to as NWODCHC, which NPR confirms is a real acronym – and Pure Disgust is at the helm. Formed by a group of teens in 2013, the band's self-titled debut offers a crash course in Eighties hardcore, from the gnarly buildups of British punks like Blitz to the boot-stomping righteousness of Dischord's founders. Yet, whereas Minor Threat's Ian MacKaye wrote "Guilty of Being White" from his experience in majority-black D.C. schools, frontman Rob Watson writes of being black at those same schools in "Pipeline": "School to prison/Raised to fail/How do you escape/The poverty that you're in?" Although Watson asserts his songs are driven more by personal experience than political protest, he speaks uncompromisingly, through gritted teeth, to the harrowing position of being a hyper-criminalized black youth in the United States. Perhaps in homage to their D.C. punk predecessors, Bad Brains, the cover of Pure Disgust's new album illustrates bombs raining down on the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.
They Say: Regarding D.C. punk legends who got their starts in the 1980s, "They're mythologized to the outsiders of the city," says 23-year-old Watson. "Like, Alec MacKaye [of the Faith] comes to shows semi-regularly and it's no big deal for us. We all try really hard to be as inclusive as possible. The bands that are coming up and are a part of the [New Wave] are amazing and spectacular. … Stand Off, Red Death, Protester, Kombat, Guilt Parade, Genocide Pact, Stuck Pigs, and every other project that's about to come out. I'm excited to be a part of that."
Hear for Yourself: Guitarist Ace Mendoza slinks into "White Silence" with some tidy, retro licks before stirring up a gyre of thrashy mayhem corralled by drummer Robin Zeijlon. Suzy Exposito