I had to let the new year breathe. Every December/January we’re overwhelmed with End of the Year/Best-Of articles and it’s easy to get lost in the sauce. Despite the memes and overused motifs, the current landscape of music has produced a lot of quality art nationally and locally. 2017 was a great year for our ears from Greg Owens’s Eclectic Soul and TrigNO’s Rawest 4m, to Sarob’s Seeing In The Dark, Kent’s FRVR Focused and Vada’s Twenties Go For Nix. For a full list of some of the dopest projects that came out in 2018, click here, but what I really want to discuss is who I am looking forward to coming out with music THIS year.
Note: this list is not all inclusive. I’m looking for music from these artist for one of three reasons: 1) From their recent activity, I can tell that they are in a crazy bag and I can’t wait to see what type of project they make while in this zone; 2) because they have been quiet for too long and so I know they got some heat cooking up; and 3) because they’ve been talking their shit for a minute about their upcoming work and I want to see if the art is going to back up that energy.
In no particular order, these are the artist that I can’t wait to hear new music from in 2018.
- P Blackk – P Blackk is the first artist in Columbus that I was really a fan of. I appreciate(d) his ability to deliver honest raps with convicted precision as he explored topics that ranged from race relations and reflective ego checks to money, social intelligence, and flexing. Beyond a single or freestyle here and there, I haven’t heard a complete project from P Blackk since Contemporary Nostalgia in December of 2012. I’m excited to see what he has for us.
- Fabby Rotten – I became a fan of Fabby around the same time that I became a fan of P Blackk, during the Art Show Days. That project is STILL fire and I STILL believe that Fabby is one of the best pure spitters in the city. I respect the direction that he’s taken his music, blending genres and incorporating a lot of rock and roll elements alongside the modern trap sounds of contemporary hip hop. I thought that his project with Tron a couple years ago was interesting and I still listen to it sometimes on my way out to functions. In my opinion, Flex was one of the best songs to come out in the summer of 2017 and that was the joint that convinced me that I need to stop asking him to start rapping again and allow him to just cook and create.That’s not to say he can’t still GO, as he demonstrated on a couple hardbody freestyles at the end of the year, but as a fan, I’m ok with Fabby embracing his inner-rockstar. Good music is good music. He put out a couple of projects at the end of last year with Sip Hop, POP and Gotham: A Non Written Movie. There were some dope songs between the projects, and honestly, given the timing, I don’t know if he’s even working on anything new right now, but I do know that when he goes in the studio, I am always interested in hearing what he made. I’m hoping he is active in 2018.
- J Doze – Doze is the FIRST artist in Columbus that made me believe in Columbus hip hop, because even when he was a novice, you could hear his knack for making complete songs. I’ve been listening to his music since 2009 and still listen to songs from his last project “Theory of Mind” which came out in 2014. J Doze swore that he was done making music when he graduated from OU but word on the street is that he’s been itching for the studio and now I’m itching for some new music from him.
- Soop – Soop is another artist that I’ve been a fan of for a long time, who hasn’t dropped in years. He teased with two incredible Interludes on his SoundCloud in 2016, but I haven’t heard much since outside of a random verse here or a spontaneous pop-up in a cypher. From my very first time listening to him on the Exec Gang project CMH, I’ve been captivated by his abilities.As rapper and producer, Soop has the uncanny ability to capture your ear and make you pay attention to what he is saying. In ways, it is the exact thing that make people such fans of artist like Drake, J Cole and Fab. On top of the fact that his production is and always has been STUPID, I’m excited to hear a complete project from Soop. It’s been a long time since Meanwhile and Wish Me Well.
- Tobilla – I feel like some people on this list don’t even need an explanation for why I am looking forward to their next work. Tobilla is one of them. Columbus has A LOT of dope artist in the city, but Tobilla is not just talented, but also unique. I remember first thinking when I stumbled across him on SoundCloud, “Kid Cudi reinvented himself and moved to Columbus”. Like hip hop’s favorite unicorn, Tobilla’s penchant for melodies and harmonies helps him to stand out in a crowded landscape and now he is absolutely one of Columbus’ premiere talents.He hasn’t put out a complete project in some years (the Truly Yours series still bangs though) so he is long overdue for some new heat. Trig rapped that “Tobilla was rap’s David Ruffin” and it’s true, because when Tobilla’s on the bill, HE’S the one you’re coming to see.
- Zae – Zae might be an unfamiliar name to a lot of people in the city because Zae is one of Columbus’ greatest secrets. I’m not going to say that he’s the 614’s Drake, but there aren’t many artist that I’d rather hear reminisce on the mic over him because he’s really, really good at it. I appreciate the way that he structures his bars, his story telling and song progression and when he starts experimenting with melodies, that’s where he really starts making magic happen. He has that ability to make a hook get stuck in your head which contributes to an overall, memorable experience. I’m hoping to hear something new from him this year.
- Correy Parks – Correy might be the most complete artist in Columbus right now and he’s another one of those that I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain why I’m looking forward to hearing from him. I’m just hoping that the road less traveled takes him to a studio real soon because it’s coming up on two years since we’ve had new art from him and the last project was an EP.
- Yogi Split – Yogi has the talent, the clout and the fanbase to be regularly mentioned amongst the best artists in the city. Your favorite rapper probably has him as one of their favorite rappers. He’s so good that his name floats off the tip of tongues of anybody invested in the local rap scene despite him not putting out a complete project for quite some time. At any rate, I’ve heard from him and those close to him that he has been very focused and I’m excited to see what comes from that.
- Jerreau – Never How You Plan was one of my favorite albums to come out in 2016 and I still listen to it weekly. I feel like Jerreau put together a manuscript full of life-lessons and concepts that should be required listening for every twenty-something trying to figure things out. Beyond him being from the same part of town that I am, his ability to put together a strong project that still sounds fresh years after its release makes him a favorite artist of mine. (Not to mention, Jerreau made the theme song for the Cavs magic Finals run when we won our first chip. It’s special.) I’ve been a fan of Jerreau since TGTC with Fly Union and I’m looking forward to the sophomore follow-up to his solo debut. On top of that, I’m interested to see if he continues working with Swifa or if he starts to explore production from outside camps.
- Trek Manifest – Trek introduced to Columbus hip-hop in 2009 and so I’ve had front-row seat to his career for almost 10 years. I can honestly say that I think he’s making the best music of his life right now. His single Straight Up is three flame emojis and after releasing three projects in 18 months, I’m just hoping he is still in his bag because I like where he is headed. I’m hoping to hear the spiritual successor to Trek For Short.
- Greg Owens – GO put out one of the most unique albums from last year, marrying R&B and Hip Hop in a way that most artist only talk about doing. He’s really found his groove as a producer-artist and I’m ready to see him keep up the momentum from last fall’s Eclectic Soul. GO makes music that makes you want to dance and go to cookouts. I’m here for that. He JUST released, but I’m eager to hear more.
- TwanRap – 4Wallz. Break The Bank. Cold Blooded. That’s the reason why I am looking forward to hearing from the Mummy. He did a good job of reintroducing himself to the local scene and in 2018, I am looking forward to seeing what he does when the stage is his and the spotlight is squarely on him.
- D Mili – I like to follow along with artist when listening to music which is the reason why I tend to prefer rappers over singers (I can’t sing), but there’s something about D Mili, that when he jumps on a track, I jump on a track too. It don’t matter where I am: in the car, at the office, at the crib. His talent invites you to karaoke with him and I do it, every single time. I think that music is supposed to move you, so this is definitely a good thing. I wanna see what happens when it’s his turn to carry the tracks by himself.
- Kent – I’m going to come clean. A lot of times, you’ll hear a singer on a song and you think “they sound TOO good; there’s no way that they sound like that in real life. They definitely have somebody touching their vocals”. A lot of times the live performance don’t sound NOTHING like the record. Kent is not one of those artist. It’s eerie how good he sounds live. Even though I was a big fan of the Cuffing SZN tapes, I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t always been a fan of the songs that he made under the FRVR brand.I attribute that more to the prevalence of the Bryson Tiller sound than Kent’s talent though. There were too many songs flooding the market that dealt with the same topics and at some point it became white noise. It’s been a long time since FRVR Focused and you can hear that Kent is an even stronger artist than he was before. It’s going to be something to see, a more mature and confident Kent crooning in 2018. I also like what happens when he teams up with Big James and so I am eagerly anticipating the sequel to FRVRGOLD.
- Ron Phoenix – This is probably the guy I am most interested to hear music from. Ever since the last 6-1-4 power ranking we put out, I’ve seen Ron say that it was time for the city to stop sleeping on him. This isn’t exactly uncommon to hear from any artist who doesn’t feel like they’re receiving enough attention, but after looking closer at the type of people he was working with, I’m really curious to see what type of art he makes this year. His sound is a lil bit more aggressive than what I’m used to and prefer, but from the samples that I’ve checked out, my interest is piqued. I am somebody who prefers to enjoy full bodies of work rather than loose singles (because artist like to leave you waiting for years i.e. over half of this list lol) but when he does put out a full project, I will definitely be listening to the full thing.
So I’m 2100 words in and trust me there are artists whom I am looking forward to that I did not name, but this article is getting long in the tooth. A couple small disclaimers: These were just the first to come to mind. I do want to note, in 2018, I’m going to specifically listen to more women artist (hip hop and otherwise) and it’s not lost on me that there are 0 women on this list. When I talk to yall next January to give you the summary, I’m be sure that that aint the case.
Off rip, I know that I am paying attention to NyQuinn, Brittany Neal, Keisha Soleil, Gabrielle Solange, Miir, Laura, Bree The Rapper and LiyahMoni. I also want to point out, that there are some big names that I did not write about (such as Trig, Sarob, Bobby Biz, OG Vern Dom Deshawn and Kashis Keyz). This absolutely is not to say I don’t want to hear more music from them, but instead that I feel like they’ve sufficiently provided content recently and so I’m not clamoring for them to run to the studio.
I think it’s ok to sit back and just appreciate the work that somebody has already done. At any rate, my mentions are always open at @eh_kees, and I’m open to the idea that I’m egregiously sleeping on somebody. You don’t know what you don’t know so enlighten me, so I can wake up on them.