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10 SoundCloud Artists You Should Know About

These unsung rappers, singers, and producers are too good not to be on your radar

Russ, photo by Steven Taylor
Russ, photo by Steven Taylor
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With so much of 2018 being dominated by huge names like Drake, J.Cole, and Travis Scott, it’s tough not to overlook those that have the quality or substance in their music, but may not have the big-name record label to push their product. With hip-hop reigning as the most popular music genre today, it’s even easier for artists to be “slept on.” ​

Although it may seem like it’s on the decline, Soundcloud remains the easiest and most authentic outlet for discovering those under-the-radar artists. So, we knocked out the hard work for you and came up with 10 SoundCloud hip-hop artists you’d be wise not to sleep on.

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NAO

For Fans Of: Solange

If you ask NAO herself what genre she is, she’ll tell you “wonky funk.” However, most classify her as a soul/funk/R&B artist from East London. She released her debut album just two years ago, so she’s still under the radar, but she is as talented as any other singer I’ve heard within’ the past few years. Having already played at the Glastonbury Festival and received a Brit Nomination for Best British Female Solo Artist, NAO has made a name for herself overseas, but what about the US?

So far this year, she has already released a couple of singles that have her name buzzing around the States. Her recent singles, “Complicated” and “Another Lifetime”, are exposing more people than ever to her music. It’s about time.

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Ye Ali

For Fans Of: 24hrs

Ye Ali is one of the more established artists on this list. Residing in Los Angeles, he has already worked with numerous hip-hop artists, not only as a singer but also as a producer. At one time, Ali was only known as a songwriter-producer, but now he finds himself pushing to be fully appreciated for the new style of trap beats and R&B grooves he’s brought to the game.

Ali did reach some mainstream success with his hit single “Talk Less”, which samples Ashanti’s hit “Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)”. His previous project, Passion & Patience, features not only that hit single, but a couple of other chill-vibe R&B songs. Between that record and his 2016 release, Private Suite, Ye Ali’s SoundCloud is full of quality R&B vibes that you’ll want to experience again and again.
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Lala Romero

For Fans Of: Azealia Banks

Los Angeles singer-songwriter Lala Romero is one of the hottest R&B/soul artists on the west coast right now. However, despite being introduced to a big market, she still isn’t as known as she should be. Currently signed to Silent Giant Entertainment, Romero emerged on the scene with her 2017 album, Palm Tree Dreams. Her hit single “Angels in the City” sampled the Tyrone Davis hit “In the Mood”. She also puts her innovative touch on the classic Dre and Snoop hit “Nothin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” in the album’s title track. There’s so much potential in Romero. She has an incredible voice and has such an effortless flow; if she utilized these talents to their full potential, Romero could become one of the most enterprising and resourceful artists in hip-hop.

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Mark Battles

For Fans Of: Wale

It’s kind of frustrating that Mark Battles has to even be on this list. As a rapper-songwriter from Indianapolis, Indiana, the odds may be stacked against Battles with a smaller market, but he’s still working with some top names in the hip-hop world, including Tory Lanez, French Montana, and King Los. Battles is a relatable artist who talks about things that everyone either thinks or goes through at some point. He has a very raw and straight-forward delivery that sets him apart from other hip-hop artists.

In May of 2017, Battles released a collaboration album with Tory Lanez (Day 2) that garnered some mainstream success, but perhaps didn’t showcase his full potential. His most recent release, Fortunate, may be his best project to date. Not to mention, he released the Vasi World EP earlier this year prior to the announcement of the Vasi World Spring Tour. Fly America is on the rise and Battles is leading the way.

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Nyzzy Nyce

For Fans Of: Wiz Khalifa

Having started his career as a battle rapper in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Nyzzy Nyce has since evolved into one of the most innovative artists in hip-hop. He’s spent the past few years out in Los Angeles working with some very talented producers, including Twigg and AmpOnTheTrack. His style is unmistakably diverse, which may be one of his most overlooked traits as an artist. He has stoner anthems like his most recent single, “Smoke All Day (Roll That)”, songs for the ladies like “Blow Pounds”, and club bangers like “Stone Cold Steve Austin”.

Nyzzy has already achieved some notoriety by having songs appear in television shows like American Horror Story, Being Mary Jane, The Grand Hustle (T.I.’s show on BET), and several others. His upcoming album, Nyce to Meet You, is expected to be released soon and will likely include some of his latest singles.

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Aaron Cole

For Fans Of: Bryson Tiller

Growing up in a Christian household has definitely influenced up-and-coming hip-hop artist Aaron Cole. At 19, Cole is already far ahead of most artists his age. He grew up in Bristol, Virginia, but currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee, where he is already signed to Gotee Records. Fifteen years ago, Cole began his music career at the age of four. His father wrote him a song called “Jesus Is the Rock”, which was the title of Cole’s first album release in 2003. Since then, he has bridged the gap between rapping and singing, and his latest releases seem to be taking full advantage of his diverse musical talent and finally starting to get him some well-deserved attention.

So far in 2018, Cole has released several singles, including “Exclusive”, “Yo Handz”, “Down Like That”, “Motions”, “Off My Back”, “Virginia Boy”, and “One More Day”. Safe to say, he’s been pretty busy this year.

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Payroll Giovanni

For Fans Of: Mozzy

​Making a name for himself in the west side Detroit rap group Doughboyz Cashout, Payroll Giovanni possesses a unique combination of ’90s west coast and a laid-back Midwest flow. The fact that he can do both shows the versatility he is capable of. Giovanni is the oldest rapper on this list, but has recently shown his name should be mentioned when it comes to the finest emerging artists from Detroit. His 2017 album, Payface, was absolutely phenomenal, and he’s showed some hometown love by teaming up with fellow Detroit artist Helluva for the hit single “How We Move It”, which sampled the legendary song “This Is How We Do It” and converted it into a hustler’s anthem.

Earlier this year, Giovanni teamed up with famous producer Cardo and released Big Bosses Vol.2, which features Young Jezzy and many others. In addition, Giovanni also released a new album, 4-1P, back in June. Much like Mozzy’s hot streak in 2017, Giovanni is poised to emerge in the near future as a voice for the streets that reaches beyond Detroit.

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Nadia Rose

For Fans Of: Bugzy Malone

British rappers are more popular today than they’ve ever been. London’s Nadia Rose leads the way as one of the most decorated and unique up-and-coming British hip-hop artists. Early in 2017, Rose released her debut EP, Highly Flammable, following the huge success of singles “BOOM” and “D.F.W.T.” So far in 2018, Rose has released two exclusive singles, “WUT2” and “On Top”.

Rose is already one of the leading female figures of the UK hip-hop wave, but she may soon be a force to be reckoned with here in the States as well. Recently, she’s been doing a variety of eclectic music festivals, but it’ll be exhilarating​ to see what else she releases this year.

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Lil Skies

For Fans Of: 6ix9ine

After hearing him for the first time on Wiz Khalifa’s recent album Rolling Papers 2, Lil Skies instantly captured my attention. Just 20 years old and from Pennsylvania, he is still trying to make a name for himself. Up to this point, he’s had two singles, “Nowadays” and “Red Roses”, appear on Billboard’s Hot 100. Not to mention his debut mix tape, Life of a Dark Rose, was released at the beginning of this year on SoundCloud and peaked as high as #10 on the Billboard Top 200. Drawing comparisons to hip-hop artists like 6ix9ine, Smokepurpp, and Trippie Redd, Lil Skies is probably the most gifted lyrically and has more catchy bars. Give him another year or two, and he’ll be slept on no more.

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Russ

For Fans Of: 6LACK

Russ is a hip-hop recording artist and producer from Atlanta, Georgia. As someone who started writing raps at the young age of seven and recorded his first song at 18, Russ has worked immensely​ hard to make a name for himself within the hip-hop community. His lyrics, like many up-and-coming rappers, are relatable to the everyday person.

Now at the age of 25, he finds himself finally receiving some recognition, including his debut album, There’s Really a Wolf, going platinum, but that was released back in May 2017. Honestly, his comparison of himself to Stephen Curry in an interview from earlier this year with Billboard was spot on. “Everyone was looking at LeBron and no one knew Steph was coming. Steph was super like, he’s too small to play me in the game. He came from Davidson and he’s barely 6 feet on paper. He was this thing that was getting dead nice over here, and all of a sudden he’s just nasty. I feel like that.”

Russ quietly released a new single on SoundCloud called “The Flute Song” a couple weeks ago. Along with producer Scott Storch, he put his signature touch on Drake’s “Portland”. His new album, ZOO, came out last week and further cements Russ as one of the most unsung stars in hip-hop.

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