For the last few years, we have put out a list of up-and-coming rap/hip-hop artists who we think warrant your attention. This year we’ve returned with seven more artists from DFW who bring the fire. Give them a listen and keep your eyes on them, too. Trust us, these folks are doing big things and you do not want to be caught sleeping.
DFW Master of the Mic’s first-ever champion, Alsace Carcione, has been has been on our radar for some time now, but 2017 might just be her best year yet. After winning the MotM, Carcione traveled extensively, going on a mini-tour with Joe Budden and performing with Jarren Benton, and spent some time with family in her home state of Virginia, where she performed at Norfolk’s legendary NorVa Theatre.
Now back in Dallas, Carcione promises three new videos and singles. She’s also planning to work with the D.O.C., which was part of the prize package for winning MotM. But her main focus has been to switch up her sound by working with different producers, such as Sikwitit and Ish D, on her upcoming EP releases and mixtape.
“In order to go to the next level and to reach those higher heights, you’ve got to bring in those people who are going to push you harder or, you know, to piss you off hard enough to make you do something that you normally wouldn’t have done,” Carcione says with a laugh. “So, I’m looking forward to getting pissed off by one of these guys, getting into the studio and making a masterpiece.”
Carcione’s work in the past has varied from traditional hip-hop and rap to neo-soul. But she says these new projects will display something entirely new: her emotional side. “People are going to get to see my vulnerability as an artist and how I break down too," she says. She has been known for her confident and unapologetic demeanor. “I feel like that’s going to help somebody else.”
Toward the end of last month we reported on R&B singer/songwriter Imaj’s BET premiere of his track “Something Real,” as well as his mission to score more local support for his artistry. While he may look the part of the pretty boy rapper, Imaj had a rough start in life after finding himself homeless at 12 years old.
Eventually, the singer moved in with his grandfather, where he was exposed to the heavenly sounds of church music. Fast-forward a few years, and Imaj decided to go against his family’s wishes, drop out of college and pursue music full-time.
After his music garnered the attention of Primetime Productions’ CEO, Rudy “Coach” Flores, producer Rickey “Slikk” Offord and even Sony in Los Angeles, Imaj was told he’d have a better shot in the big leagues after he bulked up his local support.
After his BET premiere, it started happening for the artist: He was featured on local radio station 97.9 the Beat, made his way onto Spotify’s Ultimate Fresh 5 Playlist and SiriusXM Radio. “I’ve been getting a lot of radio love right now,” Imaj says. “We’re doing a lot of shows, including South by Southwest and a lot of radio runs.”
Imaj is preparing to drop several more songs, as well as his upcoming, unnamed EP, which should be released within the next two months. But for Imaj, at the end of the day, it’s about making sure everyone knows where he’s from. “I just want to stress that I’m doing this for my hometown; [I want to] try to bring my hometown together and build an empire.”
DFW’s resident international man of mystery, Lou Charle$ doesn’t know the meaning of “taking a break.” Since we spoke to him last year, he — like list-mate Alsace Carcione — joined Joe Budden and Jarren Benton on tours, and also opened for Joyner Lucas.
So far, 2017 has been pretty hectic for Charle$, too. “One of my songs [‘1x’] off a project I dropped in 2014, Sink or Swim, was featured on CBS’ show Criminal Minds,” Charle$ says. Shortly thereafter, he performed at the Richmond International Film Festival.
Charle$ is now looking forward to opening up for Cam’ron at Trees on March 25, as well as finishing up his next album, In Transit 2, with producer J. Rhodes — and maybe making his “These Beats Ain’t Free” debut.
“I’m still working with J. Rhodes to finish up In Transit 2, which will be dropping sometime in late spring/early summer, but, I will also say this: Don’t be surprised if I drop another project this year,” he says. “And hopefully I can get onto the show [‘These Beats Ain’t Free’] too.”
Trey Riley, aka Savage Stars, is an Amarillo transplant with an appreciation for Taylor Swift and Johnny Cash. The 22-year-old was born in the dusty panhandle city, and moved to Dallas with his father where he caught the music bug at an early age. “I didn’t get really professional with my music until about a year and a half ago, but I’ve been making music for years now,” Riley says. “It all started when I got my first guitar at 16. I was a really big fan of all types of music, but classic rock was my favorite.”
Since making his debut as ‘Savage Stars,’ Riley has been steadily releasing a track or two every month, but on March 7, he dropped his debut. The 15-track album, Silent, includes hip-hop and R&B tracks, plus “January 11th,” which features a nod to T. Swift. “I had made [‘January 11th’] on my birthday, actually,” Riley says. “I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan and January 11th was my 22nd birthday; I knew I had to do something and ‘22’ just popped into my head.”
For Savage Stars, 2017 is going to be all about promoting Silent and perfecting his live show. “Whenever I think of live shows, I think of Machine Gun Kelly. It’s probably kind of hard to see a comparison between my music and his, but he’s my biggest influence there,” Riley says. “So, when I do a live show, I want to have my entire band there.”
Formerly known as Raven Lore, Raven first caught the public’s eye back in 2013 with her a cappella “Kendrick Lamar Medley,” but she’s been covering songs since she was a kid with a karaoke machine. “Basically, I would hold the mic up to my boombox and record ‘Genie in a Bottle,’ then record my voice singing over the tape. But I was always too shy to sing in public.”
It wasn’t until she inherited her grandfather’s piano at the age of 8 that she really got her jumpstart into music; the only stipulation, set forth by her grandmother, was that she take lessons until she was 18. So, several years later, Raven began attending the Fort Worth School of Fine Arts and actually started learning music theory and performance. “My singing foundation was made possible there. [That’s where] I grew a pair of balls and learned how to actually sing,” she says with a laugh.
While in college at the University of North Texas, Raven put together some R&B and hip-hop tracks and began to look for someone to help her mix and master the project, but things didn’t go as planned. “I got super fucked over by a local producer that we all know,” she says. “He said he was going to mix my project, so I gave it to him on a hard drive. He kept saying it was done and to check my email, but it was never there. Then finally, months later, he said he never had time to mix it.”
Looking back on the situation, Raven says it made her a better artist. “[At the time] I was so mad because of the principle of it all, and the money, but I’m also glad because I feel like I’ve grown musically and my style has changed a lot.” And now, several of those tracks have found their way onto her new EP, which should be released by the end of the year. Until then, you can catch her at local gigs in Denton or teaching voice and piano lessons at Hall Music Productions in Southlake.
Kaos Caine didn’t plan on becoming a music artist. In fact, he only ever really messed around with some beats and beat pads in middle school and started writing songs in high school as a hobby.
After graduating high school in Charlotte, North Carolina, Oak Cliff-born Caine found himself living a not-so-positive lifestyle and knew something needed to change. “At a certain point in time I had to do some things that I don’t want to mention, lost friends and realized it wasn’t worth it — so I dropped everything and came home to Texas.”
Once here, Caine linked up with his cousin LaReign Storm who helped reintroduce the rapper to Dallas and even helped him to network and develop himself as an artist. Shortly thereafter, Caine linked up with producer Campion Bond, who was a driving force on Caine’s 2016 release Gone For Good, Pt. 1, which also features local producers Sikwitit and G. Rose on several tracks.
Recently, Caine was contacted by Never Satisfied’s Radio Raheem, who invited the young rapper into the studio to discuss his music. “When we talked, he had a vision about making a collective of artists called ‘NSOD,’ which stands for ‘Never Satisfied Or Die,’ which will be like Dallas’ A$AP Mob.” After that meeting, Caine got right to work on NSOD, which now involves several very different artists, including SpecialEd, Chromat!k and Mike Bee. While he insists he’s very much a solo artist, Caine says his focus for the time being is NSOD’s upcoming release Night With The Gods, which will drop later this year.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Oak Cliff native Jayson Lyric, 27, was all but thrown into the music world by his parents. “My dad forced me to play the drums, my mom forced me to be in the choir — that’s where I get my neo-soul influence from,” Lyric said. “I got into writing at 13 and that kind of transformed into rapping. [But before that] I used to just walk around the house singing country songs, thanks to my mom’s love for the genre.”
A self-taught singer, songwriter and producer, Lyric first stepped into a studio at the age of 13. Five years later he began making his own beats and producing for other artists because he simply did not want to pay for them anymore. But he didn’t really get involved in the local music scene until about two years ago. “I dropped a project called Coffee Table and it got a lot of noise, dropped a mixtape with DJ Duffy not too long after that, and then I dropped The Lyric Show, which is my joy.”
The Lyric Show, which is a full-length album, was released last year and fully encompasses Lyric’s broad musical influences, as well as his songwriting capabilities. But though TLS isn’t even a year old yet, this artist is already working on his next album, Billy GOAT, which is slated to be released toward the end of the year. And when he’s not working on that, he’s working heavily with his production team NHouse Penthouse, which includes five other local producers.