The DFW music scene now more than ever is jam-packed with talent across all genres. DFW musicians are achieving an elusive trifecta of diversity, quality and quantity. We've compiled a list of artists who are the textbook definition of up-and-coming. Others are more well-known with established careers. What they have in common is they’re all poised to see their careers reach that highly sought-after “next level."
Iman is relatively unknown among tastemaker circles within the Deep Ellum music scene and local media. Still, the baby-faced 21-year-old Dallas emcee — by way of Milwaukee — possesses the charisma to create fans and enough depth to earn the respect of hip-hop purists of any age. He has new music and visuals on the way early this year, so a wise gambler should be all-in on Iman’s name recognition exploding.
Flower Child, aka Flozilla
In 2018, Flower Child snagged a win at the Premier Live “The One” talent showcase at House of Blues. The grade-A lyricist and singer spent the remaining months of the year racking up notable successes, including the anchor verse on Dalluminati with frequent collaborators DQ Hampton and Rakim Al-Jabbaar. Her new album is scheduled for a first-quarter release, and she just dropped her debut single and video “Spadistic Explosion.” 2019 will be the year Flower Child annexes the Dallas hip-hop scene as part of her “Queendom.”
DQ Hampton’s 2019 is off to a strong start. Last year was spent laying the groundwork for the release of his album Grandiose, which dropped Dec. 28. The aptly titled Grandiose has production from S1, Oktober1st, Dow Jones and verbal collaboration by fellow MC’s Rakim Al-Jabbaar, Van Gammon and Valley Thompson. For good measure, the project was mastered by noted producer/engineer Mousequake. All name-dropping aside, what drives Grandiose is Hampton's potent, marksman-like lyricism and punchlines. There’s several months to go and plenty of music to be heard, but it’s safe to say Grandiose has made an early and convincing case to be in the conversation when people are debating the best Dallas hip-hop albums of 2019.
In 2018 Fort Worth’s own Jui$e Leroy made great strides spreading his brand of music, which he calls “Conscious Trap.” The conduit was his exceptional mixtape Trappy Chan, which included several standout tracks that promoted the “Conscious Trap” sound and displayed his depth as a writer. “Exquisite” is a hard-hitting exercise in lyricism, and “All Eye Got” is both introspective and inspirational. “Tempo” is an infectious track that could cause you to perform dance moves in public that are typically reserved for when you’re alone, and “Legendary” is a top-tier sparring match of wordplay with noted Dallas emcee Jayson Lyric. Jui$e Leroy recently premiered his song “Blues” on Shade 45’s The Smoking Section and racked up views and new fans from recent video releases.
Uno Loso is a veteran purveyor of gritty street tales. He wields a great deal of respect both in the studio and within the neighborhoods that inspire his music. On Dec. 21, he released Ghetto God III, which was meant to be the third installment of his mixtape series. While recording, he felt the quality was such that it needed to be packaged as a full-length album, and the project has been well received. Uno Loso and a bevy of collaborators scored a viral YouTube hit with Yella Beezy’s “That’s On Me” Dallas Remix, which had 1.1 million views after two months online. He’s forming a revamped version of his original group, Triple Gz, to record an album, and he’ll have a solo mixtape released just in time for SXSW.
Dibbi Blood cultivated a following with “All Off Audelia,” which refers to North Dallas neighborhoods along LBJ Freeway primarily within the 75243 ZIP code. In June, he dropped his EP 11600. It generated enough buzz to land him a show at Canton Hall opening for Dave East. Dibbi Blood is focused on completing his full-length album, tentatively scheduled for a first-quarter release.
Nawfside D Hippie
Nawfside D Hippie’s Self Made Self Paid EP dropped in August. The baritone emcee specializes in a change-up rap style that effectively goes from rapid fire to an off-beat cadence at will. He’s racked up a few impressive guest spots with frequent collaborator Dibbi Blood, Queso Saucedo and Rikki Blue, with whom he also performed at Dada. We’ll see what he does with that momentum in 2019.
Hip-hop and Rajiyah have had an on-and-off-again relationship that appears to finally be committed. The Duncanville emcee first began rapping in 2013 and decided to stop shortly after. In 2016, she resurfaced with a single and subsequent video for “Killin’ Shit,” featuring Rakim Al-Jabbaar, but turmoil in her personal life pulled her away from the mic again. She came back and performed several shows with Al-Jabbar, a solo acoustic set at the Regal Room A&R Sessions and released her EP More Than Music via Soundcloud. Hip-hop is no longer a part-time venture or hobby for Rajiyah and you can expect more of the same from her in 2019.
Whether on stage or at social events, Van Gammon is the Dallas emcee that stays red carpet-ready. The only thing that outshines his fashion sense is his lyrical ability and songwriting skills. Last summer his album Destiny Can Wait was one of the best hip-hop offerings from any Dallas artists. It displayed Van Gammon’s uncanny ability to effortlessly blend exquisite lyricism along side radio ready hooks and melodies. Due to the buzz that has extended into 2019 from Destiny Can Wait, Van Gammon and his record label Culture Unlimited have decided to start the year off promoting visuals from Destiny Can Wait. The first will be a video for Van Gammon’s single “4 The Culture” shot in Deep Ellum, directed by acclaimed director Jeff Adair.
In October, Jahn Dough released an impressive six-song EP, Calle Feliz. The project had an energy and vibe reminiscent of the Native Tongues hip-hop movement during the late '80s and early '90s. This year he’s putting the finishing touches on a full-length album tentatively slated for a summer release.
It’s accurate to place Lil’ Sick on the list with his hip-hop counterparts, but he is truly a hybrid artist. Quite frankly, the Fort Worth musician who plays guitar, piano and saxophone, pound for pound is one the most talented DFW has to offer regardless of genre. Lil’ Sick, at a high level, can deliver hardcore street rap, thought-provoking conscious hip-hop or soulful R&B. You could see him featured on a hip-hop cypher, playing saxophone in a jazz band or sitting on a stool with a guitar at a singer-songwriter showcase. His willingness and courage to embrace all aspects of his talent set him apart from most performers.
Part II: R&B/Pop
If you’re not familiar with Lavoyce, it’s OK, we all make mistakes. However, it would behoove you to rectify your negligence immediately. In October, she released her album Bloom and it was a perfect representation of her vocal prowess and song-writing ability combined with top-tier production. It was truly a throwback to traditional R&B circa Mary J. Blige and Keisha Cole with an updated modern sound. She’s diversifying pushing her clothing/lifestyle brand, Life In 20’s, working on features with other artists and booking shows in Dallas and other markets.
Savanah Low has had a love affair with performing for most of her life. Her musical aspirations were always held back by her day job. Last year, she decided to make music her full-time career and embraced the grand sound of mainstream pop and R&B. Low possesses a powerful and versatile vocal range. On Jan. 15, she released her EP Bare. She’s also secured new management to help her get live shows and expand her fan base.
Alex Blair is the lead singer of her band, Blayr. Her album Taste is a beautiful collection of R&B/jazz tracks. Blair embodies the spirit of Amy Winehouse both through her voice and love of performance. She recently wrapped a West Coast tour with Stone Mecca and has several dates booked for February.
We first wrote about Ladarrion “Real Imaj” Darnell two years ago while he was in the midst of a media blitz for his single “Something Real.” The video premiered on BET, and later that year, he released his EP For The Moment. The 25-year-old singer/songwriter and producer has spent the meantime performing shows and perfecting his rhythm and bass sound. Imaj, a former college dropout who was homeless and couch-surfed for several months while recording his first demo, has been prepping new music for 2019. He and his management believe Imaj is ready to transition buzz and potential into a long-term career.
New Orleans native and Dallas resident Jay Wes7 spent 2018 impressing audiences and judges at various artists showcases, like Premier Live’s “The One.” He parlayed that into performances at Deep Ellum venues and other parts of Dallas. He undeniably has the look and the sound to achieve mass appeal. What’s left of him to achieve in 2019 will be a body of recorded work that displays the talent so many have seen on stage.
Part III Rock/Blues/Americana
Justin Davis hails from North Texas, but he’s relatively unknown. He spent time busking on the streets of Deep Ellum and occasionally playing small venues circa 2014-16. The last couple of years, he’s been in Denver fine-tuning his craft. Davis is booking shows in preparation for a return to Dallas. Though only in his early 20s, he’s lived through many life experiences that have made him an old soul, and it comes through in his voice. His main talent is writing songs highlighted by concise, poignant verses and infectious hooks. If you hear one of his songs, you will without a doubt find yourself singing the hook or humming the melody. He’s working on his EP and will announce show dates soon.
There’s nothing up-and-coming about Stone Mecca. His credentials as a producer, songwriter and composer run deep. However, he is a “new” artist as it pertains his creative process. In November, he released his first true solo album, Alienman. The video to his lead single "Boogeyman" was recently premiered by Billboard, and Stone Mecca just wrapped a January West Coast tour with more dates domestic and international to come soon.
Unapologetic, no fucks given, youthful punk rock energy is what this band brings to the table. They’re new and extremely raw, therefore there are no accolades to speak of yet. The four-piece band just put out their first demo in September and are performing shows within the indie DIY punk scene.
After a three-year hiatus, the alt-rock trio Roar Shack returned with a new EP, Daybreak, in January. It’s a collection of melodic rock grooves filled to the brim with good vibes. If you want an early dose of spring, summer and festival season, add it to your playlist.
The Wild Frontiers
The five-piece band released their debut album 17 last summer. They’re known for animated, grandiose live shows and look the part of bona fide rock stars. Right now, their focus is killing it on every available stage they can play.
Mavens of darkwave post punk, Aztec Death create music highlighted by dramatic extended intros that give way to ominous vocals. They’re working on a follow-up to their 2016 album Machine and have a collaboration with Leah Lane of Rosegarden Funeral Party.
Working Class Cannibals
Working Class Cannibals refer to their fans as Cannibal Creeps, and they’re building a cult-like following of them one show at a time. They’re a menacing hardcore outfit from Denton who deliver vocal-chord shredding lyrics and lightning-fast guitar licks. Their debut is scheduled for a first-quarter release.