XBValentine is one of the brightest stars among the fresh faces about to blow up in North Texas hip-hop.Jacob Pickard
The past year was an unpredictable one for the DFW music scene after COVID-19 shut it all down in 2020. But in 2022, you can look forward to North Texas hip-hop taking a drastic shift with these rising acts and their one-of-a-kind sounds. From the next teen sensation to the return of a long-awaited underground favorite to the next crop of fierce female rap stars, we’ve compiled a list of exciting hip-hop artists set to have a breakout year.
Here are the North Texas hip-hop artists you should watch in 2022: Ciani Mills Combining auto-tuned melodies with unapologetic lyrics, Fort Worth’s Ciani Mills earned popularity in 2021 by wearing her heart on her sleeve with the heartbreaker “Falling,” with the painfully honest “Clark Kent,” and the uplifting “Smile.”
Mills' single releases showcase her limitless potential and a lifetime of stories-turned-music to intrigue potential fans. Each song and freestyle she’s dropped since her arrival has grown her star power. Mills is now represented by industry veteran Shamar Willis, who orchestrated the signing of Irving’s own 2G.Kaash to Atlantic Records in December. Mills is an artist of the moment, and the next. Cl4pers
In less than a month, 3.5 million people viewed the video “Want Me!” and instantly transformed 13-year-old Cl4pers from an unknown aspiring act into a teenage phenom.
Scoring a viral hit upon first try is an accomplishment that could have every major label hovering around the Fort Worth artist. But the success of “Want Me!” raises the question of whether Cl4ers can do it again. The artist is obnoxious, rowdy and uniquely talented — and in 2022, he promises more foul-mouthed rap like “Want Me!” on the way. For Cl4pers, the year ahead is an open road where he'll likely zoom past those watching the youngster’s next move. It’s been a while since hip-hop last saw a child star — we're staying tuned. Jayson Lyric
Jayson Lyric is not a new voice in hip-hop. In fact, he was the winner of the Dallas Observer Music Award for Best Rapper. However, 2021 was a year of revamping for the artist.
It’s no secret that the Oak Cliff native is one of the best lyricists in North Texas. But gaps in his come-up after dropping his signature series Brick x Brick mixtapes have avid fan curious whether Lyric’s mainstream potential has now turned into a “You came close, but you never made it” tale.
Outer Body Experience, a six-song EP released last February, came and went with little to no publicity or fan reaction. While Lyric delivered an expectedly solid lyrical performance, it didn't live up to his earlier work. After Lyric released the Soundcloud-retreated EP Cliff Notes in late September, which includes the refreshing track “Confetti,” he announced a new album was on the way.
This resurgence could finally propel Lyric's career to global superstardom. The first step for the artist was hiring his longtime friend, entrepreneur Kurtis Graham — best known as the founder of Dallas publication CoSign Magazine — for management. Graham's experience could finally give Lyric a proper product roll-out.
“I’m extremely excited to partner with Lyric, take the Jayson Lyric brand to the next level in 2022,“ Graham says. “I’ve been a fan since 2013, 2014 — right before he dropped the Coffee Table [mixtape] project. ... So it's a full-circle moment to finally be a part of the team."
Graham says this year will see more in-house events, concerts, pop-ups and touring from Lyric.
"It’s time to expand, time to take this from Dallas to global," Graham says. "Everybody already says he moves like an industry-ready artist, like he’s already signed. 2022, it’s time to make that happen.” Hotboy Wes
Until Gucci Mane discovered and signed Hotboy Wes in July, the Waco native was solely known for his debut mixtape, Never Had Shit, released in 2019. Two years later, Wes delivered an overload of new music that consistently delivered buzzworthy lyricism. His biggest track yet, “I Can’t,” is one of five solo releases this year, outside of lending verses across seven tracks on Gucci Mane’s double album So Icy Boyz and four tracks on Gucci’s annual Christmas-themed album, So Icy Christmas.
Now with millions of streams and over 200,000 Instagram followers relishing in his street code-heavy storytelling, Wes’ forthcoming untitled debut album in one of Texas’ most anticipated releases. XBValentine
In a May 2021 article, Observer writer Alex Gonzalez wrote that Dallas transplant XBValentine's songs “resonate with her younger fans and pave the way for other LGBTQ musicians.”
2021 was the artist’s best year yet. While opening for hip-hop star Tay Money, XBValentine grew her popularity through superstar collaborations with Paul Wall, Baby Bash, Kap G and Westside Boogie, which led to Boogie and XB releasing their latest joint single, “Luxury,” and an upcoming nationwide tour.
Boogie, an Eminem protetégé, has said he couldn’t believe the rest of the world hadn't yet noticed XBValentine's star power.
“Stop playing her," he said in a press release promoting “Luxury.” "She’s up next. Stop fucking playing with her. She’s next.”
Under the management of concert promoter Lorenzo “Smooth Vega” Zenteno, XBValentine plans to release more new music to accumulate another 100 million streams, as did her hits “Vibe With You” and “Forgiveness” featuring Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. J1Hunnit A discovery of North Texas tastemaker Kassandra “DTXNova” Juarez — whose finds include SSGSplurge and Quin NFN — J1Hunnit surprised listeners with appealing slick-talking traditional raps on his 14-track album, Motion, released in March 2021. From multi-layered, metaphorical flow to old-school rhymeslaying, J1Hunnit's music is a buffet of everything you desire in your hip-hop feast, including dessert.
With the release of two more albums in 2021, it was Briefcase Boy, J1Hunnit's latest featuring the infectious track “Limewire,” that made him a bona fide breakthrough artist within DFW and earned him a distribution deal with Detroit’s TheHipHopLab Records.
J1Hunnit’s assembly-line work ethic and Juarez’s quarterbacking set him up as a main attraction for 2022. The best from J1Hunnit’s lyrical arsenal has yet to come, but it's no doubt on the way. Coach Tev Irving’s own Coach Tev is also a non-new, Dallas Observer Music Award winner who's been an underground star only one song away from breaking out into mainstream fame for several years. 2021’s No Worries, This Is Fine, was a much-needed turning point for Tev. Equipped with high-profile publicity and with unexpected delays behind him, Tev’s next release is highly anticipated.
But some of his best work came from behind the spotlight. Black Ice, a buzzing compilation album by Tev, Blake Cris and J08s, was Tev’s best lyrical performance since 2019’s COTY. RoadRun CMOE Despite being active for years, it wasn’t until 2021 that RoadRun CMOE found his stride. That's when the rapper dropped nine music videos with a bundle of regional guests, from Icewear Vezzo to OTB Fastlane. His 2021 album TrapTacular kept fans on their toes with hard-hitting but sly raps, and his upcoming album is the most-anticipated North Texas release of 2022. Armed with all the intangible qualities that define a star, we can safely predict RoadRun CMOE will be the artist of the year. Meshauwn Gee
Meshauwn raised eyebrows across North Texas in 2021 with a trio of raunchy trash-talk releases, the vengeful “Heartbreak,” the unfriendly “Rude” and an ode to promiscuity with “Handle That.” Beautifully malicious on the mic, the artist's versatility makes her success infinite if she maintains a similar run in 2022. Now that she has DFW's attention, it’s a race against time to release the anticipated follow-up to last year’s slept-on Big Me$h album.
Meshauwn Gee appears to do her best work over ZiggyMadeit productions, so a joint effort could be the perfect strategy. Regardless of the next move, the rapper will continue leading the unstoppable rise of female hip-hop.
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Bryson "Boom" Paul has been a contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2019. A Dallas resident by way of California, he has written for LA Weekly, OC Weekly, Hip Hop DX and ThisisRNB. He is a CSUB graduate and has interviewed Yella Beezy, Sean Paul, Master P and others.