Artists to watch in 2012
Toronto native Abel Tesfaye entered the music scene in early 2011 with his debut mixtape “House of Balloons.” Unlike most debut mixtapes, which often fail to bring any attention to its respective artist, “House of Balloons” did just the opposite and made a tremendous impact on the music community. So well crafted and thorough in content, “House of Balloons” seemed as if it was the product of a major music label, not simply an independent release. Mainstream Hip-Hop and R&B artists such as Lil Wayne and Drake especially, began to echo the gritty yet beautiful style of The Weeknd. Drake, also a Toronto native, so impressed with both Tesfaye’s voice and lyricism, recruited Tesfaye to help him work on his sophomore release, “Take Care.” Tesfaye’s fingerprints are clear on Drake’s “Take Care.” Even the songs without Tesfaye seem to possess the dark feel that he solely made popular through his three mixtapes: “House of Balloons,” “Thursday” and “Echoes of Silence.” Tesfaye essentially serves as Drake’s sidekick throughout “Take Care,” as he helps to portray a life of lust, drugs and fame. However, Tesfaye is able to offer a different perspective of the lifestyle many artists such as Drake himself have failed to capture. Rather than sugarcoat the rock star life and attempt to make audiences jealous, Tesfaye offers a much grittier viewpoint. More often than not, it seems as if Tesfaye is telling a cautionary tale. By refusing to hold back with his lyrics, Tesfaye is able to take topics that typically serve as mere party soundtracks and spin them into emotional tales of failure, lost love and drug use. It often feels as if Tesfaye is straightforward with his words to make listeners realize that his life isn’t something anyone would want. As he cries out the lyric, “I think you lost your morals girl, but it’s ok ‘cause you don’t need them where we’re going” on the track “Loft Music,” listeners begin to grasp fame’s destructive side effects. “Loft Music,” off of “House Of Balloons,” seems to epitomize Tesfaye’s music; the production is dark and the lyrics are even darker, but together they meld into a beautiful sound that fills the hole that seemed to be expanding in Hip-Hop and R&B before Tesfaye gained attention. Fortunately for consumers, Tesfaye has the recipe for the sound that fits perfectly with today’s culture. He has been able to make music far better than the artist’s who have helped bring him fame. Most importantly, Tesfaye has done all of this without a single major label release. His first studio album is allegedly set to drop in 2012, so definitely keep an eye on The Weeknd.
It’s hard to listen to a local Hip Hop radio station for more than three songs without hearing the notorious Maybach Music sound stamp that Rick Ross seals all of his tracks with. It seems as if Maybach Music Group, known simply as MMG, is beginning to dominate the rap industry. Owner Rick Ross has somehow integrated his label into the mainstream rap community while labels with similar lyrical content, such as Gucci Mane’s 1017 Brick Squad, have failed to be prominent. The simple reason for this is the talent of their artists; more specifically, the talent of MMG rookie Meek Mill. It almost seems like a bad decision for Ross to sign Meek Mill. His rapping skills are far superior to every artist on MMG, including Ross himself. Every song on MMG’s collective album, “Self Made Volume 1,” is boring when Meek Mill isn’t the one rapping. He raps with authority and insures the listener that he knows his subject matter thoroughly. A quick look into Meek Mill’s history helps explain both his lyrical talent and overall attitude. A Philadelphia native, Meek Mill has been rapping since his teenage years. YouTube is filled with freestyle battles in which the 13 year old Mill triumphs over his older competitors in the middle of South Philly. Eleven years later, Mill’s hard work has paid off, as he is the centerpiece of most radio rap songs. However, Mill has still yet to release a studio album through MMG. As Rick Ross makes clear on his latest mixtape, “Rich Forever,” Meek Mill will be dropping his debut album this year. Definitely keep Meek Mill on your radar in 2012.
Iggy Azalea is weird, really weird. Her looks, music and general attitude all scream obscurity. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In this digital age, it helps to be obscure. If you have access to YouTube and you can manage to make a strange enough music video, people are going to come and watch. Millions of YouTube users have figured this out and attempted to use it as a gateway to fame. However, Iggy Azalea has actually made it work. Her music video for “My World” managed to go viral only hours after it was uploaded in early November. After the release of “My World,” Azalea immediately became a part of the ‘upcoming rapper’ discussion. Although Azalea was a late bloomer in 2011, her future looks ridiculously promising. On Jan. 26, she signed a multi-album deal with Interscope. A quick look at Interscope’s artist lineup reveals that 2012 will bring major fame to Iggy Azalea. Artists such as Avicii, 50 Cent and Dr. Dre are all Interscope artists, which might tell you something about Iggy Azalea’s future. Interscope’s chairman spoke on the signing and compared Azalea to Tupac. Tupac? Maybe not, but Iggy Azalea is definitely someone to look out for, as she has the talent and resources to make great music in 2012.