EAR TO THE STREETS: CHICAGO ARTIST WATCHLIST 2018

2018 will mark my 6 years in Entertainment, 2 years as a member of the Power 92.3 radio team and 4 years as CEO/Founder of WHATS THE WORD. I've been around the business for years to know when I see something special, it was I that told people that Kendrick Lamar was next back 2011, or that Chance The Rapper is special after hearing the 10 Day Mixtape. I remember telling my brother DJ L that this Kid G-Herbo his special in his apartment on 79th back in 2012. Some may say I got the ear for talent. 

I always got my ear to the streets for new talent and bangers. It's only right to drop a list of artist who I feel you need to watch out for in 2018. Constructing this list I took 3 things into consideration Brand, Artistry, and Following. It's a lot of musicians in the city of Chicago, some very talented ones, but it's more than talent these days. This not a ranking on whos better, just who you should keep your EAR out for. 

1. VALEE

 Valee is probably the artist with the most upside from Chicago, his Shell track is the one that's getting the most recognition. He got the stamp from Kanye West, Pusha T, Jeremih, and Chance The Rapper. There have been talks about him signing to G.O.O.D Music (The article was written prior to his recent signing ). There is nothing but good energy and quality music that comes from Valee. I made a post a year ago saying it was something special about this kid. I guess I'm not the only one who thinks so.

2. CDOT HONCHO

He has the branding and following. Cdot is just waiting for a smash hit or two. Then he'll be ready for the big time. When he gets some trendy tracks he'll be ready for that XXL Freshman stamp.

3. QUEEN KEY

Hip-hop is a male-driven industry but as of lately females have been making moves. Queen Key has it all, the looks, bars, and following. I met her at SXSW in 2016, at a young respect she got from the crowd left me without a doubt that she has what it takes. She lives in the studio just waiting for a solid project with all original music to put her on the next level.

4. JOEY PURPS

The SaveMoney team has been making noise, Chance, Vic Mensa, and the homie DJ Oreo have really been putting on for Chicago. The next to blow from the camp is  fan favorite Joey Purps, his EP, iiiiDrops, was a solid project, even got him booked for a Tommy Hilfiger commercial. I still like Twokio & Sterling Hayes from SaveMoney, but can't deny Joey Purps.

5. SABA

He usually gets most of his recognition from being featured on the Angels track with Grammy recording artist Chance The Rapper. Chance's co-sign was dope, but SABA can definitely stand on his own. Saba's Bucket List Project was probably one of the dopest projects of 2016. BAR for BAR one of the hardest guys in the city, his following is solid, the man headlined a show at the House of Blues. Saba is just lacking commercial music to help him transition into radio rotation. Outside of that, SABA is the truth.

6. JUICE WRLD

To have him this high, a lot of people would probably knock this pick due to his the following. His branding is nice with his 999 movements - opposite of those doing the 666 devil stuff. His song Lucid Dreams is at 100K plays on SoundCloud. He makes great music with his producer, Nick Mira. Oh yea, just got a major co-sign from G-Herbo & Lil Bibby, he was just in LA with the No Limit members making music. Juice WRLD is the future.

7. OHANA BAM

not much to say about this guy, but that he can spit and hes very talented. Stamped by Kanye, he was featured on the last Fast and Furious soundtrack

8. CALBOY

Calboy is probably my favorite on this list outside of Juice WRLD. He reminds me of an NBA Youngboy x Lil Durk. He is very talented and has a huge upside. With a marketable wave, a lot of youth would want to be him and women will find him attractive. Plus he can rap and make hits. He's  going to make a lot of noise with the right guidance. I've had a few conversations with him to know he's a smart young dude that loves to make music. The Paper Gang team that's behind him are not leeches, each core member has their own position from PR, Graphic Design, etc. Calboy is setting him and his team to be young moguls and when that first track of his goes viral, its a wrap.

9. Z-MONEY

It was hard not to put Z-Money on this list. The FED case might have pushed his success back a lot, but signing to 1017 with Gucci might just be the spark in 2018 that is needs to get on the right track.

10. 'LGADO

'LGado has a that typical Gudda Chicago sound, and he makes it sound good. The youth in the city loves his music especially his B'd Up track. The potential is there with ' LGADO.

11. NIA KAY

To be 16, I can honestly say Nia Kay is the hardest working MC that I've worked with personally. Bar for Bar she can flow with the best. Cardi B even put money on her. I know some might count her out because she is TV famous, but that just enhances her chances to be a top-tier artist. I listened to her upcoming project. It is nice.

12. THE BOY ILLINOIS

First heard of him at Lupe Fiasco's concert, been a fan ever since. He is a solid artist, who brings that Outkast vibe to the city. The 100 track goes hard, but the verse on Chimeka's 90s Love solidified his place on this list. Don't sleep on Illi this year he's performed at the BET experience last year and got a deal with Priority Records.

13. SUPA BWE

 Supa Bwe is a sleeper. He might not be as youthful as a lot of artist in his lane, but he is very talented. His mindset on top of his artistry puts him above a lot of artist. His branding is dope, he's is a hit away. Love his Thot Goddess track, Although it might not be the one to blow, but it will catch your attention immediately.

14. PHOR

Honestly, the city didn't take Phor seriously until he got on VH1. Like any artist in his position, he took Advantage of that platform. He forced the radio to play his song "CHI-TOWN," and after listening to his album he is not a bad artist. He has potential, the following, and now he's waiting for that track to get him national recognition.

15. Rico Recklezz

I really thought long and hard about Rico. He has the platform his artistry is a key issue, and he can't produce a track that's worth backing. I like Recklezz, the conversations I've had with him let's me know how smart he is. I mean, he "trolled" his way to a national audience. If he finds a producer and right team to help him create a quality EP, Rico can see some checks in 2018.

16. OZ

This kid Oz is relatively new on the scene with a few dope tracks on SoundCloud. Even though his resume isn't that long, I've had the pleasure to listen to some unreleased tracks, when I say fire! The twist is, he's Arab/Muslim with a G-Eazy-Logic type of sound. Branding won't be hard for him, his artistry is solid. If this was the NBA Draft, he'll be Kristaps Porzingis-a guy you never heard of but when he hit the court the rest is magical.

17. EZKIEL

I been a fan of Ezkiel for years now, He is R&B/Pop. Different from others on this list, good music is good music and I'm telling you this guy has what it takes to be a star. Go check out his SoundCloud you'll find some things you like. His branding is favorable, with the right exposure he's gone. He gives me The Weeknd vibe.

18. VO 

Vo is probably one of the hardest lyricists in the city of Chicago. BAR for BAR, it's not too many people who can touch VO. Just check out his Car RAps, they all go viral because of his skill. He has talent and following. Branding is key for VO, so when that improves....

19. ANN MARIE  

Ann Marie has an amazing voice, she is beautiful, and has swag. She is just an EP away from making real noise. I did a video for her as she covered a song for Fox's tv show Star- created by Lee Daniels. Just like Lee Daniels I see something special in Ann.

20. FEMDOT

Femdot is valuable, can't say more about him. He is special, he has a following of supporters who will come get his shows lit. Let's not forget he has BARS!!!

21. KD Young Cocky

KD Young Cocky, probably has one of the best pens in the city. He written for a lot of people in the industry. He is a very skilled musician. All that is missing from KD is a solid project speaking his truths. After countless conversations with him, I can tell its more to him than the regular flashy rapper. KD can spit, make autotune melodies, but like I say I feel like he'd is holding back giving the world the real KD. I know he has been working on a Project with D.Brooks Exclusive titled Squad Goals. Squad goals maybe the project where we get that real KD. 

22. Joel Q

Joel Q, the J.Cole of Chicago. Says a lot about how I feel about his talent, huh? Listening to his project Daniel: The Angel In Training, gave him that stamp. He has what is takes lyrically. The key thing for Joel Q is branding. He can improve on what visuals he releases, but besides that he has it. When he spits you can hear knowledge. He opens your mind and tells stories of everyday Chicagoans living in poverty. I would classify him as an urban intellectual, conscious rapper, street poet all in one.

23. CHIMEKA

Chimeka is a hidden gem in Chicago, been watching her since she changed her name from Chin Chilla Meek. This girl can spit, with quality branding. Her area for improvement is artistry, her Cool EP was solid. I love the 90s Love track ft The Boy Illinois, but she held back, and there's way more we can get out of her. She definitely has the potential to be an elite talent in music. 

24. PANAMERA P

Artist like Panamera P is why I extended this list. It's so much new talent brewing in the city of Chicago, That it's hard to decipher who got it and who don't. P is an artist with an upside. First met him at SXSW in 2016, when he first began rapping. I've seen growth in his music, branding and following. If he continues to put in work, he will be something nice. Listening to his street poems, he paints pictures for the blind.

25. MIKEY DOLLAZ

Mikey Dollaz, is what I call a wild card. He holds raw talent with little structure and guidance, yet he is still making a name for himself. Like his former conrad Rico Recklezz, his essentials includes a solid sound, a dope producer, and decent writers to help make hits and not local hardcore trap music.  If he gets the sound and branding, correct Mikey could be something watch out for, because his work ethic is admirable.