Six UK artists to watch in 2019
From the improbable blend of ragga and trap to new iterations of power ballads, from rock-rap to hybrids of West African highlife, here are the best new UK artists to watch.
Scarlrxd could not escape comparisons to XXX Tentacion, Limp Bizkit and even Run DMC & Aerosmith on “Walk This Way” but most telling is his reimaging of the vocal strains and emotional torture in a particular strand of Eminem’s music that includes “KIM”, “Cleaning Out My Closet” and “Stan”.
Released in March, his 7th project titled “Infinity” is also his second for Island Records after years of independent hustle.
Of the stand out songs, “SX SAD” provides a nugget – “I feel so sad / I’m loving everything I’m doing” that refutes any opinions that his screaming indicates unceasing anger, while on “HOW THEY JUDGE”, he dismisses any perceptions of him as a screaming, dreadlocked, tattooed, masked and unsmiling figure only to reassert and even exceed it on when raps: “I hope you have some beautiful children that die from cancer / I hope you catch Zika when your wife gets pregnant / I hope you win the lottery and die the next day / And your daughter has to see you getting lowered in your grave”.
Koffee’s 5 track debut EP titled “Rapture” is a brew of different interactions of reggae and trap in a seamless and affecting manner that forges a new hybrid identity that could only be realised by an astute millennial. She invokes the authority of Queen Africa on the vocal display of “Raggamuffin” and combines ragga and emo-trap on “Rapture” over woozy bass synths and trap snares. On “Toast”, which has earned close to 20 million views on YouTube, she sings of giving thanks “like we need it the most”.
Formed in 2014, KOKOROKO is the eight piece afro-fusion collective led by trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey whose self-titled debut EP was released this **. The other band members are Cassie Kinoshi (Saxophone), Richie SeivWright (Trombone), Mutale Chashi (Bass), Oscar Jerome (Guitar), Yohan Kebede (Keyboards), Onome Ighamre (Percussion) and Ayo Salaw (Drums).
Positively Black-British from African and Carribean heritages, the group most draw from Fela’s afrobeat but also from other highlife greats like Ebo Taylor and Pat Thomas.
Attention-seeking horns brings vibrant energy on the urging refrain of “Uman”, a refrain that is while the sweet flourish of a prickly electric guitar on “Ti De” improves on its close resemblance to Fela’s “Trouble Dey Sleep, Yanga Wake Am”.
“Abusey Junction”, of similar slow tempo, is just as meditative – all of which make for a deeply satisfying project.
Flohio is currently on tour in select cites in the US and Europe to capitalise on her rising, as well as build her stamina for stage performance and promotional junkets. Born in Nigeria and raised in the UK, her debut EP “Nowhere Near” was released in 2016 and she has marked the good progress she’s made with a follow up project “Wild Yout” in November 2018.
The total of 4 tracks sharpens the focus and avoid distractions that is risked with 7 songs or a full mixtape. This also increases the replay value of the more successful songs as on “Bop Thru”.
The posturing suggested by the title makes for a very catchy hook that will no doubt elicit chants and sing-a-longs whenever it comes on. She bemoans poor-value relationship on “Toxic” and does a good job taming the beat on “Breeze” which throbs with stark synths and heady kicks.
Blanco has a much storied past that is thankfully being eclipsed by growing success as a solo artist. He raps similar to the way he speaks, and his flow is unshowy and appears effortless in a manner that is reminiscent of Mase.
An EP slated for April release is much anticipated by an assured set on Charlie Roth’s Fire In The Booth series; the release of “21st Century Spartans”; and ‘Ringtone,’ his collaboration with UK producer duo Dr Vades who has fashioned a beat over a generic ringtone that is most likely a marimba. Featuring Chip, Loski, and LD, the remix, released late March, is racking up impressive numbers of views on YouTube and will fever the anticipation for his debut project.
The power ballad lives in Grace Carter, whose seven song EP ‘Why Her Not Me?’ is positively confessional and whose voice has a strong sweep that could indeed become glacial over time but is impressive for a 21 year old newcomer.
She bemoans emotional exhaustion and rejection on “Silhouette”, demands honesty over reconciliation on ‘Silence’ and is most convincing on ‘Why Her Not Me?,’ a direct address to her a man who has left her for someone else.
Carter’s songs about emotional turmoil would be easily pegged as the overdeveloped palette of a nascent talent if she hadn’t revealed, in interviews, that they’re primarily about her father who left a void, unable to be fille, when he absented himself from her life.