1. JOEY PURP
It seems like every year there’s at least a few artists from the Windy City who take the rap game by storm. As a co-founder of the SaveMoney crew, Purp has been there from the beginning. He’s waited patiently as artists like Chance, Vic Mensa, and Donnie Trumpethad blown up, and now it’s his turn. Like the others in his camp, his charisma and unique charm shines through, but what sets Purp apart from his fellow SaveMoney cohorts is his edge. A little more raspy, a little more grimy, Purp brings toughness and a gritty feel that is different from anyone else in his crew. Two-thousand-fifteen was a big year for SaveMoney as Chance and Donnie earned the national spotlight. Now it’s time for the other SaveMoney co-founder to get his due. Two-thousand-sixteen will continue to be a big year for Chicago, and Joey Purp’s going to be a big reason why.
2. KEVIN ABSTRACT
On April Fools Day in 2015, Kevin Abstract got kicked out of a local Texas supermarket for playing unreleased songs from his MTV1987 album over the loudspeaker. Managers of local Texas supermarkets may not be his biggest fans, but he has plenty more, and what they love about him is his willingness to break rules. Through interesting tactics like a 24-hour live stream, a Twitter-avatar “egg movement” (to promote judgment on content over looks), and an in-depth web-series, Abstract has built a sizable, passionate fanbase. It’s that kind of cult following that will account for album and ticket sales and most importantly, his music also reflects that adventurous, unique spirit. Sometimes pop, sometimes, hip-hop, sometimes R&B, Abstract is a master at blending all sorts of sounds and emotions, but no matter where he ventures sonically, his heart is always on his sleeve. He has the vision, he has the fans, now all that’s left is the album, and with his sophomore project, They Shoot Horses, slated for a 2016 release, next year could be his year.
You may not know Lute yet, but you’d have to be living under a rock not to know the name J. Cole. Well, recently Lute was signed to Cole’s Dreamville label, with Lute’s song “Still Slummin’’ earning a spot on the new J.Cole/Dreamville project, Revenge of the Dreamers II. Even before Dreamville, Lute was showing signs, signs that caught the attention of the legendary Pete Rock, who shared his West1996 project on Twitter back in 2012. Pete Rock? J.Cole? Those are some pretty impressive co-signs, but as always, the independent, upstart emcee’s challenge was getting that music to the masses. Now that Lute has the power of Dreamville behind him, 2016 should be a huge year for the man.
4. COUSIN STIZZ
In late 2014, Drizzy and his woes were seen celebrating to the tune of Cousin Stizz’ “Shoutout,” setting off a banner year for the Boston emcee—his 2015 summer tape, Suffolk County, was met with high acclaim. However, a Drake Instagram post will only take you so far: now it’s up to the artist to capitalize and build off that momentum. Stizz has already shown he can do build his own career and is heading into 2016 with a bright future.
5. JAZZ CARTIER
Rappers are known for rocking Jordans and name-dropping Iverson. Sometimes though, the ballers can help put the rappers on. That’s the case with Toronto native Jazz Cartier, whose song “Switch” is frequently played by the Raptors team DJ, DJ 4Korners, during home games.
While Cartier calls Toronto home, he has lived in the United States, Barbados, and even Kuwait, and that traveling has really shaped who he is an artist. Cartier never raps over the same thing twice, but what remains constant is his growling, almost haunting flow. It’s that flow that made his 2015 debut project, Marauding in Paradise, such a rousing success. It’s remarkably different yet still has NBA-soundtrack-worthy-flavor. On the strength of this one project, we think 2016 will be a slam dunk.
Hailing from the same city as rap’s last great duo (Outkast), Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot joined forces back in 2011 and have been turning heads ever since. After touring with AB-Soul in 2014, appearing on Mac Miller’s Major label debut in 2015, and releasing a handful of must-listen songs (like “AWOL”), 2016 will be the year EarthGang brings back the duo. We’re sure of it.
Boogie’s shown the ability to get us moving, but he’s also shown the ability to move us. After his summer smash “Oh My Goodness,” his 2015 album touched on topics like fatherhood, race, and faith, ones which most rappers with a catchy single are afraid to touch. Boogie connects all that’s great about the way music makes us feel with the thoughts we need to have, and that’s why he’s primed for a huge year.
8. LADY LESHURR
This year alone, Leshurr’s “Queen Speech” songs have amassed over 25 million views, and the fourth and latest has nearly 14 million alone (even finding its way into a commercial). With an arsenal of one-liners and an unflappable confidence, in 2016 Lady Leshurr appears to have the ability to do what so many U.K. rappers have tried to do for so long—find success in America.
9. NONAME GYPSY
For a while, Noname she didn’t even consider herself a rapper: she was more focused on slam poetry. That’s how she got her start, but it was a guest spot on Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rap tape that introduced the world to her rapper side and boy did we want more. She delivered in 2014 when she appeared on Mick Jenkins’ breakout tape The Water[s], and in 2015 she appeared on the Social Experiment’s Surf project. She’s sprinkled in a few of her own tracks here and there, but her appearances on those highly-successful tapes has garnered her a curious fanbase seeking a project of her own. It looks like they will get it in 2016 as her Donnie Trumpet-produced Telefone mixtape is expected in the coming year. If she can put together an entire album as good as her guest spots, she’ll be one of this year’s acts to blow.
Back in September, Funk Volume head honcho Hopsin took to Twitter to announce that his thriving independent label had signed a new artist. Unfortunately, he didn’t reveal whom. Still, it’s smart to put money on Futuristic. The Arizona based rapper is an expert at blending fun, at times raucous, content with tremendous technical ability, and at times they have already taken him under their wing: Futuristic toured with Dizzy Wright and has been known to team up with Jarren Benton. Regardless of his label situation, we remain confident Futuristic is destined for a big year. He has already demonstrated he knows how to succeed on his own, and has too much charisma and talent to let anything get in his way.