Who's Up Next? 17 Artists To Watch in 2017
2016 has been one helluva year, right, players? The dastardly deeds from celebrities, the crazy sad passings of our favorite artists and personalities and the ascent of Donald Drumpf as our new @POTUS has made the year eventful, surprising and disappointing to say the least. It has been a rollercoaster of love, anger, hate and frustration in one big, giant wet paper towel. Add to all of that the fast-pace rigamarole of music, as we're constantly checking for who is new and who is coming into the game — and it is enough to make you quite burned out.
For whatever you might think of the year that was, 2016 has introduced a fair share of hungry acts who are ready to scratch and claw their way into your playlists in 2017. Here at Okayplayer, we pride ourselves on being up on the future stars (call us Okayplayer-damus) of the game. Whether they are found through traditional means of showcases or discovered on the World Wide Web — these new acts that we've chosen as artists to watch in 2017 are ones who we hope will continue to move the game forward with style, panache and pride.
So, before we ring in the New Year, here are 17 artists to keep an eye and ear on in the next one. — Kevito
As the guitarist for The Internet, Steve Lacy has served as something of a background position in the band. But now he's poised to make his solo debut soon, and it's highly-anticipated. Just one listen to "Some" and you'll understand why. The soulful croon of the chorus; the jangling, Mac DeMarco-esque guitar strums; and the laid-back but danceable drums that keep everything intact. Hopefully Lacy's solo endeavor will find him not only channeling what makes him an integral part of The Internet, but what he can truly bring to the table as a singer-songwriter too. — Elijah
Having released her full-length debut album Lost En Los Angeles (as well as popped up on Childish Gambino's Awaken, My Love!), Kari Faux has steadily redefined herself while maintaining what first caught our attention about her in the first place. She's still about her authenticity and individuality, offering a realness in her music that's not just relatable but refreshing. Plus, with producer Black Party by her side, Faux has been able to explore everything from existential conundrums and ideas of femininity, backed by production that only compliments her artistry. Needless to say, expect to hear even more from Faux in 2017. — Elijah
An outlier, an excellent singer and songwriter and creative as all hell, ABRA is surely a part of the future wave of talents bridging the gap between misfit style and hip-hop chic. A New York native, yet raised in London, ABRA took her quirkiness to the hotbed of music in the world — Atlanta, Georgia — and became an indelible force within the Awful Records crew. You've probably heard her sultry, stripped-down voice on a few Father tracks over the years. Or you heard the old school, super-fun cut, "CryBaby". Everyone absolute loves and adores the "Darkwave Duchess," whose PRINCESS EP was the much-praised follow-up to her 2015 effort, Rose. Like her upbringing, ABRA is a journeywoman, not defined by the place she inhabits, but ever-changing of it like a punk-rock, stunning chameleon of R&B. Either way, you'll learn her name sooner than later, as this R&B, electro-funk gawdess is definitely here to say. — Kevito
The rise of Gabriel Garzón-Montano has been long in the works. Even before collecting checks from Drake and signing on with Stones Throw for his upcoming debut full-length album, Garzón-Montano was turning heads and grabbing ears as a do-it-all-to-death r&b musician with too many tools at his disposal. Chances are if you've lived in or around NYC these last four years, you've seen him on his one-man-band steez, gracefully lulling his hometown with deep grooves and rare pedigree. On January 26th, he'll release Jardín as the first long-form project in his catalog, anchored by two stud singles; his butter-smooth "The Game" and the stank-face-certified "Sour Mango," each just teasing the next chapter with shades of Dilla, church and purple stuff. — Zo
Deja Carr, better known around the game as Mal Devisa, has been a celebrated force for the past two years. Yet, after she released her Kiid project on Bandcamp this March, the radar has consistently bleeped-and-blooped, highlighting this powerful vocalist + multi-instrumentalist's name. A young, talented, improvisational genius with an aplomb for making clever words and sounds come of as emotive and rich — Mal Devisa proves that she is ahead of her years and has something very real to offer lovers of music in 2017. — Kevito
Starchild & The New Romantic
Earlier this year, Bryndon Cook BKA Starchild dropped his label debut, Crucial. Comprising electrified pop ballads and funky paisley-cut romance records, the 8-track release was a proper introduction to Cook's particular take on The Purple Arts, and extensive range as both vocalist and musician. But as we move into the new year, the Brooklyn-based artist (whose portfolio now boasts credits on both Solange and Blood Orange's best-of-2016 releases) is readying his full-length for a 2017 launch. And from what this writer has heard, it will be more than worth the wait. In the meantime, you can catch him spinning righteous all-vinyl sets around town. — Zo
If you're a fan of swung-beyond-standard-metrics productions a la Knxwledge or Samiyam, Norvis Junior is a natural fit. The Dallas experimentalist keeps up with his contemporaries. He's released not one, two, three or four, but five jagged head-nod suites in 2016, each slightly more off-kilter than the last. Since 2013, he's released over 20 projects via Bandcamp, ranging from straight-ahead beats to full compositions featuring his warped croons and drunken drums. Truth is, if dude has even half as productive a year in 2017 as he was in 2016, he'll be an easy front-runner for your next favorite beatsman. — Zo
25-year-old Courtney Salter, who you might have begun to recognize as Ari Lennox, has captivated music lovers with her debut project. The Dreamville Records' signee already has almost 15K followers on Twitter, applause from publications such as VIBE and Complex, and continues the Dreamville tradition of being an artist that breaks out of the conventional box. Inspired by the greats like Whitney Houston and Ella Fitzgerald, Ari Lennox offers honest, heartfelt, deeply intimate songs ("Magic") and dance-worthy cuts ("Mumbles") to show off her range. A solid fit for anyone who loves color in their songs, Ari Lennox will instantly turn you into a fan. 2017 sounds like a perfect time to jump on the bandwagon. — Kevito
If the name Jameel Bruner seems vaguely familiar to you, it is because it comes after "Grammy nominated" whenever it's mentioned. Whether you're calling him Kintaro or the former keyboardist for The Internet, you will put some respeck on his name. An upcoming First Look Friday participant in 2017 for us here at Okayplayer, Jameel has already a storied career that most acts would happily envy. Yet, with two brothers already prepping projects on their own (Jameel is youngest brother to Ronald Jr. + Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner) for the new year, we're extremely excited to see what the young musician has up his sleeves for 2017. — Kevito
You'll notice that we foresee a big 2017 from at least three cogs in The Internet's machine. Next up, a woman that needs no introduction, Syd. The leading lady has been tough to avoid throughout these last few years, collaborating with top-shelf producers like Tyler The Creator and Kaytranada on their latest releases, as well as occasionally dropping a loose joint on the cloud. But as you may have heard, Syd's just completed what will be here solo debut, claiming it to be a more "mainstream" sound than what fans may expect from her. But let's be honest here: it's always a greatdayindamornin when there's new Syd afoot. And we've got hunch that she'll deliver. — Zo
Where Xenia Rubinos' full-length debut Magic Trix had shown her knack for creating compelling music through a diverse mash-up of genres, Black Terry Cat not only pushed that further but highlighted her abilities as a singer-songwriter. Here, Rubinos addresses her identity with unflinching frustration, challenging ideas of representation and the ways in which Latinx people are mistreated in America. "Brown cleans your house, brown takes the trash, brown even wipes your grandaddy's ass," she raps on "Mexican Chef," before fully going in: "Brown breaks his back, brown takes the flack, brown gets cut 'cos his papers are whack/Brown sits down, brown does frown, brown's up in a hospital gown/Brown has not, brown gets shot, brown got what he deserved 'cos he fought." In an age in which a man that wrongly generalized undocumented citizens as "rapists" and "criminals" is the next president of the United States, Black Terry Cat resonates even more. Rubinos has a story to tell and if this second album is any indicator, she still has much more to say moving forward into 2017. — Elijah
"Kitana! Kitana! Kitana! Mortal Kombat, I'll see you mañana!" As the creator of one of 2016's catchiest songs, Princess Nokia came through and dropped an incredibly enjoyable EP that found the young artist tackling everything from her heritage to being a native New Yorker. The result? 1992, a nine track project that pays homage to the New York streets (specifically Harlem) that raised Nokia (real name Destiny Frasqueri), while foreshadowing the promising future she has as an artist. But the true beauty of Nokia may very well be the way in which she uses her platform for progress. There's a moment in a mini documentary done on Nokia by Fader, where a group of girls are mouthing every single word the rapper utters during a live performance, watching her every move and never missing a lyric. This type of representation is necessary, and Nokia has just gotten started. — Elijah
At just 18 years old, Demo Taped shares the title of "youngest eccentric" on our list with Steve Lacy. But just like The Internet's guitarist, his chops are far from adolescent, though there isn't much solo material to go by just yet. But if you take recent collaborations with Karma Kid and GoldLink before that, the silhouette of a bright and adventurous musician emerges with a sound that lives somewhere between Jai Paul and Dirty Projectors on the pop spectrum. We can't yet say whether there'll be an EP or long-play project down the line, but we wouldn't rule it out. Whatever's on the way, heads will spin. — Zo
Photo of Rose Gold taken by Ural Garrett for Okayplayer.
Another First Look Friday alum, Baltimore's own Rose Gold has worked with some of the best and brightest in the business (James Fauntleroy, Terrace Martin). With "Think Of You" and "Running" respectively in the rearview mirror, all eyes are turning to the flowering singer-songwriter to see what she has in store for the new year. A magic-inducing, fire-starter of a force that has been seen at spots here in Brooklyn such as BRIC JazzFest and National Sawdust. You don't want another year to go by without knowing who Rose Gold is, so don't be a thorn in anyone's side and get familiar! — Kevito
The rap group has gained a helping hand in Outkast wordsmith Andre 3000, with the rapper popping up on Divine Council's "Decemba" remix, as well as directing the video for the standout track. But it's easy to see why — from the compelling and sinister production of ICYTWAT, to the shared vocal duties of Lord Linco, Cyrax! and $ilkmoney, the group works so well with each other to create a sound that is all their own. Seriously, listen to "Decemba" and you'll understand why Divine Council is sure for a 2017 takeover. — Elijah
With just two singles under his belt in 2016, this Portland-native appears to already have us just where he wants us. A limber vocalist with a chart-topper in “Caroline,” Aminé is the latest talent to make way from the Pacific Northwest, leaning heavy on buoyant synth-specked productions and instant-recall hooks that screw-up faces and feet with equal force. Before the breakout, your could hear him sharing sonic space with Kaytranada on last year's infectious Calling Brio project. But with a debut full-length en route and another sure-shot hit in "Baba," Aminé is poised to hold the world's attention well into the new year. — Zo
Still a mystery by most conventional standards, b has the unique position of shocking everyone with his style and sound. The growing success from this New York City native has made his projects and singles pop up more and more in recent months, making 2017 seem like we're going to get a good crop of music from this internet successful musician. Most recently, you might've heard "Overdue," which was written, produced and performed by EarlGréy and showcased his love of soul, hip-hop and pop. Dedicated to staying out of his own way, to create music that resonates with himself and those like him — EarlGréy has a sincere, true story to tell and we're all here to see how it is unveiled in the new year. — Kevito