Young Thug — Punk
Young Thug is an eccentric icon. The ATLien superstar’s discography has changed hip-hop and popular music forever—the way Thugger stretches his voice on an ad-lib alone can be credited for seismic waves in the industry. Whether with his YSL compatriots on Slime Language 2 or having So Much Fun solo, Thug is brimming with vocal tricks and delightful surprises. Thug’s long-awaited sophomore album Punk took over two years to complete and features J. Cole, Gunna, Future, Drake, Travis Scott, and more. It signifies a new era for Thug, as he tells Complex, “Punk is just real life stories. The whole album is purified. It’s just real.”
PinkPantheress — to hell with it
PinkPantheress is a viral hitmaker, making “new nostalgic” tunes wherein she bends samples to her will to make commanding pop music. This summer, “Break It Off” went viral and the UK artist leaned into her experimental side for to hell with it. Sugary sounds mask the depth of feeling and overall darkness of being 20 and finding your voice. “Reason” stands out as macabre while also being wholly emotional. It all comes together for the artist inspired by British pop, horror, and old-school emo music videos.
KenTheMan — What’s My Name
Houston’s KenTheMan has all the charisma and bravado to become a hip-hop mainstay. Back in December, we crowned her one of 10 rappers you should know right now off the strength and spunk of her 4 da 304s project and her undeniable swagger. What’s My Name is a strong follow-up, doubling down on Ken’s confidence and her ability to present as unforgettable. From Re-Upped single “Rose Gold Stripper Pole” to the impossibly catchy “I’m Perfect,” What’s My Name is a party soundtrack with no filler.
Asia Graves — If You Knew Better
Asia Graves does it for the ladies who need a boost of empowerment. The R&B singer and North Carolina native debuted in 2020 with Big Girls Don’t Cry, eight tracks meant to help listeners through the turmoil of being hurt in love. “A lot of girls let guys hold them back, and they deal with this thing I call ‘struggle love,’” Asia said of her previous work. If You Knew Better is a brisk step forward. The six-track EP again deals with heartbreak, but with a more mature pen. As Asia Graves confronts every step of grief, the listener feels resolved.
Ezekiel — love notes
It’s a good time to be a hyperpop fan. Nineteen-year-old Ezekiel hails from the UK and blends digital twists with the very best trappings of emo for his Warner Records debut EP, love notes. In just 10 minutes, the young artist makes a pretty clear and cacophonous statement. Spastic as ever, it’s the final two tracks “partyinthemeantime” and viral smash “help_urself” that capture the essence of this gothic-digicore sound.