Rapzilla.com staff picked around 20 of the new up and comers on the scene and narrowed the list down to the 10 new kids on the block to look out for this year.
The Criteria: The main qualifier that Rapzilla staff utilized was that the artists could not have more than one official release. If an artist has had two official albums released, that would be referred to as their sophomore album. So an artist that has released several mixtapes and been a feature on other albums, yet only released 1 official album, is a freshman by definition, not talent. So lets jump into it...
As an “Eastside Church Boi” hailing from the West Side of the country, John Givez has steadily risen to prominence in a growing field of Left Coast emcees. We first heard his artistry on theBreax “I’m On One” remix from the BreaxOver mixtape series. His feature was smooth enough to attract twitter attention from veteran rapper Sho Baraka, which was only a sign of things to come. Givez released well-received mix tapes “The Little Engine That Could” and “Mind Over Matter” before officially signing with theBreax's Kings Dream Entertainment label. 2013 was a landmark year for the singer/rapper. His debut album IV Seasons, which featured theBreax and his cousin JGivens (SN: What are their family reunion cyphers like? Sheesh), was released with the strong support of fans and key genre tastemakers. His inclusion on the current with Alex Faith and Dre Murray, his Rapzilla nomination for Best New Artist and his overall growth ensure that great things are in store for the Cali native. He is clearly one to watch for 2014.
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Though he appears to be a new name in the Christian Hip Hop scene, many onlookers are familiar with with his behind the scenes work. His prodigious graphic design skills are showcased on a number of prominent Christian Hip Hop albums, including RMG’s group album Welcome to the Family and Canon’s Mad Haven. Though he had already released indie projects and featured on a few prominent albums, including Derek Minor’s Minorville, his solo career clearly wasn’t the priority. But as he detailed to Rapzilla in an exclusive interview last year, it was time for him to step out of the shadows of just making stunning album art to making stunning music. He was put front and center after signing with RMG, and releasing his debut EP Mirrors & Medicine earlier this week. With a #6 peak on the Christian/Gospel iTunes charts and more upcoming projects, the Orlando resident will no longer be able to play the background.
Continuing the strong showing from Florida this year is emcee Serge. The Authentik crewmember has placed his imprint on Christian Hip Hop in the last calendar year with a number of strong appearances. He kicked off his run by featuring prominently on Authentik’s Groans Before Glory album in December of 2012. He continued prominence by participating in the Rapzilla 16 Bar Challenge at Legacy Conference last summer. He delivered some of the event’s most memorable bars. His pen caught the eye/ear of Christian Hip Hop’s veteran artists, landing him writing features on Flame’s Royal Flush album and Json’s Braille album. With a respected name and consistent impact, Serge’s solo career is poised to take center stage with his upcoming Off Season EP, and triple threat abilities of rapper x producer x writer.
In Hip Hop, everyone respects an artist who brings bars. And if bars are what you’re looking for, Los is who you need to listen to. Originally, he grew in maturity under the tutelage of KB and other leaders in the HGA camp in South Florida, honing his abilities before stepping out on his own with the 2013 The Leak Mixtape. On the project, he showcased his lyrical ability to rock over some of Christian Hip Hop’s most recognizable instrumentals. This prowess led to him being invited to participate in the Rapzilla 16 Bar Challenge at the Legacy Conference last summer. Though the field was crowded, Los rose the occasion and won the contest, cementing his reputation as a strong lyricist and punchline specialist. The Florida emcee is following up his strong year by partnering with fellow HGA artists to release the upcoming project Sin or Suffer with Clear Sight Music A&R/producer SPEC. Los is ensuring that the fans will receive an avalanche of lyrical bars this year.
Corey PaulThe Frontline Movement had a member on last year's Freshmen 2013 list (Reconcile) and add another crew member to the 2014 list as well. Corey Paul’s gritty style and fearless lyrics have impressively filled a lane previously missing in the Christian Hip Hop genre. Carrying those verses home are his captivating testimony, a true tale of God’s grace, love and mercy. After making music with his Frontline brothers for awhile, Corey branched out and independently released his debut album, appropriately titled Grace, Love and Mercy. While the project may not have received the buzz of other major label releases, his underground following is strong as are his connections. Paul appeared on Alex Faith’s ATLast album on the song “Pull Up” with Reach Records' Tedashii with an intense verse worthy of a rewind...or 10. With his inclusion on the Southern Lights Tour with the aforementioned Faith and Dre Murray, it’s looking like Corey Paul may not be “underground” too much longer.
Selah the Corner
Talented mainstream NYC rappers used to be a dime a dozen, but recent years have diminished the overall consistency of the city’s Hip Hop offerings. Despite this major label drought, the Christian collection of NYC emcees is alive and well. Leading the charge is God Over Money lyricist Selah the Corner, who continues to turn heads with his underrated mic flexing. Though he has been around Christian Hip Hop for awhile, Selah regained attention with one of last year’s best mixtapes, Hoodie Season; and his addition to the GOM Records roster. His boldness and lyrical arsenal are a perfect match for the Bizzle-led collection of artists, their collaborative project Martyrs In the Making Volume 2 being Exhibit A. As God Over Money grows in respect and reach, so will Selah. And that’s something that everyone, not just New York, should be eager to see.
Who hasn’t heard Uncle Reece’s hit song “Until I Pass Out” by now? The Florida singer’s worship anthem, produced by Grammy Award winning producer Jon Jon Traxx, has infinite replay value and refuses to die out, peaking at #21 on the Gospel Billboard charts. After being played endlessly on radio mixshows and in churches, Uncle Reece is well-known to many in CHH. But many have asked, “What’s next?” for the Jacksonville native. After continuing his trend of creating movements by designing the “Without Jesus I Suck” t-shirt line, Uncle Reece is forcing Gospel music to take him seriously as a businessman and not just an artist. He will follow up his musical success by releasing his debut full-length album entitled 'Bold' this summer. With his fierce work ethic and bold ambition, it's clear that Uncle Reece isn't "passing out" anytime soon
B. Cooper is the latest addition to a growing RMG roster and brings a dash of unique flavor to Christian Hip Hop. At the outset of his career, “B.C.” (as he was formerly known) was in the studio frequently with super-producer Dirty Rice, cooking up new music that featured his savage wordplay and smooth delivery. After a collection of projects including Reflection of Self and Cashier of the Month, this consistency caught the ear of RMG President and Reach Records artist Derek Minor, who already knew Cooper personally. After announcing the signing of this relative unknown, RMG wasted no time in releasing Spare Change, a free project featuring Alex Faith, Canon, Dre Murray, Chad Jones and more. With an established name like Derek Minor and a healthy supporting cast on RMG, B. Cooper has properly introduced himself to the Christian Hip Hop community and will work hard to convince them to spare a few minutes to listen to what he has to say.
James Gardin fka PHILTHY
James Gardin's name may not be as familiar to the Christian Hip Hop audience, but this artist (formerly known as PHILTHY) is making himself known all on his own. As a member of the well-traveled BLAT!, Gardin has no interest in being a hearer or rapper of God’s Word only. The German-born artist has a driving passion for music, social issues and uniting people together with the love that changed him. Musically, he’s released a number of mixtapes and an EP that have received solid mainstream attention. While others would simply ride the wave of recognition, Gardin separated himself from the hype and travelled to South Africa for three months to create a music program that reached children infected with HIV/AIDS. With this “hands and feet” passion and the upcoming album The Living Daylights, Gardin’s message through his music will continue to change lives in 2014.
With a series of strategic connections, D-Tropp has quickly commanded the attention of Christian Hip Hop fans with his silky smooth melodic style and accessible lyrics. This accessibility is best displayed on his signature record “Misbehave” from the EP From Me To You 2, featuring one of Rapzilla’s 2013 Freshman SPZRKT. The single burned up Christian Hip Hop radio shows, striking a chord with its fearless authenticity. The singer/rapper has also prominently collaborated with other rising artists, including TJ Pompeo, T-Word, ZG and HillaryJane. His connections to SPZRKT and fellow Freshman L9 resulted in a feature on the title track of Social Club’s Summer of George project and his inclusion in the SCMGWP collective. With the strength of a powerful crew, a growing fan base along with his natural creative gifts; D-Tropp is in perfect position to let his talents shine through his authentic artistry in 2014.