Written by Aidan Werder
1) Amaru Cloud ft G Herbo – Meant For
Throughout 2020, Amaru Cloud – rising independent artist out of Brooklyn – has been quietly carving out a lane of his own with an impressive stream of high-quality singles like “Bonita” and “Ándale” featuring his signature style, combining the sounds of NY hip hop today with some clear hispanic influences. His latest track, “Meant For” is a great example of his style – featuring the tell-tale asymmetrical percussion and infectious bass of NY drill, but also with undeniable spanish vibes throughout – both in the salsa-inspired production and in the spanglish laden bars. The G Herbo feature on the second verse is well placed, the beat a great fit for Herbo’s natural flow and an excellent contrast to Amaru’s more melodic vibe. He even managed to secure the Chicago drill legend for the music video appearance – not an insignificant feat. Definitely keep your eyes on Amaru Cloud. Apart from maybe J.I, this kid is definitely making the most successful spanish/drill hybrid records to date and given the popularity of the two genres, it only makes sense that this is just the beginning for Amaru Cloud.
2) Fivio – Baddie On My Wishlist
Fivio somehow managed to pull off a Christmas-themed drill track that actually works. “Baddie On My Wishlist” features a pretty typical drill beat and Fivio flow with just enough of a hint of Christmas bells – bookended by a pretty hilarious sampling of “Twelve Days of Christmas” and some signature, holiday-themed Fivio ad-libs. For whatever reason, the track is only available on Apple Music at the moment, where it sits alongside a selection of bona fide Christmas and holiday songs on the Carols Covered Playlist. “Baddie On My Wishlist” is yet another reminder that Fivio has plenty of tricks left in his bag, and the inexplicably catchy Fivi-flow is here to stay – even for the holidays.
3) J.I – Excuse My Pain
J.I (who appears to be distancing himself from the Prince of NY title) dropped “Excuse My Pain” on Friday. The single features minimal production to highlight J.I.’s signature sung-flow, allowing his strong vocals and wordplay to shine. The track comes with a really well-done conceptual music video with J.I evoking what could only be Tony Montana/Scarface vibes while flaunting big diamonds and making clear his affiliation with Gstarr. Another solid entry from the 19-year-old artist out of Crown Heights, “Excuse My Pain” comes ahead of multiple upcoming drops – be on the lookout for the third volume of the Hood Life Krisis trilogy as well as a new project to set off a new series of projects we can expect to play out through 2021.
4) Sheff G – No Negotiations
Much like the “Lights On” record we saw Sheff drop last month, anyone who listens to No Negotiations” will get the sense that it’s setting the stage for something bigger. The whole track almost sounds like an intro track – with the bass never quite fully dropping the song almost implies that there is more to come. Low and behold, this week Sheff and the Winners Circle announced the release of a new project set to drop next week. As announced on Sheff’s IG on Monday, ‘Proud of Me Now’ is sitting at #4 in worldwide pre-saves on Apples Music – sitting among good company in the likes of Jack Harlow and Shawn Mendes.
5) Justin Rarri feat Gunna – Thugbaby
17-year-old Justin Rarri out of the Bronx has been quietly racking up numbers since signing to Interscope Records earlier this year. This summer, Rarri dropped his first project, “Youngest in Kharge” to a warm reception – featuring stand out tracks “2 Seater” and “Strong” feat Lil Poppa as well as collaborations with Stunna 4 Vegas and Smoove’l. Rarri’s sound is difficult to nail down, but it’s definitely a hip hop hybrid with some clear rock and pop sounding influence. His new song, “Thugbaby” featuring Gunna off the deluxe version of the album that dropped Friday is a good example of this style – featuring a strong guitar beat mixed in with 808s and bass that highlights both artists’ melodic flow and infectious hook. It also comes with a high budget visual and full in-person appearance from Wunna himself. At just 17-years-old Justin Rarri may very well be the youngest in charge… and the quality of output and more importantly the audience response says this is just the beginning for the young artist from the Bronx.
(Philly) Oz Sparx – Way Too Much
Oz Sparx is a young artist out of Philly with a unique melodic sound and well definied style. Ever since he dropped the viral hit “Fake” in 2019 – which has racked up millions of streams and over 5M views on Worldstar – Oz Sparx has been one to watch. On every song and project displaying an impressive ability to effortlessly switch between intricate melodic flows – reminiscent of a Polo G or Lil Tjay – Sparx is putting his own Philly spin on it for a fresh sound that comes together to create a really successful style. His latest entry is actually a visual for ‘Way Too Much’ off his last project that dropped in October, ‘Vibin, Slidin, N’ Connivin.’ The track is a good example of his ability to show off a softer sound, while maintaining somewhat of a dark energy and still displaying a tight command over complex melodies. Oz Sparx is just getting started. With the wide range of flows and sounds under his belt – from “Fake” to “Stevie” to “Hindi” to the latest “Way Too Much” – this young artist from Philly is developed beyond his years and ready to blow.
(North London) Abra Cadabra – Product of My Environment
Despite the slightly distracting moniker, Abra Cadabra is a dope artist out of North London who just dropped his first official project, ‘Product Of My Environment.’ Admitedly a ways off from NYC, the rising artist from across the pond is part of a class of English artists that are making the NY swag work for them. Traditionally, UK hip hop has been a tough sell over here in the states. But given all the borrowing back and forth that’s been happening in recent years – with NY artists like Pop Smoke and Fivio Foreign (among many others) adopting the long-established production style made popular by London-based drill producers – it seems that transaction has gone both ways. Artists like Abra Cadabra, among others like Headie One, Dutchavelli, MIST, and more are breaking out of the UK drill box by really successfully adopting some American-hip-hop style sounds and even some Caribbean and Afrobeats sounds that are clearly appealing to both audiences. Abra Cadabra’s ‘Product of My Environment’ is an excellent example of this style and unbelievable outing or a debut album, even though he’s been putting in work since dropping the breakout hit “Robbery” in 2016. The track below “How We Living” featuring longtime collaborator Kush is a more laid back track, featuring understated dancehall-type production underpinning soft, melodic but still speedy flows from Abz and Kush. The new project ‘Product of My Environment’ is out now and features “How We Living” alongside other standout tracks including “Spin This Coupe,” “On Deck,” and “Show Me.” At the rate he’s going, it’s not likely that Abra Cadabra will be disappearing anytime soon.