2018: afropunk’s top 10 artists of the year
December 30, 2018
All in all, this year was crazy. Whether crazy good or crazy bad, crazy is as crazy does and needs an outlet. Art is essential in times of great craze because it initiates change. It sets the tone for a generation — and as the year 2018 comes to a close, we reflect on which artist eased our frenzy the best, and screamed AFROPUNK the loudest. These are only Top 10 because it was impossible to put them all, but when it comes to our vision of fearless, self-actualization, these artists have taken matters into their own hands making their creations our catharsis. Check out our picks for Top 10 below and turn up the volume as we close out this crazy year.
1. NONAME GYPSY
Kicking it off with the sultry queen of tongue-and-cheek; when it comes to Noname Gypsy, there is no greater fusion of fire and rain. Heating you up as every track breeds reflection, then cooling you off with your own tears. It seems dramatic, but her work is almost ineffable. You can’t put into words how well she puts ish into words. From her debut full-length Telefone, released in 2016, to her latest offering Room 25 earlier this year, the enigmatic rapstress and AP alum has mastered the art of taking the indigestible and turning it into The Last Supper. Tackling topics as heavy as abortion, and police brutality, to ones as carefree as one night stands and vacations in Jamaica, Noname cracks you open, introducing you to an ally you didn’t even know you needed. With a raw, honest, and musically conscious portfolio, this artist embodies the AFROPUNK mantra of radical self care and artistic transparency to the T.
2. BLOOD ORANGE (aka Dev Hynes)
This next artist is a crusade of his own; Blood Orange, aka Dev Hynes. With 4 full-length projects to date, his latest Negro Swan is a force, and a vital space for reckoning, because his documentary-style production creates a necessary conversation. Preaching the importance and universality of queerness and ‘other-ness’, the British-born creative takes his funky indie-rock groove, and gentle vocals to make each project an inclusive cushion of lyricism and synthesized musicianship. The Isley Brothers meet D’angelo, and have a picnic with J Dilla in Blood Orange, and this fantastic harmony is setting the tone for a whole new genre of storytelling. We’re more than here for it.
3. DONALD GLOVER (aka Childish Gambino)
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)
This artist is no stranger to alternative. Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) has made a name for himself in the realm of indie-rap, with an influence stretching deeper than most. Gracing the game with self-released mixtapes since 2008, his 16-track release of Culdesac in 2010 paved the way for his deeply rooted musicianship. Fast-forward to 2018, this multifaceted creative is tackling politics with poetry and visual artistry- meshing all his gifts with offerings like the rallying “This is America”, and his hit show Atlanta on FX. Steady in the foreground and background of our entertainment, Glover has collaborated and produced with some of the most foundational artists of this generation, making himself, in fact, a staple. Glover has created a safe space for the multidimensional Black Body, and under him and those alike, a subculture of safety has been built. No small feat.
4. RICO NASTY
Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Atlantic Records
RAAAAAAGGGEEEEEE. Nah, but forreal. In terms of Rico Nasty, it’s an everyday affair. The 21 year old trap rock star and AP ATL alum is not afraid to thrash when sh*ts f*&!ked up… and thrash when it’s lit too. A catalyst of catharsis in an eccentrically dominating package, her fearless expression of everything paves the way for young women everywhere to use their lungs for good. The Brooklyn-born, DC-bred rapper released her 3rd studio full-length this year, and with recent hits like “Smack a B*tch” and “Guap (LaLaLa)”, it’s clear she’s just getting started. Every track radiates Big D*ck energy, and it’s undeniable: this unapologetic rager is one to watch.
5. JANELLE MONÁE
Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Global Citizen
In this time of mass media influence and the race for individuality Janelle Monáe continues to hit the nail right on the head. With her influence stretching over a decade with household name hits like “Tightrope” (2010), her legacy came to its peak thus far with this year’s release of her groundbreaking multimedia project Dirty Computer in which she masterfully melds feel-good tracks with the almost all the fears on the modern mind, with the almost all the fears on the modern mind; from loss of individual identity, to surveillance, to erasure, and everything in between,’ serving Afrofuturistic queerness the whole time. This pop priestess has been a pillar for brown girls everywhere, but as she grows with the times, she flies — and we’re right there with her.
6. EARL SWEATSHIRT
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
When it comes to capturing the grit and grime of living young, brown and male, Earl sweatshirt has been held the crown. Branching from his Odd Future start — as the youngin’ in a Tyler-led “Wolf Gang”— this LA-based rapper has done nothing but grind and ground. Truly an old soul, this creative has never been afraid to ghost, then hock-up his truth and spit it in your face, and with his latest Some Rap Songs (2018) he proceeds to teach an undercover lesson in homage. A sample-king; mixing mediums of Jazz, poetry, film, etc.— his minute-long lyricism speaks volumes as he translates his mind into the language of a generation. Fueling a subculture of harsh juvenile honestly, and emotional transparency, listeners never have to guess what he means, a refreshing reality as you drown in his words.
7. PRINCESS NOKIA
Ask me how many forms she’s taken and I’d say I’ll never know. The Princess of letting her Freak-Flag fly has been embodying the AFROPUNK vision since her conception on the stage; her fearless — and at times almost violent — assertion of her identity has shed light on a wave of feminism not particular to this generation in spirit, but has lit it’s execution on fire. Bringing the heat at countless fests this creative has traveled from Destiny, to Wavy Spice, Princess Nokia and now her latest return to: a Metallic Butterfly; letting it be known with countless anthems and genres that it’s ok to be whoever the f*ck you wanna be and express yourself in whatever way you see fit — Whether a “Tomboy”, “Bruja” or an emo Girl [who] Cried there is always a place for you in Nokias world, and always a way to shine.
8. STEVE LACY
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Steve Lacy is a Jack of All Trades in its purest form. An AFROPUNK alum multiple times over this 20-year-old musician has left more footprints on the industry than casually known. Starting out making waves as bassist and co-writer for funk-pop, alt-R&B group The Internet, this creative has grown to make his solo presence known. With producer credits on projects with artists such as Kendrick, Kali Uchis, Goldlink, Mac Miller, Tyler the Creator etc., this young creative has a musical palette three times his age, helping him translate a soul and rhythm way beyond his years. Following the 2017 release of his 6-track EP Steve Lacy’s Demo featuring hits like “Dark Red” and “Some” Lacy is on a steady incline and we can’t wait to see what he does next.
9. THE FEVER 333
Photo by René Scottland for AFROPUNK
We can’t forget about the PUNK. But, to be honest, Punk in itself is not always accessible — hence it’s cult-following. But in the case of Inglewood-bred punk trio Fever 333, they take all sides of the genre and mesh it til it’s moshable for anyone. With the release of their first full-length EP Made An America, they masterfully fuse hip-hop, thrash and punk to serve a well-rounded listening experience. Their standout track “Walking in my Shoes” has the familiar, bone-seeping rhythm of mainstream but shatters the formula with powerful vocals and thought-provoking lyrics. Think Evanescence meeting Gorillaz at a politically conscious convention for self-expression- adding a new flavor to an old scene. That’s a lot, but it’s everything you need.
10. TIERRA WHACK
Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Spotify
Number 10 goes to the real Quirky Queen of rap… Tierra Whack. Gracing the internet for years with her whimsical world of fashion and fanatically fantastic freestyles (phew), the Philly native has made a name for herself and is soaring. With the release of her first full-length Whack World, a new audience is introduced to the magic of her music. A visual project as much as an auditory one, Whack World is as creative as it gets; adding an extra voice through the lens, and creating an entire universe. Rapping about subjects across the spectrum; from a pet’s death, to self-care and every relationship tribulation in between- her irreverence is irreplaceable and a feel-good experience for everyone.
Well, there goes our Top 10. Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! And here’s to more magical creations in 2019!
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