From the streets to the art scene, these are the up-and-coming artists we’re rooting for this year.
Last year marked a major milestone for a lot of Baltimore-bred artists who started to find their stride in their respective lanes in music. With all the budding talent brewing in Baltimore, comes a new generation of hungry artists attracting attention from those beyond the city limits keeping an eye on the culture. Artists like Yg Teck and YBS Skola have been carrying the torch for street rap over the last few years, which has brought a small spotlight to Baltimore’s music scene. However, the underground art scene that’s been bubbling with remarkable talent is defining themselves as jacks of all trades and demanding the respect they deserve.
Musical talent from every corner of the city is well on their way to reaching their peak, and despite the entire live music scene being derailed by the pandemic, that hasn’t stopped these hustling artists from getting back to the grind. The time for Baltimore to blow is now and with this crop of multi-talented artists at the forefront representing the city, things can only go up from here.
We rounded up the most exciting and promising young acts of Baltimore who are on track to have a breakout year (if they haven’t already). From the underground artists to the street dudes holding it down, this list reflects all that Baltimore has to offer.
Take a look at the all artists you should have on your radar this year and beyond:
Soulful singer and curator Zadia is in a league of her own. The West Baltimore native has been active in the underground scene for some time now, but just released her debut album, Vacants, in June of last year. The album, described as a love letter to Baltimore, set the tone for her local tour promoting the project on neighboring corners of the city accompanied by a live band. Her humanitarian spirit lives through her artistry and extends to the fellow artists she collaborates with as well. Back in October, she teamed up with rapper Miss Kam to release a joint single titled, “We Are the World,” which garnered attention from music legend Missy Elliott. With one official project and a firm mission under her belt, Zadia is gearing up for a career filled with impact and longevity.
Soft-spoken rapper YTK is no rookie when it comes to music. Since the age of nine, he’s been writing and studying how to become a rapper, but has taken it a step further in his career and morphed himself into a full-blown artist who’s confident in his style. The street side of Baltimore is what the music scene is known for, but YTK’s chill approach to Hip-Hop lends a new sound to the city and pushes the narrative that there’s room for creativity in rap. He released his latest project, From Grace, For Grace, early last year for what he describes as his most crucial work to date. The East Baltimore artist continues to experiment with the Lo-Fi, R&B, and Chill-Hop lanes he aims to occupy simultaneously as one of the city’s most gifted gems.
From her days as a freestyle rapper on social media to the hottest femcee out of West Baltimore, Miss Kam is a name everyone should know. She’s been on the fast track within Baltimore’s underground rap scene since she first emerged back in 2017, and quickly earned a name for herself for her heavy-hitting bars and sharp delivery. Her first official single, “No Bluffin,” put everyone on notice that there was a new queen in town coming for the crown. Since then, she’s been more than living up to fan’s expectations. The no holds barred lyrical giant was all gas no break last year after releasing her 3-track debut EP, Birthday Pack, and she’s keeping the momentum going coming off the heels of her long-awaited debut album, Tew Faced. Though she’s still coming into her own, Miss Kam is determined to spread her music high and wide to the masses and whoever is willing to listen. Don’t sleep too long, there’s a reason she’s referred to as your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper.
One of Baltimore’s youngest and brightest stars is 17-year-old rapper Young Don. Don has been rapping since his days in elementary school and has only learned to sharpen his craft since then. His age isn’t a strike against him, in fact his control and skill of finesse put him in the same bracket as some Baltimore rappers who have years of experience on him. In recent years, he’s seen highs and lows, getting locked up as a young teen but he’s also earned the respect of folks like Shy Glizzy and garnered attention from record labels looking to tap into his budding success. He dropped his first official project, Chokehold, back in 2019 and had a successful run last year dropping two back-to-back albums – Strictly Business and Ghetto Vacation. He’s on a steady come up taking his rap career seriously now, and plans to keep it going as he’s in it for the long haul.
BethBanger is no stranger when it comes to Baltimore’s music scene. The once watchful bystander coming up under her brother, producer BenjaminBanger, transitioned into an active rap artist back in 2018 after the release of her first project, No Longer Perfect. She found her stride by the time her brief third project, Cute and Sleepy, rolled out and since then she’s been keeping the momentum going. The powerhouse artist had a huge breakout year in 2020 after dropping multiple singles and projects, including her joint EP Both Bangers alongside her brother, as well as her latest album, Game Set Match. BethBanger’s sound is hard to categorize, simply because she doesn’t fit into any one particular category, but the growth in her writing over the years has shined through overall. For years, she’s studied the art of recording to prove she’s built for this music game, and at this rate, the young hungry artist is showing no signs of slowing down.
Breezy is another newcomer from the city making noise in the streets that’s emerged within the last two years. The young rapper has been a captivating force with his raw lyrics and lifestyle. From his YouTube channel alone he’s garnered almost 3 million views on his videos, and over the last year has released 6 full-length projects on major streaming platforms. Tapping in with other known Baltimore artists such as Tmcthedon and JiggyRunTheCity, Breezy is on working fast to make a name for hisself in Baltimore’s music scene. The new kid on the block has something to prove and it’s clear that he won’t rest until he does just that.
When he’s not speaking on the most outlandish things via social media, budding artist K. Wood$ is busy making music for the real. The melodic rapper started teasing his music back in 2019 with the release of projects like Catacombs and Veloura, respectively, but got deeper into his craft late last year after dropping his reflective album, Grandma’s Death. In his longest feat yet, K.Wood$ peeled back the layers of the good and the bad surrounding reality and growth. That kind of thoughtful material is rare for some Baltimore artists, but K. Wood$ is a testament that everyone from the city has their own unique style and method of delivering what needs to be heard.
Rising East Baltimore trumpet star Brandon Woody is the definition of what it means to be a Renaissance man. From his days of playing gigs at the Motor House with his band UPENDO to now being tapped for a global Calvin Klein campaign, Woody’s talents are taking him far beyond what the average kid from the city could ever dream of. The 20-something-year-old’s jazzy and animated, funkified style is one that’s been quite an asset to Baltimore’s DIY scene, and has helped integrate live music into a lot of local artists’ repertoire. He’s performed alongside local legends such as Eric Kennedy and Jeff Reed, as well as DIY artists Abdu Ali and Al Rogers Jr. Even after studying away at college in New York and California, Woody returned to the city for unfinished business in what many would describe as a full circle moment. Word on the street is he and his band are finally gearing up to drop their debut album – something that’s been long overdue. Woody may single-handedly be Baltimore’s most promising musician today, and wherever his journey takes him next he knows he has the whole city behind him.
Baltimore crooner Marr Grey is one of the city’s seasoned artists in the game that’s had his fair share of success outside of his hometown. He’s been making music as early as 15 years old, and has had a couple of run ins with big-name artists such as Rick Ross, Meek Mill, Big Sean, and most notably Drake. His song “Safe House” received major buzz after being mistaken for a new song from the Canadian artist back in 2017, getting him on a lot of people’s radars, including his producer Noah ’40’ Shebib. Since then, he’s had his work sampled on Bryson Tiller’s Anniversary album and recently released his newest project, Trapped. Grey is striving to kick his career back into full gear, but until then he’s poised to have another standout year.
Roddy Rackzz has been on a steady incline as of lately positioning himself to be the next young Baltimore rapper to represent music for the streets. His demeanor and work ethic is comparable to that of an established artist like Lil Baby or Durk, and his ability to flawlessly finesse hooks on his tracks is the main reason he’s someone to watch out for. His compelling 2020 mixtape, F**k Rap, was an indicator that he plans on sticking around and at the top of 2021 he delivered the rightful follow-up, F**k Rap 2.0. Not only has Roddy found his rhythm within his own lane, he’s also been known to produce some of his best collaborations with OTR Chaz, another up-and-coming Baltimore artist. With the consistent pace he’s set for himself, Roddy has shaping up to have another phenomenal year for the streets.
When you talk about rising artists coming out of Baltimore this year, OTR Chaz without a doubt has to be mentioned in the conversation. The young starter has created a buzz around his name within the city, but his reach isn’t stopping there. Chaz is another rap artist dabbling in the melodic sounds of Hip-Hop today, but his knack for riding the beat shows the confidence he has in his style. He’s dropped consistent projects over the last two years, including his 2019 album 4 Eva Me and his most recent EPs, 448 and 6 Pack – a joint project with longtime collaborator Roddy Rackzz. His signature, high-pitched voice is hardly forgettable and his catchy hooks are more than likely the cause. Already getting a head start on 2021, it looks as though Chaz may be poised for a major breakout year.
MMH Jrock is another up-and-coming rapper to get familiar with as his music is slowly but surely gaining buzz in the inner-city streets. The self-proclaimed hottest youngin released his first album, Money Making Habits, in September of 2019 but he didn’t gain his momentum until last year after he released a freestyle over Lil Baby’s “Sum 2 Prove.” The attention he garnered from that video earned him much respect with fans and cleared the path for him to drop two singles – “Top Shotta” and “Tip Off” – as well as his latest project, Baby Mexico. He’s already tapped in with fellow rappers Roddy Rackzz and Pfm Pistol P, and has recently added StayTrue Dnice to his roster of collaborators as well. Though he’s still deeply invested in his street lifestyle, Jrock has proven that his music has what it takes to take him beyond that.
Of all the young dudes holding it down for street rap in Baltimore, Nasg Chaz is probably the most-talked about among the bunch. What’s most intriguing about Chaz is how relatable his music is to his growing fanbase that makes it a priority to give him his props every other day. Between his captivating story and notable discography, Chaz is certainly considered a voice for Baltimore. He’s not shy about showing off his street persona, and even tries to throw his sense of humor into his music every now and then – i.e. his 2019 Christmas freestyle “Jingle Bells Gmix” that nearly went viral on Twitter this past December. Building off that buzz early last year, Chaz was able to release his singles “Law 15” and “Funtime,” respectively, before dropping his album Product of My Environment mid-May of 2020. Young acts like Chaz are clearly hungry to prove that they’re up next to put on for Baltimore, and although the young prodigy is currently locked up, Nasg Chaz’s name is still ringing out in the streets with people like Yg Teck hoping to work with him soon.
Staytrue Dnice is a name in Baltimore that’s been around for the last two or so years building a slow rise with his music. The low, raspy voiced rapper came out the gate with his first project, Project Youngin, back in 2018 and stayed low until early last year when he started back dropping videos alongside his single, “Living.” He capped off 2020 with his latest project, StayTrue Neverfold, looking to position himself as a more established artist to be known in the city, and even dropped a “No Ghostwriter” freestyle with Jay Hill to prove he can hang with the best of them. Though he still has a ways to go, Dnice makes a convincing argument that he’s a contender for Baltimore’s emerging stars.