I recently contributed to the Dazed 100, a list compiled by Dazed & Confused Magazine of the top 100 most influential figures across music, art, photography, film and culture overall.
Check out my profiles on Lil Yachty, Princess Nokia, Yung Beef and Bala Club.
Atlanta has a new hero in the youthful, exuberant and charismatic rapper Lil Yachty. Not since Andre 3000 has an artist from the Dirty South capital transcended rap and pop culture so effortlessly, pinballing between both with such ease.
A true figurehead for the carefree, statement-making youth of today, Lil Boat’s self-described ‘jingle bell rap’ has garnered tens of millions of YouTube views and sold out shows. Packed with relentless, playful positivity, the red-braided rapper has earned the respect of his peers (despite early criticism of his easygoing style), stealing the show on tracks with the likes of Chance the Rapper, Charli XCX and D.R.A.M.
“I just want to be on every lane. Pop, EDM – I want to be genre-friendly,” Yachty told Dazed in 2016. “Do a song with Madonna, then do a song with Taylor Swift, then I’ll do a song with Lil Wayne – just cross (them) all over.” The wide scope of his artistry is evident in his work: his debut mixtape, Lil Boat, and follow-up Summer Songs 2 experimented with a multitude of genres, excelling in precisely the sort of areas where other rappers fear to tread. With plans to release his debut album in 2017, expect Yachty’s positive rhymes to trump the critical downpour.
Princess Nokia, the barrier-breaking, Afro-Latina goddess from Spanish Harlem, is one of the fiercest rappers in the game today.
Demonstrating a desire to unite all women of colour, Nokia (real name Destiny Frasqueri) channelled the potency of New York and black women more generally with “Brujas” and “Kitana”, two of 2016’s most politically-charged music videos. At the heart of her brash, alluring lyrics is a spirituality that comes with being at one with herself and her Puerto Rican roots.
“How I’m seeing myself now is kind of starting a new era of alternagirl, this whole new, epic, brown girl rock, girls with skateboards, moshing topless, girls who do what they want thing,” she told Dazed, undeterred in her mission to empower women of all walks.
Nokia, who projects her identity with absolute grace, never graduated high school, turned down five record deals, and grew up without her mother moving between East Harlem and the Lower East Side. Yet she remains a soldier whose story serves as an inspiration for girls of all backgrounds.
In just over two years, Granada native Yung Beef has fast become Spain’s pre-eminent rapper, picking up his musical tastes while working odd jobs in Marseille, London, and later Barcelona, where he is now based.
Beef’s geographically diverse sound is unapologetic, with piercing, incisive lyrics over trap beats fused with reggaetón, salsa and more besides, and characterised by its shout-outs to various fashion brands. That all makes sense, as Beef has become a poster boy for labels like Calvin Klein and Givenchy.
Few rappers have been bold enough to parade around in a skirt and high heels on a runway, but the ease with which Beef flits between men’s and womenswear is almost unrivalled, as is his flair for breaking down musical barriers. Standouts include “Givenchy Dons” with fellow PXXR GVNG member Kaydy Cain, “A.D.R.O.M.I.C.F.M.S.” and “Beef Boy”. With recent collabs with Metro Boomin, Lex Luger and 808 Mafia also in the bag, Beef’s mind is back firmly on the music.
Electronic music collective Bala Club have forged a lane for themselves in London’s underground through radio sets on NTS, infamous beer-soaked club nights and a slew of individual and group releases both via the internet and London label Hyperdub.
Comprised of Chilean-British brothers Kamixlo and Uli K and their friend Endgame, each member brings an unmistakable sound to the overall repertoire; Kamixlo’s blend of dancehall and reggaetón, Uli K’s low-key, melodic ballads and Endgame’s glacial tones means that many bases, and dancefloors, are covered.
In June 2016 the squad dropped their debut compilation, a collection of tracks from each cohort under the Bala name. It was an expertly constructed, super-condensed voyage into their collective psyche, and the inclusion of sad- rap poster boy Yung Lean shows that the Club’s waters run deep. Batting away the idea that you can’t do it all, the threesome are the shot in the arm London’s crumbling nightlife so desperately needs.