Breaking Through 2018

An impromptu snap of J Hus, Dave, Stormzy and Loyle Carner, dressed to the nines and grinning ear to ear, was the defining image from 2018’s Brit Awards. Big Mike was the only award winner that night. Critical acclaim, commercial glory and a stratospheric run —fuelled by a savvy use of social-media/government officials/football clubs etc— culminated in him taking home the coveted double of British Album Of The Year, and British Male Solo Act. But for many of the industry insiders present at the ceremony and social media spectators at home, seeing Stormzy’s success, and the triumph of Jorja Smith (British Female Solo Act) felt like a team win. And in the past twelve months we’ve been winning plenty.

From goodwill gestures like Spotify recognising Grime as an official genre, to seismic events such as the restructuring of the UK Singles Chart to include YouTube views, the playing field has never been better. Still there is cause for concern. The banning of UK drill. British acts finding favour abroad in place of their hometowns. Big Shaq. It’d be unwise to label the current climate Utopian. But even the most jaded of cynics can see that the past two years have seen our urban scenes make more in-roads into the mainstream than anything accomplished in the last two decades. So with that in mind, we at Warm & Easy thought it’d be a good idea to celebrate 10 of our favourite acts who’re breaking through this year.


Suelily
It feels like an age since the free spirited songstress put out her debut song “Water”, but south west London’s Suelily has come on leaps and bounds since her first official release over three years ago. We’d only heard glimpses of her via SoundCloud snippets and “Nothing More” an awesome collaboration with VB. But that all changed when she released her debut EP in March 2018. Titled
Current, the five track project really showcased the best of Suelily’s soulful voice and candid nature, over production in tune with her neo-soul and jazz influences.

The singer/songwriter describes herself as someone who “explores issues that are close to her heart in the hopes of touching yours too”. She certainly endeared herself to the Warm & Easy crew with her debut effort! A talented vocalist, spoken word artist and rapper (don’t be surprised if you see her drop a fire 16), Suelily has recently been touring Europe with American singer Ravyn Lenae, and judging by her confident performance at the Amsterdam leg (which I was lucky enough to attend), she’s really enjoying the experience, something that can only add to her strong but understated stage presence.

Sold out venues did not phase her and one day she’ll be big enough to sell out her own tour without breaking a sweat. When she’s not recording or touring you can catch her out in Shoreditch as she likes to let her hair down from time to time! Expect big things to come from the Plush House Records signee.
– Sam Floating

Loski
A young rapper on the come up, Loski, is the stern, slick-talking cool kid coming out of Kennington, south London. He gained notoriety for delivering the the drill anthem of the year “Hazards” which set the precedent for his future. The brash rapper brought a new touch to a foreign genre turning heads around with his cohort – Mizormac, Blanco, Bis and TG Milian – the Harlem Spartans. Loski’s loose rap style over spaced-out production bolstered up his status as a promising talent. However, as he began to pivot upwards, an encounter with the law saw him far removed from the culture.

His homecoming, post Call Me Loose, is a tragedy turn triumph considering the strides he’s made recently. A guest spot on The Coldest Winter Ever saw Loski add an energetic tinge to Ms. Banks drill venture “R.I.P”. And a feature on Headie One’s solo mixtape The One resulted in two of drills brightest prospective trade blows on the same track. Off the back of 2018, the young rapper has paved his way into the charts with the tropical “Forrest Gump”. Loski taps on Common Sense producer Tobi Shy Boy to craft a Afroswing-inspired single. This is only the beginning for an ever-growing talent, and a nice reminder that the future of UK rap is in the right hands.
– Ray Faux

Taliwhoah
North London native and recent Rostrum Records signee Taliwhoah, is the daughter of two legendary reggae artist —Toyin Adekale and Klearview Harmonixartists — so it’s no wonder she’s as talented as she is. The release of her highly anticipated debut EP New Wave Order Vol.1 last last year, with stand out tracks such as “Details” featuring Av’Allure, “Meds” and “Sweet Escape” cemented her place in the British music scene as one to watch out for. Each track had a unique sound; from lilting dancehall and pristine electronic pop, to powerful, spacious ballads. Taliwhoah blends her Afro-Carribean, UK House/Bass and 90’s R&B influences together to create a truly distinct musical identity. 

Taliwhoah has found her sound within the new wave of R&B artists, who are fusing classic soul melodies with contemporary beats. She makes music which is genuinely fun to listen to, and shares parts of her story with the listener, writing beautifully crafted lyrics from personal experiences. The journey since her 2016 debut Melodies Of Madness has taken time, but she’s here now. Her latest single “Soul Food” featuring US R&B artist Arin Ray is just that. Velvet and smooth. It’s layered with 70s inspired funk base and jazz melodies with some welcomed horns throughout. Watch the feel good music video here as we anticipate her debut studio album.
– Vikki Adegoke

Sam Wise
In terms of rappers coming out of the underground, Sam Wise has got the sauce at the moment. The Kennington based rapper and member of House of Pharaohs, initially came to my attention with his first project, 2015’s Counter Culture. The EP was an easy introduction to his effortless rap style, layered with otherworldly cloud rap beats which Sam rides with his playful but poetic style. In December 2016 he collected a number of tracks from an ever-growing vault, for Unfinished Archives. Described as a “a selection of tracks friends and I created over 2014-2016 [with] a range of different sounds, vibrations and energy which unfortunately weren’t completed or released”, the project presented another mix of alternative hip-hop, trap and electronic sonics, with production handled by Sam Wise himself and the likes of Jay Trench and Tariq Disu. 

Real Faces —House of Pharaohs well received, “Run With Me” boasting full-length— would shortly follow in Apriland Sam continued his solo run by dropping ‘Lizzie’, his biggest song to date in the summer of 2017. The first time you hear the track you know it’s a certified hit, and he skates over the smooth Curren$y-esque production with  flawless control. But he wasn’t finished there. The intro to the video opened with a cheeky snippet of “Do or Die”, which he thankfully released earlier this year. The visuals pay homage to Pulp Fiction, and the ethereal beat coupled with his laid back flow will reel you in like a fishing rod.  But when it comes to Sam Wise, it’s not just solo hits he’s come with.

In addition to the House of Pharoahs projects he’s appeared on, he’s also proved he can bar with the best of his contemporaries, collaborating with 808INK on the futuristic head-nodder, “45 with Sam”, and more recently blessing Octavian with a spirited verse for “100 Degrees”. All in all, he has had an amazing first half of 2018. Now all we need is a solid solo project and the rest of the year will be his.
– Denzil Bell

SL
From the second you heard those eerie whimsical strings on “Gentleman” you knew this would be something special. SL crept onto the track like a shadow, with a flow that seemed to both ride the beat and zig zag out of the pocket, allowing his sharp deadpan sense of humour —maybe the most potent weapon in his arsenal— to cut deep. “Mum says I lost the plot at least I never lost my crop” is one of the many highlights, but even on more approachable songs like “Tropical” (which came out on Christmas day to widespread praise), that icy detachment remains.

What makes this all the more surprising is that the Croydon rapper sounds so fully formed at such a young age. When “Gentleman” first appeared in March 2017, it was widely rumoured that the masked prodigy behind a track which transcended the drill scene, was but a 15 year old boy. In most cases having two big singles so early does more harm than help, but SL’s taken the high road by taking things slow rather than immediately trying to aim for a big hit. All this built up to what was a big moment for him last month. The release of his latest single “Genes” featuring grime scene veteran and known feature-killer Chip. For my money he wipes the floor with Chip despite being the underdog. “Yeah I don’t cut no shapes but I’ll cut man’s face like wrong timing bro” is such a surprisingly harsh bar that you can practically feel it on your face.

The most recent thing SL’s done is post a rock solid freestyle on his own YouTube channel, rapping over a beat that Nas fans will find very familiar (hint: Jay Z said his bodyguards bodied him on his own shit). It shows that he’s focused on honing his craft, forever switching it up in terms of the kind of beats he is able to rap. Strong bars, a willingness to evolve, and a flow like a snake-charmer make SL an exciting MC to listen to and an interesting prospect for any label.
– Odai

Octavian
An old biblical verse comes to mind whenever I think about Octavian’s odyssey into the music industry so far; “Death and life lie in the power of the tongue”. It’s the sentiment fully adopted by the Essie Gang top dog on his breakout single “Party Here”. Hailing from South London via Lisbon, Octavian spewed a message of hope with the vigour of a seasoned clergyman. He forecasted growth and we’re currently witnessing it with our own eyes. His recent efforts are more telling of his ability as an upcoming talent, with each new release peeling back a layer of his musical capabilities.

“Hands” saw him meld deep house sonics over brooding production layered by himself and his partner J Rick. It’s one of his most vocally challenging performances on a track that is unlike any other in his locker. While it isn’t one of his biggest tracks, he proved that he wasn’t one to be lumped into one category. He followed that single up with the equally unorthodox “100 Degrees”, striking’ a ghastly rap partnership with adjacent star in the making Sam Wise. Their smug, calculated exchanges over daunting keys and thudding of drums made for a delightful blend. However, the contrasting “Little”, produced by O12, is an unbridled hit, due to cause a ruckus at multiple functions. The quality of these tracks is a testament to the versatility Octavian has on the mic, carefully tailoring each song for a range of moments. And in there lies the key to knocking down the masses.

To be fair, Octavian is well on his way to becoming a huge act in 2018 and, possibly, for many years to come. He’s yet to reach the vaunted one million views milestone on YouTube yet —still as sure a sign of future success as any—but it’s only a matter of time before he does. Bar the Drake co-sign, we can’t wait to see how the future pans out for him.
– Ray Faux

Zilo
Funny story about how I discovered Essex based Zilo. I think about a year or two ago, a girl sent me a list of songs that she reckoned I would like (it wasn’t like that haha). There was a song on the list by Zilo titled “Figure You Out” and I just couldn’t stop playing it because of its nostalgic vibes and refreshing vibrant harmonies. Shortly after that I was listening to every single track on her SoundCloud, “Life”, “Coconut Drive”, “Ice Cream” and songs you can’t even find on her profile anymore as Zilo deleted them all (except for the “Know That I Want You”).

The 25 year old singer, songwriter and artist who paints all her artwork, is a creative gem and a typical Gemini in the sense that she has many mediums in which she expresses herself through. Music just happens to be one that she’s really good at. Recent releases “Keep Up Wimmi” and “Don’t Waste My Time” show Young Zilo’s approach to making music, like a student of hip hop who adds a splash of her jazz influences. But overall her discography reveals a preference, or at least a very good ear, for textured beats, and a willingness to draw from her own personal experiences and get everything out in the open. 

I would love to hear a full project from Zilo as she has the talent to be a standout in the UK R&B scene with her distinct signature style. Hopefully she can keep her momentum going for the rest of 2018.

– Sam Floating

Ambush Buzzworl
“Jumpy” is the kind of track you hear in your head when you saunter out of the barbers and into the hearts of an adoring public. It’s doesn’t creep into your consciousness over the passing days or weeks, rather it requires a fragmented, fifteen minute listening party somewhere between it’s first and third impressions. The past year or so has seen North London native Ambush score minor hits with the remorselessly gutter “Already” —a statement of intent in light of his recent release from prison— and “Extra”, a well worked afrowave refix of Future’s “Mask Off”, featuring fellow Buzzworl member SP Montiz. A growing catalogue quickly endeared the relative newcomer to the scene, and his headline show in Shoreditch in January was a timely reminder of how quickly artists rise through the current climate. Fast forward five months to the release of the aforementioned ‘Jumpy’. Ambush’s latest single found a middle ground between his previous efforts, and it’s pretty much struck gold in the process.  

Outside of official releases, AMB’s come up, like Headie One’s, AM & Skengdo’s and many of the recent success stories under the road rap/drill umbrella, was partly forged on the online freestyle circuit. A younger Ambush impressed on Sneakbo’s SBTV Ibiza cypher in 2012 and Charlie Sloth’s Fire In The Streets series of yesteryear. But recent outings on Kenny Allstar’s Mad About Bars and especially Link Up TV’s Behind Barz show the rapper at the peak of his powers; attacking the instrumental with power and poise while putting his life into lyrics that line up like dominos, purpose built for maximum impact.

Ambush replicates this feat on the track you should be playing by now, and that’s probably why it bangs so much. While the Behind Barz freestyle showed an exuberant delivery on an aggressive beat, ‘Jumpy’ doubles down. Despite being released little over a month ago, it’s racked up nearly two million views with the aid of one headline show and zero press, and is set to make an even bigger splash as heatwaves, day parties, and a re-hauling of the UK Singles Chart promise to make this summers soundtrack a free-for-all for upcoming artists.
– Von Pif

IAMDDB
Manchester rapper/singer/badass, Diana Debrito, more commonly known as her stage name IAMDDB has taken the UK music scene by storm. Her work rate since launching her career two years ago, has been crazy and her hard work is truly paying off. With origins from Angola and Portugal, she immersed herself in the Jazz scenes in Angola and developed her own music style through writing and performing, she began making music she calls ‘Urban Jazz’.

Categorising IAMDDB has been tricky, but this a result of the breadth of talent she has which we see as she dips her hand into many genres, blending different music and vocal styles to create a Trap/Jazz/RnB/Hip-Hop fusion. Her vocal style flows between singing and rapping, and she shows versatility with her tracks by switching up the flow and pace seamlessly.  As one of BBC’s Sound of 2018 runners up, she is well and truly on her way to huge success and I can’t wait to hear it. Flightmode Vol.4 is her latest EP release and you can find it on all major streaming services and iTunes!
– Vikki Adegoke

Dotty
New Gen affiliate Dotty is fabled for his story telling, good vibes, and vivid depictions of his personal experiences. He is nimble on the mic as he boasts a variety of flows while provoking the thoughts of a generation. Dotty has shelled down freestyle sessions on channels such as Link Up TV, Mixtape Madness and more, however it wasn’t until he appeared on “Thoughts”, a clear standout from 2017’s NEW GEN compilation album that people started to take notice.

The London x Living signee then followed up the Sokari produced “Bless” with London X Living: A Collection Of Sounds, and gave us a real taste of what he’s about. The Thornton Heath based rapper can have fun on a track, channel his pain to recall past trials and tribulations, or just give you something to ride to. He does it all on London X Living, so it’s no wonder he rolls with tastemakers like Bonkaz and A2, opening up for A2 at his The Blue Experience show earlier this year. While his aforementioned project gives you a sense that Dotty is a jack of all trades, he doesn’t sound like a novice at any point. His ear for beats and ability to find pockets are not things to take lightly.  Expect much more to come from the clever artist.
– Sam Floating

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June 29
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Features