15 West Coast Artists To Watch in 2016
Vancouver, BC – It’s the beginning of a new year and as tradition follows HipHopCanada’s dedicated writers have decided to compile a few lists of their year end favs in review of 2015. Favourite artists, videos, photos, live shows – a compilation of our overall thoughts, views and personal feelings on the music scene locally and nationally. After 12-months of covering the Canadian music scene it’s like our year-end finale – a chance to reflect and express our personal props to those who made music that we were feeling. Personal opinions, but nothing personal, you dig?
Inevitably, some readers will stop at the title of this article on some “hold up, hold my phone” shit, skim through it and develop some of their own feelings. Who wasn’t included and who should have been, who should have been ranked higher and perhaps even the final conclusion of “who is this chick and what does she know anyway?” Then there are the few who might actually read this list thoughtfully and be put on to a new artist or track and fall asleep knowing that an internet list hasn’t directly affected their mood in a personal way today. Let’s hope you are the latter.
With that said, 2015 was a dope year for West Coast Canadian hip-hop and R&B. From artists like Sonreal to Snak The Ripper to Jay Worthy and Tommy Genesis the industry is starting to take notice of Vancouver. We are on the verge of producing something big and our time to be put on the map for urban Canadian music feels so close. New artists are coming up (and falling off) everyday, putting their sweat and tears into records and music videos, reaching out to fans, bloggers and writers in hopes that someone is feeling their shit. From sheer personal passion, I sift through these artists everyday and put-on those who stand out and make me feel something. So I made a list (insert eye-roll here).
Check out KassKills Top 15 West Coast Artists to Watch in 2016 below.
I’ve watched Immerze progress over the past few years since relocating from Toronto to the West. He’s come a long way and has managed to pave a pretty solid road for himself during 2015. A few months back Immerze dropped a 7-track EP title Room 221 which included the get-money banger “Wasabi” that really stood out to me. He’s doing it his own way and I can co-sign that.
JayKin just has a good vibe, he always has. He’s got a classic, conscious and strong sound that gives me similar feelings to hearing a Mos Def or Pharoahe Monch track. JayKin put out a handful of hard-hitters this year including personal favourites “Social Media” and “Wasabi”. Honourable mentions go out to some of the producers JayKin has collaborated with this year including Mosiac, Dave Fields and Kutkorners.
Photo: Paige Sierra
The way these guys hustle is so impressive to me. They have a stack of opening spots to add to their resume this year, not to mention tours and solo shows. KIDS know how to make true feel-good rap, like listening to Tribe or De La Soul record. Not to mention they are some of few in the scene they know how to draw a crowd. Respect.
Ghost had a great year. A few successful tours and an EP drop, he grinds hard, raps harder and at the end of the day, was made to put on a show. He dropped a few smooth, melody-based joints this year that had me pressing play twice. So for that I’ll say he has all the potential to rank MVP status in 2016.
Listen to: “Downtown”
11: Stevie Ross
Stevie Ross released one of my favourite tracks this year…and then wiped his Soundcloud clean. Somewhere along the lines of a soul / R&B joint that was super easy on the ears and worthy of several plays back-to-back. It was called “Heart” and if you manage to find any version of this one kicking around, lucky you. Regardless of him only having a few releases available from 2015, mentions go to Stevie because I need more of him this year.
Listen to: “Shake That” (cover) ft. Withinroots
10: So Loki
So Loki just came out of nowhere in late 2015 and created a mini buzz for themselves. The collaboration between Sam Lucia and Natura is unlike anything being produced in Vancouver right now and that’s why I fuck with it. These two aren’t looking at what everyone else is doing a riding on-board. They’re mixing a unique hip-hop flow with accents of jazz and soul and making their sound their own. 2016 is the year of the chill tracks. Come-down music for all you party-goers. And these guys have it on lock.
Listen to: “G’d”
9: Larry Luxx
Photo: Paige Sierra
This is one of my favourite new producers on the West Coast right now. Luxx took to a rebrand this year by changing his name from VanCityBeats to Larry Luxx but his sound and esthetic remained the same. He’s got his finger on the pulse of the underground and his sound is distinct; slowed-down chop and screws that make you feel like you washed down a Xan with a double cup of purple drank – in a good way. Airy and easy-on-the-ears with a touch of grimy rawness. Stop sleeping on this dude. Hopes for 2016 include seeing Larry Luxx collaborating with more dope emcees and singers.
Listen to: “Acid Drop”
8: Terell Safadi
Safadi stepped his game up this year and he might have Los Angeles to thank for that. We’re not letting him go that easy though. His 2015 release When I Get To L.A shows Safadi has a way of creating dope and relatable content with a cool composure. It’s so easy to pour your heart out on a record, mix a few trap bangers in and have it end up sounding corny. Not the case with Terell. He made it work. Not to mention every video he put out this year was distinctively polished.
Watch: “Say Goodbye”
Photo: Jamie Sands
Dkay speaks to the voice of the younger generation. His sound is somewhere between trapped-out hitters and hyphy club bangers. Mix in a dash of a fashion killa, he’s got the right vibe all together.
Dkay switched it up this year though featuring on Ephwurd’s (Datsik and Bais Haus) “Duckface” which brought him to a whole other level and genre of listeners. Dkay proved his diversity and endless potential in 2015. With the right production and direction, he’s got what it takes to make 2016 all his.
6: KAi Skywalker
One of the only guys in the city who can embody the true meaning of the word rapper. He just has it. A cold-blooded flow over carefully chosen production KAi is steady, strategic and precisely hits where it counts, rap-game shooter.
While getting his branding game noticeably tightened-up over this year he’s also one of few Vancouver artists who almost completely wiped out their online music archive. I’m keeping KAi on the radar because I’m catching the vibe that he’s preparing for something big in 2016.
Listen to: “Tylenol”
Def3’s grind is unlike any I’ve seen on the West Coast. He’s all hustle and heart. This year he copped the award for Rap Recording of the Year at the West Coast Music Awards for his album WildLif3 and it’s not hard to see why. His videos are engaging and fun and he makes rap that the masses can enjoy. While 2014 saw the release of his last album, it feels right on-time for us to see another full-length project from Def3 in 2016.
4: Seth Kay
My only wish was that 2015 saw more of Seth Kay. Late in 2014 he released his album See You In L.A and throughout 2015 Kay dropped 3-tracks and a video that were enough for me to rank him high on my list. He’s got the perfect West Coast sound. His flow is laid-back, content is real, style is smooth and he intertwines it all with an effortless cadence. So stoked to hear anything new from Seth Kay this year.
3: Matt Brevner
Photo: Aric Alston
This is a dude who takes the approach of quality of quantity. 2015 didn’t see much of Brevner but that’s not to say he wasn’t working. He brought some attention his way during the Madchild vs Everybody fiasco, dropping his in-depth story of his tumultuous relationship with the BAXWAR General on “Waterloo”. It was real and worthy of respect but I feel like Brevner has way, way more in-store for us this year. Call it intuition but I feel like 2016 is gonna be his year.
2: Tonye Aganaba & The Red, Gold and Green Machine
This Christmas, Vancouver soul singer Tonye Aganaba dropped an EP with her Los Angeles counterparts Dr. oOp and Nucleus under the name The Red, Gold and Green Machine. Cuffing Season is a combination of that throwback soul feeling of you nostalgically long for mixed with modern dance-worthy production – provided by Kenny Segal of Team Supreme. Tonye shines on this entire project. It’s impossible not to vibe to this.
If I can name one singer in Vancouver that embodies the voice, qualities and hustle of a future classic, Tonye is the one. All eyes on T in 2016.
Listen: “Headphone Zone”
1: LNDN DRGS (Jay Worthy & Sean House)
Jay Worthy and Sean House – also known as LNDN DRGS – blew the fuck up this year. After signing with Fool’s Gold Records and dropping Aktive, the hip-hop world went crazy. Aktive had some impressive features including YG Hootie and the late A$AP Yams but what’s more impressive is how on-point their sound is. Bringing that Bompton G-funk style is what Worthy and House do best.
They caught my attention in 2014 after LNDN DRGS released their video for “Harvey Keitel” – a smooth banger with the heart of a ruthless gangster and ever since, they’ve been low-key on my mind. Cut to November 2015 when “Susan” dropped and the funky joint became an immediate ‘hood anthem and almost impossible to avoid.
This year we’ve seen Jay Worthy share the stage with artists ranging from Kendrick Lamar (Pemberton Festival) to A$AP Mob (Alexander Gastown, Novemeber 2015). Compton has LNDN DRGS back, no doubt about it but aside from that they are making funky, dope, well produced West coast music. Period. That’s why they top my list of artists to watch for in 2016.
Photo: Jamie Sands
Can you add a veteran to a “who to watch” list? Can we even claim him as our own on the West Coast? I’m gonna go with yep for the former and latter and I’ll give you one reason why. “Spaceship”. k-os gets it. He released the video / short film for “Spaceship” in late December and it’s basically the realest video of 2015. It features k-os and some of Vancity’s local celebrities breaking down the rap game and was accompanied by a thought provoking interior monologue on the music industry (via Pigeons and Planes).
He’s been around long-enough to know the game inside and out, still manages to be himself AND make quality and engaging music. Having a sense of humour doesn’t hurt either. Canadian hip-hop needs a new idol and even though k-os is technically a Toronto dude, he deserves an honourable mention because I think if anyone is going to shift the game this year, not only for Vancouver but Canada in general, it’s going to be him.
Tags: 2015 Year In Review, Def3, DKAY, Ghost, Immerze, Jay Worthy, JayKin, k-os, KAi Skywalker, Kids, Larry Luxx, LNDN DRGS, Matt Brevner, Sean House, Seth Kay, SO LOKI, Stevie Ross, Terell Safadi, Tonye Aganaba