These 31 Up-and-Coming Artists Are Defining a New Era of Music

How many of them do you know? Don’t answer that. Just add them to your playlist.

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kelela_broccoli_city_festival_1
Kelela performing at the Broccoli City Music Festival on April 14, 2014, in Washington, D.C.

Creative Commons

With music being downloaded, streamed, watched on YouTube or at a music festival, spun at the club and played on vinyl, the millennial generation has come of age at a time when there are more ways than ever to experience the soundtrack of their lives. And a budding group of innovative, young black artists are taking the helm as tastemakers, giving us ample cause to celebrate. Here are 31 of these breakouts on the rise in hip-hop, R&B, neo-soul, rock, pop and electronic. They’re all regulars on the playlists of The Root’s under-age-30 staffers and will surely be welcome additions to yours. Happy listening!

1. Kelela (Kelela Mizanekristos): Singer-songwriter

Hails from: Rockville, Md.
Style: Experimental/future R&B
Influences: Janet Jackson
Did you know? She is the only daughter of Ethiopian parents who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s.
Check out: Cut 4 Me

2. Bizzarh (Charli Champ and Dollar Paris): Singing-rapping duo

Hails from: Toronto
Style: Psychedelic, soulful hip-hop, R&B
Influences: D’Angelo, Outkast, Erykah Badu
Did you know? The duo bonded over Wiccan ideology and started collaborating at age 14. They continued to write verses and rhymes individually even after Champ moved 37 miles away.
Check out: The Cover Up

3. Jean Deaux: Singer-rapper

Hails from: Chicago
Style: Amy Winehouse, Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill
Influences: Amy Winehouse, Gil Scott-Heron, Billie Holiday
Did you know? Not only is she a singer, rapper and songwriter, but she also directs. She directed the music video for her song “Escape,” featuring Saba.
Check out: Soular System

4. Tink (Trinity Home): Singer-songwriter, rapper

Hails from: Calumet, Ill.
Style: Confessional R&B, Lauryn Hill
Influences: TLC, Da Brat
Did you know? She picked up rapping by accident when her brother put on a beat from Clipse’s “Grindin’” and she started putting words together that rhymed. Her brother recorded Home’s performance and posted it to Facebook. The response was positive. She continues to record with her brother in the basement of their dad’s house.
Check out: Winter’s Diary, Alter Ego and Blunts and Ballads

5. SZA: Singer-songwriter

Hails from: Maplewood, N.J.
Style: Neo-soul, alternative R&B
Influences: Billie Holiday, Wu-Tang Clan, Jamiroquai, Common
Did you know? She was raised a Muslim. She is also a self-described “science nerd” and an accomplished gymnast.
Check out: See.SZA.Run, S and Z

6. Taylor McFerrin: Producer, composer, pianist, DJ

Based in: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Style: Neo-soul, beatbox, future soul
Influences: 1960 and ’70s soul, golden-era hip-hop, free-form jazz, electronic music, Outkast, the Roots, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu
Did you know? The eldest son of popular vocalist and classical conductor Bobby McFerrin, he plays all the instruments on his productions.
Check out: Broken Vibes and Early Riser

7. Chargaux: Jasmin “Charly” Charles (violin) and Margaux Whitney (viola); both are also visual artists

Based in: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Style: Cinematic chamber rock, soul, bluegrass, Afrobeat, East Asian polyphony
Influences: Esperanza Spalding, Nina Simone
Did you know? They met serendipitously when Charles, who was studying at the Berklee College of Music, was playing violin at Copley Square in Boston. Whitney approached her and suggested they jam together. They became fast friends. After graduating, Charles and Whitney moved to Brooklyn to start their band. They were eventually discovered by Opening Ceremony in a New York City subway station.
Check out: Broke & Baroque

8. Kilo Kish (Lakisha Robinson): Vocalist, songwriter, visual artist, fashion and textile designer

Hails from: Orlando, Fla.
Style: Ambient hip-hop, R&B
Influences: Tyrese’s “Sweet Lady,” Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You,” Shalamar’s “A Night to Remember”
Did you know? She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she teaches herself French using Rosetta Stone.
Check out: Homeschool EP, K+ and Across

9. Vic Mensa: Rapper

Hails from: Chicago
Style: Hip-hop
Influences: KRS-One, Mobb Deep, Nas, Jay Z
Did you know? His father, who is Ghanaian, is an economics professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Mensa’s mother, who is white, works in the Chicago Public Schools system.
Check out: Straight Up and Innanetape

10. Little Simz (Simbi Ajikawo): Rapper, singer, musician, actress

Based in: London
Style: Experimental rap
Influences: Missy Elliott, Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill
Did you know? Ajikawo was cast as Vicky on the BBC show Spirit Warriors.
Check out: Stratosphere, Stratosphere 2, Xy.Zed, E.D.G.E. and Blank Canvas

11. Denitia and Sene: Singer-songwriter (Denitia) and rapper (Sene)

Based in: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Style: Electro-soul
Influences: Sade; the Fugees; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; the Beatles; Janet Jackson
Did you know? The duo met at a party in Brooklyn at a spot they call “the Clubhouse,” an old Victorian Tudor that serves as a shared space and recording studio for a collective of local artists.
Check out: Blah Blah Blah and His and Hers

12. Milo & Otis (M&O): Jamila Woods/Milo (vocals, loop pedal, poetry) and Owen Hill/Otis (bass guitar, production)

Based in: Chicago
Style: Soul-folk, adventure soul
Influences: Stevie Wonder, Aaliyah, Timbaland
Did you know? They met as freshmen at Brown University.
Check out: The Joy and Almost Us

13. Noname Gypsy: Rapper

Hails from: Chicago
Style: Hip-hop
Influences: Muddy Waters, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Tina Turner, MC Lyte
Did you know? She says her goal is to heal and inspire with her music.
Check out: Telefone

14. Jennah Bell: Singer-songwriter, guitarist

Hails from: Oakland, Calif.
Style: Alternative, soul
Influences: Bluegrass, dub, rock, funk
Did you know? She is classically trained at the prestigious Berklee College of Music.
Check out: Early Bird

15. The Bots: Mikaiah Lei (lead vocals, guitar, bass) and Anaiah Lei, his brother (drums, percussion, backup vocals)

Hails from: Glendale, Calif.
Style: Garage/punk, Jimi Hendrix, the Black Keys, Bad Brains, Black Flag
Influences: The White Stripes
Did you know? They recorded their first album together when Mikaiah was only 15 and Anaiah was 12.
Check out: Sincerely Sorry

16. Lil Bibby (Brandon Dickerson): Rapper

Hails from: Chicago
Style: Chief Keef, Drake, Jay Z, Bump J
Influences: Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane
Did you know? His goal is to be considered one of the greatest rappers of all time, like rap legends Tupac and Biggie.
Check out: Free Crack and The Book

17. Sampha (Sampha Sisay): Singer-songwriter, producer, keyboardist

Hails from: London
Style: Futuristic soul, electronica
Influences: Oumou Sangaré, Tracy Chapman, Michael Jackson
Did you know? Sisay’s dad would buy a new CD every week on his way home to expose Sisay and his brothers to diverse music.
Check out: Sundanza and Dual

18. Sage the Gemini (Dominic Wynn Woods): Rapper, producer

Hails from: Fairfield, Calif.
Style: Hip-hop
Influences: Hyphy, jerk music, E-40, Too $hort, Keak Da Sneak
Did you know? Woods dropped out of high school at 14 to pursue his music full time. He doesn’t smoke, drink or do drugs.
Check out: Gang Forever

19. Redline Graffiti: Donald Martin (producer, composer and vocals), Ajene Harley (guitar), Dante Pope (drums and percussion) and Drew Moten (producer, composer, vocals and bass guitar)

Based in: Washington, D.C.
Style: Indie rock, electro-rock, indie go-go, a cross between Frank Ocean and Passion Pit
Influences: Soulwax, Stevie Wonder, Parliament Funkadelic, Le Knight Club, Com Truise, James Jamerson
Did you know? They are named after D.C.’s oldest Metro line.
Check out: About & Because, Space & Water and The Drill

20. Isaiah Rashad (Isaiah Rashad McClain): Rapper

Hails from: Chattanooga, Tenn.
Style: Hip-hop
Influences: Scarface, Jay Z, Outkast, Gnarls Barkley
Did you know? McClain briefly aspired to be a preacher, until his stepbrother lent him a copy of Outkast’s AtLiens, which put rapping on his radar.
Check out: Cilvia Demo

21. The Internet: Syd Tha Kyd/Sydney Loren Bennett (singer, producer, DJ) and Matt Martians (producer, DJ)

Hails from: Crenshaw, Calif. (Syd Tha Kyd), and East Point, Ga. (Matt Martians)
Style: Neo-soul, electronica
Influences: Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild, Erykah Badu, reggae
Did you know? Bennett’s mother aspired to be a DJ, and her uncle is a reggae producer in Jamaica.
Check out: Radical, Purple Naked Ladies and Feel Good

22. Nico & Vinz (Nico Sereba and Vincent Dery): Singer-songwriter duo

Hails from: Oslo, Norway
Style: Pop, reggae, West African dance, the Police
Influences: Bob Marley, Michael Jackson
Did you know? The duo used to go by the name of Envy but changed their name to “Nico & Vinz” after signing a record deal with Warner Bros. in order to avoid confusion with other groups of the same name.
Check out: The Magic Soup and the Bittersweet and Dreamworks: Why Not Me

23. Jacob Banks: Singer-songwriter

Hails from: Birmingham, England
Style: Soul, R&B, hip-hop, John Legend, Ray LaMontagne, Seal
Influences: Anita Baker, Al Green, Sam Cooke, John Mayer, Adele, Plan B
Did you know? Banks is the first unsigned act to appear on BBC Radio 1.
Check out: The Monologue

24. Toro y Moi (Chazwick Bradley Bundick): Singer-songwriter, producer

Hails from: Columbia, S.C.
Style: Electronic, synthpop, chillwave
Influences: Animal Collective, Daft Punk, J Dilla
Did you know? He has a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from the University of South Carolina.
Check out: Body Angles, Freaking Out, Causers of This, Underneath the Pine and Anything in Return

25. Dev Hynes (Devonte Hynes, formerly Blood Orange and Lightspeed Champion): Singer-songwriter, composer

Hails from: Ilford, England
Style: Baroque pop, indie pop, folk
Influences: Prince, F.R. David, Cyndi Lauper
Did you know? He has synesthesia. He says he can see sounds.
Check out: Lightspeed Heat and Bye Bye

26. Ray Dalton: Singer-songwriter

Based in: Seattle
Style: Gospel, R&B
Influences: Teena Marie, Babyface, Earth Wind & Fire, Fleetwood Mac
Did you know? He used to be a tennis instructor.
Check out: “So Emotional

27. Tinashe (Tinashe Jorgenson Kachingwe): Singer-songwriter, producer, actress, dancer

Hails from: Los Angeles
Style: Pop, R&B
Influences: Christina Aguilera, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Sade
Did you know? She voiced for the film Polar Express and had a recurring role on the TV show Two and a Half Men.
Check out: Aquarius

28. Tian Winter: Singer-songwriter

Hails from: Villa, Antigua
Style: Soca
Influences: Machel Montano
Did you know? He is one of five artists selected by Antigua and Barbuda’s Cabinet and the Ministry of Culture to promote the twin-island nation.
Check out: Cya Fail Me, Roaming and Not Afraid

29. Freddie Gibbs (Frederick Tipton): Rapper

Hails from: Gary, Ind.
Style: Hip-hop
Influences: Scarface, Tupac Shakur, Jay Z, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
Did you know? He was featured on the “Grand Theft Auto V” soundtrack.
Check out: ESGN and Eastside Slim

30. PartyNextDoor (Jahron Anthony Brathwaite): Singer-songwriter, producer

Hails from: Ontario, Canada
Style: Alternative R&B
Influences: Drake
Did you know? He is signed with Drake’s October’s Very Own (OVO Sound) record label.
Check out: PartyNextDoor and PartyNextDoor Two

31. THEESatisfaction: Stasia “Stas” Iron (rapper) and Catherine “Cat” Harris-White (singer)

Based in: Seattle
Style: Alternative hip-hop, neo-soul, R&B
Influences: Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, John Coltrane
Did you know? The duo are such big fans of Badu that they released a mixtape inspired by the singer. They met during college while attending the University of Washington and started dating and making music together afterward.
Check out: awE naturalE

Erin C.J. Robertson is a summer intern at The Root.