by Mair Howell

Next Up: A Playlist by Alex Young

Special to InTheRough, words and playlist by Mair Howells

Photo of 303 via Kiran Gidda

Photo of 303 via Kiran Gidda

Rosalia – MALAMENTE – Cap.1: Augurio

Photo via  Berta Pfirsich

Photo via Berta Pfirsich

Rosalia is a Catalan-born Nuevo flamenco and Latin pop singer. Her music is so potent that even with no knowledge of Spanish one can feel and appreciate her music for the art that it is. She’s made waves in her home country, and has begun to transcend its borders. Her music translates particularly well in the US and the UK, made apparent by her being recognised as one of the ‘Sounds of 2019’ by BBC Radio One.

Her critically acclaimed second album, “El Mal Querer,” earned her five nominations at the Latin Grammys, where the seductive and atmospheric “Malamente”  picked up Best Alternative Song and Best Urban Track. The video for this track has racked up 23 Million views on YouTube and is truly a visual masterpiece. With slick choreography and eye catching visuals, it accompanies the song perfectly taking you on a visual journey through Rosalia’s beautiful mind. It’s so refreshing to hear an artist that doesn’t sing in English, her music is fresh while sticking to her traditional roots in Flamenco. This year she’s going to take over the festival circuit playing Primavera in her hometown of Barcelona at the end of May.

Mahalia – No Pressure

Photo via The Guardian

Photo via The Guardian

Mahalia is an artist I have been watching for a while now. Her “Seasons” EP, released in September 2018, is an audio journey of the ups and downs of love. Each track flows seamlessly into the next, taking the listener through a rollercoaster of emotions. She’s proved to be an extremely versatile artist, tracks such as “Hold On” ft Buddy take influence from Afrobeats providing a more up beat backdrop. Whereas tracks such as “No Reply” mirror old school RnB, something that the UK scene has been missing. She is in many ways a veteran in the industry, having written her first song aged 8 and signed her first contract by the age of 13. Today, the 20 year-old Leicestershire-bred songstress is exerting maturity beyond her years, acquired via hard-earned experience.

After being nominated for the acclaimed Critics Choice Award at the Brits, Mahalia is expected to make waves in 2019. “No Pressure” - although not one of her best known nor most recent tracks - is one that I believe truly captures Mahalia’s style. It is an anthem for young creatives, and the storyline is one that so many in the industry can relate to.

Miraa May – Make RooM

Photo via Artist/Management

Photo via Artist/Management

Hailing from Tottenham in North London, singer-songwriter Miraa Mays’s music is diverse and fresh, her sound heavily influenced by her multicultural surroundings. Tracks such as “Benji” and “I Don’t Want Ya (DiDi)” off of her 2016 EP, “N15” really put Miraa May on the map and led to the highly anticipated release of her next project “Care Package.” Speaking with Wonderland magazine Miraa explains, “With all of my different projects there’s a story behind it. I like to make it really organic, and to be quite honest, I don’t really give two shits – just make music.”  “Make Room” is the perfect example of this, summing up Miraa’s nonchalant and collected attitude. This is then paired with a 90’s laid back beat, and summertime production making it an ideal track to bring into 2019 for straight good vibes and female empowerment.

Tiana Major9 – Levee (Let It Break)

Photo via Coda Agency

Photo via Coda Agency

Tiana Major9 is a London born artist who has obviously been influenced by music from a young age. Her music incorporates themes and sounds of Jazz, Gospel,and  Hip Hop. “Levee (Let It Break)” was featured on COLORS and racked up over 600,00 views for all the right reasons. The switch from gorgeous silky vocals to playful rap is reminiscent of the style and delivery of Lauryn Hill.  Although originally released in 2017, Tiana Major9 has chosen “Levee (Let It Break)” to close her debut EP, “Rehearsal @ NINE,” which released earlier this year.

The track is a prime example of what this young, and extremely talented self-penned lyricist can do. Offering a fresh and alternative sound, rich gospel vocals paired with jazz chords leave the track dripping in soul. Accompanied by a full rhythm section and backing singers, Levee’s performance gives an old school feel while still remaining relevant to today’s climate.  Having already carved out her space amongst best in the legion of rising UK artists, she is quickly becoming known globally as one of the new faces of Jazz, and is sure to continue to make lots of noise this year.

303 – Whisper

Photo via Kiran Gidda

Photo via Kiran Gidda

For a while, it seems, the industry has been missing a good girl group. Luckily, 303 is here to fill the void. Their debut single “Whisper” has reached  over 150,000 plays on Spotify and the 90’s style high fashion visuals are doing the numbers on YouTube as well. With its fluctuating vocals and gradual build up, “Whisper” perfectly captures the internal feelings of a phone call with the person you care about. Each member has a strong sense of self and you are able to gather an understanding of all three of their unique personalities. When the RnB trio comes together they are in perfect harmony, possessing an unstoppable synergy similar to that of a modern day Destiny’s Child. The track is also paired with an acoustic version giving you the bare harmonies completely stripped back, further highlighting the talents of the group. The group has already caught the eye of big magazines such as The Fader and Clash Mag. The only way is up for 303. I look forward to seeing what Io, Maddie and Chloe have in store for us this year.

Rico Nasty – Countin’ Up

Photo via Michelle Helena Janssen

Photo via Michelle Helena Janssen

Washington, D.C. area rapper Rico Nasty describes her aesthetic as ‘sugar trap’. Equipped with a style to match her magnetic sound, Rico developed a heavy underground following with tracks such as “ICarly” and “Hey Arnold”. When Lil Yachty jumped on the Remix of “Hey Arnold” she was propelled onto the radar of a much wider audience. Rico started rapping in high school. After graduating she put all her focus into music, releasing two mixtapes which caught the attention of the media and the general public . Her rap style is new, and definitely not typical of other female artists in the genre. The track “Countin Up” is a standout from her 2018 mixtape,Nasty.”  Very different from her alter ego, Tacobella, who embodies Rico Nasty’s more emotional moments, Rico adopts a darker persona on this track. With the heavy instrumental, and aggressively spat bars she is a strong, rebellious, independent woman. It’s inspiring to to hear and see this style of rap, typical of male rappers in the industry, from the perspective of the female voice and experience. Rico Nasty is no doubt one of the most intriguing artists in the scene right now, and I see an even bigger breakthrough for her in 2019.

Joy Crookes – Two Nights

Photo via Twitter

Photo via Twitter

Born and raised in Elephant & Castle in South East London, Joy Crookes has proven herself to be one of the UK’s most promising talents. Born to a Bengali mother and Irish father, Crookes has been exposed to a wide range of music from a young age which has had a heavy influence on her music and style. “Two Nights” is cut off of her “Reminiscence” EP which was released on the 26th of January and has already gained a lot of attention. With bouncy, playful lyrics and a catchy, drawn out chorus, the track illustrates the fast-paced life in London and Crookes’ train of thought as she navigates through it. The album takes us on a journey of self discovery, love and loss, with London providing the perfect backdrop to this. She has been highlighted by The Guardian Magazine as a one to watch for this year. And as she said to creative platform The Slog last year “I’m not here for five minutes and I want to make sure of that. I see myself growing, getting older and having more to write about.” Her sound is so timeless, with soulful vocals and beautifully poetic lyrics she is 100% here to stay.

Poppy Ajudha – When You Watch Me

Photo via Wonderland Magazine

Photo via Wonderland Magazine

Growing up in and around South London her father’s nightclub, The Paradise Bar, Poppy Ajudha has been surrounded by Jazz her whole life. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that she is being regarded as one of the new faces of the genre. “When You Watch Me” was the second single to be released from her EP “Patience.” The track follows the theme of infatuation - it is dreamy, tranquil and totally symbolic of what it’s like to be in the thick of love. Her voice is soothing, full of soul and  stretched out, lightly spoken lyrics comparable to those of the late, Amy Winehouse. She rocks a shaved head in rejection of ‘normative ideals of beauty’, and her music focuses on reoccurring themes of love, lust, femininity, and societal problems. She is a beacon of strong female energy, and her music is extremely emotive and captivating. She is going on tour in early March, and you can listen to her new EP “Patience” on all major streaming platforms.

Lava La Rue – Widdit

Photo via NiNE8

Photo via NiNE8

Lava La Rue is a West London rapper and member of the creative collective, NiNE8. Growing up wasn’t easy for La Rue. She spent her teenage years in and out of foster care until finally finding her own family in a collective of creatives at the age of 18.  At 16, she joined a band where she experimented with a range of genres, until eventually landing on Hip Hop which is what comes to mind when you listen to her current work. A calm and collected delivery paired with tranquil beats sets her apart from other female rappers in the scene, and is comparable to 90’s era rappers, a clear source of inspiration for La Rue. Her music and visuals are fully thought out and meticulously crafted concepts that come together in perfect harmony. “Widdit” is a prime example of this. One of her most popular tracks with over 600,000 streams, the song is a display of La Rue’s immaculate lyricism. The words seem to flow so naturally from her mouth, and the whole thing seems pretty effortless.  As an openly gay, woman of colour, Lava La Rue is really changing what it means to be a UK rapper in 2019.

Summer Walker – Riot

Photo via Burak Cingi

Photo via Burak Cingi

Atlanta-native, Summer Walker has come to the forefront in the past couple of months as one of the most promising talents in RnB. She sings about the trials and tribulations of modern relationships, putting all her realest emotions and deepest thoughts in the open. Her fan-favorite, “Girls Need Love” is loved as a candid, uncensored confessional. The track “Riot” off of her most recent EP, “Clear,” further explores (and educates) on how women see love, sex and relationships. “Clear” is a short, but sweet selection of live recordings.  The choice of having just her voice and a single guitar stand alone for this 1 minute 44 second performance reveals Summer at her most vulnerable, sighs in between lines emphasizing its raw emotion. Summer Walker’s real and unapologetic documentation of love and relationships differs from the romanticized version accepted by the mainstream. The truth in her words will surely keep her relatable and endearing for years to come.

For more, tune in to The FreshFix podcast.