Meek Mill makes his Maybach Music major label debut.
Not many rappers in their mid 20s have been in the hip-hop game for nearly a decade. But, then again, not everyone is Meek Mill. Meek comes from a long and storied tradition of super-lyrical Philadelphia street rappers. By his mid-teens, he was climbing the notoriously difficult Philly battle-rap ladder and racking up thousands of YouTube views with lo-fi freestyles taped on street corners. Though he's earned the ire of a Philadelphia pastor from his Drake-assisted hit "Amen," Meek's mostly stayed out of trouble and stayed focused on making great rap tracks.
Watch Meek Mill perform "Burn," and watch Meek Mill music videos and interviews after the jump.
"Kendrick have a dream."
If you don't know who Kendrick Lamar is, you probably haven't spend much time on the rap blogs lately (OR you've been teaching English in another country with limited internet access). Either scenario is fine, because we're here to get you up to speed on hip-hop's most promising young talent. The 24-year-old Compton, Calif.-bred MC (his real name is Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, which is an all-time great name), has been rightly included in every "best rapper right now" list since releasing his Overly Dedicated mixtape in 2010. A year later, he was featured on XXL's Freshman Class cover, released the critically acclaimed independent album Section.80, was granted given a full solo track on Drake's mega-smash Take Care, and signed the holy grail of major label deals with Interscope and Dr. Dre's Aftermath Records. Uh, not bad for only a year or two.
+ Download Kendrick Lamar's "The Recipe," watch him perform the song live, and see more interviews and performances after the jump.
Freelance Whales make full-time jams.
Freelance Whales are about to swim into your heart. The New York group got their start with a burst of blog enthusiasm, coming out on top of the Great Whale Band Flood of 2010 (Remember Or, the Whale?). Freelance Whales have been hyped by NPR, The A.V. Club, and Entertainment Weekly, who dubbed Freelance Whales' album Weathervanes "the best electronic indie-pop debut since Ben Gibbard last tuned his laptop." You've heard Freelance Whales on the MTV show The Inbetweeners, and you'll hear them again during the season finale. And the band's even been thrown some shade from the infamous tastemakers at Pitchfork, so you know they must be doing something right. Fun fact: Multi-instrumentalist Chuck Criss is the brother of "Glee"'s Darren Criss -- musical prowess must run in the fam!
On the group's sophomore set, Diluvia, the Whales combine fuzzy synths and drum thunder with twinkling acoustic arrangements, an approach that recalls the maximalist indie rock of Passion Pit or MGMT. "Aeolus" leads with a banjo-plucking melody that hints at Dave Matthews Band before going full-on M83, while "Follow Through" finds frontman Judah Dadone singing, "I am not one of them" while slow-moving drums echo meaningfully in the background. "Spitting Image" gives bassist/multi-instrumentalist Doris Cellar a solid turn on the mic, but the great thing about Freelance Whales is that the music sounds like a full-time party no matter who's on the mic.
+ Watch Freelance Whales perform "Aeolus" live, and see more interviews and performances after the jump.
Cris Cab knows how to ride a groove.
The calendar says it's fall, but Miami-based musician Cris Cab seems intent on making summer last a little longer. With a voice like Sting and upbeat, beachy grooves influenced by Marvin Gaye and Bob Marley, (those childhood summers spent in the Bahamas didn't hurt either), Cris is ready to make it rain soul-n-B with songs such as "Face to Face" and "Echo Boom."
Some serious stars have also joined the Cris Cab movement: Big Sean dropped by on Chris' laid-back "Good Girls (Don't Grow on Trees)," a track produced by Wyclef Jean and written by Pharrell Williams, because why work with one all-star when you could get with three? And Cris even teamed up with Wyclef to perform at New York Fashion Week earlier this month.
Cris isn't just hanging out with the pop kids either -- he recently performed in an an indie-centric lineup including Tanlines, Action Bronson, and Spaceghostpurrp at Mad Decent's Chicago Block Party in August. Not bad for a 19-year-old who hasn't even released his debut yet -- but Cris has got a career coach in Pharrell, who told him to practice, practice, practice -- advice that paid off once Cris began releasing videos, starting with a YouTube cover of Wiz Khalifa's "Black and Yellow." Cris has now scored nearly 8 million views on YouTube, almost as many as Justin Bieber -- juuuust 400 million or so to go. He'll get there. Cris Cab's debut EP, Rise, soars onto iTunes on Oct. 9.
+ Watch Cris Cab's performance of "Good Girls (Don't Grow On Trees)" below, and check out more Cris videos and performances after the jump.
Get bratty with "X Factor" superstar Cher Lloyd.
Meet pop music's favorite new brat. Cher Lloyd first turned heads on the U.K. version of "The X Factor," where notorious grumpster Simon Cowell called her performance of Shakespeare's Sister's "Stay" "the performance of the entire season" -- and it was the first song she didn't rap on. (Because did we mention she can rap? Because she can.)
Cher blends electro, hip-hop, and pop influences into a genre-bending mix, all delivered with a wink. Think Lily Allen meets Nicki Minaj. "You're a hater, just let it go," she sings on inspirational kiss-off "Swagger Jagger," while "Want U Back" firehoses an ex-boyfriend ("You never had much game") and his new girlfriend, before admitting she might be jealous.
The pop misfit just made Billboard's "21 Under 21" list, performed on the "Today" show, and already dropped her first perfume, "Pink Diamond" -- not bad for a 19-year-old. Cher's debut album, Sticks + Stones, drops in the U.S. on Oct. 2, yet she's already locked in die-hard fans, who call themselves "The Brats."
"I've never met such passionate people in my life," Lloyd says. "Whenever I go into an event, I know they've got my back. It's all about having the girl power." And all about dropping her "Want U Back" signature grunt, though Lloyd says getting growly isn't easy. "I did it in the studio, and I was actually angry at that point. But I don't do it when I'm on stage," she says. "I don't want someone to take a snapshot of that." Get your Rick Ross on, li'l mama. UGH! (Do I sound like a helicopter?)
+ Download Cher Lloyd's "Dub On The Track," watch her perform "Want U Back" below, and check out more videos and interviews with her after the jump.
Is 2 Chainz one of THE hottest rappers in the game right now? TRU.
The road to rap stardom used to be long -- real long. Rappers could spend years hustling on small stages before finally getting a chance to shine, and if by some chance one DID experience their big break, sometimes the highest they'd get on the industry ladder would be with a single guest verse on a new hot song. So it’s interesting that in this era of the overnight sensation machine, that the old-fashioned way to stardom has actually paid off for rapper 2 Chainz and made him the bona fide hip-hop star he is today.
Watch videos featuring 2 Chainz after the jump.
Learn more about the Diddy-signed Cleveland rapper, MGK.
MGK's had quite a year since signing to Bad Boy Records last summer. He's had several legit hits and one of the biggest remixes of the year with his "Wild Boy (Remix)," which clocks in at seven rappers strong, including Mystikal, and Jackass's Steve-O (who's just on the intro, and not technically rapping, in case you were curious/worried). And if MGK's boss, Diddy, has been looking for his own answer to the great white hope, Eminem, then he's finally found it.
The Cleveland, Ohio emcee reps his hometown hard, and his city seems to answer with unconditional support for the 22-year-old. But so does New York: He's had two successful runs at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, and he's made several appearances on BET. But MGK's rapid-fire delivery and unchained energy levels tend to hush any haters, if not change their minds completely. There's something uncanny and irresistible about being from the Midwest and being able to speed rap with technical precision. MGK fits in well with hometown heroes Bone Thugs, as well as Tech N9ne (Kansas) and Twista (Chicago) -- both of whom happen to be featured on his upcoming debut album, Lace Up.
Watch MGK videos and interviews after the jump.
Get to know the Pharrell- and Ne-Yo-approved Conor Maynard.
Tell us if this reminds you of someone: teenaged YouTube star with millions of views, major R&B singers as mentors and awesome hair. Hmm... Justin, is that you? U.K. singer Conor Maynard may hear the British Bieber thing a lot, but the breakthrough artist definitely deserves a spotlight of his own.
The rising star made his mark with killer covers of Usher, Ne-Yo and Rihanna, with his uploads scoring more than 68 million YouTube views -- including 3.8 million for his original track "Vegas Girl," an electro-influenced banger that proved that he's not just a cover act. He's already hooked up with equally crushable U.K. export Rita Ora for the duet "Better Than You," and had Ne-Yo and Pharrell battling to sign him as he prepped for his transatlantic takeover. He wound up on EMI and spent a week in Miami with the Neptunes producer anyway. (Rough life, bro!)
"There's a track featuring Ne-Yo, there's a track featuring Pharrell, there's a track written by Frank Ocean," Maynard says of his star-powered debut album, Contrast, due Sept. 18. Swag on a hundred, thousand, 68 million -- and growing. "I actually have to move quite soon because fans found out where I live," Maynard says. If you're not already a Mayniac, then get ready to convert.
+ Download Conor Maynard's "Drowning," and watch his "Vegas Girl" video, interviews and performances after the jump.
Pop star Olly Murs has already taken over the U.K. Find out why he's got his sights set on the U.S.
When we listen to Olly Murs, the singer seems like a born musician, but the U.K. newcomer didn't grow up with dreams of pop stardom. "I was more of a soccer fan, really, than music," he says, explaining that he got into Stevie Wonder and James Brown, who are now major influences, later in life. "It wasn't until I was about 23 that I started singing." That's the age Murs competed on the U.K. version of "The X Factor," where he impressed judgment gargoyle Simon Cowell and finished second -- nabbing a major label deal and a self-titled debut album that moved more than 600,000 copies in the U.K.
The man's now ready to begin conquering America, a takeover that's already in the works: He's opening for One Direction on the fellow Brits' current North American tour. "When people say it's a British invasion, I mean, it would be great to be a part of that. At the moment, I feel like I'm on a boat, trying to get to the States," Murs says. "I'm hoping that the One Direction fans are going to warm to me." Things are definitely heating up: He'll drop his U.S. debut, In Case You Didn't Know, (now you do!) on Sept. 25, with the track list combining the best songs from his first two U.K. releases. He'll lead off with the dancehall-influenced "Heart Skips A Beat," the team-up with Chiddy Bang that he's already performed on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." Y'know, just getting his U.S. late-night debut out of the way before his debut record even drops.
"It's a feel-good song," he says of the relatable track. "It's about a relationship that's gone a little bit sour, and you want it to be great again." Or in Murs' case, the start of a rad brand-new one. Watch the singer hit the stage below and hang on to your heartbeat.
+ Watch Olly Murs' live performances and exclusive interviews after the jump.
Harlem native Azealia Banks raps like a beast and drops some of the nastiest lyrics this side of 2 Live Crew. But that sly, infectious smile (and the fact that she looks like the second coming of Naomi Campbell) somehow softens the blow, making her kinda like the Sarah Silverman of rap. Born and raised in uptown Manhattan, the 21-year-old hasn't spent much time in her native New York in recent years after catching the ear of none other than Diplo. She moved to Montreal for a bit and spent any off time in Europe (where she's become friends with Karl Lagerfeld, who sends her gifts. NBD).
She's now back in the U.S., and Los Angeles has, like so many before her, reluctantly become her city of choice. But that international influence (and Diplo's) comes through in her music. One listen to her new EP, "1991", and it's obvious this is someone who's grown up on Lil Kim and Missy Elliot. Azealia's also demonstrated a dedication to busting her spitfire flow over '90s-style electro-house beats, a move rarely seen outside of the U.K. (or Baltimore). As a result, her sound ends up feeling closer to someone like Dizzee Rascal than the knee-jerk Nicki Minaj comparison.
All influences aside, Azealia has her own sound and style, with a natural rap voice more common in artists from the DMV, like Ladybug Mecca, or Wale even. She matches her precise flows with an impressive singing voice (thanks to that LaGuardia Performing Arts High School background) and some serious hook writing ability. Her breakthrough hit, "212," caught the attention of Kanye West and dominated rooftop parties in the summer of 2011, and it was paired with a raw but fun black-and-white video bursting with personality. Her follow-up, "Liquorice," is another rapid-fire house-rap jam with a more accessible chorus and a video -- by legendary fashion photographer Rankin -- set in a Tarantino-esque homage to spaghetti Westerns. Add to those accolades and achievements a feature on a Lana Del Rey remix, an internet-crashing GQ feature, and a Disneyfied but definitely not-for-kids cover of Paper magazine, and it's obvious we're already dealing with a fully formed pop star.
+ Find out more about MTV PUSH artist Azealia Banks after the jump.