18 Artists To Watch In 2018

February 26, 2018

Read the full list on Complex.com!

The rap game has always been fast-paced when it comes to minting new stars—and the pace is still accelerating. Thanks to the constant churn of YouTube and SoundCloud (or, rather, the voracious and inventive audiences ready and waiting to be tapped into), hip-hop’s DNA is mutating faster than ever. There is a plethora of names to keep an eye on, and the path from anonymity to stardom has never been shorter—these are the artists you should be paying attention to. If you’re not listening to them yet, now’s the time to start.

Cuban Doll

Cuban Doll, AKA Cuban Da Savage, is the hottest female rapper to come out of Dallas… well, ever. With her debut project Aaliyah Keef in full rotation, the 19-year-old has positioned herself somewhere between, as the title suggests, the unlikely pairing of Aaliyah and Chief Keef. Just take a listen, and it’ll make more sense. And, with a crazy social media following, she’s even catching the attention of Drake and Cardi B. —Shirley Ju

Lil Baby

Lil Baby is not lifer; at this point, he’s been rapping for a little over a year. But through two capable, strictly contemporary mixtapes, the 21-year-old has established a broad following, fitting comfortably into the mold of post-Migos Atlanta artists and benefiting from a serious push by Quality Control. —Paul Thompson


Singer/songwriter H.E.R. has been in the game for a minute, and is keen on remaining anonymous in the spotlight. She officially signed to RCA at the age of 14, under another moniker, but has been making waves this time around as H.E.R. (Ironically, the name is an acronym for Having Everything Revealed). A blockbuster duet with last year’s breakout star Daniel Caesar and opening for Bryson Tiller on his Set It Off Tour are your first indicators that she’s about to come for the top of the R&B game. —Shirley Ju


SahBabii has earned near-endless comparisons to Young Thug. This should be unsurprising: he follows in a direct, and sometimes obvious stylistic lineage, but he’s able to recreate––and in some cases mutate––the joy and novelty of Thug’s 2013-14 music. “Pull Up Wit Ah Stick” made him a minor sensation, and follow-ups like “Marsupial Superstars” helped round out his on-record identity. —Paul Thompson

Rico Nasty

From Maryland, Rico Nasty has established herself as a brash, vibrant new voice: see last year’s “Poppin,” where her vocals are serrated and where she lobs taunts like “I can tell your pussy stank.” She describes her style as “sugar trap”; her latest work, like this year’s “Smack a Bitch,” is thunderous and confrontational. —Paul Thompson

Young Nudy

In rap, but especially in this decade’s Atlanta, new stars have seemed to branch out from existing camps almost at random; in this case, we’re talking about Young Nudy, his online footprint beginning with a guest spot on a 21 Savage song. In short order, the Zone 6 native has distinguished himself from the morass of rappers in the area––last fall’s Nudy Land, aided by the ascendant Pi’erre Bourne, is delirious, menacing, and endlessly fun. —Paul Thompson

Jay Critch

Jay Critch is a young rapper from Brooklyn who aims to sidestep loaded questions of his place in New York hip-hop by being the smoothest synthesizer around. His style––a husky voice that occasionally betrays his youth, fluent in AutoTune and knottier, Eastern seaboard cadences–-makes it difficult to see the seams, to tell where teenaged Lil Wayne fandom ends and inherited Dipset records begin. —Paul Thompson

Sheck Wes

Harlem rapper and former model Sheck Wes, despite only having a handful of songs, is ready to take off this year. His very first music video—“Live SheckWes Die SheckWes”—was directed by Kanye’s videographer White Trash Tyler and now his future NBA center honoring “Mo Bamba,” produced by 16YROLD, is finding an audience as well. Sheck Wes’ reckless energy has caught the attention of both Kanye and Travis Scott, and he is now signed to G.O.O.D. Music as well as Cactus Jack. It’s quite a cosign, and as long as you have those two machines behind you anything is possible. —Alphonse Pierre

Smooky Margielaa

Melodic Bronx rapper and member of the AWGE collective Smooky Margielaa may be only 15 years old, but he’s one of the most talented artists coming out of a city with no shortage. Last summer AWGE released their second collaborative project, Cozy Tapes Vol 2: Too Cozy, which was where Smooky’s show-stealing performance turned him into a must-know name. Now, he’s set for a major 2018 with an anticipated debut album on the way. If you find yourself on the edge of jumping on the bandwagon early, just think about how many teenagers can say they outshined A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, Lil Yachty, and Schoolboy Q—all on the same song. The only answer is Smooky Margielaa. —Alphonse Pierre


Already on his grind for the past few years, singer/songwriter Lauv is officially arriving for all those going through heartbreak. First teaming up with DJ Snake for “A Different Way”—a monumental move for his career—he’s since carved out a lane for himself. While he lists Chris Martin from Coldplay as his biggest inspiration, it’s only a matter of time before he lands himself on a similar career trajectory. —Shirley Ju

Billie Eilish

At 16 years old, Billie Eilish is doing what most young artists dream of their whole lives. With the release of “Ocean Eyes,” the pop/R&B crossover had everybody wondering who was the voice behind the captivating breakout. Billie’s since moved smoothly from an average high-schooler to a pop sensation, and there’s almost no one else out there with as much raw promise in their future. —Shirley Ju

Sabrina Claudio

It seems like Sabrina Claudio came out of thin air. The R&B singer and songwriter, hailing from Miami, burst on to the scene with “Unravel Me,” a song Complex’s own Frazier Tharpe described as “intoxicating.” With the release of her Confidently Lost EP, Sabrina unleashed records relatable for females around the world, and with an Apple Music co-sign (and the attendant benefits that come with it), she’s poised for more, and bigger, success. —Shirley Ju

Brent Faiyaz

Whether you realize it or not, you heard plenty of Brent Faiyaz’s voice last year. While his hook on GoldLink and Shy Glizzy’s inescapable “Crew” helped the song rattle around in clubs and car stereos for months on end, Faiyaz’s solo work unfolds more slowly. The Baltimore native’s debut album from last fall, Sonder Son, is a contemplative record that skips back and forth from dance music’s minimal textures to guitars and saxophones and back again. —Paul Thompson

Trippe Redd

Trippie Redd’s music has the mutated Kid Cudi DNA to be expected from an Ohioan in this generation, but he cuts it with the avant fringes of modern Atlanta and tinges of Jay-Z/Kanye Westian formalism. The two released installments of his A Love Letter To You series have found him fans, especially young ones, who are drawn to melody-driven songs that frequently sound like bloodlettings. —Paul Thompson

Lil Skies

Lil Skies seems destined for greatness. Hailing from Pennsylvania, the 19-year-old rapper exploded on the rap scene with his hit “Red Roses” music video, a teaming up with director Cole Bennett that proved to be the biggest move of his career (If this list included non-musicians, Bennett would be at the top of it: everything he touches blows up). Skies has since followed it up with another hit in “Nowadays,” and is a safe bet for the next person to ride a rabid internet wave to the top. —Shirley Ju


If you’ve only heard of Valee recently, it’s likely because of that co-sign: the Chicagoan recently announced a deal with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music and welcomed label head Pusha T onto the remix of his own “Miami.” But last year, before the hype reached a boiling point, a trio of songs––”Shell,” “I Got Whatever,” and Z-Money’s “Two 16s”––revealed the 28-year-old as a magnetic talent, fierce but soft-spoken, a quiet storm. —Paul Thompson

03 Greedo

03 Greedo, a Watts-bred genius, is adept at virtually every one of today’s commercially dominant rap styles, and in several that are far weirder than anything on the radio. What makes his music so compelling is that he’s less concerned with blending stylistic elements and more interested in bouncing from mode to mode, in whichever order suits his mood. His music is dripping in paranoia––he sings and laughs and barks and lashes out, but always with an eye on his own back. —Paul Thompson

YBN Nahmir

YBN Nahmir is from Alabama, but really he’s from the internet. Before rap, the teenager from Birmingham had a following on XBOX Live; his music, typified by last year’s breakout hit “Rubbin’ Off the Paint,” borrows slang and syntax from both nearby Atlanta and distant Sacramento––and from aughts Nickelodeon, and from Youtube and WorldStar and Rick and Morty. That debut video (and the gun he waves throughout it) hints at the precipice-of-adulthood tension that makes the Technicolor animation a little more foreboding. —Paul Thompson

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