by Jaelani Turner-Williams, Brandon Ousley, Kemet High, Vrinda Jagota, and Leah Mandel of Third Bridge Creative
This edition of our column highlighting five artists you’ll be hearing from in the future features a rising R&B star, an alt-R&B prodigy from Nashville, an electro-pop newcomer making waves on YouTube, a dance producer who mixes South Asia sounds with soul, gospel, and disco, and a hot NYC drill rapper who can also produce.
Chartmetric Rank: 28,613
Vocalist AMAKA, formerly of R&B sister duo VanJess, has reinvented herself. In March, the singer (born Jessica Nwokike) announced that her sister, Ivana, departed the group — but the Nigerian-American artist also promised fans a “start of something new.” On August 18, AMAKA delivered her Kaytranada-produced debut solo EP, Oasis, bringing end-of-summer electronic vibes, with her motivational third single “Cruisin” currently having the highest streams at 299k Spotify plays. “Cruisin,’” the opener on Oasis, is experimental and nightclub-ready with an energetic companion dance. Songs from Oasis have seen editorial placements on Spotify’s R&B Weekly and This Is Frequency. AMAKA also gave the EP’s titular track, “Leave It Behind,” and “Unfamiliar” intergalactic animated visualizers. Breaking out on her own has been an advantage: since the August 18 release of Oasis, AMAKA’s Chartmetric Rank has jumped up by 21.6k.
Chartmetric Rank: 19,086
Casper Sage’s laid-back sound, emotive lyricism, and rap-flavored singing are gaining much traction in the indie alt-R&B scene. A Soundcloud favorite with a social media following since his teens, the 21-year-old Nashville prodigy released two albums in 2019 and 2022 and several singles to strong fanfare. He’s eyeing to broaden his indie appeal with his new EP, Synthesis+ (released August 25), a six-song set featuring dreamy songs capturing summer's end. Its reflective lead single, "Flow State" currently at 344.1k Spotify streams, has become one of his most popular songs on the platform since its July 21 release. Other top streamed cuts, like “FML,” “U4EA,” and “is this real life?,” have seen additions on Spotify's R&B Weekly and the platform's indie soul playlist, Lowkey. As a result, Sage’s Chartmetric Rank has risen by 22.1k positions, while increasing by 133.4k Spotify monthly listeners since “Flow State” was released.
Chartmetric Rank: 16,337
Genre: Indie Pop
Nostalgic, synthy electro-pop is a prevailing indie pop sound of the moment — just look at Benee, Dayglow, and Dominic Fike. A relatively new addition to this pop nook is UK songwriter Sfven, whose new album you, green is, in turn, pensive and euphoric. Since its August 10 release, Sfven ranks in Chartmetric's top 70 indie pop artists and the top 1.5k U.K. and top 3k Dance artists. Despite being featured on Spotify's indie holy trinity (Pollen, All New Indie, and Lo-fi Indie), he has a surprising amount of airplay for an indie artist of his caliber, approaching 500 radio spins. Without a strong audience on TikTok, Sfven pulls more on YouTube, where he posts his music videos like the twee “little things” lyric video and the strange, moody “don’t jump the gun” visual, under which his fans comment, “Going to be huge mate ur sound is unreal.”
Chartmetric Rank: 4,588
DJ and Cambridge University student Anish Kumar infuses the U.K. electronic dance music scene with euphoria and intrigue via his tracks that blend and playfully distort soul, gospel, Bollywood, house, and disco samples. His 2021 debut single, “Blackpool Boulevard,” was played on one of DJ Annie Mac’s last Radio 1 shows where it was named by Danny Howard as the “Hottest Record in the World,” a moment that jump-started his career. The following year, he released two EPs — Postcards and Bollywood Super Hits! — heralded by South Asian diasporic listeners and earned him cosigns by Four Tet, Daphne, and Bonobo. Kumar’s profile has continued to grow further surrounding the release of his first full-length project, A Mixtape by Anish Kumar. Since its release, tracks from A Mixtape by Anish Kumar have been featured on major Spotify playlists like Altar, New Music Friday, and Serotonin.
Chartmetric Rank: 6,668
Cash Cobain adds a racy flair to New York City’s energetic drill scene. He started gaining traction as a musician over the last three years by securing production credits on B-Lovee’s “My Everything” (2021), Central Cee’s “Daily Duppy” (2021), and Lil Yachty’s “Keep Going” (2022). After gaining respect as a beatsmith with a penchant for samples, he emerged as an artist with last year's 2 SLIZZY 2 SEXY, led by breakthrough single, “SLIZZY LIKE." This summer has been fruitful: Cobain released “Slizzy Talk” in mid-July and the Chow Lee-assisted “Rump” in August, the latter of which has been a fixture on Spotify playlists like Internet People and State of Mind. Cobain's recipe of pairing provocative lyrics over refreshed samples will be on full display in his upcoming project, Pretty Girls Love Slizzy, set to release on September 13.
The Method: Analyze Radio Spins to Pinpoint Bubbling Tracks
While streaming metrics on DSPs tend to provide us with big-picture information on artist popularity, listening engagement, and playlist placements, it’s important not to forget the impact of radio spins. While it’s true that when it comes to music listening, streaming has radio beat, but the long-trusted audio format still remains one of the most used tools for mass communication.
We can look at the songs on Anish Kumar’s recent mixtape, for example—the 2021 BBC Radio 1 featured single “Little Miss Dynamite'' is the mixtape’s most popular track on Spotify, with over 700k streams; no other songs on the project come close to that number. If we look at Kumar’s recent radio spins from the past 28 days on his artist page, however, we see another track making a notable impact: the moody sax-heavy B-side “Marabelle,” which was played 68 times in the past 28 days, and 45 in the past week. Also worth highlighting: most of these spins came from Sirius XM’s Chill station, showing that radio programmers see an affinity for the track for lean-back listening. This is something we wouldn’t have found out on Spotify, where the track hasn’t been featured on any editorial “chill” playlists and has only around 80k streams. Radio is still a useful tool in this sense—it can show us tracks that are gaining popularity in other spheres of listening, ones that we don’t normally gravitate towards but are still influential among consumers.
Graphics by Nicki Camberg and cover image by Crasianne Tirado; data as of Sept. 7, 2023.