By Leah Mandel, Colin Joyce, Kemet High, Peter A. Berry, and Vrinda Jagota of Third Bridge Creative
In this week’s column of emerging artists, we’re taking a look at a young country/rap mashup star, a teenage SoundCloud prodigy, a rapper returning to the scene, a French R&B phenomenon, and an ambient artist keeping herself busy.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 5,979
Small-town Tennessee-raised rising country star Austin Williams has a sound beyond his age. This 19-year-old is on a roll: The title track for his September debut album, Wanna Be Saved, has over 5.8 million Spotify streams, and by November, he capitalized on the popularity of his TikTok rap covers. His ‘90s and ‘00s mashup post garnered nearly 700k likes and became one of the singer’s top songs, "90s Rap Mashup," which has 3.8 million Spotify streams, 7.4 million streams on Pandora, and 1.9 million views on YouTube. The country-rap connection is tried and true, but Williams does it well — gliding from DMX to Nelly, Dr. Dre, and more. In December, he dropped “Here We Go Again,” and his Chartmetric artist rank has been on the rise since, going from 12k to under 6k, and he’s currently in the top 250 country artists.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 20,443
Since his ascent in mid-2023, teenage Virginia rapper Nettspend’s ear for blown-out, snowblind beats, and dazed melodies has established him as one of the most forward-thinking artists to arise from SoundCloud’s next generation. His songs, which draw on trance, trap, jerk, and an ooze of sounds born on the internet, have earned him recognition from many tastemaking fans, including The Fader, who named “shine n peace” one of the best songs of 2023, and a Best Internet Rap crown from No Bells. That momentum is already attracting the attention of the rest of the public: he currently has a song featured on Internet People and has over 191k monthly listeners on Spotify. His new, more pop-oriented song “40,” with occasional collaborator xaviersobased and evilgiane (of Surf Gang), shows he’s willing to make music a little closer to the mainstream, too.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 2,826
After serving nearly a decade in prison, Big Hit, the father of diamond-selling producer Hit-Boy, went to the studio immediately after his release last May. The 52-year-old rapper had tried his hand at a hip-hop career before with his 2004 debut effort, The Big Hit. In June, he released Surf Or Drown, Vol 2, a joint album with his son. One of the album’s tracks, “YKWSF” featuring Big Sean, is inching close to 2.5 million streams on Spotify. By December, he had an impressive freestyle on I-95’s Bars on Bars, building anticipation for his next move: Paisley Dreams, another collaborative project with The Game. Since its January 1 release, Big Hit’s Spotify monthly listener count has shot over 662%, going from 54k to 388k. With playlist placements on Spotify mainstays like New Music Friday and Westside Story, Big Hit’s narrative is one of perseverance.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 4,125
Hailing from France, Merveille makes longing anthems at the intersection of R&B and Afroswing, and her latest single, "Ghetto," is taking her a level up. Powered by her gently emotive vocals and an ambient, yet irresistible rhythm, the track has sparked popular covers and dance challenges on TikTok, where she’s gained 50.9k new followers in the last month. According to Chartmetric, Merveille is experiencing explosive growth, and rightfully so: her Spotify monthly listeners have grown by nearly a million people in the past month, and the track’s music video has 4.2 million views. The track is an ode to the community that raised her — now, it’s a reason her life is about to change.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 9,778
LA-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Nailah Hunter started playing drums and guitar as a 10-year-old in the church where her father was a pastor. In college, she was gifted a harp and found that the instrument’s whimsical dreaminess aligned with the fantastical folktronica she wanted to make. Over the last five years, she’s been really busy: Nailah recorded two EPs, a popular cover of Radiohead’s “Talk Show Host,” appeared on Ben Lukas Boysen’s score for The Lazarus Project, and started a bimonthly NTS show called Astral Garden. Now, she’s experiencing growth with the release of her debut album, Lovegaze, out on Fat Possum Records. Her Chartmetric score has increased by 257% in the last month.
Graphics by Nicki Camberg and cover image by Crasianne Tirado; data as of Jan. 19, 2024.