By Brandon Ousley, Leah Mandel, Colin Joyce, Vrinda Jagota, and Jaelani Turner-Williams of Third Bridge Creative
This edition of our column highlighting five artists you’ll be hearing more from in the future features a New York singer-songwriter who makes adventurous R&B, a young SoundCloud producer with an ear for rock remixes, a mysterious rapper working in a new subgenre, an underground rap duo on the verge of stardom, and a rising British-Jamaican R&B singer.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 9,786
Staten Island-born singer-songwriter LAYA’s adventurous R&B style blends vintage sounds with a modern twist, showcasing lush vocals atop melodic atmospheres. In 2022, her career saw a major boost after signing with Warner Records and re-releasing her 2019 EP, Um, Hello, followed by the Missy Elliott-inspired hit, “Sock It 2 Me.” Cruising on last year’s momentum, she released her new EP, Bet That on September 1. Its top-streamed singles, the disco-flavored "F'd Up" and trap-hued "Need 2 Know” have seen placements on several editorial playlists, including Apple Music’s Breaking R&B and Spotify’s R&B Weekly. Thanks to her growing social media buzz, LAYA currently sits among the top 1.5k R&B/soul artists by Chartmetric artist rank.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 7,620
In March, a pluggnb remix of Kesha’s hit “Die Young” was the first upload from SoundCloud user flyingfish. The anonymous 15-year-old’s bio reads, “this is not a serious account half the time,” and yet the track and the remixes that followed — Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” and Owl City’s “When Can I See You Again?” and “Good Time” — have amassed nearly 1.1 million combined plays on SoundCloud. These remixes are just one side of flyingfish’s output; the other is a series of shoegaze-y psych-rock singles (April's “wonder if u care” has over 4.2 million Spotify streams). With only 10 songs out on Spotify, they are showing explosive growth on Chartmetric, ranking among the top 8k artists total and 6th in Psychedelic; they have over 500k monthly listeners on Spotify, where their songs have been placed on landmark playlists Lorem, All New Indie, and Today's Indie Rock.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 17,946
On removeface’s Instagram, alongside an image of a masked figure, there’s a single cryptic phrase “i am all.” There’s little else known about the artist, but one gets the sense that’s by design. As one of the rising stars of the internet-born microgenre known as sigilkore, removeface makes music full of mysterious melodies, elusive beats, and otherworldly vocalizations. “ON THE FLOOR,” removeface’s biggest hit thus far, is a watery club track that’s taken off on shortform video, soundtracking over 53.3k videos on TikTok since July. With that viral boost, removeface has also landed on some high-profile editorial playlists, including the official sigilkore playlist and UwU, which is dedicated to similar strains of internet rap. With 600k monthly listeners on Spotify, it’s clear that people will know removeface’s name, even if their face stays hidden.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 15,525
Underground rap pioneers billy woods and E L U C I D make vivid, heady experimental music together as Armand Hammer. The two have released solo projects, as well as five albums together that expertly pull from personal narratives and compelling character writing to critique racism and capitalism. On July 25, the duo used postcards, phone numbers, and fliers to announce the September 29 release date of their new album, We Buy Diabetic Test Strips. In the week following the August 29 release of their lead single, “Woke Up and Asked Siri How I’m Gonna Die” featuring JPEGMAFIA, their Chartmetric rank artist rose from 28.1k to 11.3k. The track has been added to major Spotify playlists like POLLEN and Alternative Hip-Hop. The project will feature artists like Moor Mother, Pink Siifu, Junglepussy, and will be accompanied by a European and North American tour.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 23,302
It’s Äyanna’s Perfect World, and we all just live in it. An East London native, the British-Jamaican singer-songwriter established herself behind-the-scenes in 2021 through a publishing deal with Love Renaissance (LVRN). Now a signed artist on the Atlanta record label, also home to R&B stars Summer Walker and 6LACK, Äyanna released her debut EP, In A Perfect World on September 13. The cinematic rollout — with each music video having an episodic theme — fulfills Äyanna’s ‘Cuiii’ aesthetic, the phrase being a portmanteau of “cute and innocent.” Cutesy and diaristic lead single “Girlfriend” first released in June has gained the most traction from the 5-song project, increasing by 268.4k Spotify listens (831.9k total streams) since the EP’s release. Äyanna’s Chartmetric artist rank has risen 33.9k positions since the start of the month, and her hit anthem “Good Ex” has been placed on editorial Spotify playlists R&B Weekly, New Music Friday, and Chilled R&B.
The Method: Embrace Microgenres
While many multi-hyphenate artists would probably be loath to identify their work with a specific genre of music, the act of categorizing musicians, songs, and tastes is still alive and well among DSPs, short form video platforms, and most notably, genre fans themselves. It’s the fans — and the subcultures they relate to — that can lead to the most interesting musical avenues for artists to explore and be a part of. The microgenre sigilkore for example, where artists like internet rapper removeface are emerging, is a specific mix of cloud rap and hyperpop, each of which is somewhat niche in its own right. But the more precise music taxonomy can get, the more likely the music will be featured on playlists with a dedicated audience. So it makes sense that removeface’s “ON THE FLOOR” hasn’t just found itself on Spotify’s official sigilkore playlist, but other user-created microgenre playlists with thousands of followers. These fans tend to have a discerning eye out for emerging artists in their favorite genres, and their expertise is always worth tracking — you never know what new musical subset you might find.
Graphics by Nicki Camberg and cover image by Crasianne Tirado; data as of Sept. 20, 2023.