By Michelle Hyun Kim, Colin Joyce, Jaelani Turner-Williams, Brandon Ousley, and Kemet High of Third Bridge Creative
This week’s bi-weekly column of artists to watch includes a stirring indie-folk artist, a rising Chicago narrator, alt-R&B’s newest provocateur, the songstress of Atlanta’s Quality Control label, and Def Jam’s poet-turned-rapper turning her rhymes into viral videos.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 8,390
After breaking out on TikTok in 2020 with an acoustic guitar Phoebe Bridgers/Harry Styles mash-up that has since received 109.4k views, Portland-based singer-songwriter Searows has become an artist to watch in the indie-folk space. After releasing his self-written and produced breakthrough debut album Guard Dog in 2022, the artist (also known as Alec Duckart) is set to release his new EP End of the World on November 10 via Last Recordings on Earth (the new label from fellow TikTok star Matt Maltese). Though he has a sizable TikTok followership of 82.7k, he's proven to have established a presence and reputation that isn’t solely on the platform. In the past three months, he’s gained 1.1 million new Spotify monthly listeners, making for an overall 205% increase.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 17,758
Chicago’s MAF Teeski has made his name over the last few years as a vivid interpreter of street stories. Though he’s been making bruising tracks since 2018, he’s recently caught on beyond city limits thanks to fiery tracks like “Catch A B,” the official video for which has garnered over 2.57 million views on YouTube since its release in July. Editorial tastemakers and curators have caught on, too. He was recently featured on Lyrical Lemonade, and his tracks appear in high-profile playlists like Most Necessary, Out the Mud, and CST. With over 199k monthly Spotify listeners and counting, he’s sure to reach ears far beyond the Windy City in the coming months.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 26,883
Changing the face of alternative R&B is rising vocalist chlothegod, who released her debut EP Nearly Straight on October 13. A native of North Carolina, the queer artist made her breakout in 2017 with the mellow single “See Me” under her former moniker CHLO before reinventing herself as a multi-genre fixture. Nearly Straight delves into Latin fusion (“Good Guys”), pop-punk (“Outta My Mind”), and boundless soul on the highest-streamed track “Camille” (1.26 million Spotify plays). After supporting fellow R&B artist Amindi on the What You Need Tour, chlothegod’s Spotify presence has grown to 138.7k monthly listeners in the past three months, an overall 37.6% increase. The EQT Recordings signee has also seen a loyal 191.3k following on TikTok, where she teases new music and recommends songs for relatable situations.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 5,830
Earlier this year, 24-year-old singer-songwriter Layton Greene returned to the music scene after a two-year hiatus and shared “Spin Again” on May 12, her first solo single since 2020’s “Chosen One.” The ballad was a rousing success, accumulating 606.6k Spotify spins to date while its alluring music video drew in 1.1 million YouTube views. Continuing the comeback momentum, the St. Louis native mined a catchy blend of R&B and hip-hop for her new and latest single, “Something.” Released October 13, this track produced by The Breed is rising with 95k Spotify streams and placements on several editorial playlists. With 1.56 million Spotify monthly listeners, she’s also had steady growth on Chartmetric, ranking within the top 1k of R&B/Soul artists on the platform.
Chartmetric Artist Rank: 11,355
In college, Lady London performed poetry at open mic nights, building an audience for “Lady Londays,” her viral freestyle series on Instagram. Over the last couple of years, the adept lyricist has fully transitioned into rap and pushed out red-letter releases like last year’s “What Is It Giving” and “Pop Ya Shit” (The latter has over 2.4 million streams on Spotify). In 2023, she signed a record deal with Def Jam and collaborated with R&B veteran artists like Ciara on "Da Girls (Girls Mix)," and Jeremih on "Do Something.” Those power moves contributed to her growing 336k Spotify monthly listeners and are precursors to her debut album S.O.U.L., which arrives November 3.
The Method: Playing the Long Game
“I think there’s a common misconception that labels aren’t reaching out,” the then-independent Lady London said in a 2022 interview. “It’s not that the offer hasn’t been there. I just believe in doing it once and doing it right.” The suave poet-turned-emcee’s career journey seems at odds with most major narratives around viral stars — the idea that success must be immediately capitalized on, and that labels have no interest in signing talent that isn’t already developed. But Lady London’s story pokes holes in that theory, and even before she officially signed with Def Jam in March, her social media audience over the past few years proves that steady increases in follower counts and audience engagement are just as important as a viral video. Chartmetric shows a 34.73% increase in her Instagram followers from November 6, 2022 to now, as well as an impressive 67.55% increase in followers on TikTok. Meanwhile, Lady London’s engagement rates have stayed around the 2-4% mark on both TikTok and Instagram over the past year, a healthy sign of consistent fandom interaction. It goes to show that an artist who is willing to spend time expanding on and improving their craft can still be just as set up for success as someone who signs a deal right off the bat.
Graphics by Nicki Camberg and cover image by Crasianne Tirado; data as of Nov. 2, 2023.