After 2019 broke the spirits of people around the world, 2020 was off to a promising start. Then COVID-19 shut everything down and brought the world to a standstill. In the midst of all of this, these 10 rising artists from the Pacific Northwest have continued to work hard towards their passions. They have navigated every obstacle the virus has put in their way. These artists have capitalized on this opportunity of having millions of people sitting at home in quarantine with nothing to do. By seizing this moment, these artists have quickly gained momentum building up their fanbases and making major moves in the industry.
Throughout the year, I’ve been lurking in the shadows watching all of these artists’ drive and determination shine through these dark times. Some of these artists have been bubbling in the scene for a while and are really starting to pop off now. The other rising artists have just stepped foot on the scene and have started strutting their stuff immediately. All of them, however, have managed to make their way and camp out in my eardrums. Their voices have monopolized my attention this year and I couldn’t be happier to share their work with you.
Freshest in the Northwest: 10 Rising Artists You Need To Hear In 2020
NESTRA is wavy as fuck. He’s an alumnus of both The Residency and MoPop’s Soundoff! competition; making it safe to say that he’s got a pretty solid base foundation for his artistry. He’s the type of artist that shouldn’t be classified as anything other than himself, oftentimes blending multiple genres together to create his own kind of sound. In 2019, he released his album, Texture, in between notable performances at Capitol Hill Block Party and Bumbershoot. However, I feel as though 2020 and the release of his album, Jiggy, have really showcased his artistry and has brought his name to the forefront of my musical conversations.
The first time I ever heard Brandon Marsalis my ears perked up like a curious dog’s would. Coming from Tacoma, he’s another alumnus of The Residency and it shows. In April, he released his debut album, Ouroboros, which, for me, is one of the best projects to come out this year. The messages in his music are just as strong as his physical talent, making for songs that not only intrigue your eardrums but your brain as well.
Gilton East is a name I just got hip to when the Federal Way artist was a guest on Fresh Juice on Rainier Avenue Radio. He had spit a freestyle and some of his bars lingered in my head the rest of the night. He connects to the more subdued personalities, the people who don’t really want to be in the spotlight but who have a lot to say. Checked out his discography and now I’m a firm believer that Gilton can make a big name for himself.
Nobi isn’t a new name to the scene. Coming from the Tri-Cities area, he’s worked with a lot of great artists in the Pacific Northwest like Karma Knows, Samurai Del, and Perry Porter, to name a few. 2020, however, Nobi has taken the spotlight and flourished as an artist. His album, Fulminate, was released back in June and claimed a spot on Seattle Time’s list of the 15 best Seattle albums of the year so far. He was also featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk Of The Day series after submitting a performance of his track “Entity.” It’s truly no question that Nobi is an amazing artist. If you weren’t hip to him before, I guarantee you’ll be following his journey now.
Kateel is for the underdogs. For the underprivileged kids who just want a fair chance in life; that innocent kid growing up in a gritty environment. Starting off the year, he was already lowkey signed to Atlantic Records. Chase Fade invited him to the Seattle Sessions and featured him in one of his Diamonds Dancing cyphers. Then, ESPN and the NBA chose to feature and play his track, “I Ain’t Forgot,” to be the voice of the playoffs.
Most recently, he was interviewed and featured by Soundcloud, adding his new album Mind Over Matters to their Fresh Pressed playlist. He preaches positivity, growth, and development through his songs and it shows in his real life that he truly believes in it. Kateel went from being an aspiring artist to a rookie to being highly successful all within the past couple of years and it sure seems like he’s only getting started.
Adrian Milanio, an R&B artist coming out of Tacoma, caught my attention at the beginning of the year with his song, “Where You Wanna Go.” His emotional vocals will cut deep into your chest, provoking strong reactions no matter what he’s singing. He has already amassed millions of streams and worked with artists like IAMSU!, and Nef the Pharoah, even getting a shoutout from the legend himself, Ne-Yo. From singing to songwriting to production, Adrian is one diversely talented, smooth crooning cat.
Fuck man, Jaywop came out of nowhere and declared himself as a top artist, not just in the Northwest but in general. His tracks, “Screen Door” and “Bill Bellamy,” should be on Billboard’s hot 100 charts. He’s part of the Day One roster that includes other brilliant artists like Perry Porter, Romaro Franceswa, and producer OldMilk. Jaywop is one of those artists who make rapping sound effortless with words rolling off his tongue in perfect cadence for the beat.
BIG Jone$ has been working on his craft his whole life. Now, he’s reached the point where every song he releases sounds great. He’s developed an entire pantry full of different flows that he manipulates to fit whatever beat he’s rhyming over. Catchy hooks are his signature, and his music videos always reflect his unique artistic vision. Earlier this year he released his album, Winners Can’t Lose, which broke into the top 20 albums on the iTunes download chart. It’s clear that big things are in store for BIG Jone$ and I’m excited to see what he does next.
Holly Michelle has been doing her thing with the sultry R&B singing for a while. As of lately though, she’s really been stepping up her emcee game. She’s been bringing fire bars into the mix that drip with the natural sensuality that she always exudes. Her down-to-earth, fun-loving personality balances everything out making her a relatable artist that people will either be enamored with or want to party with.
Zayside is the gritty, rough around the edges, but cut like a diamond kind of rapper. It was only fitting for him to be featured in Chase Fade’s Diamond’s Dancing cypher series earlier this year. Reppin’ the north end city of Everett, he’s “coming from where it’s ugly out, a product of the janky shit.” He rhymes about rising above the struggle. Combine that with his whole “Neighborhood Hero” persona and you find a raw, yet relatable artist that could definitely connect with a large audience.