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San Francisco | © Paul.h / WikiCommons
San Francisco | © Paul.h / WikiCommons

The Best Up-and-Coming Music Artists From San Francisco

Picture of Justine McGrath
Updated: 13 April 2017

While every state has a unique sound, California is arguably the mecca of musicians. Not only have a seemingly infinite number of songs been written about the Golden State (e.g. “Hotel California,” “Going Back to Cali,” etc.), but many performers call Cali home.  Rounding up all of California’s talent would take a lifetime, so today, Culture Trip is focusing on the artists from San Francisco that inspire people to get up and shake what their mamas gave ‘em. These musicians vary in genre, but they do have one thing in common—they’re all emerging artists. Get to know these names and tunes now so that you can say “you knew them when”—before they hit mega fame.

Motor Inn

This garage rock band will have you nostalgic for days spent listening to tunes in your high school bedroom. The trio boasts feisty vocals that’ll inspire even the biggest wallflower to get up and dance. Indeed, Motor Inn offers the kind of music that causes your toes to tap and your head to shake before you even realize that you’re doing it.

Tia NoMore

An Oakland native, Tia NoMore lends a modern voice to the Bay Area’s rapping roots. Her rhymes are fresh, fast, and don’t hold any punches—not to mention that her voice is as unique as her disses.

Apollo Anthony

Sometimes the human soul needs a long car ride with the windows down and music blaring. Apollo Anthony’s latest album, Long Drive Home, is a perfect soundtrack for just such a venture. Laid-back beats and smooth rapping make this artist’s music the perfect album for summer nights in California—or anywhere else.

Jay Som

Looking for an artist that does it all? Meet Melina Duterte, a.k.a. Jay Som. The 22-year-old Oakland native writes, records, plays, and produces all of her own tracks. Listen as she spins poetry into sonic power, and bob along to her relatable lyrics and tracks that range from punk rock to alt-funk.


With roots in classical music, including piano and strings, Minna Choi might have been the last person the music industry was expecting to revitalize pop. She goes by the name of Magik*Magik and has worked with everyone from Radiohead to Death Cab for Cutie, and has now officially gone it alone. Her hypnotic music combines classic orchestral elements and haunting vocals that will get under your skin and inside your head—in a great way.


“This shit is gospel, you just listenin’ to the reverend.” Indeed, it seems like East Bay rapper Caleborate has tapped into a higher power. His flows are reminiscent of Big Sean’s catchiest tracks, but he delivers them with confidence that’s all his own.

Bells Atlas

Bells Atlas is self-described as a “kaleidosonic soul punch.” If you could imagine strolling through a forest where the trees are made of colorful stretches of taffy, and the clouds are moving mouths, then you can imagine listening to Bells Atlas. Their funky sound and reverberating percussion cement them as one of the dreamiest ensembles in the Bay Area.


Combining elements of jazz, underground hip-hop, and an astute political awareness, Azure’s music rises above the rest. With a flair for smooth-flowing raps, his music strikes a chord of recognition with fans of Atmosphere. His rhymes are not only clever but also relatable, and his work has enabled him to collaborate with some of the greats, including Murs.

Everyone is Dirty

If you can’t jam out to violin and celebrate being dirty, do you even know true happiness? Everyone is Dirty is the garage pop punk band of your indie dreams. Because even though you couldn’t make your high school marching bandmates pick up their strings and deliver a killer live show, doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate someone else doing it now.


With a soulful voice and thought-provoking sonic splendor, Meernaa is an artist you’ll listen to once and find a home in forever. The quartet’s music offers comfort and inspiration simultaneously and is an ideal listen for anyone looking for that lazy Sunday soundtrack.

Front Country

Admittedly, country music is not for everyone. And in fact, the city of San Francisco is about as far removed from the country as Donald Trump is when he nestles inside his golden bed sheets at Mar-A-Lago. Nevertheless, Front Country consistently produces smile-inducing tracks that stray from the “hound dog on a front porch” country trope. Their acoustic sounds are refreshing and light, like a cool beer enjoyed at Dolores Park on a summer’s evening.

Hudson Bell

For fans of Pavement and Built to Spill, prepare for Hudson Bell to become your latest obsession. Stellar guitar riffs and contemplative lyrics make this artist one for the daydreamers.

Tino Drima

Let’s just say it: Tino Drima is freaking dreamy. Their ‘50s-inspired doo-wopping lyrics and perfect teeth make them an inevitable crush of the masses, and their adult lyrics make them a more appropriate fit for your Pinterest heart-eyes board than the Jonas Brothers. Do yourself a favor and give them a listen so that you can skip to the part where you put a life-size poster of them over your bed.


Xiomara straddles the line between old-school soul and new-school hip-hop. Not only is her voice buttery, but the Bay Area local has a powerful quality to her pipes that will have you shaking in anticipation for more.