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From Beyoncé to Willie Nelson, Texas stakes claim to musical icons in almost every genre. Hip-hop is no exception, especially in Houston, which has established itself as the capital of Southern hip-hop. Culture Trip has compiled a list of up-and-coming artists you need to know from across the Lone Star State.
The number one name in Texas hip-hop right now is Travis Scott. His performance with Big Sean at the 2014 SXSW music festival propelled him into the spotlight he deserves, and he’s been skyrocketing ever since. He found his niche with official debut album, Days Before Rodeo, featuring special appearances on his first live tour from Kanye West, Chris Brown, and more. He is currently touring his 2016 album Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 last year, including a hit collaboration with Kendrick Lamar.
This El Paso native just graduated high school, but you already hear his music everywhere. His debut album, American Teen, earned the number nine spot on the Billboard 200 in March 2017, and the 2016 release of his soulful single “Location” peaked at 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 last August. Often debated as more R&B than hip-hop, “Location” was also remixed by LilWayne and Kehlani, and there’s no denying Khalid’s heavy hip-hop influence. You can catch him opening for Travis Scott on the Birds Eye View tour in 25 cities across the U.S.
Sam Lao burst onto the Dallas hip-hop scene with her debut EP, West Pantego, which received rave reviews in Texas and beyond. After a brief hiatus from solo projects, Lao released her first full album, SPTRM, in 2016, which swept the 2016 Dallas Observer Music Awards. She took home every title she was nominated for: Best HipHop/Rap Act, Best Female Vocalist, and Best Album for SPCTRM. The album’s first video, “Pineapple“—a feast of color filmed by her husband and Dallas artist, Jeremy Biggers—also won Best Music Video.
Sam Lao’s dulcet tones also feature on the sophomore album of fellow Dallas artist Bobby Sessions, whose February single “First World Problems” encourages perspective and gratitude. “Come to think about it, I don’t have no problems at all” is the refrain—worth playing on repeat when life feels overwhelming. A former poetry and philosophy student, Session’s remarkable ability to mix a beat with a moral first gained national attention in 2016 with his candid take on police brutality in “Black America.”
Lecrae has been around for some time but gained increasing popularity in 2012 after his sixth studio album, Gravity, debuted as the best-selling album overall in the iTunes Store. The record won the 2013 Grammy for Best Gospel Album, making him the first hip-hop artist to receive this award. And he’s just getting started; in 2016, he signed to Columbia Records and his most recent single, “Blessings,” features Ty Dolla $ign.
Newcomer Pat Ron blew up the Dallas hip-hop scene with the release of his single “Backpack Boy 2” in October 2016. The tune drops the beat here and there to showcase his phenomenal freestyle, and the entire Flowcaine II album—a reincarnation of an earlier project—displays his increasing maturity as an artist both lyrically and musically. He looks set to keep up the momentum in 2017 with two more singles, “Indica” and “(95).”
Kirko Bangz started rapping when he was 15, releasing a series of successful mixtapes since 2009—including signature single “Drank in My Cup,” which peaked at number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100. His list of all-star collaborations is already impressive, including those with Big Sean, Wale, and fellow Houston artists Bun-B, Paul Wall, and Z-Ro. New songs like “Money on the Dresser,” off his 2017 album, reunited him with producers Sound MOB, the duo responsible for the success of “What Yo Name Iz” and “Drank in My Cup.”
If the Austin hip-hop scene is still coming into its own, Magna Carda is one of the pioneers putting it on the map. Mashable called the group “Austin’s answer to the Roots,” probably for their blend of electronic beats with a full band feel. Their recent album, CirQlation, released in 2016, featuring hit song “Angela Bassett.”
Now in his seventh year at SXSW, Austin-native Kydd Jones is already well known as both a producer and an artist. His life in Texas inspires his lyrics, and his resume includes past appearances at the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival and performances with Nicki Minaj and Justin Bieber. The first quarter of 2017 has already seen the successful release of two singles, “Dripped Up” and “W R U,” featuring fellow Texan Kirko Bangz.
Hot on the underground hip-hop scene, Red Prodigy is the brainchild of Marcus Brown, known as Richie Branson. Brown is making a name for himself both with his own rap and his collaborations—he produced “Homegurl” with Dallas rapper Bone, which peaked at No. 51 on Billboard’s Hip-Hop and R&B Songs and Singles Chart. Red Prodigy’s “1Up” received a lot of buzz in the group’s hometown of San Antonio, and we can’t wait to see more.