Best Artists of 2019

 Evan Dale // Mitch Dumler // Dec 31, 2019 

2019 was another expectedly amazing year for music. Established stars and newcomers alike showed up to make sure the calendar was brimming with innovative and influential releases from the world over. But of all the artists to put out great music, these were the best to do it in 2019...

When it comes to prolificity, no artist in music has been a better definition than Smino. The St. Louis - Chicago wordsmith known for his unmistakable delivery spent the year leaving his mark on many of the most important projects. At a time where uniqueness and individuality are held at the highest of creative regard, Smino doesn't sound like anyone else currently does or ever has before. And to it, naturally, everyone in music wants a piece of his one-of-a-kind poeticism and bubbly demeanor. And being the best artist of 2019, Smino obliged bringing to a dozen collaborations, a pair of single releases, and a Christmas special, inventiveness, influence, and a sound that has never been heard before. 

 Read why Smino is our Best Artist of 2019: 

Artist of the Year | Smino_Final.jpg

 Smino's 2019 by us: 

DC soulstress, Ari Lennox had the kind of year even the best artists in music are lucky to have once. Her debut album, Shea Butter Baby took her from a name as Dreamville’s resident R&B vocalist, to one of the most sought after and acclaimed young artists in all of music. Following it up with a key role in Dreamville’s now iconic Revenge of the Dreamers lll, and a subsequent headlining world tour, Lennox, in what can truly be described as her breakout year, will go on to be one of the key names in the 2020’s R&B, Neo-Soul, hip-hop, and pop circles. 

 Ari Lennox's 2019 by us: 

No one had a bigger year than DaBaby. The North Carolina prince of the hyphy and ignorant dropped a pair of classic albums in 2019. Baby on Baby became one of the biggest, most high-energy projects in recent memory, pulling in tow impossibilities such as the return of the rap dance anthem and the Jabowockeez – both with Bop. By the time autumn came around, so did KIRK – a second classic hype-hop album after there was understandable doubt whether or not he could follow up Baby on Baby. As music pushes forward into a new decade, DaBaby is poised to be one of hip-hop’s biggest stars. 

Daniel Caesar started off 2019 under the microscope of controversy over some statements made on social media. But instead of spiraling in a way that most artists would have under the subsequent scrutiny, Caesar emerged from a few months of relative silence and mystery with his second classic album in as many tries. Seemingly understanding that the perfected classicism of Freudian would have been futile in attempt to replicate, CASE STUDY 01 is every bit as experimental as its title suggests. Its raw, grimy, different, and yet further exhibiting of his dominance over the R&B game and his understanding that an artist of his magnitude taking risks with new music drives forward creativity on a macro scale. 

 Daniel Caesar's 2019 by us: 

Fewer glow-ups in 2019 parallel that of Swedish-Persian R&B soulstress, Snoh Aalegra. Beginning the year dropping four concurrent classic singles – I Want You Around, You, Someone Like You, and Situationship – Snoh followed it up with the release of hyper-experimental sophomore album, -Ugh, Those Feels Again. Quickly rising the R&B ranks, the album granted her the kind of momentum necessary to sellout a multi-tiered global tour and find herself suddenly in the conversation as the most important, most relevant female vocalist in music. A recent music video for Whoa which features Michael B Jordan, has left her cemented amongst the ranks of far-reaching stars heading into the new year. 

 Snoh Aalegra's 2019 by us: 

Yet another Dreamville artist to experience a complete and utter blow-up in 2019, EARTHGANG have become a staple of the global hip-hop spectrum. The duo – made up of Doctur Dot and Johnny Venus – emerged from East Atlanta hand-in-hand with friend and frequent collaborator, JID. In 2019, the two made waves with their roles in Revenge of the Dreamers lll, their label debut, Mirrorland, a North American tour, a handful of music videos, and a number of collaborations from within and outside of Dreamville’s dominant grip on hip-hop music. Heading into 2020, they’re a young generation’s new Outkast – every bit as talented and even more unique. 

 EARTHGANG's 2019 by us: 

DC area rapper, GoldLink spent 2019 doing everything creative in his power across a barrage of cultural lanes. Beginning 2019 with what is arguably the most hyphy and high-energy single of the year – Got Muscle – and ending it fighting against the outdated, uneducated Grammy realm, he filled his 2019’s middle months with a West-African rooted bout of experimentalism in album form: Diaspora. The project – arguably his best and undoubtedly his most risk-taking career undertaking – is a thesis on the West African Cultural Renaissance’s far reaching impact. And his adherence to pushing the boundaries of American hip-hop beyond its own borders and in the direction of something entirely new, deserves to be celebrated. 

 GoldLink's 2019 by us: 

New York soulstress, Raveena boasts one of the most unique aesthetics in music. And towards that aesthetic – one delineated by subtleties and softness, strength, sex, and femininity – her cult-like audience swarm in droves of comfort and individuality. Her debut album, Lucid culminated up a string of Springtime single releases, and since its release, Raveena’s growth has been unstoppable. A necessary force of swift change in R&B and Neo-Soul and a necessary force of leadership for her fans, Raveena was able to subsequently release videos for Stronger and Petal, tour the US, and leave a stamp on 2019 with her own NPR Tiny Desk performance. Keep an eye out for Raveena as an industry leader for a new wave of R&B and soul music heading into the new year.

 Raveena's 2019 by us: 

JID – the prodigal son of Dreamville and the biggest threat to the throne of lyrical dominance across hip-hop – has had himself his biggest year yet without even dropping an album. To be fair, his presence on Revenge of the Dreamers lll is teetering on omnipotent next to J. Cole. And featuring across a smattering of further projects – Shea Butter BabyFree Nationals1123, Eve, Spilled Milk, Everythings For Sale, and more – he’s put in the work required to make his presence felt at an immeasurable scale as we head into the next decade.

 JID's 2019 by us: 

LA hip-hop workhorse, Buddy shined his soloist talents in 2018 with the release of Harlan & Alondra. And in 2019, he shifted gears entirely. With only a brace of bold singles to his name this year – Trail Mix with Terrace Martin & Rose Gold and Hollywood which came coupled with a COLORS Show performance – he spent the rest of his time as one of 2019’s most notable and most prolific features. A huge role in Revenge of the Dreamers lll, and something like 20 other features with artists as groundbreaking and wide ranging as BJ the Chicago Kid, Robert Glasper, Hermitude, and Childish Major, Buddy has had a unparalleled influence across music this year. 

 Buddy's 2019 by us: