2016 yielded a glut of emerging hip-hop talents, including hometown heroes Vee Tha Rula, Futuristic, and Sincerely Collins. While we wish them all good fortune as they continue to hustle beyond the brink of greatness and into popular acclaim, we can't help but think of who the new year's top contenders will be. The next 12 months will no doubt deliver some fresh faces in the local hip-hop scene. The following list features a handful of artists we think have what it takes to break out in 2017. Odds are, you'll be hearing more from them all soon enough.
10. Charlie Mumbles
Having grown up in a household where eclectic music was always in rotation, it's no surprise that Charlie Mumbles has developed a fantastic ear for sound and song structure. The 24-year-old producer credits his parents' diverse musical taste to having provided him with the "sauce" to make music of his own. His works are marvels of precision, chopped-up vocals, and crazy drum tracks. It's his wavy sound, which he's artfully crafted over the last seven years, that is finally bringing Charlie Mumbles to the forefront of the local hip-hop scene. In 2016, he performed at Atlanta's largest hip-hop festival and music conference, A3C, produced the project Chopped Soul with Benjamin Fly, and continued to churn out beats while managing his indie label Chop Records. With a debut album and several projects with local artists like Salty Brasi in the works, Mumbles is poised to make major waves in 2017.
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9. Chaz Soto
Chaz Soto first caught our attention in 2015 with his mixtape Landon. Since then, the Scottsdale rapper has been hard at work. In May 2016, he released his second mixtape, White Waves. From heavy-hitting tracks like "I Been," capturing Soto's ruthless attitude toward success, to the more insightful, piano-led "Breathe Me," the project demonstrated immense growth and shed some light on the progress he'll make in the year ahead. Having opened up for rappers Machine Gun Kelly and Casey Veggies, and with mentions on top entertainment and hip-hop blog ThisIs50.com, Soto proves he can hold his own on the mic.
The Northern California transplant has put down roots in the Valley of the Sun, where he's since been heating up as a rapper. Signed to Phoenix record label Truminati Music Group, I-Dee is a clever wordsmith. He has a knack for being able to dissect the attitude and ideals propagated in mainstream culture while delivering his insights over smooth, ear-grabbing beats. His musical series #SurferSundays is a testament to his abilities, as each track or video dropped takes listeners on a journey of social awareness. Don't sleep on I-Dee.
7. Odd Squad Family
"Fighting for the odd, and inspiring the rest," is the credo of local hip-hop group Odd Squad Family. Consisting of members N.U.B.S., Snowman, and A-Factor, the trio strives to spread positivity through their music. A rare genetic condition has left N.U.B.S. without any limbs, and Snowman has albinism, features which have created unique struggles for the rappers, who turn those into bars. In July 2016, Odd Squad Family was rocked by tragedy as Frosty, the youngest founding member of the group and Snowman's brother, passed away. The outpouring of love that the group received from fans was immeasurable, and Odd Squad Family continues to carry the soul and spirit of the late member within their musical efforts. With music that's honest, relatable, and inspiring, it's hard not to love Odd Squad Family.
6. Reck Yosiah
Having just dropped a new mixtape titled Blessings In The Skies (B.I.T.S.) in December, and with talks of an album set to release this summer, the sky's the limit for up-and-comer Reck Yosiah. Originally from the Virgin Islands, Yosiah spent most of his childhood in Brooklyn, New York, where he was first exposed to hip-hop culture. After losing his father in 2010, he began to communicate the trials and tribulations of his life through powerful rhymes. When he's not creating music, Reck Yosiah heads GO Official, a collective consisting of the Positive Mindset Clothing line, as well as G.O. Entertainment.
5. Eddie Wellz
Eddie Wellz is another member of the Truminati Music Group family. With three projects under his belt, an Arizona Hip-Hop Awards nomination as Best New Artist in 2014, a stint on the TruSummer 2015 tour and another one on the way, Wellz is definitely on his way up. Every bar and every verse Wellz produces is fueled by his passion to create music with purpose. He aims to create awareness and impart knowledge unto others with every rhyme. Eddie Wellz' versatility knows no bounds, which is priceless to a rapper looking to stand out from the pack.
Kirsin Andrew Mitchell raps and produces and is co-founder of hip-hop collective Approached By Concept Free It Means Everything (ABCFreeIME), as well as an engineer and director. His music traverses from intense and sexual to soulful and melodic. Composed of bouncing bass and echoey synths, his track "Lights" plays more to the melodic/soulful side, while "Roses Are" delves into Kirsin's darker, more melancholic side. His talents as a director, artist, and engineer marry well together for his music videos, the overall production of which are all rather impressive. It's clear to see that Kirsin is swiftly moving in an upward direction, with no intention of stopping anytime soon. Things pick up fast when you stay in your own lane.
3. Lamar Crushin
As if Truminati Music Group wasn't already killing the game, they've got artist Lamar Crushin to up the ante. Hailing from Germantown, Maryland, Crushin moved out to the West Coast to further pursue his dream of becoming a rapper. His journey has been riddled with hardship, something of which adds to the rawness of his music. There's no dodging, weaving, or messing around when it comes to Crushin. His music is from the gut. A pure expression of who he is. Lamar Crushin will celebrate the release of his debut album, 92, on Friday, January 27.
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2. Touré Masters
Rapping comes naturally to Arizona MC Touré Masters. Whether in the studio, on stage, or writing in his bedroom, Masters puts his heart and soul into every inch of his music. Masters sound incorporates R&B with elements of jazz rap. His lyrics are crisp and his delivery style has a little bit of a bounce to it. On "Still Concerned," Masters appears to pay homage to A Tribe Called Quest by tying in a computerized female voice similar to the one featured throughout the iconic trio's album Midnight Marauders. With nods from local radio stations and his premiere album, King of The Chill, in production, Touré Masters' future looks bright.
1. Injury Reserve
Composed of rappers Ritchie With a T and Stepa J Groggs and producer Corey Parker, Injury Reserve is a Tempe-based band notorious for an aversion to the Copper State. In 2015, the group self-released their 11-track debut album, Live From the Dentist Office, which went on to receive acclaim from national music critics. Fast forward to 2016, and Injury Reserve was back at it with the release of their second studio album, Floss. The lyrics and musical ingenuity on bangers like "Oh Shit!!!" and "All This Money" reaffirm the group's alternative take on party rap. "Keep on Slipping (featuring Vic Mensa)" plays to the group's versatility, as it is composed of more soft, introspective cuts. Injury Reserve's strong resume will no doubt keep them paving their own lane well into the new year, which just might see them explode on a national level.