This article will never be long enough to cover all the acts that have the potential to take Irish urban music to new heights in 2020. However, we feel it is important to highlight those that we believe could establish or re-establish themselves as front runners in this burgeoning scene. So, we compiled the following list of 20 names, in no particular order, that you should watch out for this year.
In 2016, Jessy Rose was catapulted into the limelight as part of Hare Squead. He is well-known for providing their smooth melodies, especially on the critcically acclaimed single, “Herside Story”, which was remixed by Goldlink. However, he parted ways with the group as a result of personal issues and took a break to focus on his solo projects. After what seems like eternity, it would appear that he is ready to share what he has been working on with the rest of the world. We have no idea what to expect but you can rest assured that it will be worth the wait.
Shiv is a Zimbabwean/Irish musician based in Dublin. Having first established herself as a house DJ, she has now turned her attention to her true passion of songwriting. Influenced by the likes of Biig Piig and Jorja Smith, she is currently crafting her debut EP, which is largely produced by herself. She is an act that likes to have an input into every aspect of her music, and this can be heard through her unique sound. The future is bright for Shiv, having already gained a sizeable amount of attention for her debut singles. We have no doubts that 2020 will bring her more success and advise everyone to keep their eyes peeled for her project.
At just 18-years-old, Skripteh describes himself as “the youngest in charge of the olders”. This bold and unapologetic attitude leaks into his hard-hitting bars, attracting listeners to his drill/trap bangers. He recently announced that a collaboration with Maverick Sabre and Dubzeno is on its way, which we expect to be a huge hit. Prepare yourself for that and don’t say we didn’t warn you.
KhakiKid is a member of the upcoming Good Buzz collective along with Bobbi Arlo, who also features on this list. His music usually includes an energetic delivery over outrageous beats with heavy bass that leave you craving a moshpit. However, with his latest preview he has shown a more mellow side, demonstrating his versatility. He’s kicking off 2020 with his first ever headline show at Whelan’s in February. Go cop a ticket and show some support!
If it’s raw afro-celtic bars you’re looking, Dania’s your man. Straight out of Dublin 16, this artist doesn’t mess about as his tracks are laced with braggadocios lyrics. He has worked with some key figures in the Irish scene having featured on Mango X MathMan’s debut EP, “Wheel Up”, and supported Versatile at their sold-out show in the 3 Arena. We’re eager to see what he has in store for 2020. Yeba!
21-year-old pop singer, Bobbi Arlo, has been experimenting with her sound since dropping her first track, “People”, on SoundCloud in 2018. Regardless of her lack of output to date, she has still accrued a small but dedicated following. She even performed on Longitude mainstage last Summer and featured on Tebi Rex’s debut album, “The Young Will Eat The Old”. To top off the year, she released her debut official single, “Berries”, which has left us wanting more.
Sequence is an act that the majority of you will be familiar with. 2017 was his breakout year that saw him drop two singles and a remix of “Fisherman” by J Hus that amassed almost half a million views on YouTube. He experienced even more growth in 2018 as a result of his debut EP entitled “Take Time”, which is exactly what he did in 2019. He paused for 12 months to focus on the development of New Eire Tv, a platform that he built and creates the content for. He is a jack of all trades with his fingers in many pies, however with another EP imminent, we hope to see a resurgence from him on the musical side of things in 2020.
Gaff is becoming renowned for his ability to blend low-pitched rap and upbeat melodies with acoustic trap beats, which he produces from scratch. Having featured twice on the famous music outlet Lyrical Lemonade (IDONTEVENPLAYGUITAR – [Gaff] & Toxic – [GAFF]), it is clear he is making a name for himself. He has found his own lane and is filling a gap in the scene in spectacular fashion. Don’t sleep on him.
County: Wexford / Waterford
Originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, Awkward Z moved to Ireland when he was 5 and began rapping when he was 16. However, he has been performing most of his life as a dancer. Catchy hooks accompanied by witty wordplay is his bread and butter. After joining the Anomaly roster and releasing some top-quality tunes last year, including the popular cut, “To You”, we expect him to make bigger waves in 2020.
Hailing from Belfast, Jordan is paving the way for the North. He can both sing and rap as he combines genres such as R&B, hip-hop as well as Afro. He was nominated by the Urban Music Awards as part of the “Ones to Watch” back in 2018, but is yet to reach his full potential. On top of this, he made the shortlist for the “Best Live Act” at the NI Music Prize last year, despite only releasing one single. He has an undeniable charisma, as can be seen from his active modelling career, although we are optimistic that his music will take centre stage in 2020. His come up seems inevitable and so, it’s not a matter of if, but when he blows.
C.O.B is a pure lyricist that shines a light on important topics that have affected himself as well as many youths around Ireland, allowing his listeners to really connect with his songs. His passion for music is evident as he pours his heart and soul into his live performances. He is able to switch flows with ease, making him one of Baselife Collective’s finest talents. This is showcased on his single, “NonChalant“, that made our curation of the Top 19 Irish Tracks of 2019. With a writing style that focuses on spirituality and positivity, he brings a welcomed breath of fresh air to the scene.
RTL.Bluuwoods is an R&B, soul and hip-hop act that provides captivating melodies over darker, trap-driven beats to create a unique sound. Through introspection, he addresses mental health, the creative process and the uncertainty of the road less travelled. He crafts his own perspective, shaping a multifaceted identity through the experimental use of his voice. After releasing his poignant debut EP, “432_uncertainty”, under “RTL” in 2018, followed by 2 singles last year, he is slowly but surely carving out his place amongst the freshmen of the Irish scene.
Aby Coulibaly is a name that most of you won’t have heard of… yet. She is a member of the newly formed Adolescent Sounds and has been teasing us with tracks on SoundCloud for the past few months. Aby possesses the ability to mix her stunning vocals with a splash of rap, which is sure to cause a stir. Our anticipation for her first official releases builds as she continues to refine and tweak her sound.
2019 saw the emergence of A Kay, the younger brother of Jessy Rose. After dropping 3 outstanding singles in relatively quick succession, the young vocalist is starting to turn heads. If he maintains this consistency, there is no limit to what he can achieve in 2020. He is an exciting prospect and surely one to watch.
Daire Patel has been making moves in silence over the past while. He has an innate talent for creating memorable tunes with lo-fi instrumentals. He gifted us with his latest track, “Hold Me Down“, on Christmas day, securing a place on Spotify’s “New Music Friday UK” playlist. It has quickly become one of our favourite records of late and we believe that he has found his sound with this one. Don’t take our word for it though, you can see for yourself at his gig in Whelan’s on the 17th of this month. Tickets are available now. Get on it!
Danny surfaced when he 16 with “Simisola” under his former moniker, “Romeo Noni”. He kicked on from this and held a headline show that saw Isiah Rashad attend, who invited Danny to open for his for his gig in Dublin. Since then, he moved to London in pursuit of a career in music. In 2018, he dropped “Mama”, which proved to be extremely popular, racking up over 650,000 streams on Spotify alone. However, it was his most recent tune, “Let It Go”, that has got us excited. Check it out and give him a follow to keep up to date with his progress.
Killa Yan is another artist that has been relatively inactive over the past while. He has been threatening to blow for quite some time now, especially after “Like I Used To”, but is yet to find his rhythm. He too has moved to London where he has been perfecting his craft. All signs are now signalling that a new project is due, but the question is when? “It’s just timing and patience” he says, but we’ll be listening regardless of when the moment comes.
2019 was a great year for Celaviedmai as she proceeded to rise to prominence. The Galway singer/rapper has opened up for some big acts including Lil Wayne and Mac Miller. In addition, she has featured in large publications such as Vice and The New York Times. She is one of the leading female forces in the Emerald Isle at the minute and continues to break down boundaries with her no holds barred approach. Expect to see her stocks soar even more in the near future.
Ojo The Kidd
Sam Ojo is a rising MC of Kenyan and Nigerian heritage. He launched his career at the young age of 13 when he discovered he had a knack for writing rhymes and delivering quick, thought-provoking flows. After a relatively quiet 2019, which saw him change name, he is now preparing to release his debut project under his new alias, Ojo the Kidd. Be ready.
Jamie Freed is a young creative who draws inspiration from contemporary hip-hop as well as R&B, which is apparent from his Post Malone-esque delivery and production. Starting his career as an indie singer-songwriter, he has developed a sound devoted to providing emotional content, whilst maintaining a high-energy, new wave feel. Following a successful 2019 that saw him collaborate with us for a music video, release his debut EP and play his first headline show, he is on track for a great year if he continues in the same vein. Remember the name.
From this collection of artists, we can see that Irish urban music is not a one-trick pony. A multiplicity of experiences and styles are available. We are not at a loss for diversity and this is what makes our scene great. There seems to be someone for everybody and a track for every mood. With such a competitive environment, we can hope to see the quality improve exponentially as time goes on.