1. Shame Gang – Better Late Than Never
Ever met an aspiring rapper who’s late to work his first day on the job, deals with a horrible boss and can’t seem to juggle two lives at the same time? Shame Gang has a story for you. Roughly two years removed from a slight
name change (formerly known as just Shame), and a lauded sophomore album in No Safe Haven, the North Carolina-based emcee sets out to reintroduce himself and stake his claim in a refined sound with his third full-length album Better Late Than Never. “I feel like this album is my official arrival to who I want to be on this rap journey, and the sound I want to continue to enhance”, says Shame. “I’ve finally arrived and it took some time but I’m finally here.” Late arrival is consistent in the album’s theme, which is based on Shame’s everyday life as a car mechanic who struggles to make it to his job on time while working to support his budding Rap career. It’s a story of humility, and– while anecdotal on the surface –is chock full of relatable tales of profound loss (“I Survive”), romance (“Save You”), self-reflection (“Reasons”), and other universal themes dressed with a range of hard-hitting beats and told with various flows, nimble cadences, and sharp rhyme patterns. “I hope listeners will take away [from this album] that you don’t have to make up a fake story about your life just so it sounds good on records or it’s a trend. Just be yourself and tell your story and everything else will come in time.”
2. Curren$y & Jermaine Duper – For Motivational Use Only, Vol. 1
Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter, and rapper Jermaine Dupri and New Orleans-based rapper and founder of Jet Life Recordings Curren$yunleash their highly anticipated collaborative EP entitled “For Motivational Use Only.”
The EP begins with a groovy vibe on “So So Jets,” hinging on punchy bars from Curren$yand a danceable soundscape produced by Jermaine Dupri. The duo picks up the pace on the invigorating “Off The Lot” featuring 2 Chainz. The track opens with funky drums over a heavenly vocal sample, before Curren$y declares a chantable hook in, “I just left the lot in this bitch, I’m finna hit the shop in this shit.” 2 Chainz adds a fierce verse highlighted by back-to-back bars and his signature vocals. The EP concludes with “Fortune 500.” Between an uplifting guitar melody and driving drums, Curren$y spits straight fire for three minutes, detailing a story of his come-up.
3. Zeddy Will – Blah Blah
Zeddy Will exclaims he’s more than just a rapper in his latest single and video “Blah Blah.”
While Zeddy’s new music career doesn’t define his brand, most fans recognize that music is part of his calling. Like his idol Will Smith, he is comfortable in his style of music. In the “Blah Blah” video, directed by 2020 Entertainment and produced by BeatsbySav, Zeddy shows how his Queens borough surroundings will not be kept in a box and portray him to be something he is not.
Zeddy utilizes his comedic background to create fun verses. The first verse focuses on how his exes move funny as they know everywhere he goes. His second verse displays a more competitive side in the hip-hop scene. “I treat rap like I do my comedy; something that I do out of fun,” says Zeddy.
4. Quelly Woo – Anomaly
Following the recent release of his “Sink Or Swim” video, Quelly Woo returns with a video for “Anomaly” released through EQUITY DISTRIBUTION (EQ). Quelly focuses on shining like the stars before him with a woman who will hold him down.
The song covers a variety of topics from how he used drugs to keep his head up, seeking the right queen to be beside him as he conquers the drill rap scene, and running up a check. Like other songs in his Time and Perseverance album, he covers anxieties of people wanting to take him out as he makes his rise to fame and fortune. The video was directed by Zo Pesci of GotMyself Films.
5. YoungBoy Never Broke Again & Nicki Minaj – WTF
Louisiana’s rap superstar YoungBoy Never Broke Again releases “WTF” featuring fellow rap superstar Nicki Minaj via Never Broke Again / Motown Records.
Frequent collaborators since 2020’s “What That Speed Bout,” the duo’s third team-up doubles as a warning to ops in the industry, hangers-on, and internet trolls. “WTF” is the latest track from YoungBoy Never Broke Again’s forthcoming sixth album Don’t Try This At Home, due April 21.
“Who the fuck these new faces? Around inside my business,” YoungBoy raps over a bluesy guitar line and infectious beat. “I don’t remember that face at all, they weren’t with me in the trenches.” When Minaj chimes in, she makes it clear where she stands. “Cross YoungBoy then you cross the queen, all them internet games turn boys to memes,” the hitmaker warns. “Keep sleeping on the team, we gon’ pause your dreams.”
“WTF” follows recent singles “Next” and “Demon Party,” which will all feature on the 23-year-old’s forthcoming sixth studio album Don’t Try This At Home, due April 21. 2023 has been a typically prolific year for the rapper, who only dropped his previous project, I Rest My Case, in January. That album became YoungBoy Never Broke Again’s fifth consecutive top 10 hit on the Billboard 200 when it debuted at #9.
With more than 30 billion total streams and 109 RIAA-certified releases including three platinum or double platinum albums, YoungBoy Never Broke Again is one of hip-hop’s heaviest hitters. He is particularly dominant on YouTube where he is the #1 most-streamed artist of all time with more than 12 billion views. As the rapper readies the next chapter of his career, “WTF” is a reminder that he’s only just getting started.
6. Leon Thomas – Crash & Burn
GRAMMY-nominated singer, songwriter & producer Leon Thomas shares his brand new single, “Crash & Burn” via E2MNY Records / Motown Records.
“Crash & Burn” is the fourth official release from Leon’s highly anticipated debut album, Electric Dusk, set to come out this summer. In the single, Leon entrances listeners with his soulful vocals and takes them on a trip as he reflects on past lovers. “This is a song about yearning for a meaningful relationship, but only finding surface-level and materialistic bonds and the emotional toll it takes on you. It’s the journey of feeling numb to the possibility of finding true love at all,” says Leon. “Crash & Burn” was produced Faxxonly & BNYX of Working on Dying who has previously worked on projects with artists such as Drake, Future, and Lil Uzi Vert. Electric Dusk will feature tracks “Love Jones” ft Ty Dolla $ign, “X-Rated” ft. Benny The Butcher, and “Breaking Point” – a fan and media favorite.
For the last ten years, Leon had been writing and producing for artists such as Ella Mai, SZA, Post Malone, and more in addition to being an accomplished actor. As he heads into the next chapter of his life, Leon fully develops his artistry as he establishes himself as a solo artist.
“Crash & Burn” serves as a reminder that Leon Thomas truly is a master of his craft and will lead the next generation of multi-faceted artists.
7. OneShotAce ft. Moneybagg Yo – Blocks
OneShotAce is a rising new artist from Boston, MA, one who offers tremendous versatility, as he incorporates pain music and drill music with a style uniquely his own.
After releasing, Big Pressure, at the end of 2022, which featured collaborations with Benny The Butcher, Harry Fraud, Rowdy Rebel, Sheff G, and Millyz, OneShotAce returns to announce his next project, Big Threat, which will be released on April 28.
Big Threat’s first single finds Ace collaborating with Moneybagg Yo for “Blocks,” which is now available at all DSP’s.
“Working with Moneybagg Yo was major; that’s one of the biggest artists In the industry I’ve worked with to date” OneShotAce exclaimed. “We pulled up to his studio in the A, vibed out, and he jumped on the record and went crazy. I’m really excited for the world to hear it.”
8. ARDN – Runner Up
Rising rapper ARDN releases the single “Runner Up,” the second single from his forthcoming Capitol Records debut EP The Bronze Age.
“Runner Up” describes the chip on my shoulder and the feeling of being overlooked I’ve always carried,” says ARDN. “This song is a way for me to express that I won’t settle for the barriers and expectations people have set for me, and my longing to overcome those barriers not only for myself but for those around me that I cherish.”
Just off a Canadian/European tour with Isaiah Rashad where he captivated audiences, the Canadian raised, South African-born singer/songwriter paves his own lane through honest storytelling and melodic flow. Influenced by the likes of J.Cole, Smino, and Anderson .Paak, ARDN got his big break when a snippet of “Til The Morning” went viral on TikTok in 2022. Since then, the newcomer has garnered more than 10 million TikTok views and soundtracked over 240K “creates.” His music quickly spread across the internet and ARDN now boasts more than 461K monthly Spotify listeners as well as more than 22 million total streams across platforms.
For ARDN, the title of Bronze Age has multiple meanings. His given name, Ardon, translates to “bronze” in Hebrew, and he likes the historical parallel, referencing the period of ancient history when civilization went through a huge technological shift. “I want The Bronze Age to be revolutionary” he says. “I want to have the same impact musically.” ARDN’s years spent experimenting and honing his craft behind closed doors before he let the world hear his music, have given him a steadfast belief in himself as he takes to stages to perform around the world, and ushers in the beginning of his own new era.
9. Chase Shakur – Sink or Swim
Chase Shakur, the rising Atlanta-based singer and songwriter whose ambitious vision is nothing less than to change the sound of R&B, takes a giant step toward achieving his goal with the arrival of his Def Jam label debut single + video “Sink Or Swim,” directed by Khari McCloud.
“Sink Or Swim” is the first taste of Shakur’s newest project, it’s not you, it’s me, an expansion of his widely acclaimed 2022 release, It’ll Be Fine. The new long-player is a mesmerizing meditation on life after a complicated relationship, in which vulnerability mingles with toughened scars, resulting in a work that situates Shakur as steely and willing to learn from his own failures. Release details of it’s not you, it’s me will be announced in the weeks and months ahead.
10. Conway the Machine ft. Westside Gunn – Quarters/Brucifix
The road to Conway The Machine’s major label Shady/Interscope Records debut, God Don’t Make Mistakes, was undeniably impactful and incredibly redemptive. Universally hailed by critics and fans alike, the album was also his commercial breakthrough, as God Don’t Make Mistakes rose to the top of DSP charts and was also his highest-charting Billboard project to date.
While God Don’t Make Mistakes was Conway’s de-facto origin story, it will also serve as the bridge to the next phase of his already decorated career; which begins with his next album Won’t He Do It.
After sharing the album’s first single, “Super Bowl,” which featured Sauce Walka and Juicy J, Conway The Machine releases Won’t He Do It’s second single and first visual “Quarters/Brucifix” featuring Westside Gunn. Filmed on location in Paris, the dual single features production from Khrysis on “Quarters,” (which also includes a vocal clip from the late Combat Jack—RIP) along with the Westside Gunn assisted, and Daringer produced “Brucifix.”
In addition to the release of Won’t He Do It’s second single. Conway also announced the Won’t He Do It Spring Tour featuring Sauce Walka and his fellow Drumwork artist Jae Skeese, which will touch down in 18 cities starting on 5-26 in Chicago. You can visit Conway’s digital HQ for all corresponding tour dates.
“I wanted to tap back in with my bro, Khrysis, and give em that feel that my fans know me for providing” Conway commented to Complex. I also wanted to set the tone for my new album.”
Conway The Machine’s new solo album, Won’t He Do It, will be released this spring.