As Cam Newton confidently walks in the direction of the Superbowl and Steph Curry continues to defy the laws of physics on the basketball court, Charlotte’s presence in all things current remains undeniable. Unfortunately, dominating the sport’s world isn’t enough to make it onto everyone’s radar. As a Charlotte native, I have watched the city grow into the hub of North Carolina. What’s next for the Queen City? Music.
The underrated music metropolis has gained a subtle buzz from simply being somewhat adjacent to the hometown of rapper, J. Cole. However, not many artists have made their way out of Charlotte, NC. Even Cole had to take his dollar and a dream to The Big Apple in order to become the man we know today.
As the city’s buzz begins to grow, many up and coming artists are making quite a name for themselves. Even condensing this list down to five took a considerable amount of time because of the overwhelming amount of talent coming out of Charlotte. But I did, and I was also able to talk with these artists and learn about how growing up in Charlotte inspired their music. Without any further ado, I present to you some of Charlotte’s finest:
1. Makeda Iroquois
Whenever I take the time to review new artists, I listen to their music pages and let them play for about half an hour. With Makeda, I let it play for the remainder of the day and found myself singing her melodies in the shower. As a powerful woman in such a male-dominated industry, Makeda can often be seen alongside countless other Charlotte artists. Her voice somehow manages to be both strong and subtle at the same time. It has a commanding quality about it, and lays effortlessly over unique, yet slightly classic, beats.
Sounds like: A mixture between Bryson Tiller and Erykah Badu
Best enjoyed: During a hookah night with friends, or a night at home with a bowl of… well, you know.
“I was such a hype beast when I first started doing music. In high school I was so into 90s hip hop and old school joints I refused to embrace the whole trap/southern rap wave that was everywhere in 2007/2008. So my freshman year of college I started making music like the music I’d always liked. 90s hip hop, jazz all that. More recently, Charlotte has really grown on me. I’ve appreciated it a lot more in the past few years. The people I’ve met in Charlotte really have influenced me more than anything. The millennial generation there is kind of different than other age groups I’ve experienced in the south. I think it’s cool. I love trap–at the end of the day I grew up on it. I have a new/old found respect for the authenticity. I think living in Charlotte/ the south has allowed me to see the authenticity of the youth now, and with that I’m able to see more versatility in my own musical vision. My creative vision in any aspect.”
– Makeda Iroqouis
So, disclaimer: J-Alta is not technically from Charlotte, but he makes the cut because he’s just that good. Plus, he shares the Charlotte area code and that’s good enough. The young rapper focuses on producing thought-provoking lyrics laid over beats that are perfect for either a DJ’s party set, or providing the soundtrack for an evening at home. Being able to bridge the gap between the sounds is no easy feat, and J-Alta manages to dominate a variety of sounds in one song alone. He has been on a steady increase this past year, even performing in Atlanta during the BET Hip Hop awards. His bandwagon is gaining momentum, if you want to hop on now there’s still a bit of time.
Sounds like: Drake
Best enjoyed: Any time you have access to headphones or speakers.
“My hometown happens to be in the outskirts of the 704, Statesville. With that being said, we aren’t exposed to the same opportunities as those in the city. So the concepts of “against all odds,” “underdog,” “complacency,” and basically “small town kid big city dreams” are heavily reflected themes in my music. Aside from that, I use multiple childhood experiences that I gained from living there as stories in my music. One of my main goals is to provide hope with my music. A lot of people back home are content with just staying in the town, and I’m trying to show that there’s so much more. Not only that, I want to show its all attainable even if you don’t come from much. ”
3. Will Wildfire
In an age when your favorite artist doesn’t technically need to have any real musical talent, Will stands out among the rest. He has a natural talent that is evident in every one of his songs. R&B is in the middle of a complete makeover, and Will has no problem keeping up with the changes. He plays the guitar and produces much of his own music, which is a feat in its own right. His catalog showcases his varied talents, and it is clear that he can work alongside the best in the industry.
Sounds like: Ty Dolla $ign
Best enjoyed: Before a night out
“Just growing up in Eastern NC opened me up to the more aggressive types of music; everything from post-hardcore rock bands like Dance Gavin Dance to Crime Mob and Jeezy. I started off making music by playing guitar with my friends in Bertie County, something that was almost unheard of in that region mostly because to everyone there it was seen as “white people music.” I’ve never really been one to care about other people’s opinions, so I kept playing. I sang in church and listening to my parents old Motown records helped to inspire the electric-guitar riddled Alternative R&B/Trap-Hop music I make today. Fresh off from playing shows with Tory Lanez, whose song “Say It” just went number one in the country on Urban radio, and getting booked by SXSW to play in Austin TX, along with my EP, “One Piece” on the way, I’d say my eclectic musical background has helped in more ways than one.”
– Will Wildfire
4. Rashaun Hampton
Rappers are a dime a dozen, that’s no secret. However, quality rappers are hard to come by. Rashaun’s music is a refreshing catalog of work that puts shame to anybody who claims that hip hop is dead. He easily merges today’s modern sounds with classic rap beats in order to create his own sounds. In a time where originality is almost unheard of, Rashaun’s take on his art is unprecedented and much needed.
Sounds like: Travis Scott meets Nas
Best enjoyed: When you’re in charge of the aux cord in the Uber headed to a function with the squad
“My hometown is really rugged but beautiful at the same time, it can take life but it can also give life if you choose the right path. I was never supposed to make it this far or be in this position that I’m in now, and I really like to express that in my music. My hometown was never really had a certain sound or aesthetic that I vibed with, but I believe that’s a good thing because it gave me the freedom to make whatever I felt like making without limitations or expectations. I would be a completely different person artistically and personally if I didn’t grow up in my hometown, and I think that plays a really important part in how I create my music.”
5. Baby Jesus
Whenever you hear a dramatic base drops, you expect a Mike Will Made It tag and a song that has lyrics nobody really cares about. Baby Jesus took the trap music trend and made it his own. He’s a proud Charlotte native, and won’t let you forget it. With his heavy bass drops and fun lyrics, you’ll want to play his tracks any time you need a pick-me-up.
Sounds like: Yo Gotti
Best enjoyed: Getting ready for the club, on the way to the club, during the club
“Growing up in Charlotte definitely influenced the content of my music; but I wouldn’t say it influenced my sound. We have a very limited amount of artist to be inspired by. I honestly feel like I unintentionally created a sound for my city while creating a sound for myself. ”