Artists To Watch: 6 Artists From Leeds You Need To Know
Grime has been around for a good while now, and hip-hop/rap within the UK even moreso. Both have been used as tools of expression for artists to speak about their surroundings, their lives and the drama’s that can unfold from where one lives – that’s why it’s so great. A lot of the artists come from an urban demographic, a working class side that doesn’t get the representation from media outlets give to others. This is why it’s so good to hear from the inner workings of London, Manchester, and Birmingham for example.
Amidst all of this, one city’s music has fallen on deaf ears outside the surrounding areas: Leeds. Whilst Kaiser Chiefs may have reigned supreme at one point, the only music fitting into the ‘urban’ category that’s made waves is pretty much T2 and Jodie and that was 12 years go.
But all that could be subject to change with the crop of talent rising out of the city nicknamed “Capital of the North”. With its status rising as an economic powerhouse within the UK, it’s time for the city’s music soundscape to blow and there are many budding artists vying to get their chance to shine on a grander scale. Although, underrepresented acts in the city aren’t limited to just grime or hip hop – find out our variety of top up and coming acts who deserve some shine.
Graft is one of the key players in the Leeds scene right now, the young artist has been on the come up for a couple years now and has earned some high praises even very early on when the likes of Wretch 32 gave him props and Wiley booked him as support for a show in Leeds. But above all this, he’s the recipient of the MOBO Unsung award, an award set up to help showcase and grant artists a great opportunity and platform and there’s really no one more deserving than him right now. His skills are just ridiculously good, the speed he’s able to deliver bars and the content he’s delivering with it are indisputability great. Not one for rapping about drillings and all that type of subject matter, Graft is a lyrical g with an undeniable presence that will surely see him be one of the top names in the game within a matter of time.
Dialect and Zen
Whilst Graft may be a relatively new name even to those in Leeds, two artists have had their names on a lot of people’s minds for a while – Dialect and Zen. The two of them formed a deadly duo in Don’t Flop but have also carved names out for themselves separately, with a number of freestyles all over YouTube gaining a lot of notoriety. Dialect’s flows in these freestyles on SB.TV, JDZ and more have been indicative of what he’s able to do whilst Zen’s wordplay is off the charts, every freestyle needs to be reloaded cause bars are certain to go over your head on first listens. They have been championing 0113 for a minute and they show no signs of slowing down, both were invited down to Lord of the Mics 7 by Jammer, Dialect’s 2nd time and Zen’s 1st, so keep your eyes open for that.
Defenders of Style
Defenders of Style are sort of the fathers for Leeds’ hip hop scene, with a discography filled with some classic tunes stemming back to 2009. Their latest project is incredible, Upper Echelon, and is full of bars to make your head spin. Bars like “I’m at the AA like a vexed scouser” are enough to sell this alone. Their time spent in the scene and the work rate to go with it show their determination when Leeds blows just know these guys carried the scene for a long time.
It’s hard to think of the last female musical talent making it big out of Leeds, but Mya Craig could very well be the next up. With a voice to die for it’s so soothing yet so powerful and is something that’s commandeering her to be the first lady of the Leeds scene. A ton of beautiful visuals have been accompanying her musical output, and it’s that output that is helping her greatly as she’s been able to put out a great amount of content to keep her in public eye. Her EP Vienna is filled with soft, slender and sleek tones and tracks like Say Yeah are a perfect example of her ability to command the track over a well-crafted beat, she really has a talent for this and an irrefutable will to be at the top of the game.
Autotune has two extremes, some people can use it and use it well and others use it and cannot justify their use for it at all, Dave-O falls under the former. His use brings a distinct style once you blend that Yorkshire accent into it and it’s something that stands out from the rest of his Northern companions. But his versatility shows that he’s not just an autotune artist. Tracks like “Bad Guy” are just so fire, in a sense that he’s able to showcase a fast paced, well delivered, witty and smart level of wordplay that is just simply unattainable by a lot of artists. Offering both lyricism and melody, check out one of our favourites in “Love & Leave You“.
It’s hard to really set yourself apart from artists in the same genre, but that’s what Skinny Living is able to do. Lead singer RyanJohnston’s vocals provide a warming and robust sound to the often soft sounding accompanying instruments. The band saw a big break when providing support for Jake Bugg and don’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down, recently signing to RCA Records with new music set to be coming soon! Their recent EP VI is a good example of what their capable of, go check Let Me In for an emotional song, paired with an artistically wonderful visual. These guys are honing their craft with every release and only seem to somehow keep getting better!
words by Rohan Parmar
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