Written by: Kevin Boyle
Every year the GRAMMYs provide audiophiles with a who’s who of all the new music they may have missed. While many nominees seem to find themselves on the ballot year after year, music’s biggest awards show also never fails to introduce us to an annual plethora of newcomers taking their respective scenes by storm. Beyond this year’s nominees for Best New Artist who have quickly become household names, I would like to draw attention to the best newcomers you may have never heard of.
With the release of her debut album, A Social Call, the 2015 Thelonious Monk Institute Competition winner burst onto the scene in 2017 with a fresh take on an array of classic jazz standards. Horn showcases her voice and training by navigating through a variety of styles and moods from Betty Carter’s “Tight” to the classic hymn “Wade in the Water”. After listening to her highly anticipated first release, it’s no surprise that the Dallas-born, New York-trained artist is nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Whether or not she takes home the award in an incredibly competitive field, I believe the appropriately named Jazzmeia will be a staple in the category for years to come.
Fellow Best Jazz Vocal Album nominees, The Baylor Project, consisting of drummer Marcus Baylor and vocalist Jean Baylor stunned audiences over the past year with their debut album, The Journey. The married jazz veterans at long last collaborated on this ambitious project that combines contemporary jazz with a traditional gospel feel that draws on the couple’s religious roots. The Journey was released on Baylor’s’ own label, Be A Light, and artfully pays homage to legends like Herbie Hancock and George Gershwin in an autobiographical fashion that gives listeners an insight into the duo’s lives and cultural influences. Their single “Laugh and Move On” (seen below) also earned a nomination for Best Traditional R&B Performance.
6lack (pronounced Black) released his debut album Free 6lack in November 2016 and earned a nomination for Best Rap/Sung Performance at this year’s GRAMMYs with his single PRBLMS. Being acknowledged in the same category as JAY-Z and Kendrick Lamar for his first release is an impressive and well-deserved accomplishment for the computer science major turned rapper. The Atlanta native spent years trying to make it in the industry and finally broke through with his down to Earth debut album that chronicles his journey and his newfound liberation from Flo-Rida’s IMG. PRBLMS provides a look into the life of 6lack, known for his reputation of being introverted and creative, as he reflects on the struggles of trying to maintain a relationship while chasing fame and a career in music. PRBLMS helped to put 6lack in an elite class from the get-go, and with his unique style and honest lyrics, his name should only continue to grow.