From major-label deals to viral fame, these local hip-hop artists made a splash in and outside their hometown last year. For some, 2019 could be even bigger.
At the onset of 2018, a feeling of “who’s next?” permeated Seattle’s hip-hop community. The fertile scene that had given rise to crossover star Macklemore, alongside more street-savvy artists like Raz Simone, was percolating with enough fresh talent that it seemed only a matter of time before someone grabbed a bigger spotlight.
Turns out, it was a then-unknown Seattle teen who would make the biggest splash of the year. But he wouldn’t be alone. Over the past 12 months, these four emcees with various backgrounds and trajectories made strides in (and more importantly) outside the city, waving the flag for Seattle in their own ways. And this year could be even bigger for some of them.
(Note: These videos contain explicit language.)
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No Seattle artist, of any genre, had a wilder 2018 than Lil Mosey. One year ago the Mountlake Terrace teen was virtually unknown even in his hometown until the lo-fi video for his breakout earworm “Pull Up” exploded online. Since then the tuneful rapper has left school, landed a major-label deal and hit the road opening for fellow SoundCloud success stories Juice WRLD, Smokepurpp and Smooky MarGielaa. In October, Interscope released Mosey’s debut album, “Northsbest,” with its third single, the harmonically woozy “Noticed,” cracking the Billboard Hot 100 chart and its video garnering a whopping 69 million YouTube plays (for perspective, that’s a couple of million more than Macklemore and Kesha’s 2017 single “Good Old Days”). To cap it off, Mosey held his hometown coming-out party at a sold-out Showbox last month, days before playing an early-evening set at Rolling Loud Festival in Los Angeles. Not bad for a kid yet to reach legal vaping age.
It’s not uncommon for rappers to boast of making international moves before anyone outside the neighborhood’s even heard of them. Jay Park’s never had that problem. The Seattle-reared K-pop-star-turned-rapper went from captivating South Korea’s youth with boy band 2PM a decade ago to reinventing himself as a solo R&B/hip-hop artist, becoming the first Asian American to sign with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation — a move that raised his stateside profile. 2018 saw the release of his Roc Nation debut, “Ask Bout Me,” a glossy R&B and trap-happy EP that sets Park’s pitter-patter flows and squeaky-clean crooning to club-ready anthems with guest spots from 2 Chainz and Vic Mensa, among others. After doing some U.S. promo, the pond-hopping triple threat was back East shooting “Asia’s Got Talent,” on which the Edmonds-Woodway High School alum serves as a celebrity judge alongside Grammy-stacking producer David Foster. Last month the singer/rapper/dancer teased an apparent track list for his upcoming album, “The Road Less Traveled,” stacked with features from Seattle favorites, proving Mr. International hasn’t forgotten his hometown.
While being well-known in Seattle for years, Gifted Gab (aka Gabrielle Kadushin) caught viral fame with a lyrically dexterous collaboration track with Bay Area emcee Blimes. The hook-free “Come Correct” flipped the wigs of hip-hop classicists across the internet, cumulatively racking up millions of views across various social platforms in an age when “having bars” is less important than it used to be. On the strength of the song, Blimes and Gab officially teamed up as B.A.G., nabbing slots at festivals like Austin City Limits and sharing stages with Method Man and Lupe Fiasco. Since relocating to L.A., the Central District rapper has been working on tracks for their first full-fledged duo project in hopes of building on the attention.
2018 was another year of milestones for the young rapper, who’s steadily grown his fan base from the grass roots the past few years. Sure, having Macklemore in your corner doesn’t hurt, but the pride of Burien’s been putting in the work, dropping his exceptional “YOUGOOD?” LP last summer with an accompanying visual album co-directed by ace filmmaker/videographer Dylan Fout. For the release show, Thompson sold out Neumos — his biggest headlining show at the time — well in advance before performing on Sway Calloway’s Sirius XM show (a hip-hop rite of passage) and leaving for his first headlining tour in the fall. It’s a small, but important, step for a rapper who’s won his hometown — as his nearly sold-out homecoming gig at the larger Showbox made clear last month — and is setting his sights outside the 206. Thompson plans to release more new music in early 2019 and hit the road again opening for Bryce Vine.
Correction: This story was corrected on Jan. 16 to reflect that Jay Park grew up in Seattle, but attended school in Edmonds, and that he left 2PM before the group’s first arena tour. A previous version also mistakenly described Park and Melanie C as appearing on the same season of “Asia’s Got Talent.”