In 2019, we released a list of Houston artists to watch. Of course, that was before the pandemic, and adapting to the new musical climate has proven to be a big hurdle for players in the entertainment industry. A lot of artists like Megan Thee Stallion had already built up steam, so it was a little easier to weather the storm, but everyone on the list has continued to grow over the past couple of years.
Maxo Kream published the introspective Weight of the world critically acclaimed. Tobe Nwigwe just wrapped up a sold-out tour here in Houston with a cast of hip-hop stars. The $ released an album with Houston legend Bun B, then returned with a solo album for the end of the year. Overall, the artists on this list continue to grow and help maintain Houston’s growing grip on the music industry and pop culture. This list isn’t in any particular order, but everyone is there someone you need to keep an eye on.
I was only going to name ten artists, but the truth is, Sauce Walka should have been on the list two years ago. In fact, Sauce Walka could have been on the Texas watch list for the past five years. He quickly became one of Houston’s most influential rappers. He is well known to his peers in the industry and his polarizing personality attracts attention while helping fuel his independent label, TSF. He was congratulated by Jay-Z, reinforced by several rappers, signed a series of talents on his label and does not seem to show any sign of stopping.
While some might say he’s hit his cap, we think he’s only just getting started. He continues to sign acts like Peso Peso and Rizzoo Rizzoo, continues to release new music, continues to be controversial (at the moment TSF members are campaigning to get Sauce’s Instagram back) and continues to solidify his heritage.
Ken the man
In 2020, Kentavia Miller is coming out 4 days 304, an independent album produced by Bigg Cuz Beats of Houston. The album’s commercial success showed the world that Ken was more than ready for a bigger stage. Ken the man, whose rap name started because she needed to stand out from the other Kens on SoundCloud, but quickly got stuck due to his skills and ability to rap anyone, y including guys, continues to grow her fan base with every release.
She was highly regarded at this year’s Rolling Loud Festival in New York, performing songs from her last outing, What is my name. The project, released through a partnership between Ken and Asylum Records, extends Ken’s reach in the industry with tracks like “Rose Gold Stripper Pole”, which she recently remixed with 2 Chainz. Ken is only a few mixtapes and a few albums deep in her career, but she quickly proves her name is correct.
In 2019, Katy MC Dende comes out DrkMttr, an eclectic mix of music that got him rapping and singing to soul jazz, R&B, trip hop, electronic music and more. The album was a mishmash of Dende musical tastes and foreshadowed what was to come. He has since released Me?, the pandemic inspired Socially distant, the film inspired by George Floyd In case you forgot that I’m black, and more recently, the R&B EP Pregnancy Pack. He can sing. He knows how to rap. He has a charming (or dark depending on the day) sense of humor based on his Twitter feed and podcast, Dende Hour. He’s also starting to stand out for his mic skills, getting nods from Pharrell and The Roots. Dende is versatile so it’s unclear what he’ll do next, but it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on him.
Landing of Teezo
Teezo is the elusive rock / rap artist from Beaumont. It has been somewhat embraced by the fashion world for its overall aesthetic. At this point he’s probably more known for his looks than his music, but that didn’t stop him from earning a guest spot on Tyler the Creator’s. Call me if you get lost as well as a first place on the rapper’s West Coast tour. His tracks have caught the attention of other MCs like Chance the Rapper, Trippie Redd, and Lil Yachty. Whether the music will keep pace with its image remains to be seen, but fans should be excited to see it all unfold.
Lebra Jolie’s only problem is that people want to see more of her. It’s a good problem to have for an artist and that she recognizes. After the 2018 release Brianna Lebra ditched her viral freestyle Now what respond to criticism of their work. The single, in which Lebra spat bars to a marching band soundtrack, was accompanied by a video shot at her former high school. She quickly followed up with the Now what ep and a host of freestyle singles. At the rate she’s evolving, 2022 should see a lot more of Lebra Jolie.
Clae went from rapping under his first stage names Young Marqus and CLAE, to being yelled at by Lupe Fiasco, to catching reels on TV shows like Cloak and Dagger as well as the tribute to DJ Screw All fucked up. This summer he signed with Def Jam Records and is currently working on a new album. If its string of recent video releases like “Open Market,” “Tweaking,” “Who Want” and “Too Sexy” are any indication of what the album has in store, fans should be prepared to see a lot more of Marqus. Clae in 2022.
Doeman DYNA has steadily increased its reach in this industry over the past few years. His last outing, Brown soul, is a mix of fast-paced soul samples, fuck music, and an introspective Doeman talking about his upbringing in Southeast Houston. He’s appeared on tracks with Houstonians like Tony Dark and DoughBeezy, but he also has international appeal, recently winning a competition to collaborate with reggaeton artist De La Ghetto. Doeman speaks from the Mexican-American perspective making sure to address the political issues he and the people around him face and is part of the resurgence of Latin rappers coming to the fore in Houston.
Instagram: @ propaine713
Chris Dudley was on the list of the most promising in 2010. In 2013 he received the award for best mixtape of the summer and appeared in magazines like XXL. And then after the release of Against All Odds in 2015, it seemed to slow down. While it can be a moose killer for a lot of artists, Propain honed his craft and returned in 2018 with 7 day theory. He then continued with In case we never speak again and It’s not safe outside. All three albums showed that free time only sharpened Propain’s lyrical talent. It’s a skill that fans should expect to see more of in the coming year.
In September 2020, Leondra Gay, better known by her rap name Monaleo, released a short clip from her debut single online. The song sampled Youngstar’s “Knockin Pictures Off Da Wall”. Over the next few months, the song languished online as a lot of music tends to, but in January of the following year it went viral, largely on Tik Tok and Twitter. Monaleo started rapping under the impetus of her little brother and with the success of her single “Beating Down Yo Block”, she laid the foundations for a promising career.
JDaGr8 shared scenes with Kevin Gates, 2 Chainz, Bun B, NBA Youngboy, Slim Thug, Kirko Bangz, Young Thug and more. In 2018, he released the album of 50 tracks Tillwellrich and returned in 2020 with II act differently. Since then, artists have been releasing singles like the cheerful “Day Birth, pop song Fuego Suave Daquiri and No Gm’s. The singles show that JDaGr8 has the diversity to excel in today’s musical climate.” It only remains to see what J will do with his talent.
Instagram: @ peso_peso409
Mario Herrera Jr was mentioned earlier with the boss of his TSF label, Sauce Walka. The Galveston County native made his TSF debut in 2019 Ese Eva the hardest. This led to Salsa, Mi Vida Loka, home arrest and his last El Patron. He has built a formidable internet presence, gaining fans and supporters with little radio. Son of Star Baby of Dope House Records, Peso continues the legacy by gaining fans and followers with every release.