It’s easy to stay complacent with your music, but venturing into the unknown is where the hidden gems are. Listening to the Billboard Top 100 or Spotify curated playlists may offer you quick, good music, but finding music is just like anything, it takes practice and dedication. To truly find the boundary pushing artists of now, it takes a finger-on-the-pulse initiative. By reading this article, you are taking that initiative. Let us explore together the world of under-recognized artists. Here are five of the most talented underground artists right now:
Tommy Richman has progressively grown his audience since his first release in 2016, but the rising artist is still unbelievably underrated. With 19 songs released onto streaming services, the Virginia artist has slowly started to emerge from the underground music sphere.
Although I was recently introduced to Richman after he dropped a single called “Games,” I ventured into his discography and found many other incredible songs like “Chrono Trigger” and “Ice Kream Truck.” Richman effortlessly fuses the genres of punk, pop and psychedelic to create his own unique sound that has started to cause an ever-growing audience of people to tune into his drops.
As Tommy Richman continues to draw more attention through his experimental sound and catchy hooks, expect to see him transition into the mainstream while still releasing the same brilliant, off-kilter music that he has released as an underground artist.
- Nate Fenningdorf
There are so many reasons why I’ve been excited about maassai since her debut album last year, With The Shifts. While she may draw comparisons to the likes of Earl Sweatshirt and Navy Blue, she is completely in her own lane in terms of what she is able to. The Brooklyn native describes herself as “hood avant-garde,” a concept that is apparent throughout her music. She “centers hood narratives” in her lyrics over jazzy instrumentals, her raw bars a gateway to her experiences.
With The Shifts is an incredible example of this. Each track is uniquely different while still embodying those origins. My personal favorite, “To Fly” featuring KUMBAYA, oozes confidence as maassai raps, “You can’t define the glow when it’s mine.” She blends a melodic hook with some of her best flows over a groovy bassline and clinking bottle led beat. This is just one of the many parts of maassai we get insight to on the project, from discovering deep rooted societal issues as a child on “Next Chapter” to growing into her own on “The Social Climates.”
It’s a short album, but one that is really worth delving deep into - so is her whole discography, for that matter. maassai has two shorter EPs, C0n$truct!0n and C0n$truct!0n 002: The Caution Tape, as well as the debut collab album between her and producer JWords, ve·loc·i·ty.
- Freddie Fine
To preface this, narrowing it down to only one artist was a nearly impossible decision for me; I feel like I could name a million small artists that are deserving of the spotlight, that haven’t truly had the privilege of bathing in it yet. With that being said, however, there is one criminally underheard musician that stands out to me – Vaeo.
I’ve had the privilege to watch Vaeo improve and impress since the day I accidentally discovered their music while scrolling through my Twitter feed. Vaeo, a 20 year old nonbinary musician from Georgia, creates a variety of music, including digicore, midwest emo, and pop punk. Vaeo’s music comes with a unique style that does a great job of encompassing who they are, and the journey they’ve had. You’ll hear emotional topics of self doubt, hopelessness, and relationship issues within their discography, but you’ll also hear trash talking and self confidence. There’s music you can cry to, and there's music you can mosh to. Each song contains enticing lyrics delivered passionately and impressively, with a purpose. I believe it won’t be too much longer until Vaeo gets the spotlight they deserve.
Their discography is something I highly recommend you spend some time diving into, and I know you won’t be disappointed. My personal favorites, which have all been released during 2022, include their most recent single “bad bitch shit,” and their recent collaborative EP with rouri404, “GORE.”
- Teddy Tran
My Favorite Color has been making music for years, yet deserves as much love if not more than that on his hit single, “just another rap song.” His extensive discography contains some incredible tracks, each displaying another aspect of his ability. My favorite, “Old News,” showcases his array of flows before exploding into a catchy hook in a style that is reminiscent of a much more polished early BROCKHAMPTON. The heartfelt, hard hitting “Salutations” is sure to capture your attention. Incredible vocal effects transport you directly into the shoes of My Favorite Color as he viscerally describes his inner turmoil. Recent release “Mayday” features emphatically delivered distorted lines as he explores the duality of how far he’s come yet how far he has to go.
If you’re looking for someone that you just will never get bored of, then look no further. My Favorite Color has one of the most diverse sounding discographies you’ll come across, and one that you have certainly been missing out on.
- Freddie Fine
When I think of an artist that epitomizes the term underground, I think of JOBY!, an artist who hails from Hawaii. He has yet to see a major breakthrough since he started releasing music in 2020, but with this being said, the 20-year-old artist has continually dropped distinctive music that will gain the traction it deserves in the near future.
I found JOBY! through Instagram when someone I follow reposted his new drop “Finding my way.” I was instantly hooked, and played the song countless times as the song gave me Frank Sinatra-Bakar-Bob Marley vibes, something I had never heard before. This genreless music is also featured in numerous of his other songs like “Your Loss” and “Breathe.”
While JOBY! currently has just over 1k monthly listeners on Spotify, he has the potential to exponentially grow his following. Through his future drops, he will undoubtedly expand his audience well past what it is now, and will keep pushing his unorthodox music upwards through the music industry.
- Nate Fenningdorf