Back in 2019 we published a list of Houston artists to keep an eye on. Of course, this was pre-pandemic and adjusting to the new music climate proved to be a big obstacle for those in the entertainment industry. A lot of the 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 continued to grow over the last two years.
Maxo Kream released the introspective Weight of the World to critical acclaim. Tobe Nwigwe just ended a sold-out tour here in Houston with a cast of Hip-Hop all-stars. Le$ dropped an album with Houston legend Bun B and then returned with a solo album for the end of the year. Overall, the artists on that list continue to grow and help sustain the increasing hold that Houston has on the music industry and pop culture. This list is in no particular order but everyone on it is someone that you should keep an eye on. Sauce Walka Instagram: #freesaucewalka
I was only going to name ten artists, but the truth is Sauce Walka should have been on the list two years ago. Actually, Sauce Walka could have been on anyone’s who-to-watch-in Texas list for the last five years. He has quickly risen to as one of the more influential rappers out of Houston. He’s well known by his peers in the industry and his polarizing personality garners attention while helping fuel his independent label, TSF. He’s been praised by Jay-Z, beefed with several rappers, signed a string of talent to his label, and doesn’t appear to be showing any signs of stopping.
While some might say he’s reached his ceiling it’s our belief that he’s just getting started. He continues to sign acts like Peso Peso and Rizzoo Rizzoo, continues to drop new music, continues to be controversial (right now TSF members are campaigning to get Sauce’s Instagram back), and continues to solidify his legacy.
In 2020 Kentavia Miller released 4 da 304’s, an independently released album produced by Houston’s own Bigg Cuz Beats. The album’s commercial success showed the world that Ken was more than ready for a bigger stage. Ken the Man, whose rap name began because she needed to distinguish herself from other Kens on SoundCloud, but quickly stuck because of her skill and ability to out rap anyone, including the dudes, continues to increase her fanbase with each release.
She was a big draw at this year’s Rolling Loud Festival in NYC, performing songs off her latest release, What’s My Name. The project, released through a partnership between Ken and Asylum Records, expands 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 couple of albums deep in her career but she is quickly proving that her name is accurate. Dende
In 2019 Katy MC Dende released DrkMttr, an eclectic mix of music which had him rapping and singing over soulful jazz, R&B, trip hop, electronic music and more. The album was a hodgepodge of the Dende’s musical taste and foreshadowed what was to come. Since then he has released Me?, the pandemic inspired Socially Distant, the George Floyd inspired film In Case You Forgot I’m Black, and most recently, the R&B EP Pregnancy Pack. He can sing. He can rap. He’s got 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 get noticed for his skills on the mike getting nods from Pharrell and The Roots. Dende is versatile so there’s no telling what he’ll do next but it is definitely worth keeping an eye on him.
Teezo is the elusive rock/rap artist coming from Beaumont. He has been embraced somewhat by the fashion world for his overall aesthetic. At this point he’s probably more well known for his look than his music but that hasn’t stopped him from gaining a guest spot on Tyler the Creator’s Call Me If You Get Lost as well as an opening spot on the west coast rapper’s tour. His tracks have garnered attention from other MC’s like Chance the Rapper, Trippie Redd, and Lil Yachty. It remains to be seen if the music will keep pace with his image but fans should e excited watching it all unfold.
Lebra Jolie’s only problem is that people want to see more of her. It’s a good problem for an artist to have and one that she recognizes. After releasing 2018’s Brianna Lebra dropped her viral freestyle Now What addressing the criticism of her work output. The single, which had Lebra spitting bars over a marching band soundtrack was accompanied by a video shot at her old high school. She quickly followed up with the Now What ep and a string of freestyle singles. At the rate she’s moving 2022 should see a lot more Lebra Jolie.
Clae has gone from rapping under his first stage names Young Marqus and C.L.A.E, to getting shouted out by Lupe Fiasco, to nabbing rolls in TV shows like Cloak and Dagger as well as the DJ Screw tribute All Screwed Up. This summer he signed with Def Jam Records and is currently working on a new album. If his 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 ready to see a lot more of Marqus Clae in 2022.
Doeman DYNA has been steadily increasing his reach in this industry over the past few years. His latest release, Brown Soul, is a mashup of speed up soul samples, screw music, and an introspective Doeman speaking about his upbringing in southeast Houston. He has 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 that he and people around him face and is part of the resurgence of Latin rappers coming to the forefront in Houston.
Chris Dudley was featured on up-and-coming list back in 2010. In 2013 he was awarded best mixtape of the summer and was featured in magazines like XXL. And then, after the release of Against All Odds in 2015, he appeared to slow down. While that could be a momentum killer for a lot of artists, Propain honed his craft and returned in 2018 with 7 Day Theory. He then followed up with In Case We Never Speak Again and It Ain’t Safe Outside. The three albums showed that the time off only helped to sharpen Propain’s lyrical skill. It's a skill fans should expect to see more of in the upcoming year.
In September of 2020 Leondra Gay, better known by her rap name Monaleo, released a short snippet of her debut single online. The song sampled Youngstar’s "Knockin Pictures Off Da Wall". For the next few months, the song languished online as a lot of music tends to do but by January of the next year it went viral, largely in part to Tik Tok and Twitter. Monaleo started rapping at the prompting of her little brother and with the success of her single "Beating Down Yo Block" she’s laying down the foundation for a promising career. Jdagr8
JDaGr8 has shared stages with Kevin Gates, 2 Chainz, Bun B, NBA Youngboy, Slim Thug, Kirko Bangz, Young Thug and more. In 2018 he released the 50-track album Tillweallrich and returned in 2020 with I’m Acting Different. Since then the artists has been steadily releasing singles like the upbeat "Day Birth, the pop song Fuego Suave Daquiri, and No Gm’s. The singles show that JDaGr8 has the diversity needed to excel in today’s musical climate. Now all that’s left is to see what J is going to do with his talent. Peso Peso
Mario Herrera Jr was mentioned earlier with his TSF label boss Sauce Walka. The Galveston County native had his TSF debut with 2019’s Hardest Ese Eva. That led to Salsa, Mi Vida Loka, House Arrest, and his most recent El Patron. He has built up a formidable internet presence, gaining fans and supporters with little radio play. The son of Dope House Records' Star Baby, Peso continues the legacy gaining fans and followers with each release.
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Houston Press contributor DeVaughn Douglas is a freelance writer, blogger, and podcaster. He is 1/2 of the In My Humble Opinion Podcast and 1/1 of the Sleep and Procrastination Society. (That last one isn't a podcast; he just procrastinates and sleeps a lot.)