HERE ARE 8 ARTISTS WHO STAKED THEIR CLAIM IN THE FIRST QUARTER OF 2023
Four months into 2023, and it’s been a slower than usual start for hip-hop and R&B music. By this time last year, there were already multiple Album Of The Year contenders firmly established, from international acts including Vince Staples, Pusha T, and Denzel Curry, as well as domestic artists like Huskii and Mason Dane.
While this first quarter might not be in the same calibre of releases from January to April of 2022, that’s not to say there hasn’t been some incredible music made. The quieter start to the year from the musicians you’re more familiar with provides rising artists the perfect opportunity to steal the next spot in your playlist. To help you navigate through the immense talent emanating from all corners of Australia, here are 8 artists who have solidified their name and staked their claim in the first quarter of 2023.
While the ascension of Gold Fang has been years in the making, it was always an inevitable outcome. Since his debut in 2021 with Big Skeez on ‘Where Yuh From’, the Trinidadian-born artist hasn’t skipped a beat. Last year saw him drop a handful of new heaters including ‘Big Natty Rasta’ and his Red Bull freestyle ‘64 Bars’, eventually earning him a place in Acclaim’s 2022 All-Stars. In a culmination of the last few years, Gold Fang solidified his star status in March 2023 with his debut project released via NLV Records. Spanning across 15 tracks, with features from Shanae and CD, SMOOVE KILLA is an impressive and ambitious display of reggae, dancehall, hip-hop and R&B.
Based out of Naarm/Melbourne, South African-born rapper VOLDY possesses the same sauce as soulful lyricists like Chance The Rapper and Saba. Released in November 2022, his debut project Solplay Tape Vol. 1 shared standout songs like ‘Pain’ featuring Benny Morrell and ‘Joy’ with Aman. He continued this collaborative hot streak into 2023, delivering an effortlessly cool performance on OX4ORD’s ‘SAY NOTHIN’, and crossing state borders on the Afro-infused ‘TIME TELLS’ alongside Eora/Sydney’s Big Skeez. Don’t get it twisted though, VOLDY can certainly hold his own on a track too. Look no further than his most recent release ‘More Life’, a beautifully hopeful record that showcases his melodies and his poise as a storyteller. Premiered via New Jupiter, it’s one of the best JupiterSessions to date, check it out.
Sydney-based singer-songwriter Billymaree is an R&B name you probably already know. And if you don’t, prepare to be hearing a whole lot more from her. Among PANIA and RINI in the country’s top tier of R&B artists, the Biordi Music signee exercised her enticing late-night sound on her first release of the year ‘BONNIE’. Interluding her solo successes, she followed up a few weeks later with a MONTELLEM remix of her 2021 track ‘Sensitive’. Billymaree’s latest single ‘BRAND NEW’ sees her balances her soothing vocals, wavy bars and flows over the production by Aywy. Flashing Blu at the end of the ‘BRAND NEW’ visualiser, the Western Sydney artist teases her highly-anticipated upcoming debut project. Brought forth with the new track is also an overwhelming feeling that this is her moment, so believe her when she says “I know it’s my time, it’s my season.”
While Sydney and Melbourne were arguing over the best rapper in Australia, Mali Jo$e from Fremantle, WA threw his hat in the ring with last year’s SUNSEEKER EP. Since winning Triple J Unearthed High in 2019, the calculated young artist has been a mainstay in Boorloo/Perth’s scene. Carrying himself with the hunger of an upcoming rapper and the grace of a legacy artist, he’s the perfect fit for this list. From ‘NEVA THAT’ with Sydney’s Kobie Dee, to his merciless freestyle on Bars of Steel, Mali has taken his seat at the table and brought the whole 6k with him. His most recent KEEPup // 2THEDOME two-piece finds him at his most confident and the result is some of his best work. Having captured the country’s attention this quarter, there’s a new EP slated for release in Autumn that’ll likely keep his name on everyone’s tongue.
A talented artist in his own right, it’s the multi-genre production and track curation by Benny Zenn that’s earned him his place here. The Sydney-based creative and his close collaborator Mog.Y have been making laidback hip-hop gems for the last few years through their Gullyboy trio and otherwise. In the last few months though, the producer/rapper duo have been in their best form yet with singles including ‘MOONSHINE’, ‘LAYING ROSES’ alongside Shadow, and ‘BURNED OUT & LOVELY’ featuring Isaac Puerile. Benny Zenn also dropped his second album GOOD GRADES, a 12-track voyage into the soulful and boom-bap depths of hip-hop. With guest verses from across the AU to the UK (in order of appearance: SEZ, Dyl Thomas, Maczee P, Ratu, AyiTe, Koj, Mog.Y, Shadow, Tenth Dan, I AM D, Ash the Author, Sinks, C.O.N-Vers, ALLCAPITAL and Dxvndre), don’t let this one go under-appreciated.
Featured as one of the first artists in our Introducing series, YARA is already 2/2 in 2023. The Palestinian neo-soul singer debuted this year with her Valentine’s Day release ‘Back Of The Uber’. It’s a sultry record that encapsulates the pensive drive home from meeting with a love connection. As the second taste to her upcoming EP Lonely Love Affair, she followed ‘BOTU’ up with a slightly pop-infused sound on ‘Bad Behaviour. The Melbourne-based artist describes LLA as “Early twenties, coming of age, stumbling in and out of love, making sense of it all in the lonely hours.” YARA’s debut EP Lonely Love Affair will be released on May 3rd.
Ribby247 is probably already your rapper’s favourite rapper. The Gold Coast artist broke onto the scene last year with singles like ‘RUN’ and collaborations with QLD artists including NoddyNoMask and KZ Da Bandit. Kicking off 2023 with ‘2STEP’, Ribby reimagined the flute sample from Future’s iconic hit ‘Mask Off’ in a back and forth with one of Perth’s finest emcees Shadow. Acquainted with acts like Huskii and Kote$, he packs a similarly effective punch in his contrastingly humorous and lethal lyricism. Ribby released his first solo effort of the year ‘Welcome To Shooter Inc.’, and if it’s anything to go by, expect to hear even bigger things from the Big Boppa as the year progresses.
While still only a teenager, Meanjin/Brisbane’s Baby Prince became an early innovator of trap and melodic rap in Australia. Despite being one of the most reliable feature artists over the years (check out his guest verses on tracks with BLESSED and Mason Dane), the Zimbabwean-born artist is at his strongest on his solo efforts. Evident on Purple Rag Prince, his second EP in eight months, Baby Prince showcases his star status and prowess while stepping into new sonic territory of R&B and Afrobeats. Including the previous release ‘P.T.A.B’ that kicked off his year, the latest project from the Acclaim 2022 All-Star features Kedus on ‘ISSUES’ and production from his go-to producer Liam Thomas throughout. As of April 2023, PRP stands as one of the best releases from Australia this year.