Smoke on the Water: Top Upcoming Artists from Virginia

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There’s a reason they say there’s “Something in the Water” when chatter flares up about the music scene specific to Virginia. It’s no surprise Pharrell adopted this phrase for his inaugural festival held in the same area, an attempt to shine some much-needed light on a locale that has provided immeasurable inspiration and undeniable content over the decades.

Virginia has not been shy to provide some of the most noteworthy creatives and cultural influences over the years, but rarely is the region itself held to the same expectation – despite being akin to the names like Missy Elliot, Pusha T, Timbaland, DRAM and countless more. Even all that star power still hasn’t led to the scene reaching it’s full potential, but once those floodgates are open the potential is limitless.

For those familiar with the machinations of VA, it’s clear that something is brewing as more and more entities seem to be interesting in playing a part in what could  be the rise to one of the most impactful moments for the area (i.e. Pharell’s SITW and Pusha T’s Heir Wave Music Group).  And that’s what the aim is here, too – consider this another link in the chain towards building a pedestal and platform for some of music’s deepest roots. It’s Chiefers, so you know we’re dedicated to artist discovery and providing the dopest ears in the underground, so consider this your introduction into the gas that grows out by the beach. Here’s 30 of my favorite recent drops from Virginia’s top up & coming underground artists, in no particular order.

  1. Shaolinn “Heavy Heart”

Shaolinn is easily one of the most promising artists I’ve ever stumbled into the luck of experiencing in my life. A vivid, soulful voice combines with though-provoking and emotion-building songwriting to form an artist of unrivaled potential. “Heavy Heart” is her first release since signing to Pusha T’s Heir Wave Music Group and provides an intimate look into the world of Shao. “I always had a heavy heart | I always had a rough start”, the Virginia Beach native sings as her dreamy voice glides over some soothing guitar. Go ahead and hit replay on this, trust me!

  1. Kiree 3600 & Tradey Stunna “Slime”

Kiree 3600 has had the streets hot since he was a young kid, and they’re only getting hotter the more he matures and delivers consistent and enthralling releases. His latest work Three is a colorful ride through the emotions that accompany the lifestyle the trap-pop star embodies. “Slime” featuring fellow Suffolk-native Tradey Stunna is a favorite from the release, featuring the duo crooning over some up-tempo production from H20 YAM & Lil H Beats.

  1. Tommy Richman & KADOLEAF “Number 9”

This actually isn’t the first time this track has landed on the Chiefers pages, but it only felt right to include “Number 9” in this inaugural list. Virginia’s music scene is one of unrivaled diversity, and Richman and Kado team up to deliver one hell of a vibe on this airy, beachy track. The drum drops are reminiscent of disco’s greatest hits, with talk box-like vocals riddled throughout the 80s prom synths. They just don’t make ’em like this anywhere.

  1. 1pump “HELL”

The kid with the cyclops shades, 1pump, is back again with the follow-up to his first album Scott Summers: A Hero Reborn with Scott Summers II: The Light Within. There are few creatives with the intense energy to their craft like pump has. The man is just as much outside as he is online, and succeeds well in pushing his agenda in both. His latest project weaves its way through a myriad of vibes, with each emotional transition hitting you harder than the last. From soulful crooning, to aggressive, face-punching rage music – SS2 has it all. “HELL” is the beginning of your journey, Enjoy.

  1. Leeto “Broken”

The second artist from Pusha T’s HWMG to make this list, Leeto is a fucking phenom. At just 15 years old, he’s already started attracting the attention of some of the most prophetic names in music. His first single, “Broken”, is a teen-angst filled record that perfectly frames his Internet-Money style sound with his own innovation added in for extra flare. Pop music, and the rap-game too, are in for a drastic shake-up once Leeto kicks the door in.

  1. Zae K “No Heart Eyes”

It feels like Zae K is rare to bless us with music, but every time he does it’s outright irresistible. His borderline hyperpop delivery over upbeat drums and synths provides for a jam that begs to be blared with the windows down. “No Heart Eyes” is a fun and bright track that still finds a way to play with ideas of negative emotion and even deliver an effective punchline. “Bitches on my cock but I don’t give ‘em no penis” comes to mind, lmao.

  1. Lex Lucent & MACK “Telfar”

The Flip Phone records ladies are at it again with a new joint single, “Telfar”. Lex Lucent and MACK combine on a summer heater for ladies to pop their shit to. “Trappin’ out the Telfar,” Lucent whispers before diving into a hot verse. MACK’s smooth delivery brings the flavor in the second half of the track to add an unmatched swagger only these two could give off.

  1. Fishskale Rabble “Return of the Fish”

If there’s one thing about VA, it’s that it’s got a raw and grimy side. Virginia Beach native Fishskale Rabble is one who brings it to life as he raps about cocaine endeavors and stripper parties. His bounceful deliveries over heavy, gritty trap beats bring forth thoughts of Griselda-type bars and feels like an innovation on some of the early high-proflie street music to come from the Commonwealth. “Return of the Fish” is his latest drop, and comes with all the action-packed goodies you’re looking for.

  1. Breeze434 – “Can’t Lie”

Following up his exclusive “Mafia Way” video drop on the Chiefers YouTube. Breeze434 is back and better than ever on his latest release “Can’t Lie”. Produced by Ek!, this new record is riddled with heavy hitting bass and infectious rhymes. The Danville, Virginia native rattles off bars about getting colored money for his mom and granny, providing vivid descriptions of his transactions and maneuvers on his way to the top.

  1. Young Crazy “Road Trips to Richmond”

It’s borderline impossible to discuss the VA music scene and not have Young Crazy’s name pop up in the conversation. Crazy is one of the most consistent artists to come out of the 757 region, and the Norfolk native has yet to disappoint. His latest drop Interstate 110 comes filled to the brim with enticing trap beats seasoned up with Crazo’s signature flow and cadences. It’s full of A1 records, “Road Trips to Richmond” being a personal standout for me.

  1. Yung Lens “Erked Up (Don Talk)”

“Erk Money! Erk Money!” might just be the new chant of the summer. Portsmouth native Yung Lens aka Erk Money Lens is a strong contender for the next frontrunner of his city and his latest tape ErkMoneyLens Vol. 1 only seeks to prove that further. Grimy bars over some knocking trap drums keep the energy on course through the entirety of the project, and it might just hit its hardest on “Erked Up (Don Talk)”. Don’t sleep on this one!

  1. 448 Rasta “JaMRocK”

The world might now know it yet, but the “Upwest” block of Portsmouth, Virginia is a haven for some of the hottest street music in America. Reminiscent of the earliest days of A$AP Mob, the crew moves in all facets – from fashion, to production, to punch-you-in-the-face trap bangers. One of the ringleaders of this movement is none other than 448 Rasta. Having collaborated with the Mob himself, as well as being featured on Key!’s latest collab project with Tony Seltzer, Rasta has been making a name for not only himself but his whole block. His most recent drop Breakdown Bully has lit the gutters ablaze this summer, and it seems like the party is only getting started. Check out “JaMRock” off the tape and get yourself acquainted.

  1. Saekyi “Apt 706”

Woodbridge native Saekyi has really put himself in an impeccable situation by partnering high quality output with strategic deliveries. He recently capped off quite a run of singles, including the experimental hip-hop smash “JUNIE” which recently hit 300k+ plays on Spotify, with a flavorful EP – Sunset Demos. “Apt 706” is a soulful and vibrant record that perfectly exhibits Saekyi’s ability to put together a hit track. An irresistible Eric Penn lends his voice to help bring the whole thing to life, and it’s safe to say you’ll be spinning the rest of the project after this.

  1. Smyth Knight “Stray Catz”

If you follow the Virginia artistic scene, it’s impossible to miss out on what Smyth Knight and his camp have been up to. From curating impressive events, to producing exotic videos, and of course making smash tracks – it seems like the guys over at “Kids at Play” might just have a movement on their hands. Knight is a ringleader of sorts, and it’s easy to see why when you take a dive into his music. “Stray Catz” is a standout, featuring clever rhymes over some traditional, yet innovative hip-hop production.

  1. EBE Kastro “The One”

Kastro is an artist newer to my radar, but who has been making countless hits over the years with a high level of consistency. The Newport News native let go an album recently titled Something For Everybody, and its 7 tracks of repeatability. Kastro’s voice is one to remember, as he croons over an eclectic selection of trap beats about the lifestyle that comes with his motivations. “The One” is easily one of the hottest tracks on the tape, landing somewhere between a radio hit and a street anthem.

  1. Boris the Lucid “JOYRIDE”

Boris the Lucid is yet another Newport News resident to make this list, and easily one of my favorites. Boris never fails to take you on a trip when he blesses the world with a track, and his latest “JOYRIDE” is absolutely stunning. His crisp & soulful voice soars over some gloomy and somber keys before heavy-hitting drums come thru to knock your hair back. The first release since his well-received project Forever Dream, this one is setting the stage for one hell of a run from Boris.

  1. Khi Infinite “EASE”

“I can never get enough”, is a fitting line when it comes to the music of Khi Infinite. Khi has been on a crazy streak of successful single releases, and this newest one, “EASE”, may just be the most thrilling yet. Sonically sounding like a more soulful and intimate version of Travis Scott, this newest drop shows a new & refreshing side to the Virginia native. With drops like this, it’s more than easy to get excited for what’s to come next from Khi Infinite.

  1. Treez Lowkey “Night Time 223”

It’s safe to say that Newport News native Treez Lowkey has seen his share of the limelight, having arguably been responsible for influencing what would go on to be one of the most prevalent niches of rap & popular music. That’s just the start of it though, and it feels like Treez is gearing up for something bigger and better than ever. Peep “Night Time 223” for some bass-knocking drops with Lowkey’s signature up-tempo & high pitched cadence.

  1. Austin Skinner “Undefeated”

Austin Skinner has been on a hot streak lately, and the Northern Virginia native is not letting up any time soon. Since signing with BIGBABYGUCCI’S Better Temperatures, his level of output has only soared. “Undefeated” is a favorite from his recent self-titled project. Skinner has a signature melodic but heavy-hitting sound that’s out on full display for this record.

  1. Bankroll “High Knee”

Virginia isn’t all sand and beaches, there’s more than a share of reasons artists in the Commonwealth lend themselves to making music filled with violence. Emporia’s Bankroll, who recently tragically passed due to a deadly shooting, was one of the frontrunners of this heavier side of Virginia’s sound. His posthumous release SEAL (Deluxe) is riddled with emphatic deliveries over lip-curling trap beats. “High Knee” is a favorite, but the whole project deserves a thorough playthrough.

  1. TRAPKIDBOOWOP “AiNT SHT FREE”

TRAPKIDBOOWOP has been making the streets screech lately with a slew of hot releases. He attracted the particular attention of Ian Connor earlier this year and has been on a steady upward trajectory since. “AiNT SHT FREE” is an undeniable track full of energy, despite Wop’s deliveries being almost a whisper. The way the man blends his light and raspy flow over electric and heavy hitting production provides for a must-listen cut off his latest EP, Pop My $HT.

  1. Jabril “Problem”

Portsmouth’s Jabril has a sound that’s as raw as it is enthralling. Over intensely-paced production the young star finds a way to effortlessly glide from rhyme to rhyme. His delivery flashes back and forth from melodic cadences, to heavy-hitting trap bars. “Problem” is his latest release and a particular favorite of mine. Majiins provides the beat to leave us with one hell of a summer heater.

  1. Al-Doms “Rat Race”

Al-Doms is a one-of-a-kind gem. The Norfolk turned New York native took over the airwaves these past few months on the lead up to his recent full length drop New Dream. A lyrical wizard and production picking animal, Doms has his sound so dialed in it’s hard not to hold him in the same light as some of the most renowned names in his demo. The Dreamville’s and TDE’s of the world might just have some steady underground competition if Al-Doms keeps maneuvering like this. Listen to “Rat Race” and the rest of New Dream double-stat!

  1. Madeup (Halfcab Jalf & Will Amadeus) “Cloud 75”

Cool flows and fiery bounce define the sounds of Madeup, a duo consisting of Halfcalb Jalf and Will Amadeus. Reminiscent of the swagger raps of groups like WDNG Crshrs, the two Newport News natives exchange braggadocio bars and raspy melodies from front to back on their collaborative project Enough Is Enough. Do yourself a favor and tap in for some easy listening, head-nodding vibes on one of my personal favorites, “Cloud 75”.

  1. Ryan Celsius Sounds, FULLMETALPARKA$ & Youngshann “Heartmade Metal”

If you wanna talk about a vibe, lets talk about “heartmade metal”, a standout track from Equivalent Exchange – a recent collaborative project from FULMETALPARKA$ & Ryan Celsius Sounds. This track features the kindred voice of one Youngshann, a sure to be star from Atlanta by way of Virginia. Her smooth and melodic delivery skates over the top of some bouncy hi-hats, with PARKA$ delivery adding a much needed dimension to the flavor of the record.

  1. BKA Trip “Bald”

BKA Trip is back to the Chiefers’ pages again with his latest punchline filled drop, “Bald”. Following up his recent Chiefers’ exclusive “Treason” featuring BIGBABYGUCCI, Trip manages to hit a high note yet again. Crunching bass and a Detroit like tempo get peppered with rhymes like, “Came in with a bitch so bad that you have never seen, if I’m in that hoe you know I’m bald I think I’m Mr. Clean”. If that doesn’t entice you to hit play then I’m really not sure what to tell you!!

  1. Soundboy Kwad “Steppin”

VA native Kwad has been picking up steam leading up to the release of his anticipated project Uzis & Butterflies, and this newest track “Steppin” is setting us off to a hell of a start. With a Virginia flavor of that slime sound, Kwad manages to put together a track that is sliding from the moment you press play. Somewhere between a melodic groove and a punching rap flow, his delivery finds new ways to impress as he switches it up throughout the record. Do yourself a favor and get hip now, and prepare for the hype that is sure to be Uzis & Butterflies.

  1. WHYNOTDuce and WHYNOTHauch “Monkey in the Middle”

WHYNOT or Wyclef? Waverly, VA’s WHYNOTDuce has a sound unique to anything I’ve ever put my ears on before. Somewhere between the Atlanta-esque slatt sounds from artists like Young Thug and Gunna but with a colorful and soulful R&B flavor, Duce has found a way to captivate listeners of more than one demographic. Since recently signing to Pusha T, the hype train is set for his debut project Every Emotion. Until then, he’s partnered with his WHYNOT counterpart Hauch to drop off a 3-pack titled WHYNOTcarePACKAGE, with “Flight Itinerary” being a must listen cut.

  1. CMRNPRKR “Sweet Escape”

Suffolk, Virginia native and BreezePark frontman CMRNPRKR (Cameron Parker) has never stopped seeking greatness, and if you tune into his recent solo release “Sweet Escape” you’ll see that there is no stop in sight. “You’re not alone, not on your own. I hope I’m speaking for you through this microphone”, he says over a soothing & melancholy beat. Cam makes music for music lovers and vibe seekers everywhere, so make sure you throw this one on at your next kickback and soak in some knowledge from a one-of-a-kind lyricist.

  1. Babyxsosa “RUNNING”

If there’s one VA artist that I feel like I’m constantly on their pages hitting refresh for new music, it’s gotta be Richmond’s Babyxsosa. Her smash hit “Everywhere I Go” got audiences familiar with her exotic voice and effortless runs as she rapped about kicking off her career, making moves. Now she’s back with one hell of a drop in “RUNNING”, tapping into vibes that give off an aura of Erykah Badu as she lends herself to a more intimate side. I can’t wait to keep running this one back for the rest of 2021.

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