Liz Foster ’22
I’m not a Pitchfork columnist, but I’d like to say I’ve got a knack for picking out a future megastar every now and then. Before Halsey and the Chainsmokers teamed up for their multi-platinum hit “Closer,” I was second row at Boston Calling cheering on a blue-haired girl dressed in American Apparel. Dua Lipa had just over thirty thousand Twitter followers when I clicked her profile, now her Instagram boasts over 22 million. XXXTentacion’s rise to fame was a surprise when his early music was an unpalatable, angry (arguably relieving) rejection of the mainstream sound. I’ve succeeded a few times in latching onto inevitable big names, so I’m going to try my darndest to identify the icons of 2019.
Number One: Ski Mask the Slump God
Ski Mask the Slump God, a best friend of the deceased XXXTentacion and a piece of the now iconic South Florida “Members Only” crew, saw a propulsion closer to the mainstream throughout 2018. His Beware the Book of Eli mixtape was a mixed-review, slightly underwhelming attack at the Billboard chart, peaking at the 50th spot on the Hot 100. His most recent full length record Stokely earned a 8/10 from the British publication NME and climbed to the sixth spot on the Billboard charts, showcasing his tenacity as a legitimate rapper. Hit singles like “Catch Me Outside,” “BabyWipe,” and the explosive X-featuring “Take A Step Back” painted a picture of Ski Mask as an eclectic, fast-flowed newcomer with potential. With his recent ascent, the Slump God has the ability to propel himself among the greats. With clever word play, nostalgic samples, and a clear understanding of his craft, no rapper is more capable to cross from “Soundcloud Rapper” to big name like Mr. Stokely himself.
Number Two: Rico Nasty
Fresh out of the DMV, Rico Nasty has helped pave a path for the rock rap fusion entering mainstream: whether you knew it or not. Her fourth mixtape, Nasty, justified her right to ascend to the level of Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, earning shining reviews, but not breaking through to a general audience. Her confident, sharp-tongued flow punches at the listener demanding to be listened to.
She and Tay Keith seamlessly blended electric guitars in the snappy “In the Air,” featuring 2018 breakthrough, Drake-adjacent BlocBoy JB. Her appropriately titled “Rage” spits bad bitch energy over claps and heavy basses,
combining with punk influenced guitars to show her momentum onward from early, sugar sweet tracks like “Mad Rich.” If Nasty was Rico’s offer to 2018, I can only imagine what she has to give to 2019.
Number Three: King Princess
Indie-pop prodigy King Princess earned a nod from One Direction alumnus Harry Styles when he quoted her breakout single “1950” on Twitter. Soon enough, her debut EP Make My Bed was rated a 7.1 by Pitchfork, drawing comparisons to Lorde and praising her “transgressive” ability to showcase her proud lesbian identity through the record.
Her equally airy and haunting voice envelopes the reader in a warm hug, pulling at heartstrings while maintaining a steady tone. Her emotion draws from powerful vocals that caress and slap your cheek at the same time.
King Princess calls on her indie predecessors while employing production that will carry her sound towards timelessness. As she belts out “but four drinks I’m wasted” booming into the chorus of “Talia,” she begs to cross the threshold from newcomer to genre staple.
Number Four: Charlie XCX
Charli XCX balances the fine line between pop superstar and rising star. She’s been walking this same line since her 2015 album Sucker thrust her single “Boom Clap” into everyone’s headphones.
Her feature on Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” was the most memorable part of the track. Charli has undoubtedly penned at least one of your favorite pop star’s biggest hits. Yet, her albums have failed to earn the same commercial success. A few stray singles, her most recent “1999” featuring Troye Sivan, Lil’ Yachty assisted “After the AfterParty,” and her solo heart throbbing “Boys” accumulated nearly 200 million streams combined. So why does Charli still feel like an industry secret?
Perhaps she’s just ahead of her time. Her last full length, 2017’s Pop 2, was widely recognized as “the future of pop music.” Blending trap snares, spacey synths, and the essence of bubblegum pop, Charli XCX forged a record that should be guiding pop artists globally. As we get closer and closer to 2020, it’s time for a popstar with a vision, and no one is better suited than Charli XCX.