A million plays on a single song on Spotify sounds like a huge deal. After all, that could mean a million people around the globe have heard an artist’s sound, been exposed to their style, and converted into full-fledged supporters.
Despite our dedication to even the most obscure indie artists, a million ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s now not only possible to hit seven-figure streaming numbers without any real commercial relevance in the mainstream, but thanks to the popularity playlists, it’s highly likely.
To be clear, earning a million plays on any platform is an important and remarkable threshold. In fact, if an artist is able to cross the million play marker, it usually signifies that they’ve resonated with an audience in some capacity (unless those plays are bought or the system gets otherwise gamed).
There’s no one way to predict who is going to break into the upper echelon commercial success next, but a proven track record is a great place to start. Each the ten promising artists below has hit more than a million plays on at least one song on Spotify, though none have so far reached the five million mark. Thanks to some combination great music and that indescribable “it factor,” we believe all ten are primed for a big breakthrough.
Rexx Life Raj
Rexx Life Raj has a sound that’s so modern, so fresh, and yet so timelessly groovy that you can almost feel his moment approaching. He fits neatly into the current scene as a rapper/singer with laid-back vibes, but there’s also plenty about Rexx that stands out. From a technical standpoint, the Berkeley, California native has skills that a lot his peers in the “chill” camp just can’t match. Just listen to a song like the double-time, heavy “Shit n’ Floss” and try to picture another artist who sounds like Rexx coming in as hard. At his best, though, Rexx Life Raj is a unique songwriter with a relatable tone and the ability to seamlessly blend his vocal arrangement into the sonic landscape behind him. Peep his biggest hit to date, “Handheld GPS,” and see how long it takes you to hit that replay button.
Hopefully, this isn’t news to anyone reading, but the Bay Area has been holding it down for hip-hop for a very long time. San Francisco’s Adam Vida, who formally rapped under the name A-1 and rose to underground prominence alongside the TeamBackPack movement, is currently one the nicest MC’s keeping that storied Bay lineage alive. Vida’s 2015 album Thurlian is an artistic triumph and an underground gem, but it’s his bouncy single “I’m Juiced”—which packs plenty Bay swagger over a beat from frequent collaborator Mr. Carmack that highlights Adams contagious originality—that has started to gain him national traction.
A rapping duo from Atlanta with a creative ear for catchy melodies and a great taste for unique beats? Yes, the OutKast comparisons are obvious, but Atlanta’s EarthGang brings so much to the table that people will soon be forced to recognize their talent on its own merit. With several albums already in the can, the duo, made up Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot, has built a loyal fanbase the old-fashioned way. Currently, the former DJBooth Top Prospects are on tour with Ab-Soul and have a major distribution deal to their name for the first time. Add to that their collaborative history with frequent collaborator and fellow Spillage Village member and budding star J.I.D—who just announced his signing to Dreamville—and it’s not difficult to foresee their flight plan taking shape.
Sometimes you find a song on the internet and you’re genuinely surprised isn’t already on the radio. KR’s “Complicated” has that kind magnetism, and it’s also a good representation the 21-year-old LA native’s potential. KR thrives on mystery, with all his social media handles being a play on “Who is KR?” but most rappers who are hard to find through a Google search usually aren’t getting linked to TDE or dropping radio-ready R&B crossover tracks. It’ll be interesting to see if KR can turn the intrigue into a career, but for now, the quality the music he’s releasing should be enough to ensure the California crooner keeps the buzz going.
A year ago, Buddy had so much buzz and such a promising sound that chart dominance seemed right around the corner. While he has yet to enjoy commercial success, the Compton-based rapper’s moment has far from passed. As a signee on Pharrell’s i am OTHER imprint, Buddy has the right tastemakers and industry figures in his corner. With fresh songwriting and heaps swagger, he’s also got the kind wide-ranging appeal that today’s stars are made . Hopefully, Buddy’s next project will find the five-year veteran hitting his artistic peak as a singing-rapping dual threat who can impress with a wicked 16 as easily as he can carry a catchy melody.
Pittsburgh’s Hardo has been around for a minute, but due mostly to jail time stemming from a drug conviction, his career momentum has waxed and waned. Today, though, he’s a free man and making music with more commercial appeal than any his older work. As a close friend Mac Miller, Hardo hasn’t ever had a hard time racking up co-signs. His two biggest songs to date on Spotify—“Today’s a Good Day” and “Who Ya Gang”—are assisted by Wiz Khalifa and 21 Savage, respectfully, showcasing his status as someone with a deep and varied Rolodex. If he can continue making good music that fits bridges the street lane and stoner crowd, something’s sure to hit. At this point, Hardo’s got the skills and the appeal for a big commercial career, and he’s very likely just a hit away from being a bona fide mainstream star.
Brent Faiyaz has the kind voice that sounds like it was built by a mad scientist following a recipe for “hot and trendy.” Part Weeknd, Part Miguel, with Anderson .Paak’s melodic sensibility and Frank Ocean’s rich harmonies? That’s Faiyaz, along with plenty parts that are all undeniably Brent’s own sound. At just 20-years-old, the Baltimore native has an incredibly refined take on new wave R&B, and has shined not only on his solo releases but on the tremendous work he’s done with his group Sonder and on GoldLink’s excellent new single, “Crew.”