North Carolina was well-represented at last night’s Grammy Awards.
Most notably for Charlotte, rapper DaBaby received two nominations. He didn’t win in either category, but Fayetteville native J. Cole claimed a Grammy for Best Rap Song for his role as co-writer and artist on 21 Savage’s “A lot.”
Want to listen to more local artists?
Here are my picks for the Charlotte artists I have on repeat right now. Of course, it’s impossible to include every talented musician in Charlotte, but here are 10 to start with (in no particular order).
The west Charlotte rapper has been a major player in the city’s hip-hip scene for the better part of a decade. In 2015, he was signed to North Carolina-based Dreamville Records, which was founded by J. Cole. Lute was prominently featured on the Grammy-nominated Revenge of the Dreamers III in tracks like “Under the Sun” and “Sleep Deprived.” Be sure to check out his 2017 studio album, West 1996, Pt. 2., which received praise from Pitchfork.
Song to listen to: “Morning Shift,” West 1996, Pt. 2.
Greg Cox and Emily Sage
These two artists are both great to listen to solo, but when they release a track together, it’s magical. Emily Sage is the ethereal singer behind CLT Loft Sessions, and Greg Cox has a deep library of polished albums that cover a wide range of genres and vibes. I could listen to these two on repeat for hours.
Song to listen to: “Find a Way (feat. Emily Sage).” This uplifting single is the pair’s newest. You should also revisit their first single, “The Other Side.”
After a year-long hiatus, Amigo is finally playing locally again. The Charlotte rock group is known for its rousing and downright fun shows. Try not to dance along.
Song to listen to: “Everybody,” And Friends.
Live: February 8 at Gettys Art Center in Rock Hill, South Carolina. $15. Details.
Elevator Jay’s raps stand out from other Charlotte rappers because of his prominent Southern twang. When he’s not producing slick tracks, he’s organizing dance parties at Snug Harbor or Player Made, an event that celebrates Southern hip-hop. That, or he’s fishing.
Song to listen to: “Drop,” For Y’all. Also don’t miss “Gon’ Be,” which he recorded with Charlotte rappers Deniro Farrer and Lute. I love a good collaboration.
Live: Tonight, January 27 at Snug Harbor. $5. Details.
Every song Bakalao Stars puts out makes me smile. It’s hard to describe the exact genre of the local group, but according to their Facebook page, it’s a mix of reggae, Latin ska, and punk rock. Bakalao Stars has been playing together since 2002.
Song to listen to: “Ola,” Azuka. (Even the album artwork makes me happy.)
Live: If you’re up for a road trip, the group is playing the 420 Reggae Fest in Raleigh on April 18. Details.
Gigi is a legendary musician in Charlotte. She’s been playing locally since the early 1990s. Her recent folk albums that she records with her partner, Eric Lovell, are quirky and theatrical. The group is planning to record a new album this year.
Song to listen to: “Flower On,” Travelin Thru.
In her recent video for “Happy… Right Now” featuring Charnel, ReeCee’s rap reminds me a lot of TLC’s Lisa Lopes (R.I.P) in “Waterfalls.” ReeCee (pictured at top) is a rising star in Charlotte’s hip-hop scene. Don’t miss her music videos, too.
Song to listen to: “Happy… Right Now,” The Diary of a Pothead.
I first heard of the alternative Latin band on WFAE’s Amplifier podcast in 2018. Since that episode, the quartet (made up of siblings Liza and Claudio Ortiz, Davey Blackburn, and Michael Anderson) released its first studio album, the energy-filled Chócala, in September.
Song to listen to: “Solo Quiero Bailar,” Chócala.
This “DIY” rock band has been one of my favorites for years. The group has released five full-length albums since forming in 2012, and all are worth a listen. Also notable: One of the group’s founders, Dylan Gilbert is releasing his 10th (!) solo album. His single, “Good News,” is out now.
Song to listen to: “Ellipsis,” Muck.
Live: February 15. Details.
This alternative rock group is consistently excellent from its debut album, Dead Nostalgia, in 2013 to Body Language in 2017. In 2019, they released the single “6 Weeks in India.” Here’s hoping for another new album soon.
Song to listen to: “That’s Why,” Body Language. (It’s a Charlotte rock classic.)
Live: They don’t have any dates in Charlotte coming up right now, but you can catch the group in Raleigh on February 8. Details.
(Featured photo is of ReeCee, taken by Andrea Orr.)