15 Hip-Hop & R&B Artists to Watch in 2021

After showcasing our fierce 15 last year, Billboard runs the table back and presents this year’s Hip-Hop/R&B Artists to watch Class of 2021.

Last year, Billboard watched a bevy of rookies take a leap forward and graduate into stardom.
Rod Wave, Jack Harlow, and Don Toliver’s chart dominance helped solidify their standing in the hip-hop game while R&B singer Kaash Paige exuded promise on her sizzling debut. Along with standout campaigns in 2020, the hip-hop community mourned the losses of Brooklyn’s Pop Smoke and Chicago’s King Von, as both stars were victims of gun violence. With 2021 currently in session, a new breed of neophytes looks to cause a stir. After showcasing our fierce 15 last year, Billboard runs the table back and presents this year’s Hip-Hop/R&B Artists to watch Class of 2021. Check out our list below.

In 2020, Blxst rocketed to success when fans unwrapped his eight-track project No Love Lost. The Cali polymath doesn’t shy away from messy topics, working through heartbreak and relationship woes with elastic ease. Fortunately, Blxst doesn’t allow his losses to define him, as he proves to be a slithery Casanova on “Wrong or Right,” “Overrated” and “Be Alone.” His skill for hitmaking shines on the project’s deluxe edition, as he recruits West Coast all-stars Dom Kennedy (“Got It All”) and Ty Dolla $ign and Tyga (“Chosen”) for his daily escapades. — CARL LAMARRE

Lil Baby’s My Turn was one of the biggest hip-hop releases of 2020, and featured 42 Dugg, the Detroit rapper with a sprightly flow and knack for riding beats, on a pair of tracks; one of those, “We Paid,” became a top 10 hit on the Hot 100 and served as a mainstream breakthrough. After his mixtape Young & Turnt 2 demonstrated his leading-man appeal last year, 42 Dugg is looking ahead to a new project that will be jointly released through Yo Gotti’s CMG and Lil Baby’s 4PF. — JASON LIPSHUTZ
Raiche is another gifted member of the aptly titled Island Prolific roster, co-founded by songwriter-producer Prince Charlez (Rihanna, Beyoncé, Usher). Gaining favorable notice in 2018 for her smoky, robust vocals on “Money Pies,” Raiche upped the soulful quotient in 2019 with “Complicated,” followed by her EP Drive, issued via GDE/Island Prolific/Atlantic. The title track was featured in Netflix’s Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker. Raiche’s hard work and promise are paying off: The singer-songwriter currently ranks at No. 8 on the Adult R&B airplay chart with relationship slow-burner “Pick a Side,” from her upcoming debut album. — GAIL MITCHELL
With the drill scene still commanding New York’s attention, Staten Island’s prized gem CJ barreled his way into the hip-hop mainstream with his explosive hit “Whoopty.” Moving into the top 20 on the Hot 100 this week, CJ’s single not only earned him a partnership with Warner Records earlier this month, but a fistful of co-signs from previous New York greats Cardi B, 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes, and more. With a forthcoming EP executive produced by French Montana en route, expect CJ to bring a healthy balance of drill and melody. — C.L.

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