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Heat Check: Favorite Discoveries Of 2019

Kirby, Odunsi (The Engine) and Hope Tala
Courtney Loo & David Karp/Folarin Omolayole/Freddie Stisted
Courtesy of the artists
Kirby, Odunsi (The Engine) and Hope Tala

Damn, y'all. This year has been long. (I have no scientific proof, but I'm pretty sure it's been longer than most.) Naturally, in a time when almost everything feels like it's spiraling out of control, music is the constant mirror to the chaos — both personal and prolific — just as much as an escape to solace. But while huge releases from Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, Summer Walker, Lizzo and Tyler, The Creator took up much of the conversation on music nerd timelines, it was actually the promising one-off singles and baby bands that most excited me as the pages on the calendar changed.

Through this year's Heat Check updates, I've been able to track the little guys I love, connect with fans who feel the same way and, most importantly, foster real music discovery. From Santi's sanguine-shaded Afrofuturism, BEAM's synth-bridging dancehall and Van Buren's boisterous camaraderie to Kirby's doo-wop soul, Donavon's contemporary spin on Bell Biv DeVoe and Dua Saleh's completely disorienting appeal, once I heard them, I couldn't get these artists off my mind.

For the last Heat Check update of the year, here's a rundown of the budding stars I've discovered in 2019 and will be checking for heavy in the future. These artists are primed to make even more of an impact in the next year, so don't say we didn't warn you. See you in 2020!



Odunsi The Engine



Kaash Paige

Hope Tala

Dua Saleh



Poundside Pop

Lil Tjay

Mariah The Scientist

Van Buren

Baby Keem

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Sidney Madden is a reporter and editor for NPR Music. As someone who always gravitated towards the artforms of music, prose and dance to communicate, Madden entered the world of music journalism as a means to authentically marry her passions and platform marginalized voices who do the same.