If you take a look at the music landscape in Milwaukee heading into 2020, there is definitely a lot to be excited about. One thing that I have always thought was cool about the art in Milwaukee is how different and diverse it is; it seems like people around here have always taken influence from anything and everything. This is the case more than ever today; so many Milwaukee musicians are making an effort to take risks and mash-up genres and make sounds that have not been made before, and I think this is such a cool thing. Being from Milwaukee, we do not tend to get a lot of publicity or help from the national media ever, so in order to get noticed as a Milwaukeean, you either have to leave the city or do something super eccentric and unusual, which may not garner the most positive attention anyway. Just like I am committed to staying in Milwaukee and building a music publication that supports the artists that are here around me, I really respect all of the artists who are keeping their base in Milwaukee; instead of leaving, we need to build something here for future generations to be able to expand on. From surf and alternative rock to drill music to melodic trap to old school hip hop to funk-pop to r&b, the music scene in Milwaukee really is so diverse! If I had to say there was any sort of a theme or trend for Milwaukee music, it would be that female hip hop artists are truly killing it here. There are many women in this city making interesting, unique, and bold hip hop music, and one would not be wrong if they said women are leading the charge for rap in Milwaukee. There is original music being made by awesome artists in this city for literally everyone, and we as a city need to recognize and appreciate these artists before they want to leave too. Here is a handful of rising stars in Milwaukee that I really feel like can continue to make a name for themselves in 2020. I really think these artists are about to make it big, and they very well could really put Milwaukee on the music map the way it deserves to be very soon. Let me know if you like any of these artists, or if there are any other artists from the area that you love as well!
The first time I received the chance to learn about and hear Lex Allen, it was at Summerfest. I am one of those people that will just go to SummerFest in the afternoon and check out all of the openers and smaller bands that are performing, and I happened to walk upon a Lex Allen show a few years ago. I remember absolutely loving this show, and I actually thought that Lex Allen would be the first 2010s artist to really pop off because I just thought he was so good. Lex Allen is an artist that totally breaks all genres and boundaries; Lex Allen is an eccentric and exciting gender-fluid artist that transcends music genres and styles the same way he transcends everything else in his life. His sound is a really fun combination of EDM, R&B, Hip Hop, and Pop to make exciting and positive music that will just make you want to dance and party. One track by Lex Allen that I would highly recommend is ‘Miami Nights,’ which features Savannah Cristina. This track is an electric funk jam that immediately makes me want to get on that dance floor. The melody has a bit of a Latin vibe that is super groovy and fun. If you are looking for some music to make you happy and feel good, you should definitely throw on some of Lex Allen’s music.
King Myles is a rapper that knows he has to be different and stand out to get noticed in this city. He has a sound, flow, and style that is totally unique to Milwaukee, and it is definitely getting him noticed. In my opinion, he sort of has a similar energy to Danny Brown; although he can be funny and introspective with his lyrics, it is pretty obvious that he has been through and seen a lot of shit. King Myles has a voice that sounds a lot like chill West Coast rappers, but a hard ass and in your face energy that Midwest rappers tend to have. This is a cool and interesting juxtaposition, because his music will make you want to smoke and talk things out with your homies as much as it will make you want rage and party. The types of instrumentals that King Myles tends to rap on have a distinct style; a lot of his tracks seem to have these hard ass, banging trap style beats with old school Madlib style melodies. King Myles has a super distinct sound and style that I am positive will get him noticed nationally very soon. If you want to get a good taste of and introduction to his music, check out his latest single ‘Grapevine.’ The beat is just low key enough to make you focus on his lyricism, and the chill nature and vibe of the melody make this track the perfect vibe for your next burn session with the homies.
The sound and overall vibe of Fuzzysurf is totally unlike anything you would expect in this city. Fuzzysurf makes sweet and chills surf pop-rock that sounds like it should be played Luau or surfer dude themed get together… Nothing about their aesthetic seems like it would come from the Frozen Tundra that we reside in up here in Milwaukee, but maybe this is a style that we need and should embrace. Fuzzysurf’s sound reminds me a lot of a modern version of the Beach Boys or The Turtles with a bit of a punk tint. If you have heard of and like the band Shag Rock, I would think that you would definitely be into Fuzzysurf. A song that I would highly recommend is ‘Denny,’ which is on their most recent record Fuzzy and the Surfs. ‘Denny’ is a bright and colorful surf rock song that would be perfect to play at a party down at Bradford Beach in the summer. It also has a bit of an indie feeling to it, reminding me a lot of some of the riffs that Vampire Weekend is known for. Overall, Fuzzysurf has a fun sound that is simple on the surface and gets more complex the more you listen to them. This is a group that I think has a really good chance to pop off in 2020 because they have so much character and just seem to have that “it” factor.
Auti Marie is one of the Milwaukee artists that I have written about the most this year, as she is one of the most unique and coolest rising artists in the city. She has a sound that is distinctively old school, reminding me a lot of Missy Elliot or Dipset rappers like Jim Jones and Cam’ron. Even though Auti embraces these old school flows, she can still rap over any kind of instrumental, as is evident from her output in 2019. One of my favorite things about Auti Marie is the confidence she has in herself and strong black women in general; not only does this confidence radiate through her social media, which I am sure inspires people to love themselves every day, but it also radiates through her music! Most of her music is about self-love and positivity and how she is the shit, and that is such a great thing. One song of hers I highly recommend is ‘Like Mike,’ from her EP Boss Bitch Magic, which was released back in July. This track has these happy-sounding ringing horns that remind me a lot of early 2000s R&B, and a 90s style beat that will just make you want to dance. Auti Marie has such a killer flow on this track, where she tells us all about how she can do shit on her own and does not need help from any man. Songs like this make me very excited about what she has in store for the future!
Mayyh3mm is a rising Milwaukee trap artist that sort of reminds me of the late and great Juice Wrld; most of his music has a melodic trap vibe that has a bit of an emo feel to it, and all of his lyrics are very introspective and honest and real. The thing that I probably appreciate the most is the serious nature of his music and the fact that Mayyh3mm knows who he is; as opposed to rappers that are trying to put on a character, you can tell that what you seem with Mayyh3mm is what you get, and that what he is saying is totally real. His newest track, which features King Myles, has this intense nature to it that reminds me of a combination of Comethazine and Joey Bada$$. I love this angry emotion that he displays on this song, as his passion makes me passionate as a listener. On this song, Mayyh3mm also experiments with bending genres a bit, as the track has a mini guitar solo break down that sounds like 80s hard rock and is totally unique from the sound of the rest of the track. Mayyh3mm is an artist that takes his craft seriously and is not afraid to push his own boundaries, and he is someone that I know will be making quite a bit of noise in 2020.
Out of all of the artists on this list, Kaylee Crossfire is the most recognizable one for music fans that are not from Milwaukee. This is because she was featured on the Netflix Hip Hop competition show called Rhythm + Flow, which was billed as a sort of Making of the Band or American Idol for Hip Hop. Kaylee did not end up winning the show, but she did make it past the first round and definitely made a name for herself in the process. I remember when she was voted off the show quite a few fans were upset, as they had come to really dig Kaylee’s intense and in your face sort of delivery. I really hope that the hype surrounding Kaylee Crossfire does not fade away and die out because I do think she is a really cool and unique rapper that needs to be known by the world. She has this level of confidence that is palpable and a charisma that is hard and serious but also charming. Her latest single, ‘Baptized,’ is a perfect example of her sound; over a melodic trap beat that sound like something Lil Yachty or the City Girls would rap on, Kaylee delivers that intense rapid-fire flow that she is known for and will draw anyone in because it is so uniquely her. If you want to hear music from a badass Milwaukee woman who knows no one can fuck with her, make sure you start listening to Kaylee Crossfire because you will not regret it.
Reyna is probably the other artist on this list with the most amount of national hype at this time; Reyna has been working hard for a long time now, and it is cool to see them finally starting to get their due credit. From being featured in publications like V Magazine and Billboard to having their music included in some great end of the year playlists from Spotify and TIDAL, it really seems like the hard work that the sisters have been putting in has paid off. Reyna has an alternative and indie sound that is just as modern as it is retro. There are elements of their music that reminds me a lot of 80s New Wave groups like INXS or Duran Duran, and there are also elements that sound a lot like 2010s indie-pop artists like Tegan and Sara or Mother Mother. Reyna also never strays very far from their Mexican-American Chicana roots; a lot of the scenery and fashion in their music videos is definitely influenced by Mexico, and some of their riffs have a Chicano rock element to them. Their latest song ‘Clueless’ is the first single off of their new EP that is coming out in the spring of 2020. This song has a pop vibe that sort of reminds me of Carly Rae Jepsen or Tove Lo, but still has one of those 2010s style indie rock riffs that they are known for. ‘Clueless’ is just another example of how awesome Reyna is, and I can not wait to hear their new EP!
In a city where artists really have to pave their own lane and make super unique and original art to get noticed, Zed Kenzo is the cream of the crop. She has been making major waves in the underground rap game all 2019, making hard-ass metal-infused trap music that has not been heard in this city before at all. Zed Kenzo originally started to gain hype after her single ‘Type’ went viral in the underground; this track has a similar energy to Rico Nasty’s ‘Rage,’ with the instrumental and Zed Kenzo bringing super badass energy that is so infectious and awesome. ‘Type’ also has a bit of an industrial or punk vibe; this seems to be a theme in her music, with even her melodic trap joints having a bit of dark and sinister feeling to them. This does not seem like a girl that anyone would want to mess with. Another track of Zed Kenzo’s that I would highly recommend is her newest single ‘Spooky Hot Girl.’ This song has a major old school Horrorcore trap vibe that reminds me of early 2000s Memphis rap; I could totally see this being an instrumental for a Satanic Three 6 Mafia song back in the day. I can not wait to see what Zed Kenzo has in store for us in 2020, because this is a truly special artist that I really think is going to make it big soon.