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INsiders Guide: BEAM, YAQI, Pyano ||, Star2, Sophia, The Guidance, Laurence DaNova, vaultboy….

Ready for victory in the new year, GRAMMY® Award-winning rapper, singer, songwriter, and producer BEAM kicks off 2022 with a brand new single and music video entitled “WIN.” The song can be streamed HERE via BE I AM/Epic Records. Watch the official music video for “WIN” HERE.

Balancing airy production and braggadocious verses, the track rides a head-nodding and hypnotic beat towards an instantly chantable chorus, pleading “I just want to win.” Flexing with focus and fire, he leans into the 808s with a punchy flow as he admits, “Can’t remember the last time I took a day off. The accompanying visual, directed by madebyjames [Pyer Moss, Big Sean, BLXST], reflects the relentless energy of his hustle. Brandishing a Jamaican flag, he turns up outside surrounded by friends before hanging off various vehicles traveling at high speeds.

WIN” notably paves the way for his upcoming full-length debut album, set to be released imminently.

At the end of 2021, BEAM first teased the album with “ANXIETY,” a highly personal song which Highsnobiety describes as a “dark trap universe” with “lazor-sharp bars [that] kick down the door into his world riddled with street set ups and anxiety.” Watch the official music video for “ANXIETY” HERE. Kicking off the new year, last week he joined forces with Headspace to give a group of fans access to various tools to help with their own mental health journies via a one-year subscription to the platform, for free.  Read more about the collaboration HERE via BEAM’s Instagram.

Additionally, BEAM has received several 2022 GRAMMY® Award nominations for contributions to various projects. Among the accolades, via new standards set by the Recording AcademyBEAM is nominated two times in the category of ‘Album of the Year.’ The nominations are for his contributions to Justin Bieber’s Justice—where BEAM is featured on the song “Love You Different” and co-wrote “There She Go” featuring Lil Uzi Vert—and Kanye West’s DONDA—where he co-wrote “Pure Souls” and “OK Ok pt 2.” He is also featured on the Major Lazer album Music Is the Weapon, which received a nomination in the category of Best Dance/Electronic Album. Alongside Shenseea and Buju Banton this year (both on DONDA), BEAM is among the first Jamaican artists to be nominated for the biggest award of the ceremony—and he did it twice!

He previously released an EP, 95, to critical acclaim in late 2019. the genre-bending project served as a stellar introduction for the artist. Amid of wave of critical acclaim, he gave a must-see performance of the song “2×2” on COLORS, while both Pigeons & Planes and British GQ named him a 2020 Artist to Watch. In addition, he received praise and attention via everybody from Highsnobiety and The FADER to HYPEBEASTBritish VogueClashLA Weekly, and more. NPR named BEAM one of their favorite Heat Check discoveries of 2019 while putting 95 of their staff picks for best albums of 2019, and he concluded the 95 era with an otherworldly NPR Tiny Desk (Home) Concert. Outside of his two ‘Album of the Year” GRAMMY nominations, BEAM has become a highly in-demand collaborator. Over the past several years, he has worked with names like Migos21 SavageInternet Money (ft. Lil Uzi Vert, Don Toliver, Gunna), Skrillex, Pop Smoke, Pusha T, Maroon 5, MIA and more, while Rihanna used music composed by BEAM as the official theme to her 2020 Savage x Fenty show.

Watch this space for more from BEAM, coming soon.

vaultboy unveils his impressive debut EP featuring two new tracks ‘i think i wanna text u’ and ‘feel anything’. 

Listen to the EP HERE

Watch the visualiser for ‘i think i wanna text u’ HERE

& Watch the visualiser for feel anything HERE

The five track body of work is a showcase of irresistibly catchy alt-pop that is born to be kept on repeat. See below for the track list;

  1. everything sucks

  2. aftermath

  3. rocket science

  4. feel anything

  5. i think i wanna text u

Title track ‘i think i wanna text u’ is a reflective and tender response to missing someone. Navigating matters of the heart with his masterful songwriting and assured vocals, vaultboy explained further: I was alone in my room one night and missing this girl I don’t really talk to anymore. I wanted to text her, but instead of actually doing it, I put the feeling into this song. I think most of us, if not all, have someone who we miss and would love to reach out to (whether it’s a good idea or not). I hope that those people can relate to this song, and feel a little bit less alone. 

 Channeling life’s ups and downs into his music, vaultboy has quickly grown a reputation for making music that resonates with the masses. The second new track on the EP ‘feel anything’ touches on the feelings of life on hold, something the majority of the world got a taste of thanks to the pandemic. Digging deeper, vaultboy shares: The pandemic has kept a lot of us at home, but one thing I realized during quarantine: I felt the same type of cabin fever you get from staying inside for too long, but for being stuck in your hometown. I think a lot of people who’ve lived in one place for a long time have a tendency to feel trapped, and that’s where this song comes from. The feeling of desperation and dissatisfaction with the life you have, and wanting to feel more, bigger, and deeper! 

Since launching earlier this year, vaultboy has been building a name for himself by making irresistible music that is catchy to its core. After embarking on a TikTok challenge of writing a song a day, it didn’t take long before the viral hit ‘everything sucks arrived. A track that instantly resonated with listeners, it took TikTok by storm and today sits at 60 million streams on Spotify and has been used in over half a million TikTok videos.

Laurence DaNova grew up in Ottawa, Ontario, and developed a passion for singing and the arts at a young age. Exposed to a wide variety of musical genres, he began performing at school and local events. He sang with a band throughout his teens, experimenting with songwriting and producing. In 2018 he released a self-produced 5-track EP, Nine Hundred, with his former band Vista Del Mar.

In 2019, he began working with producers to craft his unique sound—experimental pop, neo-soul and alternative rock— on top of his diverse influences, including Björk, D’Angelo, Nas, Sade, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Mariah Carey, and Terrence Trent D’Arby.

It was travelling — especially living in Southeast Asia — that most inspired his music. Laurence’s goal is to make music with an international sound that captures the essence of people and places, through emotive vocals and lyrics that convey struggle and triumph.

He released his first two solo singles, “Burnout” and “Scapegoat” in late 2019. The music videos for “Burnout” and “Scapegoat” were shot in Vietnam and Costa Rica, and show the stories of his songs in natural settings.

Born and raised in Chicago and transplanted to Los Angeles in 2014, The Guidance’s musical project was created in 2015 as a means of healing from the loss of his brother, a mechanism to cope with his own congenital heart disease and the looming presence of soon approaching transition from this planet. The Guidance, A.K.A Stefan Pruett had only waves to create, making a mark with his impactful artistic nature, while simultaneously reminding us how precious life truly is.

The Guidance had a deep talent and passion for music seeing his work bring a wide range of electronic genres and decades into a mashup of raw analogue synths, playful storytelling and rich melodic dance music. Having signed an album deal with Las Vegas indie record company Handwritten Records in 2020, Pruett and his producer Jeremy Dawson worked tirelessly on the creation of the new album This Is Now. Tragically, just a few months after completion of the album, Pruett suddenly passed away. As a means to honor his life and all the work spent on the creation of this stunning album, together Dawson, Pruett’s family and Handwritten Records decided to continue with the release. This Is Now, is the first and last album from The Guidance. 

The ten-track release is a collection of musical snapshots and stories of Pruett’s mind and life as he navigated through the underworld of Los Angeles. Exploring emotional and physical handicaps, as well as the challenges of love and human relationships, the album is a poignant and thought-provoking release. A true insight into the mind of the artist, Pruett looks at the ever-changing political climate and the pressure of global events in some of the darker shades; such as “Broken Man” and “Silent Witness Guardian Angel.”

“Building A Desert” refers to Los Angeles before it was occupied/colonized by its present overabundance of extreme indulgence and plasticity. Pruett wrote the song to himself when he arrived in Los Angeles from his hometown of Phoenix. The song reflects the frustration of finding out Los Angeles isn’t really the oasis in the desert that it seems to be from a distance.  

“I Didn’t Mean That” was one of Pruett’s favorite songs he had ever written. With an affecting intro featuring haunting lyrics such as “God is coming to me,” the song touches on a narrative of regret and fear. Pruett explained the song as, “a perpetual apology that I owe anyone in my life that I wronged. This includes my brother, and more of the most important people in my life.” 

In just his short time on earth, The Guidance has made a considerable impression on those who had the privilege to meet him. Having toured internationally with Crystal Castles and with streaming numbers in the hundreds of thousands, his music touched the hearts of listeners across the globe and continues to do so. 

Sophia is a singer, writer, performer and producer based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Delicately dancing between infectious pop, spellbinding R&B and silky neo-soul, Sophia’s music is a hypnotic blend of her love for the 00’s, along with smooth R&B vocals inspired by the likes of Victoria Monet, Snoh Aalegra and Jazmine Sullivan, as well as her darker, melancholic, James Blake-esque style, taken from her classical piano background. Having studied at the prestigious Rotterdam Conservatory of Music, her sound reaps a musical maturity and sophistication, while her honest themes touch on relatable, everyday life experiences. Sophia explains, “I want to talk about real life experiences. Not just about love and breakups. I am not afraid to be honest. My music reflects that feeling. I play and sing directly from the heart.” Breaking barriers and doing the unexpected, Sophia’s music exudes a subtle suspense and tension, allowing for surprises around each and every corner. Her upcoming album, Fragile, is a nine-track release revealing some of Sophia’s most vulnerable moments. Produced by Mick Langenberg, Jaimy Wilken and Martijn Ruytinx, Sophia reveals, “The album is called fragile, because I am. The songs are fragile too. I’ve never been this honest in my entire life and it scares me to share everything with the world. But I have found (during this process) that there is strength in being fragile and vulnerable. It takes courage to be fragile.” Every song on the album is based on a true event from her life over the last two years. From losing her absent father and falling in love for the first time, to getting her heart broken and saying goodbye to the bad people in your life and celebrating the ones that stayed. Covering an array of emotions, the album is the result of having a very turbulent year. Sophia shares, “When the first lockdown came I finally had the chance to deal with everything that had happened. Instead of going to therapy, I went to a writers camp with my best friends and colleagues and wrote this album.” 

Her song “Questions” is an example of her desire to create raw and authentic music. It’s a song about losing a parent and being left with questions you’ll never get to ask anymore. In this social media era, it’s hard to tell how people really feel. It can make you feel lonely or strange for not being ok. The songwriter confides, “I want my music to be a safe place for you to feel seen and heard. As a queer female in this industry, I hope to be that example for others.

 Hoping to inspire others to be fragile, vulnerable and honest, Sophia wants listeners to know their feelings are valid; we don’t have to be strong all the time, we’re allowed to cry, we’re allowed to not be okay. She continues, “It only makes you brave for admitting that and so much stronger for surviving. And also, I hope to inspire others to never take shit from anyone. Ever.”

Star2 is an Asian-American singer, songwriter and rapper who seamlessly blends pop, R&B and hip-hop for an enthralling immersion of sound. Raised in inauspicious circumstances, Star2 takes influence from overcoming his life struggles, creating music that is bold, high-spirited and soulful. 

 Star2 is a true survivor. Born into a refugee camp in Thailand, his family walked over 500 miles through the jungle to escape Burmese soldiers when they attacked and burned down their village. As Karen’s (Kuh-ren), a minority group that the Myanmar government has tried to destroy, Star2 (and his family) has faced immense adversity and racial opposition for generations. With no father or mother by his side, his grandmother was chosen in a lottery to be able to migrate to the United States and at the age of six years old, took him to San Diego where he began his new life. Unfortunately it wasn’t an easy one, as a young kid living in the inner city, his family struggled financially and he lived with an uncle who was addicted to drugs.  Adapting to living in a new world filled with cars, electricity and paved roads, he was overwhelmed and overstimulated. Star2 found solace, however, turning to music as a teen, learning to rap, sing, write and perform. With a diverse set of influences including Justin Bieber, Tyga, Chris Brown, and more, he developed his own musical style complete with winning hooks, rich harmonies, and distinctly progressive R&B soundscapes.  

 Since 2020, the prolific songwriter has released a series of singles and has captivated audiences with his genre-bending music that rings true and respected. His last unveiling is a collaboration with the credited rapper Luh Kel. Titled “I Wanna Get F’d Up” the song is about heartbreak, abandonment, and disillusionment. Star2 paints the scene of painful relationship dynamics that is highly relatable. “I Wanna Get F’d Up” is a raw and authentic narrative of lost love. “I wanted to write a song with the backstory of the best relationship of your life that blows up out of nowhere leaving you wondering what happened- leaving you in pain and wanting to self-medicate. It was a dream come true to do a song with Luh Kel, my dude. Our song is the diary of a toxic relationship with a toxic shawty you loved heart and soul who cheated. Even though it’s hard because you really love that one person – there is at least one time for everyone when after a breakup you just want to be gone – gone from the universe.” The single is an emotional exorcism complete with an infectious French horn melody, somber lyrics, and soul-infused vocals over a prominent hip hop beat. His talent is undeniable.

“Real Life” is Star2’s  hit with Jacksonville, Florida’s Lil Poppa.  A child of a refugee camp, Star2 and Lil Poppa bond through their experiences growing up in inner city poverty – Lil Poppa in Florida and Star2 in San Diego, California, they both sing “I live in a place where you hear sirens all the time” throughout the song.  The urban rhythmic elements of the song are presented in an overlay of classical piano and a rush of strings that bring sorrow, angst, and despair.  The haunting ballad is accomplished by an A-flat major chord progression with a B-major melody across it along with rich layers from drums, bass, and a trap drum beat.  The despair is highlighted by distorted 808’s and trap drums – creating the feeling of desperation and deprivation along the backdrop of violence in the refugee camp as well as the urban hood. Star2’s lyrics tell us “I grew up in the jungle” and “if it weren’t for the music, I wouldn’t be here today.”  He also remembers that to help support his grandma, who brought him from the refugee camp, “gotta hustle on the block…I was just too young, I was just a kid.”

In his latest single, “December,” the song is a romantic song about new love – how uncertain it is, and what it’s like to miss that special someone when they’re away from you. The song has a reggae-like feel to it. “I’m a big Bob Marley fan” says Star2. The musical arrangement is sparse, yet very effective at providing the emotional landscape for the song. Drums, bass, a steel drum/music box sounding synth, piano and strings round it out. “We wanted something almost like a reggae lullaby.  The main melody would be something like what you’d hear coming from a music box on your dresser – except with steel drums, and accompanied by an orchestra!”  Star2’s voice retains its trademark urban heart over the pulse of the reggae-flavored beat.  His voice pleads and pleas – his yearning for his girl is palpable and very familiar to anyone in love.

Canadian rapper Pyano || (Eleven) kicks off the New Year with a provocative new single ‘Way I See It’ out now on all digital streaming platforms. Watch video here‘Way I See It’ is the latest single from Pyano’s debut EP set for release later this year. Driven by a vibrant and energetic groove, ‘Way I See It’ is all about Pyano’s journey of finding his sound as an artist. “I’m always somewhere between the motivational, hardcore rap that I grew up on versus the more melodic stuff that I listen to today,” says Pyano. “On this track, specifically, I find a good balance between the two which as a result enables me to celebrate the milestones of success in my life in spite of this whole pandemic thing. Despite the challenges and obstacles over the last couple years, I’m exactly where I planned to be, and further, which is why this track is a good representation of all the lessons I learned through all that.”Born in Amman, Jordan but currently living in Ottawa, Canada, Pyano has mastered the art of bringing charged vibes on records, ranging from lyrically conscious to catchy melodic anthems. His music transcends borders between hip hop subgenres using witty yet motivational lyrics and a bouncy cadence to give us his smooth signature style over an infectious piano laced beat. Pyano released 3 singles in 2021, ‘Closed Off’ ‘Pineapple Juice’ and ‘From the Beginning’, his biggest single so far, and continues to make his introduction to the rap game known with his latest single, ‘Way I See It’ while teasing his first EP which will be out in 2022. 

‘Way I See It’ is available now on Spotify, Apple Music/iTunes, and other digital retailers and streaming services worldwide. 

With feisty, honest lyrics and an unrestrained vocal sensibility, set against edgy electro pop, YAQI is a rare gem among international artists. Launching onto the pop scene in China with 2016’s award-winning single, “Summer Bala,” she left the patriarchy of a traditional Chinese household to pursue her career in America. Embodying all that a woman can accomplish when stepping into the spotlight, YAQI has continued to navigate personal reinvention and ongoing racism, and has overcome various stereotypes. With a deep understanding of the inequity, struggle and pain of young immigrants, she is committed to inspiring other young women to step into the fullness of who they are as she blasts onto the pop scene in America with lead single, “I’m On It.” As an artist on the verge of a major breakout, YAQI’s flavorful artistry has led to a foray into acting and fashion. She unveils her fashion-music-dance video later this month, with new singles, “Imma Do Me” and “Daisies” to follow.

neillfrazer@hotmail.com

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Written by Neill Frazer

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