In one of the more unlikely crossover success stories, blonde Australian beauty Iggy Azalea (born Amethyst Amelia Kelly) segued from a high-profile modeling career to become a pop-rap star. Influenced in her childhood by Missy Elliott, TLC, and Tupac Shakur, she moved to the States in 2006 at age 16, stating that she was drawn to the birthplace of rap. Moving from Miami to Houston to Atlanta, she absorbed the Southern-style drawl of her surroundings and released a trap-inspired mixtape titled Ignorant Art in 2011, shortly after relocating to Los Angeles.
A video for her song “Pu$$y” was uploaded to the Internet and became a YouTube favorite due to its explicit nature. Around this time, Azalea’s blossoming relationship with rising rapper A$AP Rocky earned her some headlines (she tattooed the title of his debut album on her knuckles), but her recording career stalled when plans to work with T.I. fell through due to label conflicts. In spring of 2012, she signed to Wilhelmina Models International and pursued modeling full-time, landing a job as the “New Face of Levi’s Jeans.” Later that year, her musical stock skyrocketed when XXL Magazine put her on the cover of its annual Top Ten Freshman issue alongside Danny Brown, Roscoe Dash, and French Montana. As the first female, non-American rapper to make the list, serious hip-hop fans took notice, including Diplo, who hooked up with Azalea for her follow-up mixtape, TrapGold, before she signed to Mercury Records for her official early-2014 debut, The New Classic.
The album was reissued later in the year as Reclassified, and featured five newly recorded songs including the single “Beg for It.” In 2016 she released the track “Team,” which featured a prominent sample from Juvenile’s 1999 hit “Back That Thang Up.” The song landed on that year’s Digital Distortion album. ~ Jason Lymangrover
R&B singer and songwriter Snoh Aalegra has termed her work “cinematic soul.” The career of the Stockholm, Sweden native picked up significantly after she was brought to the attention of producer No ID and was signed to his ARTium label. Significantly different from Jhené Aiko, ARTium’s other R&B artist at the time of her debut, Aalegra brought a relatively traditional and less commercial approach with some throwback touches.
In 2014, Aalegra appeared on Common’s ARTium/Def Jam-released album Nobody’s Smiling, then released her debut, There Will Be Sunshine, through major-label Epic. Among the EP’s highlights was “Bad Things,” on which Common returned Aalegra’s earlier favor with a guest verse. Early the following year, after Nobody’s Smiling was nominated for a Grammy Award, Aalegra released “Emotional,” a single produced by the RZA. Months later, Vince Staples’ Summertime ’06 arrived with Aalegra featured on the tense “Jump Off the Road.” A retro-tinged mini-album from Aalegra, Don’t Explain, was issued by ARTium in April 2016 with No ID, Boi-1da, DJ Dahi, and Christian Rich among the collaborators. ~ Andy Kellman
Described as a child prodigy by some of the top names in the music industry, 16 year-old Jena Rose Raphael is a singer/songwriter/pianist/model from Plano, Texas. With a natural gift for songwriting and a unique indie pop style, her melodic genius captivates and enchants her audiences.
With an eloquent poise that is well beyond her years, Jena has been featured on red carpets at the Grammys, the Teen Choice Awards, New York Fashion Week, Fashion Rocks, The American Music Awards, MTV, and various LoveJonesNYC productions. As a proud member of the UNA-USA, Jena has devoted her life to writing music with an inspiring message and giving back to the world to make a change for the better.
Labeled as one of the most gifted artists by Sony Music Publishing Vice President Walter Jones, Jena’s performances continue to attract listeners at premier venues such as the House of Blues, American Airlines Center, Hard Rock Café, and Six Flags. She was recently a featured performer at the United Nations, MTV’s Fashion for Charity Event, World Peace Day and The New York City Marathon.