Bobby Carter

"Classic Man," the 2015 debut single from Nigerian-American MC Jidenna, caught everyone off guard. The song found him teetering between rapping and singing about elegance, politeness and Nat "King" Cole, and the melody felt irresistible. Then there's the look: He rocks thrift-wear tailored to a T. The song eventually went double platinum and earned a Grammy nomination. Jidenna followed it with a few more club bangers before releasing his debut album, The Chief, earlier this year. A tribute to his father, a Nigerian chief, the record is peppered with African rhythms and themes.

The pairing of Tuxedo is a natural feel in person, but highly unlikely on paper. Seattle-based producer Jake One has a who's-who client list, from Rick Ross to 21 Savage — while DJ, singer-songwriter and producer Mayer Hawthorne is a renaissance soul man from Ann Arbor, Michigan. They stealthily debuted three tracks on SoundCloud in 2013 with only a black square stamped "Tuxedo" as the cover art, leaving fans wondering where this new funk was coming from.

I was, admittedly, thrown for a loop when Gabriel Garzón-Montano told me that he wanted to perform unaccompanied, just him and a piano. The meticulousness of his work is clear on his debut album, Jardin, a three-year creative process in which Gabriel plays most of the instruments, tracking them to two-inch tape, layering its overall sound. Jardin takes its title as an umbrella; fruits, bugs and other plants are the driving metaphors tying together this dense work, which blooms over successive listens.

Here's a fun fact about Noname's Tiny Desk Concert: It almost didn't happen. Around the time of their D.C. stop, she (born Fatimah Warner) and her bandmates got their first dose of tour sickness. Thanks to rest, medicine and our mutual excitement, she made her way into the NPR offices the following day. If there ever was a 'Noname' way of doing things, this is definitely her signature method. It's in the way she's able to muster a smile while performing a heartbreaking tale of abortion. It's those sometimes bleak, melancholy lyrics over brilliant, colorful production.

"There's nothing new under the sun / It's never what you do, but how it's done," Nas rapped on "No Idea's Original."

We all love a good redemption story: We're front and center to watch our heroes get knocked down, and then we cheer for them to triumphantly rebound. What we're witnessing with Shelly Massenburg-Smith — a.k.a. D.R.A.M. — is the culmination of a story marked by resilience and stubborn strength.

BADBADNOTGOOD made a name for itself by reworking songs from the likes of Nas and Ol' Dirty Bastard, eventually catching the attention of Odd Future leader Tyler,

Lots of us try to be cool, but the trick has always been in the subtleties; they're what allow us to walk that thin line between cool and corny. Enter Ro James.

Anthony Hamilton's soul sound was refined in the churches of Charlotte, N.C. Watching the Grammy winner perform, you get the hunch that it's harder for him to keep the soul inside than it is to actually unleash it. What he and his backup singers, The Hamiltones, do would be better classified as a musical purge, with a stage show that can double as couples therapy and church service. Their warm harmonies have the ability to shrink theaters and stadiums, so we knew this intimate setting was perfect for them.

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