Ones To Watch: Up-and-Coming Talent on Our Radar

Art work by Michelle Cheung for Novella Magazine

As our readers well know, Novella is that friend who keeps giving you suggestions on what to do, wear, read, watch, etc., perhaps at a rate father than you can keep up with. It’s the inner grandma who’s paranoid that you don’t have enough to eat that compels us so. In other words, it’s with love and affection and a kind of cultural anxiety and an insatiable need to dictate. But mostly with love. Without further ado, let our contributors come at you with their choices of up and coming individuals of talent you should take second and third servings of.

Drew Brown, Editor-in Chief 

Kelela Album Art – Take Me Apart

Singer and Songwriter Kelela has consistently been making good music since her 2013 debut mixtape, Cut 4 Me. We last heard from the songstress back in 2015 with the release of her EP ‘Hallucinogen’, which garnered good reviews, and yet she is still not a household name. In October, Kelela will release her debut studio album Take me Apart, and if her current single LMK is any indication of what we can expect from the second generation Ethiopian-American singer, I have no doubt that we will be hearing her name a lot more.

Hoon, Managing Editor

Relief of Julian the Hospitaller from Chris Knapp’s ‘States of Emergency’ published in the Paris Review this summer

Chris Knapp’s essays and fiction have been published in the pages of the Paris Review and the Los Angeles Review of Books, which for many — perhaps too many — writers today, is considered a sign of ‘having made it’. The blurb on Knapp on the Paris Review Daily says that he ‘lives in Paris, and also sometimes Brooklyn, with his wife. He’s recently completed a novel.‘ He’s achieved residence and certain placeness (the latter may be my fantasy) on both sides of the Atlantic, a functioning relationship, and finished a novel. Despite all these good signs, things many – perhaps too many — writers would kill for, I think Knapp is still up and coming. Judging from his short story, ‘State of Emergency,’ he has a lot to say. Knapp weaves the personal with the political, the immediate with the faraway past and future in his essays and stories — the stuff of good writing. If his circumstances have changed since the the Paris Review wrote his short bio, and if his website, which you can visit here, is telling the truth, he also has strong ties to Charlottesville, Virginia; I’m eager to hear what he has to say.

Adina Heisler, Contributor

While Phoebe Robinson has been an active writer, actress, and standup comedian for several years now, it’s only recently that she’s been getting the attention she deserves. Her podcast with Jessica Williams2 Dope Queens, just wrapped up its third season, and her solo podcast, Sooo Many White Guys, recently finished its second season. She also released a book last October called You Can’t Touch My Hair (And Other Things I Still Have to Explain). This is all on top of being a writer for Portlandia and appearing in the show I Love Dick. Robinson is an utterly delightful comedian, and brutally honest about all topics, from race relations in the U.S. to her love of dad-bods.

Meg Summers, Contributor

One of my not-so-guilty pleasures is following every member of the Toronto-based band, The Beaches, and admiring their musical talents, individual styles, and overall “cool girl” vibes. This band seems to always be busy touring both Canada and the U.S., recording and creating fabulous music videos. In fact, their latest, Money, shows off the band’s creative edge and incredible musical abilities to create catchy and aesthetically great pieces. Look out for more from The Beaches as they are sure to continue growing a buzz around Toronto and far beyond. Follow them on Instagram here.

Kimberley Drapack, Contributor 

Morgan Parker — photo by Kwesi Abbensetts

Morgan Parker’s ‘There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé‘ is a standout success. Parker successfully intertwines pop-cultural and political titles to her poems that explore the complexities of what it means to be a black woman, isolation, femininity, and so forth in the context of the 21st century. She also folds in personal references, Marvin Gaye lyrics, and Hip Hop. I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.

Chris Zaghi, Fashion Editor

Photo: Giphy

That Poppy may have been making videos on youtube for quite a while now with the help of her director Titanic St. Clair, but 2017 seems to be Poppy’s big break. Not only did her Instagram explode over night, her music career has finally caught the eye of Island Records, which have sent her on a North American tour that’s sold out in a few cities already. But Instagram fame and tours aren’t what makes her so interesting. It’s her entire persona that makes her so different from any of the pop acts parading around the music scene this year. Labeled or suspected to be everything from a satanist, Illuminati puppet, robot, and even a matrix like computerized entity, Poppy has created a satirical musical persona that pokes fun and exaggerates the all too common assumption that most pop stars sold their souls for fame. Like her persona aims to be, Poppy is a delightful mix of sugary sweet pastel princess with a mysterious, almost sinister, inner turmoil that often bubbles to the surface in her videos, leaving viewers dying to know if she really does live inside a computer or if she’s been brainwashed by a big record company and completely changed from her former self. It is a fresh take on the idea of what a performer and their performance can be.

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Best Albums of 2017… so far

Drew Brown, Editor-in-Chief 

After releasing two mixtapes, one EP, and teaming up with Rihanna on Anti, Recording artist SZA has finally released her debut studio album Ctrl back in June which features guest appearances by Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott. Labeled as a R&B album, SZA delivers fourteen songs that are both raw and insightful, and should not be put in box. Exploring themes of love, heartbreak, and self-esteem, SZA has away of writing songs that are honest and relatable and comes close to filling the my personal music void since the passing of Amy Winehouse by craftily mixing genres, and letting the listener into her world while finding the balance of being vulnerable and bold.

Hoon, Managing Editor 

A part of me wants to take to these pages to shout out to a relatively lesser known artist of amazing talents who deserve more attention and love. I’m thinking of Your Old Droog and his second studio album, Packs, of which especially the third track, Bangladesh, should be more than enough to win over any doubters. Another part wants to pay respect to Prodigy, who passed away way too soon but not before dropping a 14-track banger of an album, Hegelian Dialectic (The Book of Revelation). But that’s just sentiments talking. In truth, the absolute best album of the year has to go to an already legend and still expanding Kendrick Lamar and his fourth studio album, DAMNAnd I don’t see whatever’s left of the year bringing in an album more worthy.

Adina Heisler, Contributer

Four years after the release of her first album, Pure HeroineLorde has returned with the concept album Melodrama. With this album, it’s clear that Lorde has matured both emotionally and musically and has branched out, bringing together multiple musical styles all within the loose themes of emotions, the highs and lows, of a night out on the town. While Lorde’s time gap between albums was for unknown reasons, we all know about the long-drawn legal battle between Kesha and “alleged” abuser Dr. Luke, which has kept her from releasing any new music for years. However, Kesha has finally been able to return with her upcoming album Rainbow. The album is a sharp turn away from her previous music, which featured autotune heavy singles about partying and drinking. Kesha is finally able to use her actual voice, which is on full display in the three singles that have been released thus far. With country inspired bangers like “Woman” and  breathtaking vocals survivor-empowerment themes on “Praying“, Rainbow is a welcome return for the singer-songwriter.

Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor

Upon the release of Gorillaz’s newest album, Humanz, I felt not only a dead fanbase rise from the grave, but a feeling inside myself I hadn’t had since early high school, the last time I head new music from them. Now, the British duo of musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett are back. Albarn mixes the tracks, Hewlett pens the famous four animated band members: 2-D, Murdoc Niccals, Russel Hobbs, and Noodles. Like their past albums, Gorillaz worked together with a number of collaborators, but this album has some particularly notable names: from newcomers Popcaan and artist Vince Staples to legends Grace Jones, and Carly Simon. Some of the best tracks to check out are “Saturnz Barz,” “Ascension,” “Let Me Out,” and “Andromeda.” Word is that Albarn and Hewlett asked contributing artists to imagine what the end of the world would be like and put that into the songs. Seems dramatically appropriate.

Kimberley Drapack, Contributor

Tyler, The Creator has come a long way. Back with the visuals of pastel hues and flowery fields we’ve grown to love comes his fourth studio album, Flower Boy. Upon its release, I was immediately grabbed his his single, Who Dat Boy, with A$AP Rocky, and his second release of, 911/Mr. Lonely with Frank Ocean and Steve Lacy. This without a doubt is Tyler’s best album to date. Although we are not quite finished with the year, don’t let Flower Boy slip through your fingers and remember to grant praise where praise is due.

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Hot List Profile: Mötem

Motëm is a musical artist and new age romantic from Hamilton. Figuring him out isn’t an easy process, but it’s entertaining and strangely poetic.

Photo by Eric Slyfield
Photo by Eric Slyfield

His twitter, like a moleskin for the thoughts of a meandering visionary, is as good a place to start as any: “i’m just a vampire spending money”. If that doesn’t help, Motëm’s described what he does as “strong individualist music not adhering to any specific genre but with interests in electronic, rap, hip hop, funk; associated with many Scandinavian musical styles like skweee and the sad boys movement.” For those that don’t know, the sad boys movement is pioneered by Swedish rapper and producer, Yung Lean and skweee is a diverse mashup of electronic and more traditional musical styles. We’re a little closer now, but it’s best to experience the one and only Motëm for yourself. He’s already released two albums this year — Where the Wild Things Are EP and Songs in the Key of Mötem

Where the Wild Things Are is equal parts pensive and turnt, taking you on an absurd, yet sincere tour of Mötem’s psychological landscape. “Tubular” starts on a note of synth-laden rambunctiousness. Repetitive and hard hitting, the track bangs all the way through. And he pumps out sensational videos at an insane rate. Watch, listen and try not to get tubular.

Songs in the Key of Mötem is a bit more blown out, with a proclivity for hype psychedelics. It’s much longer than Where the Wild Things Are and, understandably, the album explores new sonic grounds. “Goths Love” captures Mötem at his most tender — and ridiculous. Emphatic or absolute parody? It’s a fine line, to be sure. “I’m a goth because I love so hard. Shower me with roses of various shades of grey.”

Understood or not, Mötem plays by his own rules. Follow the unabashed poet on twitter via @motem or visit his website here.



May We Introduce, Ammoye

Ammoye Addicted art work Final_edit

Some would claim to have love at first sight, but with Ammoye, it’s love at first listen.

Her name, which is inspired by the Italian word for love, embodies who she is as a performer, and what goes into her music which draws from her Jamaican roots, effortlessly blending reggae, hip-hop, dancehall, and dub, and infused with gospel, soul, and R&B. Her latest single and video, “Radio”, is being played across all airwaves, having already climbed the charts in the U.K. and Galaxy Gold Radio.

Ammoye’s singing career began as a child in Clarendon, Jamaica. Raised by her grandparents, she found solace by singing in her local church’s choir. After her choir practice, she would sit atop a mango tree in her backyard and show off to neighbours with stories, poems, and her own songs. She moved to Toronto to be with her mother in her teens, and immersed herself in the community by forming the church group Sisters In Christ. After investing herself in that group, she created the Voices of the Underground Artist movement, which became an integral resource for independent artists in Toronto to promote and perform their music.

Her first full-length album, a dancehall and dub infused hip-hop house collaboration with Canadian producer Rise Ashen, garnered much praise, and in both 2013 and 2014, Ammoye was nominated for the “Best Reggae Recording” at the Junos.

“Balance and being in the right state of mind is very important to me, so I always do a prayer before my performances to connect and align with my higher self, and make sure that all I am channeling in that moment is appropriate energy wise,” she explained, when asked what she couldn’t perform without.


She recently signed a recording deal in with New York’s Pyramid Global Entertainment, with distribution through Universal Music Group. Ammoye has performed at festivals and events across Canada, alongside the likes of Ziggy Marley, Michael Bublé, Beenie Man, Richie Spice, Justin Nozuka, Kreesha Turner, and Anjulie. Her single “Radio”, from the Baby It’s You EP, focuses on her Jamaican roots, with an emphasis on the melodic style of reggae known as lovers’ rock. More recently, she released her single “Revolution” with Canadian dub producer Dubmatrix.

“I like playing around with different sounds and genres, fusing them together with my reggae,” she explains. ” ‘Revolution’ was inspired because I am so passionate about starting a love revolution, which will also transcend throughout my mix-tape, Enter The Warrioress, set to release next month, and my new album, The Light, coming out in the new year. ‘Revolution’ is about bringing about a new way of thinking and being. We as a people have forgotten that this illusion of separateness is exactly  that, an illusion, because we are all the same, one people. Fighting with each other is in fact fighting with ourselves. So that song was talking about coming back together. My mission is to write and perform songs with a message that connects with my Soul Rebelz on a soulful level.”

Ammoye describes all these experiences and lessons as a harmonious series of events which have led her to this moment, where she knows she is prepared and ready to have her Soul Rebelz share her spirit through her music. With her mixtape coming out in October, follow this goddess’ journey on social media @ammoye and become part of #SoulRebelz movement.

All photographs courtesy of PrettyHate Photography & Love and Crossbones.