Rapzilla.com's 15 Freshmen of 2015
Story

Rapzilla has selected its sixth annual Freshman class and, this year, it honors 15 rising artists.

Since 2010, Rapzilla’s staff has sought to identify talented artists without a major platform in order to enlarge their platform. In order to qualify, artists must not have more than one full-length retail album released.

This year, Rapzilla will release a collaborative album of original songs by these artists produced by up-and-coming, Boise, Idaho-based beat maker Wontel.

We'll be releasing the 15 Freshmen of 2015 over the next few days. Here are the first three to watch for in 2015:

Auditory Fabric



Three hip-hop artists form Auditory Fabric: Bondservant, Justword and Patch Martin.

Martin, from Pittsburgh, is a new member of the group, though, and only featured on Auditory Fabric's song "Bottom of the 9th" off its Heir Craft EP. California-based Bondservant and Justword released their Heir Craftand Thus Far EPs over the past 16 months as a duo.



Rapzilla: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

Bondservant: Right around the time I met Justword in October 2006. He asked me to spit a verse in his Mazda Protégé and suggested that we work together. We did not officially work together until 2010 when we released The Butterfly Affect Mixtape.

Patch Martin: Back in 2009 while serving my last couple of years in prison, I began to listen to and fell in love with almost every genre of music imaginable. At that point in my sentence, I had written a lot of letters to my family, and I was confident that I could express myself well through writing. I wrote a few songs about my life. My best friend Shawn told me it was "dope," and that was all the push I needed to become an artist once released from prison.

RZ: What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

Justword: Everything about 2014. From the responses we received from our albums Heir Craft and Thus Far and sharing the stage with artists like Tedashii, Dream Junkies, Lamp Mode and more.

PM: Opening up for Canon in Pittsburgh over a year ago was so dope! I was so honored to be chosen by my city for the slot and also to see so much humility flowing out of that brother. I learned a lot about stage presence that night.

RZ: What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2015?

B: There are a few albums coming out this year including one from Auditory Fabric’s very own Patch Martin. Also we are looking forward to upcoming shows/performances.

PM: I have a mixtape coming soon entitled Recess and then my first official album produced solely by my brother Justword will be released later this year, Lord willing!

J: And I’m looking to stage dive!

Davis Absolute



Phoenix-based hip-hop artist Davis Absolute has released four projects over the past two years, including BlendTape Vol.1 SoulBeat and BlendTape Vol.2 ThoughtPoet.

He also released a series of singles this year, including "Motion Sickness" featuring John Givez.



Rapzilla: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

Davis Absolute: At age 13, I made a pretty concrete decision that I wanted to do something with music and released my first mixtape that I sold at my middle school. The lifestyle, wordplay and style of the rappers out at the time really intrigued me, and once I started making music, I found something to boast in. Naturally, this isn't the most sanctified start to what God would eventually do with me, but if I'm being honest, that is what drew me in. Every chance I get to look back at what that moment has become, I stand in awe of what God can do with a wretched sinner like myself. Let's not mention my complete and utter wackiness, though!

RZ: What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

DA: When I released my first mixtape (Blendtape Vol.1 SoulBeat), I felt something that I can't really describe. I remember driving to get breakfast, running on an hour or so of sleep, listening to the final and completed copy of the mixtape in my car. I had peace in knowing that God had blessed this project and, for a time, I was perfectly satisfied in a way unique to that point in my Christian walk. That mixtape was also the first project that I was 100 percent genuinely proud to show people and distribute. My previous songs and projects were never bad, but there was always this voice in the back of my head (which I now credit to the Holy Spirit) that was like “this is OK, but not what you are meant to do.” Releasing that project was definitely my most memorable moment though.

RZ: What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2015?

DA: 2015 is going to be a crazy year for music. I can't really detail too much of what is going to happen, but I can say that I will be putting out a lot of quality work and working with some incredible people. The one thing I can share is that I'll be releasing a mixtape early 2015 which will be the final iteration of my BlendTape series, and I'm dropping the first official track off of that project titled "REM Sleep" on January 6th. But anyone who is a fan or paying attention can expect more Christ-led music and hopefully the birth of some incredible projects.

HillaryJane



HillaryJane, a singer from Houston signed to Infiltrate Music, released two successful EPs in 2014.

Her debut, Stix and Stones, peaked at No. 3 on the iTunes' top-selling R&B chart, and her follow-up, Stix and Stones: Unplugged rose to No. 9 on the iTunes' top-selling Christian chart.



Rapzilla: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

HillaryJane: When I was saved, I realized the intense amount of persuasion music has on its listeners. There’s enough worldly influence. I want to use one of the biggest influencers, music, to point to godly things.

RZ: What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

HJ: People telling me that my music had encouraged them spiritually. Also, hitting No. 3 on R&B/Soul iTunes charts under PARTYNEXTDOOR and Trey Songz.

RZ: What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2015?

HJ: Anything and everything. I've never been good at choosing a particular genre or sound I most conform to; I just want to give the people whatever I'm feeling at the time and allow them to get to know me as a person.

J. monty



J. monty has yet to drop a debut project, but he put out music videos alongside the first three singles he released in 2014.

The Atlanta-based hip-hop artist was a finalist in the Rapzilla 16 Bar Challenge at Legacy Conference.



Rapzilla: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

J. monty: There are like three different segments: one was when I was 12 years old. I first fell in love with music, and all I ever did with my life was just make music. Second time was in college when I was 18 doing secular music, and I actually realized I could make something out of this. And then he third time would be after I got saved. I was 19, and I realized I’m going to use this gift for the Lord.

RZ: What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

JM: Definitely the Rapzilla 16 Bar Challenge. It was recent, and it was also really competitive. A lot of stuff was just going on in my heart. It was real deep and meant a lot to me. We flew out to Chicago, and I’ve never done anything like that for my music.

RZ: What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2015?

JM: I’m going to release a mixtape very soon. Everything’s written. Everything’s being recorded. Most of it’s being mixed right now. But before I release the mixtape, I’m going to release a video. I can’t reveal the details of this video. Just know that I’m getting props made for it that have been being constructed for over a year now.

Jericho



Jericho is a hip-hop artist signed to Los Angeles-based label Dream Records.

He released his debut album, Road 2 Redemption, on Nov. 10.



Rapzilla: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

J: Real early in life, I wanted to be a WWE wrestler or a rapper. I grew up with my mom and grandpa playing music. On my grandma’s front porch my grandpa and friends would play Hank [Williams] Sr., Merle Haggard, [Johnny] Cash and George Jones for hours. Something about country music with the storytelling I loved. My mom was a gospel singer. I seen her hard work and ambition. We would travel to churches and she would sing. We got a glimpse of the tour life early on.

RZ: What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

J: That’s hard to say, really. I've been blessed to travel full-time. I've opened for Lecrae, Mercy Me, Big Daddy Weave, for KING & COUNTRY, Young Buck, Brooke Hogan, etc. as far as that goes. On the music side, I'd have to say The Extreme Tour taught me a lot. The best is doing a concert and seeing people who never have heard the gospel and are struggling with addictions and they surrender to God and repent is a beautiful thing. But just my album Road 2 Redemption finally coming out was huge dream come true, really.

RZ: What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2015?

J: I'm touring a lot, and I'm going to start working on a new album. I'm about to blend different artists even more so than I did on this album. This album had Jackson Cash, my mom, Bubba Sparxxx, Danny Boone (of Rehab), Jax Anderson, etc. This one is going be more collabs. I'm looking to hop on someone else's tour also.

Joey Jewish



Joey Jewish, a rapper from Tuscon, Arizona formerly known as Dorian Grey, was introduced to the Christian hip-hop scene in 2012 on MC Jin's album Crazy Love Ridiculous Faith on the song "Ridiculous Faith."



In 2014, Joey Jewish released two free albums, Abstracts & Fragments under the name Dorian Grey in July and Scarsdale this December.

Rapzilla: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

Joey Jewish: Since age 12, I wrote lyrics and recorded sparingly. Although creating music was always a passion of mine, it was simply a hobby until 2-3 years ago. I was working in a call center selling accounting software to the top 100 firms in America, and after several successful but mundane years, I had an “ah ha” moment. Over the years working for my company, I had built a friendship with the CEO of Grant Thornton, Stephen Chipman, who in one of our final conversations told me, "Joe, if remember anything we've ever discussed, remember this: Let your life's pursuit be towards what you love doing, not what makes the most money, and you will always be happy." Six months later I became a full-time artist, and my life has never been the same.

RZ: What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

JJ: My most memorable moment thus far came one year ago after a show. A teenage girl approached me in Santa Barbara and expressed in tears how she was planning to commit suicide that week, but something told her to hold on to life. She thanked me for sharing my testimony and allowed me to pray with her to receive Christ.

RZ: What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2015?

JJ: I'm currently working on a new project titled American Dream, which is set to release in late February or early March. This project will be extremely diverse and further abstract than my previous creations. There will be several features including artists from my team, The Majors. I will also be releasing a few singles leading up to an official album I plan to release in June. I am also looking to work with other artists and available for tours.

Lawren

Of the Rapzilla Freshman 15, Lawren, a hip-hop artist from Miami, has released the least amount of music.

However, the two songs he dropped, "Craxyr" and "HVNTS," created a buzz.



Rapzilla: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

Lawren: For me, pursuing music wasn't a realistic option. It's been more of a hobby, something that I always felt I was talented in, but I never did it the right way. To be honest, I was lazy and very busy with ministry. I was a youth pastor. I would spend money on songs and never release them. My wife one day encouraged me to take it more seriously. I can be very self-conscious. I needed someone to push me. She told me you need to take it more seriously, or don't do it all. It hit me right then — I need to do this the right way. I started working on my upcoming project and released the video for my first single “Craxyr” soon after. I wanted to see fruit or I was going to quit rapping all together. God knows what he's doing. I'm grateful.

RZ: What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

L: I've only ever released two songs. So I think I would be a fool to not to say being recognized by Rapzilla as a Freshman 15.

RZ: What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2015?

L: I'm dropping my EP in early 15 — album cover, track listing and release date soon to be revealed. Also, I'm working on another EP that I'm looking to release in July. Producer Gordon Beats and I are working on the EPs together.

Levi Hinson

Levi Hinson, a hip-hop artist from Ada, Oklahoma, is the only member of the Freshman 15 who's younger than 15.

The 14-year-old Hinson released his debut EP, Home, last March.



Rapzilla: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

Levi Hinson: I decided to pursue music as a hobby starting in early 2012 at 11 years old. I loved hip hop and thought I might be capable of producing some music of my own. After a while, it turned into a passion, so I decided to keep working and developing my craft, which ended up being my debut project, Home.

RZ: What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

LH: Definitely being on the front page of Rapzilla. That was a huge moment for me and everyone else who helped to create my project, and I was so glad that my work was finally being recognized and complimented. It made me feel really good about what I do and was definitely a key part of why I've continued to do music.

RZ: What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2015?

LH: As of right now, you can expect 2 new projects from me this year. Right now I'm in the process of writing and recording my first full length project, which I hope to release in the fall. I'm also looking forward to making another collaborative project with my good friend Adrian Stresow under our group, Young Minds, which we're planning to start working on this spring.

Marz Ferrer

Marz Ferrer released her EP Blur this past December, and, the two years prior, the New York City-based singer featured on practically EP-length amount of songs.

Marz has sung the hook of Andy Mineo's song "Never Land," Social Club's "My Eyes Hurt," Beautiful Eulogy's "You Can Save Me," Thi'sl's "Fallen King," DJ E-V's "Zombie" and Da' T.R.U.T.H.'s "Stop Playing."



Rapzilla: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

Marz Ferrer: Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to do music.

RZ: What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

MF: Most memorable moment thus far was going to Cali for the first time, [and] sharing the stage with other amazing artists.

RZ: What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2015?

MF: 2015, musically I will be continuing to own my craft and constantly put out new music.

nobigdyl.

nobigdyl., a Tennessee-based hip-hop artist, will drop his debut EP this month.

Like Lawren, he's been able to create a buzz with only a few singles, like "beauty." featuring Chad Jones.



Rapzilla: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

nobigdyl.: I've been writing, recording and performing music since I was 11. I've always loved the art of writing and vocal expression, but didn't consider it a career until 2014. Once Derek Minor fired me as his road manager and told me to pursue music, that's when it all changed. He told me that I had too much talent to be road managing. That's when I started to see it as a viable career.

RZ: What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

N: I played a show in my hometown of Murfreesboro, Tennessee a few months ago, and we packed out a local venue called Bonhoeffer's. We had a drummer, guitarist and a DJ — all friends of mine — and the energy in the crowd was awesome. It was amazing to see people that I know and care about motivated and encouraged by my music. Middle Tennessee has really gotten behind me, and I can't express how grateful I am for that.

RZ: What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2015?

N: Smoke Signal will be released on January 19 and is my introduction to a lot of listeners. I poured my heart and soul into that project and I’m excited to see how God uses it. We'll be dropping a bunch of videos throughout the year and more music towards the end of the year also.

Oscar Urbina

Miami-based hip-hop artist Oscar Urbina, formerly with CTF Records, released his debut project, Finally last January.

This July at Legacy Conference in Chicago, Urbina won the Rapzilla 16 Bar Challenge.



Rapzilla: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

Oscar Urbina: I decided to start pursuing music at age 15.

RZ: What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

OU: The most memorable moment of my career thus far was the day that I officially came out with my first project Finally in early 2014.

RZ: What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2015?

OU: In 2015, fans should be on the lookout for my second project coming out soon with the title to be announced.

Sam Ock

Sam Ock, a Korean rapper and singer from Maryland, has churned out music over the past year.

Last week, he released a solo album under the record label Good Fruit Co., Grey. He dropped a collaborative album with John Rhee called Laus Deo in October and another solo album, Stages, last March.



Rapzilla: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

Sam Ock: I began to see that music was a calling in my life at the end of high school. I was involved in eight music ensembles (wind ensemble, marching band, choir, jazz band, etc.) and was heavily involved in the musicals at my high school. I was also heavily involved in the praise band at church and began to lead praise for my high school group as a senior. It was around this time where many people in my life confirmed that this internal feeling of being called to music was something that they also saw in me. I then decided to pursue studying music in college, and from there, God kept opening doors to new places and opportunities. I've been trying to be faithful to him since that time.

RZ: What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

SO: A particularly impressionable moment in my career was last year at the Grand Mint Festival in Korea, where I had the opportunity to perform in front of thousands of Korean people. I reflected on how God has taken the music that I made in my basement and taken me to places I never thought I would go for music, like Japan, a place particularly unreached by the gospel, and Korea, my ethnic motherland.

RZ: What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2015?

SO: You can expect a new album from my group AMP, as well as an album from J. Han from AMP, which I will be doing a lot of production for.

Sam Stan

Sam Stan is yet another member of the Freshman 15 who calls Florida home.

The hip-hop artist came out of nowhere last month to drop his debut project Happy Camper



Rapzilla: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

Sam Stan: I decided to pursue music the summer going into my sophomore year of high school. Around that time, I was studying and honing my craft. And I released my first song during my senior year.

RZ: What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

SS: So far, I cannot narrow down one particular moment of my career. However, the times I spent building with Social Club and working with Marty can be easily placed on the top of my list.

RZ: What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2015?

SS: I'm really excited about this year. Fans should be on lookout for my debut LP.

Tony Ri’chard

Tony Ri'chard, a hip-hop artist from Houston, is another name who came out of nowhere to release a project this past year.

In October, he released his debut album Dead oto Society, which also featured John Givez.



Rapzilla: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

Tony Ri’chard: To tell the truth, I never wanted to rap because I understood the possible weight that came with it and the accountability that came with it. However, I realized this was a part of my purpose right before I decided to move back to Houston in December of 2013.

RZ: What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

TR: I really have two. The day my album was finished and we gathered money from nowhere to finish it was also the day I lost my job. Secondly, the first time I performed “Thorn in My Flesh,” the entire sum of the people just began to walk up to the stage. It was then I knew for sure I had to continue rapping.

RZ: What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2015?

TR: I can't see what God has planned, but we have already began working on the next album, a few features here and there and a mini documentary.

Tres Carter

Tres Carter, a hip-hop artist from Columbus, Ohio, built anticipation for his December release Tres Will Survive with his single "Dance Like Carlton."

The new name has already collaborated with Collision Records' Christon Gray and Wit.



Rapzilla: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music?

Tres Carter: I've been writing poetry and telling stories since about six years old. It wasn't until I was about 12 or 13 when I heard Jay-Z's "Stop" on the Blueprint 2.1 produced by Swizz Beats that I was like, "Man, my stories need to go over dope beats like this one!" I didn't have any recording equipment, so I would dial my house number on speaker and let it go to voicemail. Then I'd play a beat from my computer and deliver my "messages" over beats. Later I would call the house number again, check the voice messages and listen to myself spittin'. It was in those moments that I knew music was what I wanted to pursue.

RZ: What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?

TC: That's tough. A lot of firsts have been happening so everything is special and memorable. I would have to say what tops them all is when I released my first solo mixtape Rap Will Survive three years ago. A female friend of mine gave it to her co-worker "Jane," and Jane played it for her son who was around my age. As the story has been told to me, they were in a car and, by the end of track No. 2, Jane's son was looking out the window because he didn't want his mom to see him crying. He reached out to me on social media, and I invited him to my church where he surrendered his life to God and is still serving God to this day. Since then he's become a good friend of mine.

RZ: What should fans be on the lookout for musically from you in 2015?

TC: I started out 2015 paying homage to my city with a joint called "OH-" featuring Christon Gray and produced by Wit. We'll be dropping a music video for that record. I also released my Tres Will Survive EP at the end of 2014, so I'm looking to get out on the road and perform those records, continue to build relationships with producers and artists and, out of those relationships, release a lot of good music for the people.
About the Author
David Daniels is a columnist at Rapzilla.com. He has been published at The Washington Times, Bleacher Report, Christianity Today, HipHopDX, The Gospel Coalition, The Daily Caller, Global Grind and Sphere of Hip Hop.

Related Articles

Trending

Our Playlist

SPOTLIGHT VIDEO