Music Festivals

The Ten Best Up-and-Coming Acts Performing at Rolling Loud 2021

Coi Leray, Morray, and Erica Banks
Coi Leray, Morray, and Erica Banks Photos by Brian Ziff, Nick Ferrar, and Scrill Davis
It's become fairly easy to spot the next rising star at Rolling Loud. Deep within the smaller text of the rap festival's stellar lineups lie a plethora of talent just waiting to be discovered and appreciated. Festival veterans may remember a young Denzel Curry performing at the inaugural event in Wynwood back in 2015. Today, he's one of Miami's top-tier emcees known around the world for his rare catalog. In 2016, Playboi Carti made his debut at the festival long before "Magnolia" was a part of his repertoire. Three years later, Carti became one of the most sought-after acts at Rolling Loud's Miami and L.A. editions.

This year's Miami lineup contains superstar headliners like A$AP Rocky, Post Malone, and Travis Scott, plus other stand-out performers like Megan Thee Stallion, Gucci Mane, City Girls, Young Thug, Flo Milli, 21 Savage, and Latto. There is a treasure trove of artists expected to hit the stage on July 23-25, yet only some will truly flourish once their set is over.

Those who have attended Rolling Loud's weekend-long shenanigans can attest to the fact that many artists blow up shortly after their performance. Perhaps it's due to the powerful popularity the festival has built up over the years. The premier hip-hop festival has attracted thousands of fans annually throughout its numerous events in Florida, California, New York, and abroad. In 2018, over 180,000 fans went to the festival in Miami, and 20 million watched online, according to Business Today. Even during the pandemic in September 2020, Billboard reported that Rolling Loud's Loud Stream concerts racked up at least four million viewers in total.

Or maybe it's just a coincidence.


Nonetheless, Rolling Loud has always served as a hub for new artists to build their brand and gain new fans. This year is no different. Although the line-up is pretty much the same as last year's postponed event, there are still a select few artists who are bound to reach superstardom by the end of 2021. Before Rolling Loud Miami goes down on July 23-25, we found ten newcomers — listed below alphabetically by performer name — who are on the brink of fame. Here's why they will have no problem ascending to the next level of their buzzing careers.
click to enlarge Armani Caesar - PHOTO BY NEDU
Armani Caesar
Photo by Nedu

Armani Caesar

She’s the lone woman on the hardest rap label rising in the ranks of hip-hop, and she wants you to remember her name for years to come. Armani Caesar’s talent and determination bleed through every record she cooks up. Caesar has been a student of the game for the past decade; while learning from 9th Wonder in North Carolina, she was dropping her own music, like Hand Bag Addict and Caesar’s Palace, hosted by 2 Chainz’s DJ E Sudd. It wasn’t until she officially connected with the Griselda crew in March 2020 that her career truly began to advance. The Buffalo native broke necks last year with her debut project via Griselda, The Liz. The 11-track project, featuring songs like “Simply Done” and “Ginger Rothstein,” redefines Caesar as a multifaceted artist with powerful collaborations with labelmates Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine, and Benny the Butcher. At the least, The Liz proves Caesar’s got the perfect range to spit over any beat that comes her way. With plenty of notable experience under her flawless waistline, Caesar's still on the ascension.
click to enlarge Babyface Ray - PHOTO BY KARDIAK
Babyface Ray
Photo by Kardiak

Babyface Ray

There are a couple of artists with “Baby” in their names who are currently dominating rap culture. Yet, there’s one individual who’s ready to take command of the game. Babyface Ray has spent the past decade laying the foundation of his unfuckwitable career. After dropping his Young Wavy project in 2014, the Detroit native has managed to deliver a dozen more — both solo and collaborative joints. Ray’s music has long been well known in the Midwest, but his sound caught the nation’s attention back in 2019 when he dropped the video for “Hall of Fame," which has garnered over five million views to date. That hype continued well into 2020, when he released “Paperwork Party,” which has accrued more than two million hits on Spotify. Earlier this year, Ray dropped off the official remix to “Paperwork Party,” featuring Jack Harlow. Before that, came the deluxe version of his Unfuckwitable EP, which boasts fresh collaborations with Moneybagg Yo, Kash Doll, EST Gee, and Murda Beatz. Since it’s his first time performing at Rolling Loud Miami, it would be dope to see Ray give fans a quick, sonic history of his lengthy discography. Don't be surprised if you get a sneak peek at whatever he’s got coming up in the latter half of 2021.
click to enlarge Coi Leray - PHOTO BY BRIAN ZIFF
Coi Leray
Photo by Brian Ziff

Coi Leray

Rapper Coi Leray has been prepping for her time in the spotlight for quite some time. The daughter of rapper-turned-reality TV star Benzino, Leray was exposed to the rap game at an early age. The Boston-born, New Jersey-raised artist started making music at 14, eventually dropping out of school and quitting her job to pursue the career full-time. Clearly, she made the right choice. Leray spent the past four years tapping into an audience that craves everything she’s been serving up: gritty lyrics, a rare delivery, and a progressive fashion sense that make her music videos even more addictive. Since releasing her debut single “G.A.N.” in 2017, the 24-year-old built her indestructible rep with her breakthrough mixtape EverythingCoZ and collaborated with some of the hottest rappers like Trippie Redd, Gunna, and Pooh Shiesty. Within the past year, Leray’s career has achieved new heights: Shortly after delivering her Now or Never EP, the Republic Records signee dropped “No More Parties,” featuring Lil Durk, which would go on to become her first platinum single. With other notable tracks like “At the Top” featuring Kodak Black and Mustard, plus her verse on EarthGang’s “Options” remix currently in rotation, Leray’s upcoming set at the festival will be an entertaining sight to witness.
click to enlarge Don Toliver - PHOTO BY AMANDA BARONA
Don Toliver
Photo by Amanda Barona

Don Toliver

It’s been a busy three years for Don Toliver. The Houston artist has been popping up just about everywhere, from Travis Scott’s Astroworld album to the new F9 soundtrack. Maybe it’s because Toliver’s vocals are unlike any other rapper — or artist, for that matter. While his sound gives Kid Cudi and La Flame vibes, the 27-year-old has a knack for creating rare yet infectious hooks over trap-induced instrumentals that are tattooed in rap fans’ minds forever. Since signing to Scott’s Cactus Jack imprint in 2018, Toliver has delivered an assortment of bangers like “Can’t Feel My Legs” and “Back Up,” featuring Wiz Khalifa. After appearing on Cactus Jack’s compilation album, JackBoys, Toliver collaborated with other major artists like Eminem and Quavo before dropping his debut, Heaven or Hell, last year. The album debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200 chart and reached gold status just 11 days later. The collaborations continued to stack up from there. Soon enough, fans heard Toliver signing the hook on Inter Money’s “Lemonade,” featuring NAV, and alongside Big Sean on Nas’ “Replace Me” off the New York rapper’s Grammy award-winning album King’s Disease. Toliver’s set at Rolling Loud will allow fans to experience all of his solo hits — and hopefully his collaborations — in person.
click to enlarge Duke Deuce - PHOTO BY CAM KIRK
Duke Deuce
Photo by Cam Kirk

Duke Deuce

The South has had its share of popular newcomers make noise on the Billboard charts, but one, in particular, is making a name for himself with his trippy music. Memphis rapper Duke Deuce has been heralded as the next hot commodity in Southern hip-hop. He’s definitely come a long way since dropping his inaugural project, Deuce Live Music, in 2016. Once he was signed to Quality Control/Motown in 2018, the 29-year-old artist took off. After dropping the Memphis Massacre mixtape later that year, Deuce’s breakthrough single, “Yeh,” landed on the second installment of Quality Control’s Control the Streets compilation. His renown went through the roof once he dropped “Crunk Ain’t Dead (Remix)” featuring southern OG’s Juicy J, Project Pat, and Lil Jon off Memphis Massacre 2. As if that wasn’t enough to boost his star power, Deuce commanded everyone’s attention when he released his debut album, Duke Nukem, featuring a handful of familiar acts like Offset, A$AP Ferg, Latto, Young Dolph, Lil Keed, and Foogiano. The album peaked at number three on Billboard’s Heatseeker chart less than two weeks after it dropped. We're sure his fans can't wait to see him perform all of his best hits to date.
click to enlarge Erica Banks - PHOTO BY SCRILL DAVIS
Erica Banks
Photo by Scrill Davis

Erica Banks

At the height of the pandemic, people couldn’t escape the sound of Erica Banks’ breakthrough single, “Buss It.” Whether you were scrolling through your social-media timelines or flipping through radio stations, the song featured on her self-titled debut album, which samples Nelly’s “Hot in Herre,” popped up thanks to the power of the #BussItChallenge. The viral dare, which started after a fan posted the blueprint video on New Year’s Day 2021, spread around the world. It eventually caught the attention of artists like Rico Nasty, Monica, and Danileigh — all of whom posted their own sultry versions. “Buss It” had barely run its course when the Dallas native dropped the official remix with Travis Scott back in February. Banks followed up the success of “Buss It” with another twerktastic single off her album, “Toot That” featuring DreamDoll and Beatking. The song samples an infamous bar from the late Huey’s “Pop, Lock & Drop It” and puts it over a bass-heavy instrumental that any Southern hip-hop fan can appreciate.
click to enlarge EST Gee - PHOTO BY MICHAEL FLUELLEN
EST Gee
Photo by Michael Fluellen

EST Gee

Witnessing EST Gee's rise to the top has been inspiring, to say the least. On the one hand, the Louisville native has seen plenty of success since he did his time behind bars for a drug trafficking charge he caught back in 2016. While he was locked up, he saw rappers like DaBaby on TV and knew he was destined to come up in life just like them. Fast-forward to 2019: Gee was liberated and began impressing the masses far beyond his hometown with hard-hitting bars on songs like “New Number” and “Taught Different,” featuring Detroit rapper Sada Baby. He had already dropped two projects that year, El Toro and Die Bloody, before tragedy struck. In September 2019, EST Gee was shot five times after a video shoot with Sada Baby. He survived four bullets to the stomach and one in the eye that nearly blinded him. Upon recovering, the Young Shiner also had to cope with the loss of both his mother and brother in 2020. Still, he kept his foot on the gas. He dropped his Ion Feel Nun mixtape featuring the standout single, “On the Floor,” featuring Icewear Vezzo and Payroll Giovanni. The 26-year-old also dropped his “Special (Remix)” featuring Moneybagg Yo — which is currently his most-viewed YouTube video, clocking over ten million hits. At the top of 2021, Yo Gotti signed Gee to his CMG imprint with a $750,000 bonus. Not long afterward, Gee dropped a video version of his latest project, I Still Don't Feel Nun, featuring appearances from Jack Harlow, Moneybagg Yo, YFN Lucci, Kevin Gates, 42 Dugg, Babyface Ray, and, of course, Gotti.
click to enlarge Mariah the Scientist - PHOTO BY FLIXZ FOR RCA RECORDS
Mariah the Scientist
Photo by Flixz for RCA Records

Mariah the Scientist

Mariah the Scientist’s entire swag is completely different from the average R&B singer's. The Atlanta native’s lovely vocals are the kind of soothing sounds that are good for the soul. Despite her moniker, you don’t have to be a scientist to figure out Mariah’s alluring "it" factor. The 23-year-old began her journey in the game after she dropped her debut EP, To Die For, in January 2018. The six-track caught the attention of rapper Tory Lanez, who took Mariah under his wing, eventually signing her to his One Umbrella Records imprint and taking her on tour. In 2019, she signed to RCA Records and dropped her debut album, Master, executive produced by Tory Lanez. Songs like “7AM” and “Beetlejuice” flaunt her tranquilizing vocals over synth-inspired, bass-filled slow jams. She also began to collaborate with other artists, like Trippie Redd, who recruited her for “Abandoned,” off his project A Love Letter to You 4. Mariah further expanded her sonic palette in 2020 when she delivered her trap-infused banger “Always N’ Forever,” featuring Lil Baby. The song is set to appear on her new brand album Ry Ry World, which dropped ahead of her upcoming set at the festival. Expect Mariah the Scientist to deliver a rare performance featuring her best hits so far, plus her brand-new body of work.
click to enlarge Morray - PHOTO BY NICK FERRAR
Morray
Photo by Nick Ferrar

Morray

Rapper Morray appeared to have popped up out of nowhere last year. The Fayetteville, North Carolina, native began making music in 2014 and soon began to take it seriously. Yet, the 28-year-old finally started attracting the masses in 2020 when he dropped his first single, “Quicksand.” Soon after it was re-released last October, “Quicksand” made its way onto the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it has remained ever since. In 2021, Morray’s career continues to elevate. Back in April, the Pick Six/Interscope signee released his first album Street Sermons, which debuted at number 17 on Billboard's Top Rap Album chart. Soon afterward, he received the biggest cosign of his career from J. Cole and even got to assist the Dreamville founder on “m y . l i f e” fresh off The Off-Season. Now he’s ready to make his debut at Rolling Loud in Miami, and nobody knows what to expect, other than greatness. Morray’s musical rap sheet by no means extensive, but it doesn’t take multiple projects to reach superstardom these days. Based strictly on his creative knack for music (as opposed to his wild antics on social media), Morray is ready to blow.
click to enlarge Sheff G - PHOTO BY HAZZ FOR AUDIBLE TREATS
Sheff G
Photo by Hazz for Audible Treats

Sheff G

New York hip-hop hasn’t been the same since Sheff G started making noise from the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. The 22-year-old rhymer draws influence from the likes of the Notorious B.I.G., 50 Cent, and Chicago’s drill movement leader, Chief Keef. While coming up with the likes of Corey Finesse and Sleepy Hollow, Sheff G caught his first viral hit in 2017 with “No Suburban,” which is reportedly a diss track aimed at rapper 22Gz. As his fanbase grew, songs like “Play for the Members” and “On Me” helped to establish the New York drill scene. In 2019, Sheff released his first project, The UnLuccy Luccy Kid, via his imprint Winner’s Circle and Empire Records, featuring collaborations with his labelmate Sleepy Hollow and California rapper Mozzy. In 2020, he followed up with One and Only, before Winner’s Circle inked a fresh deal with RCA Records. It didn’t take long for Sheff to deliver his major-label debut, Proud of Me Now, making him look a lot more versatile. Despite his love for drill music, Sheff’s got a lot more to offer than hyperactive street bangers. He rehashed his criminal past in his more slow-paced track “Mistakes” and sends chills down your spine with his ominous cut “Tip Toe,” featuring Sleepy Hollow. Fans will get to see Sheff bring his rare batch of songs to life at the festival for the first time, including his first release of 2021, “Start Some Shyt.”

Rolling Loud. Friday, July 23, through Sunday, July 25, at Hard Rock Stadium, 347 Don Shula Dr., Miami Gardens; 305-943-8000; hardrockstadium.com. Sold out; join the waitlist for tickets at rollingloud.com.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tony M. Centeno
Contact: Tony M. Centeno