6. Dominique Young Unique
Hometown: Tampa, Fla.
For Fans Of: Santigold, Rusko, Yo! Majesty
“Oh my God! This is actually pretty!” Dominique Clark, who raps under the moniker Dominique Young Unique, is at Westfield Citrus Park mall in Tampa, Fla., browsing for clothes and chatting on her cellphone. She grew up in town, and much of her work is a response to the music she heard here as a kid. “In Tampa [hip-hop], everybody talk about guns and fightin’,” she says. “So I had to kill that.”
The 19-year-old was raised in one of Tampa’s many housing projects, some of which are engaged in intense, bloody feuds. “I fought a lot [growing up],” she says. “But I ain’t never shoot at nobody or was shootin’. I fought, like, fist-fight.” She started rapping at age 11, and at 15 she met Shunda K, then a member of Tampa rap duo Yo! Majesty, who introduced Clark to her current label and producer. Despite the “I ain’t talkin’ bout no guns,” line in her 2009 single “Music Time,” her lyrics trade on the violence she witnessed earlier in life; on “War Talk,” her high-pitched voice yelps: “War talk! War talk! War talk! War talk! / All you motherfuckers just take a walk, walk / Get up on my block and you’ll feel this Glock!”
But there’s no way the singles that make up her June-released Domination mixtape could be construed as gangsta rap. Instead of trap-rap’s steadily pounding 808 drum machines, Clark’s beats are frantic, skittering from handclaps to tinny club pulses to dubsteppy wobble. Usually, the percussion and wall-of-sound synths give way to completely new rhythms several times throughout each track. Likewise, her influences are as diverse as Trina, Cyndi Lauper and fellow up-and-comer Nicki Minaj. “I just want to do it, like, fun and catchy,” Clark says. “Like people can dance to it, but they also understand where I’m coming from.”—Rachel Dovey
5. Ty Segall
Hometown: San Francisco
For Fans Of: The Troggs, Black Lips, T. Rex
Ty Segall is frequently described as a “wunderkind,” and while the soon-to-be 23-year-old may be getting a bit old for the title, it’s still basically apt. His musical output since 2008 is simply astounding: a stack of 7” records, a couple cassettes, a collaboration LP with Mikal Cronin of The Moonhearts, and four full-length albums including this spring’s Melted (and that’s to say nothing of all the other bands he’s played with, including Thee Oh Sees and Sic Alps).
Segall’s 2009 album Lemons came out on Goner Records and was a lo-fi garage affair full of the scuzzy rock ‘n’ roll that’s come to be expected from the label. He draws a clear influence from the psychedelic weirdos of years past (marked by his cover of Captain Beefheart’s “Dropout Boogie”) but Melted clears out some of that fuzz. “I definitely think it’s a little cleaner,” Segall says of the new record. “I was trying to shoot for something a little different than Lemons, and I didn’t know what that was or what we were going for until it was done.”
On Melted, he messes with a number of styles and sounds (grunge, garage, psych and pop), but tempers his frenzy on lead single “Caesar,” which finds him playing an acoustic guitar and slowing down the tempo a bit. “It started out as a punk song,” he said. “I had the idea of slowing it down to half speed. It has this T. Rex kind of vibe.” It begins as an acoustic slow jam, and then—sure enough—turns into a Marc Bolan boogie that gets Segall singing in a cool, controlled falsetto.
Segall doesn’t mind being tagged as a “garage” act, but he prefers the more straightforward label of “rock ‘n’ roll.” For all the Troggs, Beefhearts, Zappas and Bolans in his listening rotation, there are some some more traditional rock touchstones, too. “I’m way into Kiss,” he admits. “Way into Kiss. I saw them the day before Thanksgiving with my mom and my sister. It ruled. They had explosions and blood and fire and lasers—it was so cool.”—Evan Minsker