Up and coming UCSB recording artists you should know about

Hip-hop Chronicles: Isla Vista and the 805

People once turned to radio for brand new hip-hop hits but that’s changed over time. With music streaming platforms (Soundcloud, Apple music, Spotify), online blogs, and podcasts dominating the industry, radio has been overshadowed and has become unreliable for breakout artists and top hits.

However, this music shouldn’t be reduced to what is played on the radio or what’s on major hip-hop blogs. As it turns out, there’s hidden talent in the streets. Whether you heard someone on the radio or found them online, let’s not forget where these artists come from.

In the age of commercialization, let’s remember two other things: hip-hop archives experiences and may work as a site for storing and exchanging knowledge. Hip-hop artists transform a music genre into a platform in which they portray aspects of their life and the way they see the world and spectators either relate or learn something new.

Kulture, Zane Taylor, and Jonny Donson are part of a new generation of artists that are re-establishing the foundations of hip-hop while staying true to their original sound.


Basic info : Armando (Mando) Gonzalez, UCSB Alum Class of 14′ from Oxnard, CA

Music taste : J Cole, Kendrick, Drake, Kanye West, Nas, Jay Z, Andre 3000, PAC

Mixtape : When No One Is Watching (WNOIW, March 2017), Find it on SoundCloud

Mixtape summary: The thematically anecdotal and personal project WNOIW encompasses Kulture’s past life experiences focusing primarily on his time in college as a first generation student. The first track (of fourteen) swiftly and smoothly illustrates the life of a recent college grad as he goes Out In the World and faces the harsh reality of finding employment all the while striving to meet his dreams. The project is supposed to embody a week’s long story from track #2 “Elevate” – track #13 “When No One Is Watching”with track #14 “Do It For Em” serving as a bonus track

In his debut, Kulture portrays an environment in which he finds himself in, consisting of alcohol, drugs, parties and violence. He is constantly straddling the line between juggling school and this exhausting party lifestyle and devoting all his energy into chasing his dream of becoming a rap star. In “Flashbackz,” one of the more poignant moments in the project, according to him, Kulture describes what it’s like being an outcast amidst his peers while dealing with inner conflicts of self-confidence and self-doubt. Lastly, in “When No One Is Watching”, he shares how he continues to chase his dream “at all costs” despite the tribulations he is met with.

Zane Taylor 

Basic info: Dash Taylor, UCSB Alum Class of 15′ from Los Angeles/Goleta, CA. Ellwood Beach, United States

Music taste : Kendrick Lamar, Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, Outkast, Isaiah Rashad, Smino, Odesza, D’angelo, Al Green, Eminem

Mixtape :#1 A.L.L.O.N.E. (A.LL L.OSS O.PENS N.EW E.NTRANCES, September 2016) #2 The ELLWOOD TAPE Pt. 1 & 2 (April 2017), Find it on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, etc.

Mixtape summary: For Zane, The ELLWOOD TAPE Pt. 1 & 2 chronicles the rise and fall of self-confidence during a time in which he was lacking direction: both in music and life. The first 3 tracks are utterly aggressive, representing a foregone period in his life that he admitted was “defined by a reckless conviction that [he] could do whatever he wanted,” something that proved not to be sustainable. By “30 Days to Vacate,” reality struck and he was forced to re-evaluate himself on “Nightmares.”

On part two, Zane found himself “distant” and “ultimately hurt” by his own overconfidence, something that, according to him, continues to this day. From “Slow Ride” to “White Lies,” he hovered in his storytelling comfort zone, spitting over a more mellow sound. Then, on “No Matter,” he let it all go. “I finally realized that I have everything I’ve been looking for—my family.” Finally, on the “Affirmations Outro,” Zane appealed to a poem by a close friend of his for guidance on how to build self-confidence—one asserted on maturity rather than carelessness.

Jonny Donson 

Basic info : Jonny Donson (JD), UCSB Class of 18′ from Palm Desert, CA

Music taste : J Cole, Isaiah Rashad, The Underachievers, Gallant, Migos, Metro Booming,

Music: Though Donson doesn’t currently have a project out he does have a high caliber collection of singles and collabs. In fact, the first time I heard Donson was on “Blue Flame“, track #2 off Zane Taylor’s first official EP A.L.L.O.N.E.It was then that I felt compelled to check out the rest of his catalog. Donson does makes his pressence known in songs like “Gassed Out” and “Church” as he “tests out the bass”, as he puts it. He brings a daring, aggresive, and bold yet vibrant tone and fuses it with a smooth and clean flow that both hypes you up and puts you in a trance. However, in “Better You” we see a different side to JD as he unravels an impressive, pleasantly enigmatic flow.

UC Santa Barbara