Here are 5 artists who blew up out of anonymity.
The Internet, especially with the proliferation of social media, has changed the music industry in a drastic way. Artists can act as their own A&Rs, and though its common for one's management to seize control of his or her Twitter account, there's much less of a middleman between the brand an artist seeks to project and the one that fans receive.
The increased access to new fans and markets doesn't always guarantee success, though. Many rappers are -- for lack of a better word -- thirsty when it comes to self-promotion, leading fans to think he or she might be overcompensating for potential artistic weaknesses. It can also be off-putting to see an artist whose online behavior is much the same as anyone else on the timeline. When it comes to our favorite artists, we like it when every word they utter neatly fits into an ingenious persona, one that's often imagined.
For these reasons, many young artists have been taking an opposite route. Instead of trying to market every aspect of themselves, they surround their artistic aliases with total anonymity. When nothing is known of an alluring figure, each piece of new music allows fans to build their own narratives -- and the audience-driven speculation can serve to boost the excitement around a particularly mysterious artist. Cause who doesn't love a good mystery?
This strategy has long been in use within electronic music, especially due to the absence of song lyrics from much of the genre. When a face is removed from a song, there's more focus on the pure feeling of the music -- which is the goal in the first place. The trend has now seeped into the worlds of rap and R&B, especially the latter, as the genre is often more about mood-setting than first-person storytelling.
We've seen it recently with artists like THEY. -- just look at the name -- as well as dvsn, the latest act to sign to OVO, as reported yesterday. All that's known of dvsn is there's a vocalist and a producer, who could be one in the same. Nineteen85, who produced "The Line," the track that first earned dvsn recognition, could be one of the members, the only member, or not a member at all. Whatever the makeup of dvsn, it's likely that Drake will leave the mystery up to dedicated forum diggers for at least the next few months, as he's done with other artists on his roster at OVO.
While the trend is far from over -- perhaps nearing exhaustion, even -- here are 5 prominent hip-hop/R&B artists who used anonymity to help achieve sizable followings.