October 16, 2014

Get to Know 10 ASCAP Members Who Broke Through in 2014

By Etan Rosenbloom, Alison Toczylowski and Jesse Fried

It's one of our favorite stories to tell: the promising talent who breaks through, crosses over, gets the attention that he or she deserves. We've seen it happen a million times in a million ways, and it never gets old. As a champion of the rights of songwriters and composers, ASCAP is proud to support our members as they prepare to take off, and celebrate them as they soar. 

We hit our centennial in 2014. Here are 10 ASCAP acts (in no special order) who are having breakthrough years of their own. Scroll down to hear a track from each of them.



1. Kongos

This past spring, Kongos’s single “Come With Me Now” stormed the top of the Billboard Alternative Rock chart. It was the chart’s fastest-rising debut single since Lorde’s “Royals,” and went platinum a few months later. And what a single it was: based around an addictive accordion line and the stomping mid-paced beat of kwaito (a slowed-down version of house music that originated in Johannesburg), the anthemic song merged colorful alt-rock with the sounds of South Africa, where the four brothers in Kongos grew up. That combination yields plenty of magical moments on Lunatic, the band’s US debut album, released by Epic three years after its initial South African release.

2014 has been a huge year for Kongos, who have lived in Phoenix, Arizona for nearly two decades now. Their songs have shown up in sports ads and HBO promos, The Expendables 3 soundtrack and WWE specials. The band spent much of the year supporting Lunatic live - they just completed a US tour with Kings of Leon, and are set to conquer Europe with OneRepublic in October. www.kongos.com ER



Becky G

2. Becky G

With just a handful of singles and guest spots on her resume, Becky G has already established herself as one of the most promising talents in pop music. Born in Inglewood, California, Rebbeca Gomez grew up listening to her parents’ favorite soul and Mexican ranchera songs, and the hip-hop and pop that the neighborhood kids blasted. At 11, Becky G started writing her own songs; three years later, she caught the attention of super-producer Dr. Luke with her YouTube remix of Kanye West and Jay Z’s “Otis.” Luke quickly signed her to his Kemosabe imprint. They’ve been working closely ever since.

Becky G’s mid-2013 debut single “Becky from the Block” signaled the arrival of a confident, genre-crossing talent. Her music since then has shown her flexing her muscles as a singer, songwriter and rapper – the Pitbull collaboration “Can’t Get Enough” hit #1 on the Latin Rhythmic Airplay chart, and her feel-good anthem “Shower” climbed the charts around the world this summer. “Shower” is the lead single from her forthcoming debut album, due in early 2015. While you wait for it, you can catch her on tour with Demi Lovato, Katy Perry and Jason Derulo this fall. www.iambeckyg.comER



Son Lux

3. Son Lux

The phrase “jack of all trades” comes to mind when discussing the music of New Yorker Ryan Lott, better known as Son Lux. He’s performed live with youth choirs and dance companies. He’s collaborated with alternative hip-hop MCs, indie rock bands and avant-garde classical composers.

He’s made numerous records of his own uncategorizable, beat-heavy, post-everything music, and has been known to remix himself (his most recent reflexive covers album, Alternate Worlds, features a guest spot from Lorde). He’s even on a Gillette commercial, playing an original piece on a piano triggered by 88 razors.

Lott’s music often fuses innovative technology with a keen sense for melody, and he’s brought both to bear in his music for A/V media. He’s got a background in commercials, and he’s no stranger to film music – Lott produced and programmed synthesizers for Don Jon, and designed virtual instruments for Looper. But with the release of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, 2014 will go down as the year Son Lux breaks into feature film composing. The score to Eleanor Rigby is some of his most beautiful, atmospheric work yet. www.sonluxmusic.comER



Steven Lutvak

4. Steven Lutvak

Singer, songwriter and pianist Steven Lutvak made his Broadway debut this year as composer and co-lyricist of the Broadway musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which won the Drama Desk, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle and Tony Awards for Best Musical. He and his collaborator, Robert L. Freedman, also won the Drama Desk Award for Best Lyrics, having earlier won both the Fred Ebb and the Kleban Awards for their theatre songs. For Steven, Broadway is the next step in a wide-ranging career that encompasses writing for film and TV – including the title track for Paramount’s hit documentary Mad Hot Ballroom – releasing two solo albums, and performing his own songs at Carnegie Hall, and most of the major New York cabaret rooms, including The Oak Room at the Algonquin, Rainbow and Stars, and the Russian Tea Room. Steven has been honored with two Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Awards, the first Johnny Mercer Emerging American Songwriter Award and a New American Works grant from the NEA. Several of his songs are also included in Classic American Popular Song, a follow-up to Alec Wilder’s classic textbook, American Popular Song. www.stevenlutvak.comJF




5. Yotuel

Following a rough but determined path that led him from rapping, modeling and acting in his native Havana, to sleeping in the Paris metro while trying to get a foothold in the French hip-hop scene, to winning two Latin Grammys with his urban band Orishas, Yotuel is now set to reach mainstream American ears. Building on many years of success in Cuba and internationally, he recently signed with the Sony Music US Latin label, joined ASCAP, and is currently recording in Miami. His distinctive modern sound, urban lyrics and optimistic message appeal to audiences across Latin, hip-hop, reggae, pop and rock genres.

Yotuel's music career began in the streets of Havana with rap group Amenaza, which soon became an urban movement leader in Cuba. The group’s ambition led them to Paris in pursuit of a wider audience. From there, he developed a rich career, during which he has shared the stage with legends such as Compay Segundo, Van Van, Iggy Pop, Cypress Hill, Macy Gray, Manu Chao and Deftones, and has appeared at music festivals worldwide such as Lowlands 7 (Netherlands), Roskilde Festival (Denmark) and Rock and Rio (Portugal and Spain). This year promises to launch him into the American spotlight. www.yotuelofficial.com –JF



Mali Music

6. Mali Music

Communicating his deeply personal, emotionally intense musical vision to the world, rather than chasing success, has always been singer-songwriter-producer Mali Music’s goal. As he puts it, “I’ve got something I need to share…There’s a deeper message. It’s the heart of everything I do, and I want to get that to everyone possible.” Six years after electrifying an underground fan base with his first, independently released album, 2014 finds him ready for mainstream success. After sold-out national tours and show-stopping performances at the BET Music Awards several years running, he released his ambitious third album Mali Is… this June on RCA Records’ ByStorm Entertainment label.

Mali Music comes from a gospel background. He started out moving audiences in church at the age of 11. Religious faith and a moral view of the world remain major themes in his music, even as he draws from a wide musical vocabulary. He cites Drake and Outkast as hip-hop influences, and Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin as inspirations from past decades of classic R&B and soul. Mali Is…. has a forward-looking sound that reaches beyond these genres. Ambitiously striving to inspire and change people through his work, Mali Music reaches his listeners on an intimate level. www.malimusicofficial.com JF



Jimmy Robbins

7. Jimmy Robbins

Jimmy Robbins is a songwriter and producer from Raleigh, North Carolina, who relocated to Nashville in 2012. In just two short years, Robbins has celebrated five #1 songs, including Blake Shelton’s “Sure Be Cool If You Did,” “It Goes Like This” by Thomas Rhett, the Keith Urban/Miranda Lambert duet “We Were Us,” “Whatever She’s Got” by David Nail and “Beachin’,” recorded by Jake Owen. Robbins also co-wrote recent singles from The Cadillac Three, Jana Kramer, Sara Evans, Leah Turner and Chase Rice, and has had over 70 album cuts in the past two years, including songs on recent releases from Kelly Clarkson, Kenny Chesney, Eli Young Band, Thompson Square, Trace Adkins and more.

As a producer, Robbins has credit on former The Voice contestant and Big Machine recording artist RaeLynn’s debut record as well as albums from Thomas Rhett and Canaan Smith. While Robbins loves co-writing with big-name artists who may later record his songs, it is worth noting that all of his chart-topping hits have been “outside songs,” or songs co-written with other Nashville songwriters and not the artists themselves. In Nashville, where the songwriter is king, that is perhaps the ultimate compliment. Jimmy Robbins on Last.fm AT



David Garcia

8. David Garcia

David Garcia is an award-winning songwriter-producer based in Nashville. As a songwriter, Garcia has been instrumental in crafting more than 10 chart-topping songs, many of which have been recent multi-format hits on national radio, including “Stronger” recorded by Mandisa; “Greater” by MercyMe; “All This Time” by Britt Nicole; “Write Your Story” by Francesca Battistelli and “He Said” recorded by Group 1 Crew. Many of Garcia’s songs have also been licensed for use in major motion pictures, movie trailers and network television shows.

Earlier this year, Garcia received his first Grammy Award as a songwriter for co-writing Mandisa’s massive hit “Overcomer,” and also earned his first Songwriter of the Year nomination at the 2014 GMA Dove Awards.

As a record producer, Garcia has earned two Grammy Awards and three GMA Dove Awards along with multiple nominations. He has had major success in a wide range of musical genres from country to hip-hop, and has produced many renowned Christian music artists including TobyMac, MercyMe, Mandisa, Jamie Grace, Colton Dixon, Francesca Battistelli, The Afters and more. garciaofficial.tumblr.com AT



Judd Greenstein

9. Judd Greenstein

In a New York composing community teeming with fascinating figures, ASCAP composer Judd Greenstein stands out. Whether he’s writing a dual sonata for cello and piano, a haunting wordless choral piece or a fusion of hip-hop and concert music, Greenstein is capable of breathing new life into old genres – and inventing new ones along the way. His music has been heard at Carnegie Hall, the Tanglewood Festival, Amsterdam’s Musiekgebouw and the Bang on a Can Marathon among many others; he has received commissions from the Minnesota Orchestra, Alabama Symphony, Claremont Trio, yMusic and Roomful of Teeth and many more.

Judd is also an active champion of new music around the country. As co-director of New Amsterdam Records/New Amsterdam Presents, Greenstein supports music creators with multi-faceted musical backgrounds. Since 2011 he has curated the Ecstatic Music Festival, a series of concerts showcasing new music that bridges the classical and vernacular divide. He’s also co-founder of NOW Ensemble, a collective that develops new chamber music for an idiosyncratic lineup of instruments.

Greenstein’s current projects include an opera (with librettist Tracy K Smith and director Joshua Frankel) about how two urban theorists transformed New York’s landscape in the ‘60s. It is set to premiere in 2016. www.juddgreenstein.com ER



Iggy Azalea

10. Iggy Azalea

If you listened to pop or urban radio this summer, you couldn’t escape ASCAP rapper Iggy Azalea. During one week in late May, her audacious single “Fancy” was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, followed at #2 by Ariana Grande’s “Problem,” featuring a sassy verse from Azalea. Also in 2014, Azalea took three honors at the Teen Choice Awards and was named Breakout Star at the Billboard Mid-Year Music Awards.

Iggy Azalea’s ascent has been a quick one, but it came after years of networking and honing her craft. Born in Australia, Azalea moved to America as a teenager to pursue hip-hop. After her debut single “Pu$$y” went viral in 2011, she reached out to southern rap impresario T.I., who began advising her. Several mixtapes, EPs and high-profile tours (including support slots for Beyoncé and Rita Ora) later, Azalea finally released her debut album The New Classic in April. Its combination of trap, EDM and pop with Azalea’s confident flow struck a chord – she became the first non-American female to top Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and Top Rap Albums charts.

While we’re waiting for Iggy Azalea’s next move, you can see her on MTV as host of the revamped House of Style. www.iggyazalea.com ER