Album title: 1991 EP
Management: Troy Carter, Coalition Media Group
Release date: May 29
Azealia Banks has quickly become hip-hop's darling. Back in December, the Harlem rapstress burst onto the scene with the burrowing "212." Its video has racked up almost 17 million views since hitting YouTube in September, and found its way to Interscope executive VP of A&R Larry Jackson, who signed her to the imprint in the first week of January.
"I was knocked out. I hadn't been that impressed by a female MC in quite some time," says Jackson, who previously brought Lana Del Rey to Interscope based on the strength of her breakout hit "Video Games." "She's got a huge, huge reservoir of confidence."
But she's still cautious. Rather than rushing out her full-length debut, "Broke With Expensive Taste," due this fall, Banks will release the four-track "1991 EP" on May 29. Fresh on the heels of her breakthrough performance at the Coachella festival, the EP will arrive the same week as her first headlining New York show at Bowery Ballroom and a coveted appearance at WQHT's Summer Jam (both June 3). In addition to her "Fantastic" mixtape, scheduled for release around July 4, "1991" is a way to entice those who are yet to discover the 20-year-old.
"We really wanted to make sure that we've got a loaded cannon ready for this album," Jackson says. Banks, who ranked third in the BBC's Sound of 2012 and topped NME's Cool List last year, even canceled European festival dates this summer to finish "Broke." Hip-hop fans are already largely onboard, but Jackson has faith that her reach isn't limited. "It's inevitable that she'll cross over," he says, "but we're not even making records thinking about that."
Album title: Jana Kramer
Label: Warner Music Nashville
Management: McGhee Entertainment
Release date: June 5
Though she found success as an actress with roles on "Friday Night Lights," "90210" and "One Tree Hill," Michigan native Jana Kramer says her first love has always been singing. Her single "Why Ya Wanna" is No. 19 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, and several of her songs were featured on "One Tree Hill." Kramer portrayed Alex Dupre on the popular CW show, which ended this season. However, she won't be idle this summer. Look for Kramer as one of the opening acts on Brad Paisley's Virtual Reality tour.
Album title: Shrines
Label: 4AD (worldwide), Last Gang (Canada)
Management: We Are Free
Release date: July 24
After joining forces in 2010, 24-year-old Megan James and 21-year-old Corin Roddick parlayed blog buzz from their inaugural future-pop tracks into a record deal with 4AD and Last Gang Records. Now, the Canadian duo is prepping the July release of its debut, "Shrines," a crunchy blend of laser synths, boom-bap beats and haunting vocals. Summer plans include hitting the international festival circuit (Barcelona's Primavera, Dublin's Forbidden Fruit Festival) and joining heralded indie outfit Dirty Projectors for a North American tour.
Album title: Home Again
Management: Robert Swerdlow, Starwood Management
Release date: July 17
The 24-year-old British singer/songwriter made waves with his debut EP, "Tell Me a Tale," in April 2011, earning a supporting slot for Adele's 2011 tour and a spot at last year's iTunes Festival. But it was when the BBC crowned Kiwanuka the victor of its Sound of 2012 competition that anticipation mounted for the Bill Withers sound-alike's full-length debut, "Home Again" (released in the United Kingdom in March), earning him gigs at this summer's Bonnaroo festival and Lollapalooza.
Album title: Poder y Respeto
Label: Nueva Era Music/Sony U.S. Latin
Management: Angel Del Villar, Nueva Era Music
Release date: July 24
Los Angeles-born Martin Castillo makes no apologies for singing narcocorridos, the popular style of music that chronicles Mexico's drug trade, saying, "My music is real." Earlier this year, he scored his big break when owners of new label Nueva Era Music (founded by executives of Del Records) discovered him online with a following of fans. In Mexico, the bilingual Castillo is already filling up venues.
Album title: Dreams & Nightmares
Label: Maybach Music Group/Warner Bros.
Management: Phillip Smith and Rich Kleiman, Roc Nation
Release date: Aug. 28
With two mixtapes out - "Dream Chasers" and "Dream Chasers 2" - Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill will release his major-label debut on Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group imprint with Warner Bros. "[The album] is just telling you about both sides of my life, coming from the streets and the life I'm living now, traveling the world and making money," he says.