Dave East, Kacy Hill, & Bibi Bourelly Show Promise at Def Jam Upfronts 2017 in New York City

Dave East performs at the 2017 Def Jam Upfronts presented by Honda Stage, Pepsi, Courvoisier, and True Religion at Kola House NYC on May 9, 2017 in New York City.
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Dave East performs at the 2017 Def Jam Upfronts presented by Honda Stage, Pepsi, Courvoisier, and True Religion at Kola House NYC on May 9, 2017 in New York City.  

On Tuesday night (May 9), a bevy of journalists and music executives flocked to New York City's Kola House to watch Def Jam's budding stars showcase their talents onstage. Titled Def Jam Upfronts 2017, prized signees including Troi Irons, Dave East, Kacy Hill, Bibi Bourelly, Earl St. Clair, and Amir Obe provided a sizzling exhibition for everyone in attendance. 

At 8 p.m., Def Jam CEO Steve Bartels appeared onstage and served as the host for the night. Before diving into the performances, Bartels played a trailer showcasing the innumerable acts signed to the prestigious label. Names like Kanye West, Nas, Jhene Aiko, Jeezy, and 2 Chainz popped up one by one on the big screen. Def Jam's 2015 upfront performers -- most notably Vince Staples, Alessia Cara, and Lil Durk -- also had their names mentioned in the trailer, having successfully transitioned from rookie sensations to household names.

To kick things off, 22-year-old Troi Irons flexed her musical prowess, as she performed "Call Me" and "In Love Again" with her guitar in-hand. "[Call Me] is about someone I wish never called me," Irons jokingly told the crowd before breaking into her rock-infused record. With her signature locks resting down her back, she showed promise as a dual threat vocally and on the guitar. 

At 8:30, G.O.O.D. Music songbird Kacy Hill melted the crowd with her poignant set. Donning a red dress, Hill glided through her new records "Like a Woman" and "Hard to Love" with seamless precision. After sprinkling her honeyed vocals onto Travis Scott's 2015 Rodeo standout "90210," Hill hopes to create tremors on the music scene with her expansive solo vision. 

"I think for me, it's all about the vision as far as seeing a product in its entirety," she told Billboard before her performance. "I think it's all about creating something that isn't just an album, that isn't just a live show. I know I'm not the best songwriter in the world. I don't know if I'm the best live performer in the world. I don't know if I'm the best at one thing, but I'm really good at creating something that makes sense top to bottom and makes sense visually." 

Up next was Detroit's Amir Obe. Wearing a camo-designed coat, Obe galvanized the crowd with fun-filled performances of "Yellow Lights" and "Wish You Well." "Shout out to the best label in the world. The label that changed my life," exclaimed Obe after his two-song set. 

At 9:05, Harlem's Dave East picked up the baton and delivered a rousing performance. Draped in a Michael Jordan Bulls jersey, East rocked the crowd with his 2016 banger "Type of Time" and his new record, titled "Thank You." According to East, the 28-year-old lyricist relishes each opportunity he gets to put on a show, especially knowing that he's now backed by his new home Def Jam. 

"Growing up, all my favorite companies and all my favorite groups -- from Ruff Ryders, Roc-A-Fella, and Murder Inc. -- everybody was on Def Jam," East told Billboard backstage. "Just knowing I'm a part of that history and that legacy before I even put out my album [is special]."

After fans received a heavy dose of rap from Obe and East, Cleveland upstart Earl St. Clair shifted the mood drastically. Powered by his band, the ebullient singer set the stage ablaze with his song "Man of Fire." With a red backdrop hovering over St. Clair, he floated through his song gracefully. 

As the crowd cheered for St. Clair after his final song "Bad Love," Bibi Bourelly took center-stage to put the finishing touches on the night's jam-packed festivities. During the performance of her 2016 song "Ballin,'' the vivacious singer swept the crowd away with her silky vocals. Still perhaps best known for penning Rihanna's 2015 hit "B---h Better Have My Money," Bourelly hopes to display more layers as an artist and crafty songwriter.

"I think in order to be a great creative person or great writer, a lot that comes with it in my opinion is empathy and the ability to tap into different sides of your self," she expressed to Billboard. "I think us as human beings -- we're very intricate. We're very multi-dimensional. We're very layered. We're one person when we're angry. We're someone else when we're sad. We're another way when we're happy. I think that's how I go from one end of the spectrum to the other, because I'm so many different things at once."

To wrap things up, Bourelly dived into her somber cut "Sunshine," a record she said she "wrote drunk as sh-t in my bedroom." As she walked off the stage after her song, the crowd applauded the entire Def Jam label, for maintaining its focus in tirelessly searching for artists who may one day blossom into the music industry's biggest stars. 


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