Pardison Fontaine became known in the industry for being Cardi B’s longtime friend and co-writer (which earned him two Grammy nominations, no less), but he’s ready to break out as his own solo artist this year. Following the September release of his infectious “Backin’ It Up” single -- which features the regular-degular-shmegular girl herself -- the rapper is now prepping a major-label debut via Atlantic Records and a new mixtape in March. “My music is so tailored off of actual experiences,” Fontaine told Billboard, “that it takes me some living to come up with the content.” -- BIANCA GRACIE
When you have a roster boasting blue-chip talents like Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Jay Rock and ScHoolboy Q, you have no choice but to trounce the competition. Fortunately for REASON, his grit and dexterity proved himself quite a prospect in his own right, especially when he re-released his TDE debut There You Have It last September. Tracks like "Better Dayz" and "Summer Up" showcase a nimble wordsmith whose soul remains ensnared by the streets' expectations. Still, don't get it twisted -- REASON is more than just a punchline rapper, as proven on "Colored Dreams," a seamless tale of a cold-blooded killer who commits suicide in prison.
REASON's high-octane raps has also earned him effusive praise from his TDE cohorts. Not only did Kendrick Lamar enlist him for the Black Panther soundtrack last year, but he later earned himself an opener slot on Jay Rock's Redemption Tour. This year, REASON earned a golden ticket to J. Cole's Dreamville Rap Camp, where he and a selected group of artists (T.I., Rick Ross, Wale) joined Cole and his crew for a 10-day recording process for the Revenge of the Dreamers III compilation album. -- CARL LAMARRE