YouTube Music has unveiled its Foundry New Class of 2021, with 27 independent artists representing 14 countries across a variety of genres, Billboard has learned. This is YouTube’s largest class to date since the program’s inception in 2015.
The global artist development program, which “helps independent artists use music and storytelling to engage fans across borders,” per a press release, provides artists with marketing, promotion, and development support, and tools to help set them up for long-term success.
This year, seven Latin artists have been included on the list — including three who were recently featured on Billboard’s Emerging Latin Artists to Discover in 2021 list — now join other Latin alumni such as Natanael Cano, Eladio Carrion, Cuco and Omar Apollo.
Meet this year’s highlighted Latin acts below, with quotes and more info from YouTube here:
Ambar Lucid is a New Jersey-born singer-songwriter of Dominican and Mexican descent. She began to pen her own songs in her mid-teens, and ultimately put her hazy, bilingual indie-pop tracks onto SoundCloud.
“To me, being independent means having creative control and power over myself and my art,” she says to YouTube. “Success means being able to do things my way while having a loyal group of supporters with me throughout my journey.” Earlier this year, Lucid signed with independent label 300 Entertainment.
Bad Milk (born Manuelita Garcia) has developed a following with her soulful vocals and urban-infused pop tracks. Her first single of 2021, “Ego,” was helmed by Latin hitmaker Ovy on the Drums, who also gave her his stamp of approval on his track “Angelito,” featuring Bad Milk and fellow Colombian newcomer Beéle.
“I love to experiment with different sounds and portray different emotions. I don’t enjoy putting my creativity in a box,” she says. “I see music as a mission. It’s definitely what I came here to do.”
Also hailing from Colombia is Blessd (real name: Stiven Mesa Londoño), whose witty freestyle and sweet, crisp vocals are landing him major collaborations. The 21-year-old rapper, who kicked off his career in 2019, has already dropped tracks alongside Maluma, The Black Eyed Peas, Ovy on the Drums, The Rude Boyz and Piso 21.
Forming part of YouTube’s Foundry class is a great opportunity for Blessd, who mentioned that “being an artist is a dream I always had and also something I needed to do for my family. As an independent artist, I feel free.”
California-based newcomer Junior Mesa is bringing a fresh sound to indie music while staying inspired by the greats. With songs such as “Far Out,” “Losing my Grip” and “Pushing Away,” the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is immersed in a trippy psych-pop sound that’s influenced by artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Jimi Hendrix and Sly & The Family Stone.
“Being independent is a mentality,” he assures. “Claiming independence is saying: We are not the same! I will not conform to your standards. I will express myself in a way that satisfies my will, not yours!”
What Brazilian newcomer Marina Sena loves about being an independent artist is creating a sound that incorporates traditional genres such as Bossanova and funk with a soulful, seductive twist. “To be an independent artist is to have determination, free will, freedom,” she notes. “After starting my solo career on the right foot and being about to release my first full album, there’s nothing better than support to bet on my sound and make it reach people all over the world.”
Country: Dominican Republic
With her bold attitude and unapologetic lyrics, Tokischa is changing the dembow game one single (and collaboration) at a time. With songs such as “Tukuntazo,” “El Rey de la Popola” and “No Me Importa” making the rounds, the Dominican trapera has already garnered the attention of artists such as J Balvin, Anuel and Karol G. “My music has no labels,” she says. “It’s a free, new wave. I’m excited to stand out in countries that are far from my culture.”
Brazilian trio Tuyo — made up of Machado, Lio and Lay Soares — is making waves with an organic sound that experiments with folk music, lo-fi hip-hop and synth-pop. The São Paulo-based act says that their music is “more about a feeling” than a genre. “We mix very delicate vocals with strong rhythms. It’s music for floating, for flying. We are whole, happy, and successful when we can communicate with people through music.”