In the streaming era, it’s easy for an artist to achieve global success without ever establishing a fanbase the town they’re from. Just take a look at the audience maps of Internet-made rappers like Lil Skies and the late Lil Peep. But in the words of Pandora’s head of Latin Programming Marcos Juarez, “there’s no substitute for old-school grinding, playing shows and winning fans in your hometown.”
Indeed, even in the age of overnight internet sensations, there are still a number of artists — like El Paso native Khalid — who receive a vast majority of attention in their hometowns before seeing country-wide or worldwide success. Take a look at Shoreline Mafia, who spent the spring climbing our Trendsetters chart, finally reaching No. 1 in August, almost entirely at the behest of the state of California.
Zooming in on hyper local artists can paint a rich picture of the current state of music across the U.S. That’s exactly the reasoning behind our list of regional Pandora Trendsetters, which take the theory of our Pandora Trendsetters Chart and applies it at a local level, focusing on artists who are trendsetters in their respective states. To do this, we looked exclusively at artists who have a strong regional following, using a measure called “entropy” of how concentrated or distributed their fan following is, to identify only those with a fan following that is concentrated geographically.
Among these regional artists, we found those with the top listening engagement on Pandora, as judged by fans tuning in to their artist station on Pandora.
So what kind of tapestry do we see? Below, we’ve highlighted some of the most unique regional Trendsetters on our list, from folk-punk to something called “chicken scratch.” And to put a sound to the faces, check out the Regional Trendsetters Playlist.
ALABAMA: RILEY GREEN
Jacksonville, Alabama, native Riley Green still gets a majority of his roughly 3,000 monthly artist station adds from his sweet home state, but he also seems to be on the precipice of a big breakout moment as his fanbase spreads across the south. The song that took him there is “There Was This Girl,” off of his In A Truck Right Now EP. The track, a twangy tune about a crush, is currently in the top 40 of the Pandora Top Spins Chart.
Most popular song on Pandora: “There Was This Girl”
Pandora Genome traits: Smooth vocals, Twang, blues influence
ARIZONA: PIMA EXPRESS
Bapchule-based group Pima Express are one of the most popular bands of “chicken scratch,” a social dance of Tohono O’odham, the Native American people of southern Arizona. Chicken scratch mixes elements of northern Mexican music, polka, cumbias and more into one highly danceable genre. Pima Express — composed of four native American men, all related — have a very high concentration of attention in Arizona, with a vast majority of their artist station adds coming from the Grand Canyon state.
Most popular song on Pandora: “Western Cumbia”
Pandora Genome traits: Major harmonies, joyous/light mood, danceability
CALIFORNIA: 03 GREEDO
03 Greedo has been called “the future of West Coast rap” for a style that’s nothing quite like what other California rappers are putting out. He spent most of his childhood in Watts, an impoverished section of Los Angeles that is home to the infamous Grape Street Crips. His gangster lifestyle is a constant theme in his music, which he describes as “emo music for gangbangers.” Despite his national coverage, 03 Greedo still sees an overwhelming majority of his artist station adds coming from southern California.
Most popular song on Pandora: “Never Bend”
Pandora Genome traits: Repetition, synthetic sound, danceability
COLORADO: GASOLINE LOLLIPOPS
A band who “combines the sincerity of dirt-floor folk with the energy and rebelliousness of punk,” Colorado band Gasoline Lollipops are unlike anything you hear on top 40 radio. But they’ve grown a nice fanbase in the Centennial State. In 2014, 2015 and 2017 they were named the “Best Boulder Band” by the Colorado Daily. Fun fact: Lead singer Clay Rose once had a theatrical side project called Widow’s Bane that he described as “zombie-death-polka.”
Most popular song on Pandora: “Resurrection”
Pandora Genome traits: Gritty, gravelly vocals, spoken word, literary
FLORIDA: BALL GREEZY
While many recent Florida rappers — like Lil Pump and $ki Mask the Slump God — have been entirely products of the Internet, and therefore have an audience all over the map, Ball Greezy is not one of those Florida rappers. The Miami native has made a name for himself in the Sunshine state for his gritty Southern style, and unlike $ki Mask and Lil Pump, Florida drives a large majority of his listenership.
Most popular song on Pandora: “Nice & Slow (feat. Lil Dred)”
Pandora Genome traits: Danceability, intelligible lyrics, R&B influence
ILLINOIS: SICKO MOBB
Lil Ceno and Lil Trav — known as Sicko Mobb — are one of the most popular artists in bop, a genre that has emerged in Chicago over the past decade that mixes elements of dance music and hip-hop. While bop is well established in the Windy City, it hasn’t quite taken off nationally yet, which explains Sicko Mobb’s hyper local, hyper passionate following. The two got their start with local shows — “We performed at little neighborhood shows, we did kid’s birthday parties and shit,” they told Pitchfork — and still see a majority of their listenership on Pandora from Chicago.
Most popular song on Pandora: “Fiesta Remix (Feat. A$AP Ferg)”
Pandora Genome traits: Party rap, danceability, synthetic sound
KENTUCKY: TURNING GROUND
Repping Kentucky is bluegrass band Turning Ground, fronted by Nathan Arnett. The group are natives of the Appalachian town of Saylersville, and their down-home sound and gospel influence has won over a faithful legion of Kentuckian fans. While their fanbase is relatively small, they are what Next Big Sound considers “Promising.”
Most popular song on Pandora: “Lay Me Down”
Pandora Genome traits: Acoustic, Bluegrass, danceability, twang
LOUISIANA: KEITH FRANK AND THE SOILEAU ZYDECO BAND
Mixing elements of blues, R&B and more, Zydeco is an accordion-led genre that’s native to southwest Louisiana. Keith Frank — a Louisiana native — and his Soileau Zydeco Band has been one of the most celebrated purveyors of the genre since the 1990s and into today. The band sees most of their activity in western Louisiana and into parts of eastern Texas.
Most popular song on Pandora: “I Got Loaded”
Pandora Genome traits: Major harmonies, vamping, joyful lyrics, rhythm
MARYLAND: Q DA FOOL
Rapper Q DA Fool was born and bred in the DMV, the nickname for D.C., Maryland and Virginia. While the Roc Nation signee has started getting attention outside his homestate — his 2018 mixtape 100 Keys was a collaboration with Atlanta producer Zaytoven, and he’s been covered in national music publications like The Fader — right now, the DMV area still drives a majority of his listenership on Pandora.
Most popular song on Pandora: “Not Playin”
Pandora Genome traits: Repetition, Southern, rhythmic groove
MICHIGAN: FMB DZ
“All Detroit music, for real.” That’s the musical diet that up-and-coming Detroit rapper FMB DZ grew up on, according to his interview with XXL Magazine. It makes sense, then, that a large majority of his listenership on Pandora comes from Michigan. 2017 was a breakout year for the FMB DZ, but his momentum only gained in 2018 on Pandora after the release of In My Bag and Can’t Funk Broke.
Most popular song on Pandora: “Hold Me Down (feat. GT)”
Pandora Genome traits: Danceability, boastful lyrics, intelligible lyrics
Jackson, Mississippi-born J-Wonn is a promising new voice of modern Southern soul and R&B. His first big regional hit came in 2013 with “I Got This Record,” and since then he’s released a stream of well-received singles that’s helped him grow a passionate fanbase in the Magnolia State. But his listenership is starting to grow to other areas in the South like Texas, Georgia and Florida. Considering he recently collaborated with R&B legend Keith Sweat on the song “Feel Me,” it could be just a matter of time until he goes from a Mississippi Trendsetter to a nationwide one.
Most popular song on Pandora: “I Got This Record”
Pandora Genome traits: Soul, vamping, smooth vocals
NEW YORK: JAY CRITCH
While Atlanta has been rap’s epicenter for the past few years, there’s a new class of New York rappers breathing new life into the genre’s birthplace. Jay Critch has been called “the new New York,” a promising Brooklyn native who is becoming widely regarded for his mix of lyrical dexterity — New York rap’s staple — and a more trap-inspired flow and style. A massive majority of Critch’s 1,400 weekly artist station adds come from New York.
Most popular song on Pandora: “Fashion”
Pandora Genome traits: Intelligible vocals, Boastful, emphasis on lyrics
NORTH CAROLINA: JIM QUICK & COASTLINE
North Carolina’s Jim Quick and Coastline have been making noise in the Carolinas for their unique blend of Soul, Blues, R&B, and Americana that they call “swamp soul.” Songs like “Mississippi Mud” and “Mama Lou’s” are dripping with Southern sound, something Jim Quick says is the goal: “I’m a Southern boy and it all hits home; the lyrics and heart of the music, from the melodies to chord progressions, it all seems to strike an ancestral nerve with me.” Jim Quick and Coastline see nearly all of their artist station adds from North and South Carolina.
Most popular song on Pandora: “Mississippi Mud”
Pandora Genome traits: Blues influence, gritty vocals, romantic lyrics
“Tropidelic” may sound like something right out of Jamaica, but this reggae/hip-hop/ska group was born and bred in the landlocked city of Kent, Ohio. The group can be caught touring with the likes of Slightly Stoopid and Pepper, and are starting to see attention in states surrounding Ohio, as well as Florida. But for the most part, their most loyal fanbase comes in their homestate.
Most popular song on Pandora: “Alcoholic (Feat. Bumpin Uglies)”
Pandora Genome traits: Rhythm, danceability, reggae, medium rock
Known for their extravagant live performances and concept albums, alternative rock band Floater have developed a bit of a cult following in their hometown of Portland. While the group started making music in 1994, it wasn’t until their latest album, The Thief, that Floater started seeing serious upticks in artist station adds on Pandora. Their fanbase also started to spread to other areas of the Pacific Northwest.
Most popular song on Pandora: “Wondering”
Pandora Genome traits: emphasis on lyrics, electric sound, rhythmic groove
Rising rapper Kur makes it known that he’s from Philly. He works frequently with Philly producers like Maaly Raw, has collaborated with Meek Mill, and he features the streets of Philadelphia in music videos like “What Did It Do.” It makes sense, then, that Kur gets so much love from the City of Brotherly Love. Kur’s been on the comeup since releasing his 180 mixtape last year, and has been steadily growing his fanbase in Philly since then.
Most popular song on Pandora: “Uptop! Uptop!”
Pandora Genome traits: Gangsta rap influence, repetition
TENNESSEE: OG BOO DIRTY
While most of Southern hip-hop has been focused on Atlanta, rising Memphis native OG Boo Dirty wants to “bring the Down South sound back.” And it seems that Down South, hip-hop fans are embracing him. His music — which documents his struggles growing up — has a strong fanbase in his hometown, and nearby cities like St. Louis and Houston are starting to catch on.
Most popular song on Pandora: “Lil Bish”
Pandora Genome traits: Southern rap, gangsta rap
TEXAS: KOE WETZEL
Koe Wetzel has been on the Trendsetters Chart a total of four months now, but unless you’re in the Lone Star State, we wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of them. But in Texas, their blend of rock n roll and country is all the rage. The band — led by east Texas native Koe Wetzel — has been seen between 1,700 and 1,800 new artist station adds every week on Pandora.
Most popular song on Pandora: “Something to Talk About”
Pandora Genome traits: Twang, Medium Rock, Country, Vamping
UTAH: FOREIGN FIGURES
While listeners in Oklahoma spin Christian contemporary group Life.Church Worship, in Salt Lake City, it’s pop group Foreign Figures that reigns. While many members of the group are Mormon, it isn’t Mormon music per se`: As lead singer Eric Michels said in a recent interview, “We talk about bringing positivity, and that is important to us, but it’s not like all of our songs are 100 percent upbeat and positive.” Salt Lake City, which is the world headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, drives a large number of their roughly 100 monthly artist station adds on Pandora.
Most popular song on Pandora: “Legends”
Pandora Genome traits: Medium Rock, pop, emphasis on lyrics, smooth vocals
To call Kuinka untraditional doesn’t quite do them justice. When the Seattle band put together their submission to perform on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, they performed with a number of non-instruments including a typewriter. Their unique approach and their eclectic blend of folk and pop, not only grabbed NPR’s attention, but also the attention of many music fans in Seattle. Kuinka, formerly known as Wild Rabbit, has quite a passionate following in Washington, and are starting to see more attention in other parts of the Pacific Northwest.
Pandora Genome traits: Folk, danceability, high vocabulary
Head to the Regional Trendsetters Playlist to hear the biggest hits from these artists.