From Doja Cat to DaBaby, Meet the Breakout Artists of the 2021 Grammys

Learn more about 10 artists who have been nominated by the Recording Academy for the 2021 Grammys, including Phoebe Bridgers, Megan Thee Stallion and Chika.

By Cydney Contreras Mar 14, 2021 4:00 PMTags
Watch: Ingrid Andress Blown Away by 3 Grammy Noms: Nominee Spotlight

There were 23,207 entries submitted for consideration for the 2021 Grammys, so it's safe to say that not every artist they chose will be recognizable to the public.

It's for this reason that E! News has created a handy guide to the breakout artists nominated for this year's show, including the six nominees for Best New Artist.

That being said, these musicians aren't entirely new to the music industry. As we've seen time and again, the Recording Academy has recognized established figures, which has created some confusion over the years.

They previously acknowledged how puzzling this category is, writing on their site in 2017, "Our Best New Artist category probably has the most complicated set of rules of any of our categories."

According to the Recording Academy, "a 'new artist' is defined for the Grammy process as any performing artist or established performing group who releases, during the eligibility year, the recording that first establishes the public identity of that artist or established group as a performer."

photos
Grammys 2021: Snubs and Surprises

So if you see any familiar faces in the below guide, that's the reason why they've been considered for this category. Scroll on to see if you recognize any of the names, and if not, learn more about these up-and-comers!

Mickey Guyton

This country singer may not be a Best New Artist nominee, but she's new to the Grammys' country category. 

Her nomination for Best Country Solo performance made the new mom the first Black female artist to be nominated in the country category. She earned the nod thanks to her vocal talents on the song "Black Like Me," which is about racial discrimination.

Her third EP Bridges is also popular among the country community, and has been applauded by Nashville critics.

DaBaby

This rapper is not a New Artist nominee, but he deserves an honorable mention after his single "Rockstar" spent seven non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Not to mention, he's up for Best Rap Song for the second year in a row.

And if you don't recognize his song "Rockstar," then you'll surely recognize him from a popular remix of Dua Lipa's "Levitating." He's also featured on Megan Thee Stallion's "Cry Baby," Jack Harlow's "What's Poppin" and Pop Smoke's "For the Night," to name a few.

DaBaby previously received Grammy nods for the single "Suge." Ultimately, he lost out on Best Rap Song and Rap Performance, but the artist is poised to win after a successful year on the charts. 

Megan Thee Stallion

It's hard to believe that Meg is relatively new to the music scene when she's all anyone can talk about. Nonetheless, 2021 marks the first time the rapper has been recognized by the Recording Academy. She goes into the ceremony with four nominations: Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance.

Of course, her die-hard fans were already listening to her album Tina Snow in 2018, but the rest of us got to know Meg when she released "Hot Girl Summer" in 2019. 

That single shot the artist to super stardom, earning the rapper her first Billboard Top 20. After that, she signed a record deal with Roc Nation and was named on Time magazine's Time 100 Next list. 

In 2020, she went above and beyond the expectations set by Time when she released the EP Suga, which included her TikTok famous song "Savage." 

Then, there's her No. 1 single "WAP" with Cardi B and her remix of Ariana Grande's "34+35" with Doja Cat. In other words, she's not going away any time soon.

Kaytranada

If you need further proof of how confusing the Best New Artist qualifications are, look no further.

Kaytranada is a French-Canadian DJ who has been an ever-present figure in the music scene, especially among the electronic crowd. His expertise in that area garnered the attention of pop star Madonna, who recruited him as an opener for two shows on her Rebel Heart tour in 2015. 

Since then, the DJ, née Louis Kevin Celestin, performed at countless live events, including the popular Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Southern California. 

That being said, this is the first time he's been nominated for a Grammy. This year, he goes into the show with three nods: Best New Artist, Best Dance Recording and Best Dance/Electronic Album for his sophomore project Bubba.

Doja Cat

The 26-year-old artist, born Amala Dlamini, largely rose to prominence after her song "Say So" was used for a viral dance on TikTok in early 2020. 

Since then, the singer has not been able to perform in large venues like artists before her, because her growing popularity coincided with the coronavirus pandemic. Nonetheless, she's gathered a large following through her creative and out of this world performances on shows like The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon and the 2020 MTV VMAs. 

She followed up the success of "Say So" with the equally popular "Like That," and Doja Cat has been featured on Ariana Grande's Positions album, alongside Megan Thee Stallion.

Thanks to the chart-topping hit "Say So," she's now up for Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance.

D Smoke

This Best New Artist nominee is one of the rare musicians to start off as a reality TV star. In 2019, D Smoke, née Daniel Farris, won the first season of Netflix's competition show Rhythm & Flow

After being crowned the inaugural winner of the series, he went on to release his second album Black HabitsSnoop DoggAri Lennox and Jackie Gouche are featured on the project, which is up for Best Rap Album.

He's also been recognized by the NAACP, which nominated him for an Image Award.

Noah Cyrus

This musician is more than just Miley Cyrus' little sister. The 21-year-old singer-songwriter released the emotional EP The End of Everything, which was about growing up in the shadow of her pop star sister.

At the time of its release, Noah shared on an Instagram Live, "Being born in the family I was in, everybody gave me such a hard time for having a hard time being Miley's little sister, but I always felt like I was that person that no one gave a s--t about due to what people said to me online. It was absolutely unbearable," according to Harper's Bazaar.

But that pain has a new meaning now that Noah is nominated for Best New Artist. At the time of her nomination, she wrote on Instagram that she "can't believe" she's being recognized by the Recording Academy. 

Chika

This Black female rapper is a force for change, with songs that promote body-positivity and self-love.

Since pursuing a career in music, she's performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, NPR's Tiny Desk concert series and has appeared in Rihanna's Savage x Fenty fashion shows. 

Chika reflected on how far she's come in these past two years, writing on Instagram the week before the Grammys, "after my first EP, i received one of the most esteemed head nods an artist can get. and that is thanks to my team and my supporters. regardless of what happens next week, we've already won. not only that, but we have a lifetime of more winning to do."

Phoebe Bridgers

If you haven't heard the singer-songwriter's song "Motion Sickness," you're missing out.

This 26-year-old star has been collaborating with the likes of Kid CudiThe 1975 and Fiona Apple for many years, but became a staple on indie playlists when she released her debut album Stranger in the Alps in 2017. Though the somber and melancholy album received critical acclaim, it never garnered the attention of the Recording Academy.

Her sophomore album Punisher has since been released and met with equally glowing reviews. This time around, her work's been noticed by the Recording Academy, which nominated her for Best New Artist, Best Alternative Music Album, Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song.

In December, she told E! News that her "grandpa finally knows that I have a real job," which is one perk of being nominated for a Grammy. 

Ingrid Andress

After writing songs for Grammy-nominated musicians for numerous years, this country singer became one of them.

Ingrid penned lyrics for Alicia KeysSam Hunt and Charli XCX for many years, before turning her attention to her own musical aspirations in 2018. After singing with Warner Nashville, she released the country hit "More Hearts Than Mine," which topped the charts.

Following the success of her debut single, she unveiled her debut album Lady Like, which earned her nominations for Best New Artist, Best Country Song and Best Country Album.

The starlet hardly expected to be nominated just two years into her career, telling E! News in a recent interview, "I've always viewed the Grammys as something I've always wanted to be a part of, but I didn't think it would happen for a long time."

Check out E! News' 2022 Grammy Awards page for a full recap of music's biggest night.