Rapper JoeJas wins out in eclectic Vans’ Musicians Wanted concert finale

Anderson .Paak was among the judges crowning the transatlantic rapper the winner of the 2020 event

London-via-Atlanta rapper JoeJas came out victorious at this week’s concert finale for the 2020 Vans’ Musicians Wanted competition.

On Wednesday (December 9) five eclectic artists from across Europe performed virtually from their home studios to win the chance to support Anderson .Paak at a 2021 gig.

“I’m looking for something literally off the wall,” .Paak said prior to the concert of his hopes for the winner. “I’m looking for something that’s unique. I want something I’ve never heard before. I want something that’s undeniable.”

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First up on the virtual concert was JoeJas, who impressed .Paak with his “abstract ass bars,” sharing his invigorating verses over production that leans towards synth-pop as much as it does hip-hop.

“Someone might see me and go, ‘You know what, I’m gonna make weird ambient paper music’, and they’re having the most fun and people accept them,” JoeJas said after his performance, bringing together genres, off-the-wall ideas and weirdness and embracing them.

Elsewhere at the Musicians Wanted finale, French artist YGG channelled the dirty, fuzzy grunge of the ‘90s with added drum machine to drag it into the 21st century. He was followed by the UK-based Nikaa.

“I would like my listeners to feel upbeat and ready to take on anything when they listen to my music as everybody deserves to start the day in a good and uplifting mood and mindset,” she told NME of the mindset behind her soulful, jazz-adjacent sound, and there was a warmth and comfort in her performance that highlighted her syrupy vocals.

British-Polish artist NTT was next up at the virtual concert, blurring rap, R&B and soul in a sound that is consistently unpredictable; from verse to verse, you’re never sure where she’ll go come the next verse. Judge Nilüfer Yanya was impressed by her voice and “cute” lyricism.

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Vans' Musicians Wanted
NTT. Credit: Vans.

Next up, bringing a psychedelic rock freak-out to proceedings were Italy’s Duck Baleno. “They’re fire,” judge and rapper J.I.D. remarked of the band’s unhinged, otherworldly bending of rock music, which is indebted as much to dirty, distorted blues as it is the psychedelica of Tame Impala.

It was JoeJas that came out victorious, though, impressing with his loose, genre-ambivalent take on rap and hip-hop. “I’m floored, you guys are amazing,” .Paak said of the finalists to end the concert. “All of you guys are winners and have amazing potential.”

Vans’ Musicians Wanted 2020 virtual concert finale is available to watch back in full here.

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