New Kids on the Block: Young Black Up-and-Comers

Young Up and Comers
ESSENCE.COM Sep, 15, 2009

1 of 17 Jennifer Cooper

From movies to music to television, young Black entertainers are making moves. See who’s rising to the top.

Following a much-talked-about role as Lil’ Kim in “Notorious” earlier this year, Naturi Naughton headlines the young cast in this weekend’s anticipated “Fame” remake. The former 3LW member is rumored to appear alongside Ice Cube and Bow Wow in the 2010 comedy “Lottery Ticket.”

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We loved Wilds on HBO’s “The Wire,” and now he’s expanded his reach with a solid role on “90210.” Look for the young heartthrob in the upcoming “Red Tails,” a big-screen retelling of the Tuskegee Airmen’s story.

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Miley who? These days we can’t get enough of teen queen Keke Palmer. She wowed us in “Akeelah & the Bee,” holding her own alongside Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne in 2006, and three years later she’s doing the most. She’s the star of Nickelodeon’s “True Jackson VP” and recently helped launch a cloting line based on the show.

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With a résumé longer than some of his adult costars and comedic timing that rivals a young Gary Coleman, this little man is just getting started. “Role Models,” “Imagine That,” “Fred Claus,” “Idlewild” and “30 Rock” are just a few of his credits. Did we mention he’s only 13?

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She may be young but this 26-year-old jazzy songbird knows a thing or two about grown folks’ music. Michele followed up 2007’s well-received “I Am” with “Epihany,” one of this year’s musical treats.

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Billed as hip-hop’s “next big thing,” this Canadian rapper/singer created a buzz not seen since 50 Cent’s 2003 takeover with his street mixtape “So Far Gone” in early 2009. By blending witty rhymes alongside female-approved hooks with such joints as “Best I Ever Had” and “Successful,” Drake gained a following prior to even releasing an album to retail. Now that’s major.

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Expect to hear Sidibe’s name come award season. The young actress is earning early buzz for her emotional breakout role as the central character in the Oprah-and-Tyler-backed “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire.”

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This out-of-the-box hip-hop artist and Kanye West protégé won over fans and critics alike last year with his chart-topping single “Day ‘N’ Nite,” and his debut album, “Man on the Moon,” hit iPods earlier this month to rave reviews.

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Perhaps you haven’t heard the name but you’ve likely heard the voice. The Nigerian-Irish singer’s “From My Heart to Yours” got much burn on adult contemporary stations earlier this year. And her debut, “Let the Truth Be Told,” served the perfect amount of blues grit and gospel emotion.

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As the snooty Isabel Coates on the megahit show “Gossip Girl,” this former model has seamlessly parlayed her talent in front of the camera into her first acting role. Pretty impressive.

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Born into a family full of soul, this next-generation DeBarge feels right at home on center stage. Pop fans fell in love with her debut hit single, “Goodbye,” and it’s easy to see why.

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Cosigned by Jay-Z and Kanye West, Canadian rocker Fiona boasts a standout voice that’s not to be missed. Here’s to blasting debut single “Give it to Me Right” and hitting repeat.

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Born Olubowale Victor Folarin, this D.C. native’s local following took him to the national stage. The eclectic MC got his biggest break at this month’s MTV VMAs when he rocked with the house band for a bulk of the night. With his latest single, “Chill,” featuring Lady Gaga gaining spins, he’s expected to release his debut album this fall.

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As the larger-than-life diva on Fox’s new critically acclaimed musical-infused comedy “Glee,” Riley rightfully steals the spotlight.

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Williams, a Temple University grad, joins the cast of “Grey’s Anatomy” this season. You may have seen him in last year’s “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.”

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