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Best Hip Hop Artists to Make the Top 40 on Shine

We're naming our favorite Hip Hop artists ahead of the next episode of Shine.

The most watched online singing competition in America, Shine opened its doors to Hip Hop artists in its freshman season. But without a rapper on the judging panel, the fans felt the talent was overlooked.

Brandon Stewart, Ashthon Jones, and Rilan judging together on Shine Season 1. Rilan wearing a silver chocker, Brandon wearing a brown suit jacket. Ashthon sits in the middle. The OG judges for Shine BTV. Brandon TV.
Brandon Stewart, Ashthon Jones, and Rilan, Shine Season 1

When Rilan, a beloved judge from the first season of the series, departed from the show, fans were worried who might fill his seat. But with the need for a larger spotlight on rappers, producers felt an artist in the Hip Hop genre would be best.

When the second season launched with 2'Live Bre now sitting on the panel, critics said it was nothing short of magic. Not just because he's a Hip Hop artist who blew up on the heels of Netflix's Rhythm and Flow, but the chemistry with his other judges - Grammy winner, Ashthon Jones and show's creator, Brandon Stewart.

Not to mention, the ratings more than doubled after Bre joined the show full-time. It's no shock his added pranks and antics keep the audience on their toes week after week. Especially considering how different the entire panel's perspectives are from one another.

"Their personalities don't clash, it's almost like they're so different they compliment one another," Producer Joel Parent told BTV Insider. Season 2 was also the year they discovered Dakota Hayden, which has proven to be their biggest star yet.

Brandon Stewart, Ashthon Jones, and 2'Live Bre on Shine Season 2. Brandon TV. BTV. Clapping and smiling during one of the performances.
Judges, Shine Season 2

Each year Shine provides more opportunities for artists looking for their big break. Now with Bre holding a solid voice for Hip Hop artists, they're certainly getting their seat at the table.

One of the favorites leading into the Top 40 was "like a poet," Stewart said - his name is Deuces Cunningham.

Deuces Cunningham auditioning for Shine Season 3 in Cincinnati Ohio at Urban Artifact.
Deuces Cunningham, Shine Season 3

His audition aired in the 3rd episode, where he opened up about his music, being raised by a single mother and the loss of a close family member. He auditioned in Cincinnati, Ohio, putting forth a smooth rhythm with a flirtatious twist.

You may recognize Cunningham from the viral TikTok trend that had thousands of celebrities and TikTok users alike learning how to wash their hands during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was called The Safeguard Splash Challenge. The theme song he wrote was featured on Good Morning America.

"You're one of my favorite rappers right now," the Hip Hop representation on the judging panel, 2'Live Bre added.

Old Tre was another frontrunner in the Hip Hop genre.

Old Tre auditions for Shine Season 3 in Nashville, Tennessee wearing a black cowboy hat. He is a rapper and not a country singer, contrary to what he presents on the show.
Old Tre, Shine Season 3

His audition aired in the 8th episode. When he first arrived for his audition in Nashville, Tennessee, the judges thought he was a country singer - sporting a black cowboy hat.

Grammy winner, Ashthon Jones, even said he was a "nice looking man," quickly being teased by Stewart and Bre. Jones often gets teased for having 'crushes' during the filming of the show, but Jones says it's not a real crush. "It's only for fun... it's good TV when they provoke me and I just play along," Jones told BTV Insider.

When Old Tre first started singing, Stewart was definitely not pleased, later adding "you won't sell albums singing right now."

Leaving the other two judges shocked, Stewart insisted he stay in the Hip Hop lane because that's where "he's best." His other judges then agreed. This was after Old Tre freestyled a personalized rap directed right at Stewart to be sure he knew how special his talent was.

"I like the rap on you though, for sure," Bre told him.

Also in the 8th episode, was Hip Hop artist Christopher Quinn.

Christopher Quinn auditions for Shine Season 3 in Cincinnati Ohio, at Urban Artifact (Radio Artifact). He has red contact lenses. Though he looks creepy, his story pulls the audience in.
Christopher Quinn, Shine Season 3

He immediately captivated the room with his red contact lenses. It actually spooked a few of the judges. But his story about the loss of his 17 month old daughter, was the only thing the audience remembered after it was over. He details the passing before his audition, proving his faith in God, while telling the judging panel music helped him "get that pain out."

The lyrics told the unbelievable story about his daughter, line by line, pulling the judges in. "You can make us feel it," Bre told Quinn.

"When you started talking about your daughter, it almost sent me to tears," Jones said. "I really do like [you]."

Quinn was admittedly nervous after Stewart began his critiques, holding his shaky hands out for all to see. Each judge did admit he was off the beat a bit, but were undeniably excited to see what he brings in the Top 40.

In Louisville, Kentucky, Shakeric Fennell auditioned in the 4th episode that aired.

Shakeric Fennell auditioned for Shine Season 3 in Louisville Kentucky at the CORE Art Gallery. He is a rapper / Hip Hop artist that go into the Top 40.
Shakeric Fennell, Shine Season 3

"The essence of [my audition] is about knowing your worth," Fennell explained to us in a confessional ahead of his audition. From the jump, his volume was lower and not filled with as much energy. Jones immediately interrupted him, "Stop!"

She then had him start over, saying "start over, louder, more confident... okay?"

The judges weren't as excited about his audition as some of the other Hip Hop artists. "You still didn't get as loud as I wanted you to," Jones told him. But they felt he had some potential.

"I think you're talented," Brandon said, "but you're going to have to work a little harder than some of our other contestants this season."

A few females packed a punch as well. An early favorite, who conquered her struggle, was Hip Hop artist Iman Dillard. Her audition started airing on the 5th episode and concluded, after a cliff hanger, on the 6th episode.

Like Old Tre, she first tried to audition as a singer.

Iman Dillard auditions for Shine Season 3 in Nashville, Tennessee in hopes to be on the show. She is a rapper and messed up her first audition. But after a break, she came back and did well.
Iman Dillard, Shine Season 3

Stewart quickly shut that down, shown in a flashback sequence during her audition. But then she forgot her words, blaming it on some exhaustion and hunger from waiting to audition. Stewart was excited about her and wanted to give her another opportunity, but then threatened, "if you come back, and it's not better, I'm going to be real mad."

Jones reminder fans in a confessional, "There's only going to be 40 [artists] that we pick, you've got to bring your A game."

The judges felt Dillard could do better. So she returned in the next episode and did just that - leaving Stewart with a big smile on his face.

"Can I please get you a Big Mac and some grilled cheese sandwiches [every time]," Jones laughed. Stewart added, "McDouble... with a side of fries." The laughter continued as Dillard smiled, standing confident now. "That was fire," Bre admitted.

It was such a fun way to end the longest audition during the audition tour - one that stretched through multiple episodes.

The 6th episode brought another powerhouse Hip Hop artist named Aprina Johnson. Though she is a versatile artist that can sing too, she moved the judges with her poetic delivery. "I have words for the world to hear," Johnson said.

Aprina Johnson auditioned for Shine Season 3. Auditions on Brandon TV. BTV. Black Lives Matter activist auditioned for the #1 online singing competition show in America and made it to the Top 40. She is among several front runners for a spot in the finals.
Aprina Johnson, Shine Season 3

The auditions took place during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, where Johnson got to explain how active she is in her community. Flashback videos and photos show Johnson leading hundreds of passionate activists.

The judges certainly fell in love with her for her leadership during such a trying time in America. But after the first audition, Stewart asked for another song. Johnson didn't flinch.

"You might not understand, it's your love. Might not understand, it's your love. You might not understand it's your love..." Johnson sang. But when the song modulated post-chorus, the judges were very intrigued.

When the judges started critiquing, Bre mentioned it's "a package of a superstar." Stewart added, "What's really going to be cool, is when we can put that structure in there." He believed she needed to put her lyrics in a different order so the audience could better sing-along, helping get her to trending charts and radio play. Jones agreed with both of the boys. Then they voted together.

"Yes!" They all shouted with smiles, sending the multi-talented artist to the next rounds. Though she's not a Hip Hop artist through and through, the judges plan on flexing her rapping muscle during the competition - which will be fun to watch.

Stay tuned for the return of the #1 online singing competition in America set to air it's 9th episode on September 25th - where the Top 40 will go head to head.

Which of these Hip Hop artists do you think could make it to the finals?


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