Abigail Asante, Ramona Rose and Kween Deekayy

GETHEARD Future Hitmaker winners: What does it take to stand out?

M spoke to Ramona Rose, Abigail Asante and Kween Deekayy about their experiences in the competition, and got the judges' top tips for future applicants.

Liam Konemann
  • By Liam Konemann
  • 18 Jan 2023
  • min read

Back in December, Girls I Rate announced the winners of the 2022 edition of their GETHEARD Future Hitmaker competition, selecting just three artists from over 600 applicants. Track submissions were taken from women aged 16 to 30 looking to take their careers to the next level.

The GETHEARD Future Hitmaker competition was created by Girls I Rate founder Carla Marie Williams, and is supported by PRS Foundation’s Hitmaker Fund and Spotify. The 2021 award recipient, British-Ghanaian rapper ShaSimone, went on to feature on Mercury Prize-winning rapper Dave’s album We’re All Alone in This Together.

This year, Leeds Americana artist Ramona Rose took home first place, while London rappers Abigail Asante and Kween Deekayy were named the first and second runners-up. The three artists were awarded Future Hitmaker funding of £3,000, £2,000 and £1,000 respectively. In addition to the cash prizes, each placing artist will receive a support package including PIRATE.COM studio time, apparel from ellesse and audio equipment from audio-technica.

The final three songwriters were  selected by a judging board of influential A&Rs: Shauni Caballero, Senior A&R Manager at Sony Music Publishing, Jodeci Chin, Music & Talent Manager at Vevo, Lloyd Murray, A&R Manager at Warner Records and Jacqueline Pelham-Leigh, Relationship Manager – Black Music at PRS for Music. It’s a powerhouse panel, each with their own tastes and professional judgement. 

With competitions like this, persistence is key. All three of this year’s winning artists had entered the competition before, with Ramona Rose first throwing her hat in the ring way back in 2017. ‘My music was in a very different place to where it is today,’ she says. ‘I was fresh out of university and playing in a rock band, only really just figuring out what I wanted to do and where I wanted my music to go. It just goes to show, it’s always worth trying again later down the line.’

Kween Deekayy was shortlisted for her entry in 2019, but didn’t make the final cut. She says this year she’s proud of herself for making it this far, and ‘can only go further’. Meanwhile, Abigail Asante entered just least year, and ‘didn’t even make the top ten.’

‘I’m not sure why because it’s a fire single but I guess it wasn’t my time,’ she says. ‘My mental health wasn’t at the right place when I entered last year, I didn’t have the right team, and I just knew I needed to heal, perfect my craft and come back and take my queen of drill crown, and I did!’

Sometimes, timing is everything. ‘When I entered, it honestly never really occurred to me that I might actually get shortlisted, let alone place first. A part of my brain was going “surely I’ve misheard that, that can’t be true” – it definitely took some time to process!’ says Ramona.

'I was super nervous, but we’ve always been certain that whatever is for you will never pass you by.’

‘I felt very overwhelmed,’ Abigail agrees. ‘I was speaking to my best friend on Snapchat just before they announced me as the winner of the runner up and he was almost certain I was going to win something. I also spoke to my manager just before winning and I was super nervous, but we’ve always been certain that whatever is for you will never pass you by.’

For Kween Deekayy, the quality of the other entrants stood out in the final stages. The Future Hitmaker competition attracts talent across a range of genres from all over the country, and each artist has worked hard on their songs and performances. The quality of the shortlist is very high. ‘I heard a couple other dope artists on the panel that day, and was genuinely shocked when I heard I'd made it to the top three,’ says Kween Deekayy. ‘A side of me had a feeling, but I wasn't cocky enough to let that stop me being genuinely surprised by the win.

In such a competitive field, artists have to do their best to stand out. All three of 2022’s placing artists submitted songs that tapped into a kind of confidence – whether that is the confidence to talk about issues close to their hearts, or to follow their instinct on a new direction, or the kind of empowerment that comes from backing your own self-worth. 

‘Once I heard the beat, I just knew how I wanted to articulate the song and I knew I wanted it to be my “come back” single, so I made sure to talk about me, my heritage, my confidence and just the Queen that I am so new listeners would also get an insight of who Abigail Asante is and what she represents,’ Abigail says.

‘Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Competitions can be a bit daunting but it's a great opportunity to put yourself forward.’

When it comes to advice for future entrants, the judges are in agreement that originality is vital. ‘I can always tell when someone is following a trend, that wont get you noticed by me. My advice is for all the performers to bring their best work, don't save it for later. Aim to completely blow us away,’ says Shauni Caballero.

‘Use the submission video to showcase your style, personality and creativity,’ Jodeci Chin adds. ‘Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Competitions can be a bit daunting but it's a great opportunity to put yourself forward.’

For Kween Deekayy, Abigail Asante and Ramona Rose, placing in the Future Hitmakers competition will allow them to take their careers to the next level. Not only does it remind artists that there is a place for them in the music industry and that their work is valued, but it provides vital funds to facilitate things like recording sessions, travel, music videos, production and release costs. With all three set to release new music in 2023, it’s clear that the 2022 Future Hitmaker winners are heading on to big things.