How often do you find yourself scouring through Spotify in desperate need of new music? Or scanning SoundCloud in the hope of discovering a fresh rapper or singer? Nowadays, everybody thinks they’ve got what they need to be a sonic megastar, thanks in part to streaming platforms that let young artists try their hand at new things without the same baggage they might have had ten years ago.
But for every dude that’s the “next Frank Ocean”, there’s a “poor man’s Kendrick” in there too. Before long, these conflicting opinions on new artists or a record label’s overzealous push of their own “next big thing” will have you escaping to the familiarity of your vintage playlists.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. 2018 marks an exciting new chapter in fresh-faced, woke, millennial music. To celebrate its arrival, here are ten of the strongest new artists from the hip-hop, pop and electro realms that are set to conquer 2018, let alone ones you can stick on repeat reliably throughout the year.
Born in Indiana but raised in a small town outside of Dublin, Bonzai’s erratic, catchy and singular sound has caught the ears of radio DJs and SoundCloud scourers alike. Finding her footing alongside A$AP Rocky collaborator Mura Masa, she toured the world as his lead vocalist while the pair worked together on each other’s music.
The trilogy of EP’s she released in 2015 and 16 have given us a flavor of her twisted, trappy sound; now, with a record deal under her belt, we’re expecting to hear a brilliant LP later in the year.
For fans of: Mura Masa, AlunaGeorge
Essential tracks: “What If I Go?,” “Sick ‘Em,” I Feel Alright”
Col3trane is barely 18 years old, but he’s making some of the most intriguing, mercurial soundscapes coming out of London right now. Born and raised in the capital city to American and Egyptian parents, he’s a rare talent who isn’t afraid to flirt with different genres, sounds and themes with his music.
Heck, fan favorite “Penelope” dissects love stories from Homer’s Odyssey: it’s brilliant and twisting, and could be three songs instead of one. If some old dude tells you that teenagers can’t make great music, send them Col3trane’s way. If he’s this great now, imagine how he’ll sound in five years time.
For fans of: Frank Ocean, The Weeknd
Essential tracks: “Malibu Sleep,” “Penelope”
This producer duo are responsible for some of the biggest tracks of 2017 – you probably just weren’t aware of it. Based out of Stockholm, Jarami were on the production credits for a trio of Frank Ocean’s singles post-Blond.
While their work with Frank on “Chanel,” “Lens” and “Biking” felt deft and controlled, there’s something admirably loose about the tracks on Sketches, their solo debut EP that showcases their own sound. Fans of disco funk-laced electro, take note: these guys will spend 2018 producing your party playlists for you.
For fans of: Kaytranada
Essential tracks: “Hear This,” “Pretty Big House”
If you aren’t listening to Jessie Reyez, where the hell have you been? This Toronto-hailing vocalist has spent the past two years trickling music into the public sphere, with brilliant tracks like the slicing “Shutter Island” and “Figures” getting love from Beats 1.
With a debut EP that dropped last spring and a guest appearance on the new Calvin Harris record, she’s set to have an ace 2018 too with a rumored LP on the horizon. If you like your R&B full of angst and emotion, check Jessie out: her vocals are stellar; her lyrics on the perils of fame and love even more so.
For fans of: Bibi Bourelly, Jorja Smith
Essential tracks: “Shutter Island,” “Figures”
Sometimes, musicians are able to say a lot by saying a little; the modest music of 22-year-old Puma Blue proves that. Born Jacob Allen, he’s a beguiling singer-songwriter with a penchant for mixing esoteric lyrics (“Bleeding out my reasons, till the red reaches the ceiling”) with brazenly simple ones, creating brilliant, bluesy love songs in the process.
Call it a cliché, but the tracks of his jazz-tinged EP Swum Baby often sound like the work of someone twice his age. Still, we predict they’ll act as the perfect post-breakup soundtrack for every twenty-something in 2018.
For fans of: King Krule
Essential tracks: “Want Me,” “Soft Porn”
This soon-to-be 21-year-old DJ/producer from Stirling, Scotland makes unpredictable, transportive electronic music that’s been sending his fans fucking insane for three years running. Finding his footing as a bedroom producer, he broke out with a SoundCloud hit, signed to LA label Soulection before finding his real home at XL Recordings, where he released the lauded Escapism trilogy.
With so much still to come from the lad Pitchfork dubbed an “electronic wunderkind,” what might 2018 hold? A full length LP is in the cards, along with a rumored side project under a new moniker.
For fans of: Mr Carmack, Kaytranada, Cashmere Cat
Essential tracks: “Long Distance,” “Jungle Waters”
Sandwiched in between London and Birmingham, towns like Northampton barely get a look in when it comes to hip-hop, but rapper slowthai is hellbent on changing that. His tracks tap into the mundanity of life outside of England’s capitals; his intelligent rhymes are made from mentions of taxes, the police and party culture.
By turns lethal and brilliant, he’s already caught the eye of Boy Better Know – the grime collective helmed by Skepta – and JME booked him to perform at their behemoth London showcase last year.
For fans of: Wiley, JME, Bugzy Malone
Essential tracks: “Jiggle,” “Kenny”
Stefflon Don has been a killer name on the UK rap scene throughout all of 2017, but this year you should expect to see her break internationally too. Born to a Jamaican family in Birmingham, UK, she’s racked up an impressive roster of collaborators that have taken her far from those English midlands roots, linking up with everybody from Skepta, Jeremih and French Montana to pop artists like Demi Lovato.
A proud purveyor of Caribbean sounds, Don’s music is tinged with dancehall and reggae influences, making us mad excited for what her debut album, a 2018 deadcert, might sound like.
For fans of: Missy Elliot, Lil’ Kim
Essential tracks: “Hurtin’ Me,” “16 Shots”
It’s a well known fact that two musicians don’t need to be in the same room to make great music these days. But that trope is usually applied to two parties collaborating, not a whole band dispersed around the globe. That’s part of what makes Superorganism – a multinational electro group who rarely meet together IRL – so interesting.
Like their name suggests, they almost act like a collection of cells that gradually fuse together to make something otherworldly. It’s hard to pin down their sound, so think of looping, grinding, effervescent summer pop that makes you want to bomb headfirst into an outdoor swimming pool.
For fans of: Gorillaz, Vampire Weekend
Essential tracks: “Something for your M.I.N.D.,” “It’s All Good”
People are calling this Brooklyn-based producer the next big name in house. Born Kaithy Yaeji Lee (but going by her middle name in music), her sound is inspired by the underground art scene she’s spent much of the last few years consuming. Raised in the city of Seoul before being moved about the States, she headed back to her hometown in South Korea for a few years before returning to the US to study.
Her latest EP – which contains one of our best tracks of 2017, “raingurl” – sees her effortlessly shift between subtle, club-friendly tracks sung in Korean and dreamy renditions of Drake’s latest cuts. She’s versatile, refuses to be boxed in and is behind some of the most intriguing music coming out of New York right now. Stay tuned for new stuff (perhaps a full-length?) later in the year.
For fans of: Mall Grab, Hannah Diamond
Essential tracks: “raingurl,” “passionfruit”
- Cover Image: Andrew Benge / Stringer / Getty Images