New music for the new year: the rising artists you need to hear
22 for ’22: the musicians who are going to smash it in the months ahead. Dig in.
Personal playlist feeling a bit stale? Getting bored of having the same couple of artists served to you by the algorithm?
Fortunately, there are loads of up-and-coming artists to get excited about, and we’ve picked out 22 that we’d recommend you pay attention to over the next 12 months. Some have only recently released their first tracks; some have been at it for a few years but are just hitting their strides creatively.
Read on to bless your ears with amapiano anthems, experimental soul, Ghanaian drill, reggae-tinged rap, scuzzy grunge and dreamy club bangers.
Hailing from Johannesburg’s Soweto township, Kamo Mphela first came to popularity as a dancer thanks to her energetic interpretations of kwaito, amapiano and EDM tracks at local block parties and concerts. Last year, the 22-year-old signed a deal with twin DJ-ing duo Major League DJz, launching her career as a singer with the kwaito-inspired four-track EP Twentee. With amapiano grabbing the attention of global audiences, Mphela made a pivot on Nkulunkulu, leaning into the lush piano keys and spring percussive base of the Gauteng-pioneered genre. In July she had a track, Thula Thula, on NTS Radio’s scene showcase compilation, Amapiano Now. And it’s been noted that her fashion and dancing styles are having a strong influence on young women at amapiano parties. As the genre continues to surge into 2022, Kamo Mphela will be one of its leading lights. WO
Fun fact: Before music, she had a brief stint as an actor and was an extra on South African drama Isibaya.
Track to start with: Nkulunkulu
James Blake was credited as the guest on Both Sides of a Smile, an emotionally raw song on Dave’s UK No. 1 album All Alone in this Together. But it was ShaSimone who really made your ears prick up, going back and forth with Dave in character as his frustrated girlfriend. On her own tracks, the Hackney rapper’s bars are bursting with confidence, and she knows how to knock out a memorable hook. Between her sunkissed Afrobeats banger Back to Sender, Next Up? (where she switched from braggadocious drill to poignant hip-hop) and her recent freestyling over a classic Dr. Dre beat, ShaSimone has already proved that versatility is one of her strengths. DR
Fun fact: ShaSimone celebrated her Ghanaian heritage by filming the Back to Sender video in Jamestown, a famously vibrant part of Accra.
Tune to start with: Back to Sender
Malaysian-Irish producer and songwriter Yunè Pinku had her breakthrough moment only a few months ago, with the September release of What You Like, a slick, addictive tune created in collaboration with Australian producer Logic1000. Best listened to on repeat, the song features Pinku’s honeyed vocals throughout: “In my mind /I need you all the time /24-hour, service /Now that you are mine.” As for the 18-year-old’s even-more-recently-released Laylo, it’s a UKG-influenced banger about FOMO and navigating the anxieties of early adulthood. If you fancy an extra insight into her musical universe, listen to her dreamy FACE Mix here. JW
Fun fact: Yuné Pinku’s first ever radio guest mix was hosted by Joy Orbison on his Radio 1 residency.
Tune to start with: Laylo
Mac Wetha has a couple of tricks up his sleeve. He’s known for crafting warm hip-hop beats with the NiNE8 collective, which led to him producing Burden, the very good opening track on Aminé’s 2020 album Limbo. Then there’s the 24-year-old rocking out as an indie frontman. As the baggy jeans indicate, there’s a bit of a ’90s/early ’00s nostalgia thing going on (he pulled off a cover of Weezer’s classic Say It Ain’t So during recent support slots for Dirty Hit labelmate Beabadoobee). But thanks to Wetha’s multi-genre approach and his prestige behind the boards, there are fizzy flourishes in the production that give his emotive anthems a fresh feel. It all bodes very well for a debut album, which we hope he drops this year. DR
Fun fact: Mac used to front experimental punk band Death Pigs.
Tune to start with: Wayside
Alewya ended 2021 on a high, supporting Little Simz on her Sometimes I Might Be An Introvert tour, which included her historic three-night run at London’s Brixton Academy. It’s not hard to see why the 26-year-old was enlisted to rile up the crowds before Simz took to the stage. Influenced by her multicultural upbringing and Ethiopian-Egyptian heritage, Alewya’s influences are varied and global, pairing the traditional vocal and Arabic guitar styles she heard growing up with hypnotic dancehall rhythms on Sweating and rousing percussion on Zuggy, a track from last November’s debut EP Panther in Mode. But if one thing unites Alewya’s pick’n’mix pairings, it’s her music’s ability to make you move – she is managed by drum ‘n’ bass legend Shy FX, after all. This year, you’ll be shaking your body to Alewya on dancefloors everywhere. OP
Fun fact: Alewya was a model before she started posting music on Soundcloud, scouted by none other than Cara Delevigne.
Best tune to start with: Spirit_X
Every week, an intimidating quantity of new music emerges online, so it seems harder than ever for up-and-comers to get noticed with good music alone. But Skiifall cuts through with a distinctive sound: skeletal rap that’s peppered with dub, jazz, reggae and dancehall, and that conjures up a nocturnal mood. The 20-year-old, who’s based in Montreal and lived in Saint Vincent until he was eight, fills beats with lilting melodies and falsetto raps which occasionally bring to mind Birmingham drill artist M1llionz. Having picked up positive signals from this side of the Atlantic – Jorja Smith cosigned his track Ting Tun Up and South Kilburn rapper Knucks blessed it with a new verse – Skiifall intends to do serious damage in the UK. How do we know? Because last year he was snapped in the studio with Sampha and Unknown T. DR
Fun fact: Virgil Abloh tapped him up to soundtrack an ad for the Louis Vuitton x NBA collab.
Tune to start with: Ting Tun Up pt II ft. Knucks
Chakeiya Richmond, better known as KeiyaA, won a lot of hearts in 2020 when she released her debut album, Forever, Ya Girl. Self-produced and critically acclaimed, the record deftly weaves together themes of love, yearning, financial precarity and spirituality, often via clever lyrical double entendres and a soulful, meditative sound. The 29-year-old was born and raised in Chicago’s South Side, where she grew up performing in gospel choirs and playing the alto saxophone. KeiyaA later studied jazz at the University of Illinois, before dropping out to focus on songwriting and performing. Most recently, she worked with saxophonist Nubya Garcia on a remix of the latter’s Stand With Each Other – a trippy, rhythmic affair which cements KeiyaA as a musical wunderkind to watch. JW
Fun fact: KeiyaA got her musical start via a toy Casio keyboard which, as a kid, she’d use to mimic TV jingles and opening credits to her mum and grandma.
Best tune to start with: I! Gits! Weary!
If the members of LA music collective grouptherapy. (nope, the dot isn’t a typo) look familiar, it’s because you might have seen their baby faces on screen growing up. TJW, SWIM and Jadagrace were all child stars in one way or another, primed for fame by Disney, Nickelodeon and Motown Records’ founder Berry Gordy respectively. Now older and wiser, the trio are taking a pointedly different approach to creative expression, at first releasing music individually under grouptherapy. and now collaborating as a group. The sound? Wonky, pass-the-mic rap that puts a bounce in your step, bolstered by dextrous harmonies and ironic ruminations on self-worth in a culture that exploits and monetises everything. OP
Fun fact: The group first met at a house party.
Best tune to start with: raise it up!
Fronted by 21-year-old singer and bassist Sabrina Fuentes, Pretty Sick deliver ferocious grunge with style. Fuentes, who’s currently based in London, founded the band in 2013 (yep, at 13), and there’s been a rotating cast of friends playing with her ever since. Currently, Pretty Sick is made up of ex-Virgins guitarist Wade Oates, drummer Austin Williamson (who’s also a member of NYC jazz experimentalists Onyx Collective) and second bassist Orazio Argentero. Since 2020, Pretty Sick have hit their stride, releasing two albums: Deep Divine and last June’s Come Down, while Fuentes also collaborated with Shayne Oliver’s music collective Anonymous Club for the lethargic anthem Ketamean. Fuentes has also just teased loads of new music for 2022. Get familiar. JW
Fun fact: Fuentes and Pretty Sick guitarist Wade Oates met through photographer Richard Kern.
Best tune to start with: Devil In Me
Yung Singh scored his first club gig in 2018 at South London’s Corsica Studios and gained loads of new fans last year when his Boiler Room set went viral. An instant vibe, the 26-year-old DJ blasted through bhangra, UK funky, drill, hip-hop and jungle while the crowd went absolutely nuts. Singh is part of the Daytimers collective, who are spotlighting the creative endeavours of the UK’s South Asian diaspora. He’s also on a mission to celebrate the legacy of the UK-based artists who merged South Asian music with Black British club genres during the ’80s and ’90s, and who were often referred to as the Asian Underground. His Punjabi Garage mix series has made a deep impact globally and he also co-produced a mini doc on the early ’00s movement. Easily one of the most exciting breakthrough DJs on the UK scene. DR
Fun fact: Yung Singh’s dad can spit every bar of Shy FX and UK Apachi’s ‘94 classic Original Nuttah.
Mix to start with: The first in the Punjabi Garage series
Rising from Konongo, a gold-mining community in Ghana’s Ashanti region, Black Sherif had a whirlwind 2021. The 19-year-old released a series of singles that took thematic and musical inspiration from the asakaa scene (otherwise known as Ghana drill) coming out of the city of Kumasi. Without a project to his name, Blacko’s earnest ghetto-gospel lyricism and syrupy melodies have taken him from a college student to national star in the space of 12 months. The first of his solo 2021 drops, First Sermon, is his compelling declaration-of-intent to make a mark on the Ghanaian music industry. Second Sermon is a slightly more solemn affair, featuring a tribute to a cousin who passed away and reflections on his life in the spotlight. The track landed a co-sign from Burna Boy, who soon hopped on a remix. With Burna announcing that Black Sherif would be joining him on tour, a big 2022 awaits the Ghanaian MC. WO
Fun fact: He’s studying for a marketing degree at the University of Professional Studies in Accra.
Track to start with: Second Sermon
When it comes to debates about the coldest lyricists in UK rap, Clavish is entering the conversation. The North Londoner’s nonchalant delivery contrasts with the intensity of his dark street anecdotes, and he has a gift for spitting slick punchlines that are primed for Insta captions. Clavish topped off last year with the 2022 EP – a “warm up” for his debut mixtape, dropping soon – swiftly following it with a freestyle that sets high targets for the year ahead: “Couple of features I’m schemin on, got a couple names /I want a song with Dave, I need a song with Drake”. DR
Fun fact: Clavish’s Daily Duppy freestyle is more than eight minutes long, the longest GRM Daily has ever posted.
Tune to start with: How it Goes
The fact that Tamera’s debut EP, Afrodite, was produced entirely by P2J – a man whose CV is packed with Beyoncé and Wizkid credits – should be enough to make your ears prick up. What’ll keep them listening is the London-via-Kent artist’s breathy and seductive R&B vocals, which flow featherlight over languorous, summer-ready Afropop rhythms. Playful and unexpected melodies on tracks like Wickedest and New Hobby make her stand out in an increasingly competitive genre, delivering original hooks that will replay in your mind all day. Keep an eye out for more material later this year. OP
Fun fact: Tamera’s music was encouraged by her grandma, a church minister who got her hooked on singing at services.
Best tune to start with: Wickedest
This Oakland-based producer and DJ’s sound is psychedelic, euphoric and soul-soothing. She blends jungle and breaks with elements of footwork, hardcore, hip-hop and squelchy acid basslines. She’s also known for killer club edits, hitting nostalgia buttons with reworks of pop hits from the likes of Britney and Kylie, as well as nu metal classics from Korn, Linkin Park and Papa Roach. Intrigued? You’re in luck: Bored Lord is highly prolific, having released seven EPs in 2021, including September’s excellent The Last Illusion, which dropped via Eris Drew and Octo Octa’s T4T LUV NRG label. Hopefully she’ll be bringing the good vibes to a dancefloor near you soon. DR
Fun fact: Eris Drew and Octo Octa fell in love with her music and vibe at a queer warehouse rave in LA.
Tune to start with: Everyday 2gether
By the time she turned 19 in June last year, Ayra Starr, barely five months into her professional music career, was the most hotly-tipped new musician in Nigeria. Signed to Mavin Records – run by Don Jazzy, the country’s biggest music mogul – Starr announced her arrival on the scene early last year with an eponymous project that tackled teenage angst, joy and sexuality over glistening pop-meet-soul beats. But it was on her debut album, 19 & Dangerous, that the singer really proved herself as a great artist. Songs like Cast (Gen Z Anthem) and Bloody Samaritan offer vivid snapshots into Starr’s fiercely determined psyche and Afropop’s future. With Jazzy watching over her career, she’s sure to reach the dizzying heights touched by labelmate Rema, as well as former Don Jazzy protégés like Wande Coal and Tiwa Savage. WO
Fun fact: Last year Starr performed on a live eviction episode of Big Brother Naija.
Tune to start with: Bloody Samaritan
The invigorating sound of West Yorkshire, Yard Act are here to stoke our brains and poke our indie-guitar complacency. The Leeds four-piece are led by mac-wearing, speak-singing frontman James Smith, a bitingly witty, pithy polemicist who’d be equally at home on Speaker’s Corner or the Pyramid Stage. Describing recent agit-funk single Payday, Smith said: “It’s about gentrification, class fetish and how the human brain is so powerful that, with enough time and processing power combined, it will be able to justify, defend and/or continue to commit the actions of any human being it controls.” There’s more big thinking and big tunes on debut album The Overload, released on 21st January. CMc
Fun fact: Smith loves Channel 4 romance reality show First Dates.
Best tune to start with: The Overload
This London-via-Leeds artist digs deep for her inspiration. The 22-year-old singer, producer and DJ grew up around sound system culture and has studied the art of drum ‘n’ bass greats like Roni Size, Lemon D and DJ Flight, as well as of leftfield hip-hop artists like J Dilla and Roots Manuva. She makes grainy music videos with a Sony Handycam, nodding to the raw aesthetic of vintage rave footage. Nia Archives’ songs are kaleidoscopic blends of breakbeats, jungle, neo-soul and reggae, channelling the intoxicating rush of summer afternoons in the city. DR
Fun fact: Nia Archives was on a mentorship programme run by drum’n’ bass legend DJ Flight.
Tune to start with: 18 & Over
SIPHO.’s truly wearing his heart on his sleeve. The Birmingham-born artist (his name’s pronounced “See-Poe”) has crafted a gospel-influenced R&B sound that crackles with lo-fi warmth and occasionally brews into a scuzzy, blues-punk stomp. Having been picked up by Dirty Hit, last year the 20-year-old released the brilliant And God Said… EP – which, as its title suggests, tackled his complicated relationship with religion. The more polished follow-up single Beady Eyes suggested big stage ambitions. We’ve heard there’s a new EP on the way, so now’s a good time to catch up. DR
Fun fact: Before the music stuff took off, SIPHO. worked in a dental lab, making porcelain crowns.
Tune to start with: Bodies
Right now, there are only two Spider songs online, but they’re both great. After making music under the moniker JENN, last year the Dublin-born, London-based artist released her first Spider song Water Sign a pulsating dark pop track that brings to mind throwback Lorde (a key influence) and ethereal dreampop bands like Beach House. Follow-up I’m Fine! I’m Good! I’m Perfect!, which Spider wrote after an emotional breakdown on her 21st birthday, is a cathartic anthem about accepting that your head’s a mess sometimes, belted out with a massive chorus and scuzzy guitars. Can’t wait to hear more. DR
Fun fact: Her song Water Sign was partly inspired by Olokun, the androgynous Nigerian deity who rules the bottom of the ocean.
Tune to start with: I’m Fine! I’m Good! I’m Perfect!
LV N ATTN, Lojay’s collaborative 2021 EP with producer Sarz, was a major hit in Nigerian music. A slick collection of soul-influenced Afropop tracks with splatterings of amapiano, the EP undoubtedly established Lojay, real name Lekan Osifeso Jr., as one of the country’s finest talents out of the blues. From the melancholic recounting of an hopeless romance on Tonongo and the retro ambience of the Wizkid-featuring title track to the rowdy undercurrent of crowd favourite Monalisa, the 24-year-old is proving his immense talent. Late in 2021, Lojay teamed up with rapper Zlatan for the track Only Fan, proving he also fits in with the grungier side of Afropop. No doubt: 2022 is his for the taking. WO
Fun fact: Growing up, he loved music from Disney cartoons.
Track to start with: Monalisa
This smoky-voiced, tough-talking Houston rapper has sustained a local buzz for years with a prolific run of mixtapes, jaw-dropping YouTube freestyles and philanthropic activity that includes family-friendly food festivals and back-to-school drives. But it looks like her big moment in the sun is just round the corner. In 2020 the then-27-year-old inked a deal with Interscope imprint Love Renaissance Records (also home to 6lack and Summer Walker). Collabs with major Houston names Maxo Kream and Travis Scott’s DJ Chase B soon followed. Led by the brass-boosted anthem Don’t Do It, the video for which pays tribute to her late friend and neighbour George Floyd, OMB Bloodbath’s 2021 EP was titled Blood Sample – a hint that a larger project is on the way. DR
Fun fact: Inspired by H‑Town’s DIY “out the trunk” culture, as a kid she sold CDs of her music at school.
Tune to start with: Don’t Do It
Traditionally, aspiring artists across the UK have felt pressured to move to London and better their chances of making it, but dvr got his big break in 2020 from the comfort of his bedroom in North Berwick, a seaside town in Scotland. The 18-year-old built a following on a busy Discord group run by super producer Kenny Beats, who gave dvr’s first project Tape_01 his seal of approval on a live Twitch stream. Now, dvr calls Kenny a collaborator. And dvr’s certainly no fluke – there’s artful detail in his intimate, scuzzy lo-fi soundand there are big hooks in his songs, which, lyrically, tend to fluctuate between poignant romanticism and teenage ennui. Keep an eye out for his next EP Dirty Tapes, which drops this month via XL Recordings. DR
Fun fact: Snoop Dogg played a dvr track on his Snapchat livestream
Tune to start with: lowlife ft. Kenny Beats