To a greater or lesser extent, the UK has always been blessed with good radio. From the pirate stations of the ‘60s to the DIY tower block broadcasters of the ‘90s and 2000s, radio has always been connected with the underground, connecting renegade creators with listeners hungry for something new.
Thanks to the lockdown and being cooked up indoors for over a year, that’s been kicked into overdrive. All of a sudden it became impossible to get people from different households together in the same room and radio’s competitors were struggling. As one of the few mediums immune to that problem, radio has thrived. Stations like Rinse and Reprezent have always done well, but over the past 12 months they have stolen the show. Not only that, but some new players have entered the game. Grassroots outfits like No Signal have been the stars of lockdown, captivating millions with the NS10v10 format (which has since spawned several imitators) and making stars of its hosts and core team, particularly Henrie Kwushue, Scully, and sex blogger Oloni.
Equally, newer faces have graduated to the big leagues, shaking up broadcasting institutions like BBC Radio 1Xtra and Capital Xtra. Building on the foundations laid down by established legends such as MistaJam, Sian Anderson, SK Vibemaker, DJ Target, Manny Norte, DJ Ace, Jenny Francis and Charlie Sloth, newer faces like DJ Kenny Allstar, Tiffany Calver, Snoochie Shy and Nadia Jae are propelling radio broadcasting into the 21st century.
Having spent hours upon hours on the FM dial, the Complex team have compiled a list of UK music radio hosts who are pushing the culture forward—on and off the air—in 2021. Tune in below.