The Best New Artists of 2018

From Valee to Juice WRLD, we saw memorable breakthrough moments from many exciting acts this year. These are the best new artists of 2018.

best new artists 2018 complex
Complex Original
best new artists 2018 complex

What does it mean to be a “new artist” in 2018? For the purposes of this list, we defined the term as an artist who had their first major breakthrough moments over the past 12 months. Someone like Tierra Whack has been dropping music for years, but the release of Whack World in May represented her best work to date, and it marked the first time she has received widespread attention from critics and fans alike—making her an ideal candidate for Best Artist of 2018 consideration. From commercial powerhouses like Juice WRLD to trendsetters like Valee, there was no shortage of exciting new artists who made their mark this year. These are Complex’s picks for the best new artists of 2018.

16. Megan Thee Stallion

megan thee stallion press

15. No Rome

no rome press photo

14. Summer Walker

summer walker getty burak cingi

13. NIKI

niki getty daniel boczarski

12. YBN Cordae

ybn cordae pwnzzy

11. Rico Nasty

rico nasty album

10. Valee

valee press jason peterson

9. SOB x RBE

sob x rbe getty steve rogers

8. Ella Mai

ella mai getty frederic j brown

7. BlocBoy JB

blocboy jb getty prince williams

6. Juice WRLD

juice wrld getty david wolff patrick

5. Gunna

gunna getty kevin mazur

4. Tierra Whack

tierra whack michael hickey

3. Sheck Wes

sheck wes getty david wolff patrick

2. Lil Baby

lil baby getty prince williams

“Wah-wah-wah, bitch I’m the Baby!” The first time I heard that bar, on Lil Baby’s “Yes Indeed,” I knew he was ready for a breakout year. The single featured a megastar (Drake), but Lil Baby had more than enough charisma to hold his own. From that moment forward, he's been on a winning streak, dropping Harder Than Ever in May, Drip Harder with Gunna in October, and Street Gossip in November. Baby has the work ethic of a seasoned artist, even though he doesn’t look a day over 18. (He says his name came from hanging around older friends as a youngin’.) Lil Baby showed early signs of star power when he was featured on Quality Control’s Control the Streets Vol. 1 mixtape last December, then he fulfilled that potential by focusing on his abilities as a solo artist in 2018. His rapping/singing cadence has become more flexible and versatile than ever, making him sound at home on any type of beat. He also rounded out his talents as a tag-team partner in 2018, most notably with fellow Best New Artist pick Gunna. To top it all off, Lil Baby has been a commercial success, ending the year with two Top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. The aforementioned “Yes Indeed” peaked at No. 6, and “Drip Too Hard,” the standout track from Drip Harder, reached No. 4. To cap the year, his latest project, Street Gossip, just debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200. To put it simply: In 2018, Lil Baby was that dude. —Kiana Fitzgerald



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