Just a few years ago, the rift between mainstream artists and "internet" acts was still wide, but that's all starting to change. Streaming has bridged the gap, and we're seeing artists who were once relegated to the internet join ranks with A-listers on the charts, in the media, and on popular playlists across platforms. It's opened up doors for experimental rap, bedroom pop, and the artists impossible to categorize, and we're seeing a little of all that in this month's list of best new artists.
Cuco is killing it right now, running up millions of plays on everything he releases and putting on the kind of live show that wins new fans after just one song. Playing with a 7-piece band, the singer and multi-instrumentalist from South L.A. wowed us at SXSW, bringing his heartfelt songs to life with a low-key charisma and even some live trumpet playing.
The son of Mexican immigrants, Cuco shares a refreshingly honest perspective on love, friendship, and growing up in his music, which is sung in both English and Spanish. "It’s cool to see a bunch of brown kids in the crowd,” he told Fader about his shows. “I wanna be a brown artist that they look up to. I didn’t see that many artists with my same culture that I looked up to when I was growing up. The industry has always been whitewashed.”
Cuco already has dedicated fans who packs out shows, but with more music on the way soon and festival performances scheduled for 2018, that fanbase is about to get a whole lot bigger.
Since he started releasing music in 2015, JPEGMAFIA has become one of music's most brutally honest voices. Blending punk, rap, hardcore, house, and noise into a tornado of sound, Peggy reached new heights at the start of 2018 with Veteran. It's an album that blends pop culture and nihilism with a surprisingly deft touch, and represents some of the Baltimore artist's most melodically accessible work yet. Tracks like "Baby I'm Bleeding" and "1539 N. Calvert" are damn near radio ready, while "Real Nega" and "Curb Stomp" show he's still fully capable of channeling rage into an audio waveform.
G Flip has only released one song, but "About You" is a great one. At its core, it's a full-blown pop song with an impossible-to-forget chorus, but nothing about the song is generic. G Flip wrote, recorded, and produced the song in her bedroom in a couple of hours, and it shines with a DIY spirit.
"Self-producing was definitely not planned," she told us. "I basically learned to shape my songs a little better in hopes of getting a real producer on board later when I had the money, but I really started digging how rough it was. Pop music can be pretty shiny sometimes and this was not shiny, just like me. I’m far from shiny. I’m messy, I don’t know what make-up is, I wear boy’s clothes and I drink too much. I felt it represented me."
Intrigued by "About You," we made sure to see G Flip at SXSW, and weren't disappointed. She bounced around onstage and had a crowd streaming out of the door trying to catch her set. The pieces are in place for G Flip to have a big 2018 and we're excited to see what her next move will be.
After years of making music, Florida artist Yuno just signed with Sub Pop and released "No Going Back," his first single with the label and an incredible, dreamy track that will act as his introduction to many. Yuno was brought to Sub Pop by Shabazz Palaces’ Ishmael Butler, who explains, “First time I heard Yuno, I peeped, of course, that he possessed all the trappings of a great musician, impeccable taste on his riffs, songs catchy but not corny, familiar but dopely strange. There was seductive magic that I couldn’t, and still can’t put my finger on, which is the essence of his uniqueness."
Tierra Whack is due. After turning heads with the beautifully demented video for "Mumbo Jumbo" last year, the Philly-born rapper has an album's worth of new music ready to set the world aflame. She helped keep anticipation levels up earlier this month with "upside down," a rework of Ty Dolla Sign's "Message In A Bottle." Her dexterous rapping is on full display, appearing in sharp bursts between melodic interludes
Tierra Whack another artist whose live show impressed us at SXSW. A commanding presence on-stage, Tierra balances humor, high-energy, and technical skills for a package that's hard to ignore. Whatever Whack comes up with next, it's sure to be bursting at the seams with creative energy.
Born and raised in Camden Town, London, Bakar's punchy indie rock songs move with a swagger as on "Million Miles" or unfold with a smooth nostalgia like "Small Town Girl." The rising artist shows what you're missing out on if you think the only exciting new music coming out of the British capital is grime, rap, or electronic. Bakar's only been making music a little over a year, but his warm, full voice oozes confidence and features on a rap track like Milkavelli's "Lock & Load" show the potential for variety.
While the sound may hew more towards indie rock, Bakar is clear about his influences. "Madlib's probably the producer that's had the most effect on me musically other than Pharrell," he said. "Quasimoto was and still is huge to me and my friends. Shit, Madlib even taught me jazz and is actually one of the reasons my forthcoming mixtape is called BADKID."
Born in England, raised in France, and now based in London, 19-year-old Lauren Auder released his Who Carry's You EP on New York-based indie label True Panther (King Krule, Shlohmo, Tobias Jesso Jr., London O'Connor) in March. Inspired by classic baroque pop as well as the underground hip-hop and electronic scenes in France and London, Auder is building majestic, melancholic worlds out of sounds you might not expect to hear together.
“There’s a plea for honesty within this record,” he says of his new EP. “Heartbreak doesn’t feel the way it’s represented in music sometimes. It’s presented with this grandeur. True heartbreak, especially in your teenage years, is truly devastating and truly biblical.”
There's a new wave of young artists with a DIY approach to indie rock and bedroom pop, and the talent pool runs deep. ROLE MODEL is a 21-year-old from Portland, Maine, who describes his recent EP Arizona in the Summer as the first project he's released that he's truly proud of. "It’s my first project I have put out under ROLE MODEL, but I used to rap when I first got into music and put out a decent amount of trash on SoundCloud," he adds.
Lyrically and thematically the EP is personal and intimate but musically its richly textured. Written as ROLE MODEL was combating a bout of depression in 2017, he hopes it can help others too. "Arizona in the Summer was sort of a mindset that I would force myself into when I got those waves of sadness," he explains. "It was like a happy place. Like when you’re watching a scary movie and you cover your eyes because it’s too scary to watch. Creating the project was like covering my eyes to get away from my own bullshit, hoping it would act the same for others."
Leeky Bandz is up next out of New York and he's only 15 years old. Coming from the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Leeky first caught a buzz with "My Story" as he rattled off bar after bar over simple, gloomy production. Now things are a little smoother and he's turned up the tempo with singles like "Pocket Rocket," "Sleepin," and "Check Up" featuring PnB Rock.
Rappers seem to be getting younger and younger after a wave of rebellious teenagers took music by storm in 2017 and this year NYC kids are getting in the mix. Young artists like Bronx native Smooky MarGielaa are starting to heat up as we kick off 2018 and Leeky is staying consistent and building a name for himself with his assortment of singles. Get used to seeing Leeky's name on your phone and computer screens and prepare to hear his music a lot more at your favorite clubs and functions.
Bad Gyal is a trilingual (Spanish, Catalan, English) singer from Catalonia in Spain who is working with some of the most interesting electronic producers out and putting her own spin on dancehall, reggaeton, and rap. After a rework of Drake and Rihanna's "Work" blew up in 2016, Bad Gyal moved to Barcelona to work on her first mixtape Slow Wine. On the aptly named Worldwide Angel project which came out this year she taps British producers Jam City and Florentino, America's D33J and Dubbel Dutch, as well as Spain's Fake Guido and El Guincho for an international sound.
Delivering memorable melodies that are dripping in vocal effects, Bad Gyal mixes party tracks with slower, sadder moments that connect even if you need a translator to find out exactly what she's saying. As Spanish-language artists continue to infiltrate the charts in America, Bad Gyal provides a compelling alternative to polished mainstream pop.