Entertainment

The 10 Most Exciting New Artists Who Are Going to Blow Up in 2018

What makes a new artist cut through the white noise in music today? With a steady barrage of new music flooding the airwaves every day, it takes a special catalyst to transcend beyond anonymity. We’ve scoured the musical landscape to bring you 23 new artists we believe are pushing the boundaries in 2018. Some have seemingly gone viral overnight, while others have taken a more traditional path toward the limelight. From techno to trap, Stockholm to Seoul, these are our artists to keep an eye on this year.

Kodie Shane
Despite the playful bubblegum bounce of her breakout hit “Drip on My Walk,” Kodie Shane, the first lady (or is that matey?) of Lil Yachty’s Sailing Team, has a very cool head. Part of that can be attributed to the 19-year-old’s early exposure to the music industry — her father sang background vocals for her aunt Cherrelle of “Saturday Love” fame and a sister was in girl group Blaque — but mostly, she’s just serious about her craft. While her peers were flirting, her natural talent for melody and cadence was being primed by long days in an Atlanta studio. Those gifts, coupled with her ability to write both candy-sweet singsong rap and deeper, more emotionally sensitive songs like “Sad” are what set her apart from the swarm of new young rappers. Not to mention her confidence. “Imma knock it out the park when I hit it, Lord,” she boasts on recent standout “Start a Riot.” It’s well earned — she hasn’t struck out yet. (Rebecca Haithcoat)

BROCKHAMPTON
BROCKHAMPTON has no patience for subtly. Their name, their song titles and their album titles — each is written in caps. Founded in the early-aughts via a rap message board, the once geographically separated, 14-member posse are both a boyband and an endlessly creative collective, featuring non-rapping members who handle art, photography and music videos. In addition to landing a reality show on Viceland, they spent 2017 sprinting the path blazed by forebears Odd Future, releasing their SATURATION trilogy and a barrage of music videos in just six months. Fronted by the charismatic Kevin Abstract, BROCKHAMPTON packs each record with clever, aggressive and sometimes nihilistic bars over beats built to soundtrack fervent mosh pits. To temper their more bellicose material, BROCKHAMPTON include softer, more vulnerable songs like “FACE” and “SUMMER,” which challenge rote rap parameters. With their fourth album, “TEAM EFFORT,” slated for release this year, they seem poised to capitalize on their ceaseless momentum. (Max Bell)

Ravyn Lenae

Ravyn Lenae was a sophomore in high school when she made “Greetings,” an atmospheric R&B track that would later become part of her much-celebrated debut EP “Moon Shoes.” She recorded it with $300 she scraped together for studio time. By the time she was a high school senior, Lenae was signed to Atlantic Records — which reissued the album — and working with fellow Chicago peers Mick Jenkins and Noname. With her soulful 2017 follow-up, “Midnight Moonlight,” the cosmos-obsessed artist established herself as a dynamic musical force, debuting a new collection of dreamy, electronic tracks that compelled comparisons to Kelela and Erykah Badu. An Aquarian, Lenae will be celebrating her birthday month with a new album, “Crush,” produced by hip-hop producer (and Kendrick Lamar collaborator) Steve Lacy — and she hasn’t yet left her teen years behind. (Tasbeeh Herwees)

Valee
If you’re paying attention to the people who know what’s good in Chicago hip-hop, you’ve heard the name Valee by now. And if you’re not, at least take Pusha T’s word for it — he’s next up. Things started to pop for Valee with “Shell,” a self-produced 2016 track that exploded in 2017, and he’s carried the momentum all the way to become G.O.O.D. Music’s latest signee. He’s an idiosyncratic spitter with a voice like no one else, delivering breathless, unrelenting bars in vivid detail that bounce over moody beats from frequent collaborator ChaseTheMoney. There’s no better example than his verse-of-the-year contender on “Two 16s,” his bubbling viral collab with Z Money. It’s stunting-turned-poetry, translating the designer brands he’s draped in into a downpour of intricate lines recorded in one take, no punch. The material he pulls from isn’t uncharted territory in modern hip-hop, but he molds street luxury into something completely his own. His hooks, cadences and sound stand alone in a game full of imitators. (Alex Herrmann)

Jorja Smith
Jorja Smith wasted no time in making a huge statement this year when she dropped the tear-jerking ballad “Let Me Down” with Stormzy just two weeks into January. The 20-year-old English singer put the strength of her vocals on full display and the emotion found in her range is reminiscent of the late Amy Winehouse, whom Jorja admits is a major influence. It’s Smith’s ability to sing over a variety of genres that makes her so dynamic. Last year, Drake asked her to sing over a tribal house beat courtesy of South African producer/DJ Black Coffee. Shortly after his “More Life” project was released, Smith linked up with UK grime producer Preditah for a garage-inspired club banger “On My Mind.” A slight fumble is excusable during the early stages of a career, but Smith has been brilliant from the start. (Troy Kurtz)

Gus Dapperton
It’s rare to find someone as sure of themselves as Gus Dapperton. He’s over 6 feet tall, he’s got a style all his own (featuring turtlenecks, glasses a la Sally Jessy Raphael, pastel colors and one severe bowl cut) and, at only 20 years old, he’s pushing the DIY rock scene into strange and wonderful places. “Yellow and Such,” his 2017 four-song EP, fuses the laid-back vibes of Mac DeMarco with the splashy grooves of ’90s hip-hop slow jams so seamlessly that it’s almost unsettling. And that’s the brilliance of Dapperton as an artist and a burgeoning line-blurring icon — all of his influences shouldn’t fit together as flawlessly as they do. But they do and he makes it look easy. (Bailey Pennick)

Billie Eilish
All hail Gen Z’s emergent queen of brilliant bite. Billie Eilish, who turned 16 last December, writes and performs songs of loss, anger and yearning with a wizened balance of vulnerability and confidence. Raised in Los Angeles in a musical family, she wrote her first songs at 11 and signed to Interscope when she was 14. Her sultry vocals have a classic soulful decadence, while gritty, electronic beats carry her closer to the cutting edge. Her track “Bored” appears on Netflix’s hit show “13 Reasons Why.” The official music video for “Bellyache” has garnered 8.4 million views in 10 months. She released her debut EP “Don’t Smile At Me” last summer, and it’s nine tracks are diverse but well-defined. Eilish enters 2018 with a sold-out, nine-date European tour in February, and she’s already had to expand to bigger rooms this summer. (Kat Bein)

Steve Lacy
For young musicians, age and grand budgets are seldom the barriers they once were. Steve Lacy, 18, is proof positive. Over the last three years, he released increasingly auspicious and infectious lo-fi R&B via SoundCloud, much of it composed using only his guitar, Garageband, and apps on his iPhone. Since executive producing and lending his deftly wrought riffs to The Internet’s Grammy-nominated album “Ego Death,” he’s been in high demand. In 2017, he landed production and writing credits with Kendrick Lamar (“Pride”) and J. Cole (“Foldin Clothes”). He also released his first solo project, the aptly titled “Steve Lacy’s Demo.” A six-track EP of alternately funky (“Looks”) and emotive (“Dark Red”) love songs that blur the lines between rock, pop and R&B, “Steve Lacy’s Demo” showcases his vast range, smooth vocals and assured songwriting. All of the above, it augurs well for the next Internet album and Lacy’s inevitable solo endeavors. (Max Bell)

CupcakKe
Chicago-born artist CupcakKe is an unapologetically brash rapper whose album “Queen Elizabitch” made noise in 2017, building on the buzz off her viral singles “Deepthroat” and “Vagina” which dropped in the years prior. CupcakKe embraces misogynist slurs, repurposing them over dance-worthy tracks and tops it all off with outrageous videos. But even when her beats are bouncy, her lyrics address serious issues related to her own personal experiences. “Pedophile,” from the project “Cum Cake,” shines a light on sexual assault, and “Biggie Smalls,” on “Queen Elizabitch,” addresses sizeism and body positivity. Her fans, whom she affectionately calls “slurpers,” litter her social media feeds with praise for her bold style and aesthetic choices. “Ephorize,” CupcakKe’s second album, dropped at the top of the year, featuring songs that grapple with LGBTQ issues, self-love and sexuality. This strong addition to her repertoire demonstrates her consistent growth as an artist and solidifies her presence among those to watch in 2018. (Emily Berkey)

Yaeji
I came across Yaeji in 2016 when YouTube’s algorithm served me an unreleased collaboration with Mall Grab called “Magic Mountain.” A year later, her name surfaced again after Spotify’s algorithm delivered me a Baba Stiltz remix of her track “New York 93.” While it’s a bit creepy that I discovered Yaeji through artificial intelligence, I’m glad that technology did me a solid. The 24-year-old artist Yaeji grew up in both New York and Seoul, and the juxtapositions of the two cultures are evident in her music. Her tracks showcase a slick mix of underground house and hip-hop stylings, but it’s the way she intertwines Korean and English language into her music that makes her so dynamic. Her DIY aesthetic includes her passions as a visual artist and DJ, and her most recent performance for Boiler Room is a masterclass that showcases the vast range of influences that’ve built this unassuming pop star. (Troy Kurtz)

IDK
When you listen to Maryland rapper IDK, the scope of his vision for himself his clear. It’s in the way he raps and the way he talks. He’s not here to be an also-ran, a footnote in the hip-hop history books — he wants to be a star. And he’s got the tools to get there — serious bars, a keen ear for melody, narrative songwriting chops and an intimate connection with his fans. After releases like last year’s immersive “IWASVERYBAD” and recent face-melting Denzel Curry-collab “No Wave,” he posted a phone number for fans to text him their thoughts. He reads the texts and engages with fans on social media daily. It helps listeners connect with the vivid stories in his tracks, often pulled from his own experiences trying to find a place in the American system. It’s all placed over production that ranges from bombastic to laid-back and reflective, emphasizing the duality between ignorance and knowledge that inspires his “IDK” moniker. (Alex Herrmann)

Sonder
The R&B trio Sonder — producers Atu and Dpat and buzzing singer Brent Faiyaz — arrived in a hot-boxed car two years ago and unspooled three hazy tracks that gave new meaning to the term “slow-burner,” each clocking in at 10-plus minutes. But with last year’s “Into” EP, the ‘90s babies cleared the air, chopping their songs’ runtimes way down and nodding to influences like Ginuwine and Timbaland with crisp, double-time hi-hats and noodling guitar lines. Bedroom banger “Searchin” sounds like a lost Aaliyah track, while the gentle, rock-you-to-sleep “Care” could be the outro to a Joe or Jodeci album. Their seeming predilection for switching it up could give the music a sense of rootlessness, but by grounding it in sensuality and glossing it with that old-school smoothness, it’s simply what changing positions should be — exciting. (Rebecca Haithcoat)