From twisted R&B auteur Liv.e to club rap regenerator Bandmanrill to indie rock realists Wednesday, these are the musicians we’re keeping a keen eye on this year.
There’s nothing quite like the thrill of finding new artists to put on endless repeat, to obsess over, to count on to express our innermost joys, sorrows, and desires. Some of the musicians on this list have been around for a minute, but are primed to release their best work soon. Others are due to take some of our favorite albums of last year on the road. And some are still bubbling up and developing new sounds that could define major trends of the future. Their styles range drastically, from droning ambient to ruthless hardcore to masterful Afropop, but they’re all pointing fresh ways forward. Now’s the time to let Ollywop help you find your next fave.
Who they are: A Brooklyn-based rapper who spits like the child of James Baldwin and underground NYC heroes Cannibal Ox (if they really enjoyed manga)
Why they’re so exciting: AKAI bends language to his will, his flows making big words and philosophies feel weightless and freeform. After releasing a string of records over the last few years, including True Sky, a collaboration with fellow Brooklynite Navy Blue, AKAI leveled up with Spirit Roaming, released on the vanguard New York rap label Backwoodz Studioz. He’s currently working on a new solo record dubbed Verticality///Singularity.
The song to listen to right now: “Demonslayer”
Recommended If You Like: Warped beats, unorthodox flows, Senzu Beans, slightly faded Yankee fitteds
Who they are: Afropop’s latest eclectic It-girl. Her remarkably assured first album, 2021’s 19 & Dangerous, is filled with pointed songs of lost love and toxic exes, along with enough hits to warrant a recent deluxe edition. She’s also among the few people on Earth who can get Kelly Rowland to spit some bars on a remix and not get completely outshined.
Why they’re so exciting: A sage elder lives inside this 20-year-old. Sprinkling aphorisms across her tracks, she exudes the vocal mastery of a veteran while also having fun with uniquely Gen-Z boasts (“I see you watchin’ my stories/I see you gaugin’ my lifestyle”). Her refreshing experimentalism enchants across high-tempo pop anthems as well as somber heartbreak ballads.
The song to listen to right now: “Rush”
Recommended If You Like: The catharsis of coming-of-age films, goddess braids, pretending you are trilingual, writing “every tongue that rises up against me shall fall” on your Twitter bio after every mild inconvenience
Who they are: A Newark rapper who merges fiery, drill-inspired flows with hyperkinetic Jersey club beats. He’s turned everything from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to an early Miguel hit into hip-thrusting anthems.
Why they’re so exciting: Much of today’s club-rap explosion prioritizes dancing, but Bandman offers a refreshing focus on rapping. He’s looking to double-down on his momentum this year with a collab mixtape alongside the Bronx’s Sha EK in the spring, a solo tape in the summer, and his debut album this fall.
The song to listen to right now: “Shake It (Baby) (My Humps Remix)”
Recommended If You Like: The 2003 New Jersey Nets, twerking, the implausible dance battle at the end of You Got Served
Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul
Who they are: The Belgian duo whose dancefloor-ready electropop has a comedic slant, led by rubbery basslines and sly hooks poking fun at xenophobia, misogyny, and more.
Why they’re so exciting: Adigéry and Pupul’s music leaves a bold impression as it fuses electronic and pop styles with a light touch. Listening to their debut, last year’s Topical Dancer, is like being let in on a delirious hour of in-jokes from a pair of new friends (with good synths).
The song to listen to right now: “HAHA”
Recommended If You Like: Camp, absurdist house bangers, anticolonialism
Who they are: This booming mantra-maker already has a handful of songs—including “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” and “Tomorrow 2”—that are not only hits but lifestyle-changers.
Why they’re so exciting: Glorilla offers a fresh twist on straight-up, hard-hitting Memphis rap that is gloriously unafraid to put dumbass dudes in their place.
The song to listen to right now: Since you’ve probably heard her smashes already, try the relatively overlooked “Nut Quick.”
Recommended If You Like: Terrence Howard’s perm in Hustle & Flow, Duke Deuce workout videos, being single and loving it
Who they are: The New York-based singer-songwriter and synth tinkerer dishes freely about smoking too much pot, but her offbeat electronic pop about crushes and the ridiculousness of the music industry can be remarkably clear-eyed.
Why they’re so exciting: Grace Ives leveled up in a big way with her 2022 album, Janky Star, which features some of the finest blog-era throwback pop you’ll hear outside of your personal indie-sleaze playlist.
The song to listen to right now: “Lullaby”
Recommended If You Like: Charli XCX at her most DIY, hopeless crushes, Shelly from Twin Peaks, Max Tundra
Who they are: A former tour manager for Hot Chip and Four Tet who caught the latter’s ear with a startling demo, this British-Armenian electronic musician spins the sounds of his travels into pummeling dance anthems that pulse with life.
Why they’re so exciting: His recent debut LP Bolts reimagines club music by sampling a whole new set of sounds: street musicians playing traditional Armenian instruments, whistling fireworks and crowd noise, even a Jordanian cab driver chatting over Eurodance.
The song to listen to right now: “Right to Riot”
RIYL: Musique concrète in the club, screaming reeds, the night train to Yerevan
Who they are: A Bronx drill star with a breezy but callous touch and disarmingly sultry delivery; the woman who gave new meaning to the word “munch.”
Why they’re so exciting: The typical Ice Spice anthem is laced with dark, syrupy threats aimed at exposing heartbreakers and ops. Her brand new Like..? EP solidifies her casually ruthless style.
The song to listen to right now: “In Ha Mood”
RIYL: Soulful chaos, grungy club vibes, Cardi B, taking what you want without apology
Who they are: A Colorado-born, Stockholm-based composer and experimental musician who makes pipe organs sound like otherworldly beasts, and modular synth tones tremble like candle flame. Her just-released album Does Spring Hide Its Joy is a three-hour-long (!) microtonal mission statement alongside Sunn O)))’s Stephen O’Malley and cellist Lucy Railton.
Why they’re so exciting: Equipped with an innate grasp of the nuances of frequency—she moonlights as a professional organ tuner—Malone channels the drone-music tradition of artists like Éliane Radigue and La Monte Young into long-form pieces that are as physically compelling as they are emotionally cleansing.
The song to listen to right now: “Does Spring Hide Its Joy v2.3”
RIYL: Walk-in coolers, faraway jet engines, fading light, Rothko paintings, the Hum
Who they are: A singer-songwriter and DJ from Texas whose second album of gloriously skewed R&B, Girl in the Half-Pearl, arrives next month.
Why they’re so exciting: Liv.e’s left-field kiss-offs and laments hover between the new school and the old. Whether delivered in a feathery vocal run or a dusty rap cadence, her reflective yet cutting observations on desire, heartbreak, and deserving better will have you ready to fall in love or swear it off forever.
The song to listen to right now: “Wild Animals”
RIYL: Candles in the bathtub, shrooms on a first date, Georgia Anne Muldrow
Who they are: Based in Mexico, the Guatemalan cellist, singer, and composer finds serene beauty in gritty experimentation.
Why they’re so exciting: Her latest album, 2022’s Se Ve Desde Aquí, marked a major shift, from resplendent warmth adorned with nature sounds to bone-dry austerity: skeletal clockworks of string scrapes, synth whooshes, and hushed vocals that leave room for listeners to get lost in reverie. It’s the type of move that suggests anything is possible for Fratti moving forward. In 2023, she’s planning a global tour starting this summer, along with a new album with Se Ve Desde Aquí collaborator I. La Católica and a record with her experimental group Amor Muere, which includes vocalist Camille Mandoki, ambient producer Concepción Huerta, and violinist Gibrana Cervantes.
The song to listen to right now: “Cada Músculo”
RIYL: Arthur Russell, creaky swing sets, potent Palomas
Who they are: A Dominican electronic producer and vocalist whose adventurous tracks combine the rhythmic energy of urbano and dance with the homespun feel of bedroom pop.
Why they’re so exciting: With an omnivorous sensibility spanning trap, dembow, hard rock, R&B, and beyond, Mediopicky’s self-titled 2022 album has something for almost everyone on the planet. And while he’s a capable solo vocalist, his recent song with Dominican actress Judith Rodríguez, the ballroom-infused “Cococo,” suggests he’s about to become a sought-after pop collaborator, too.
The song to listen to right now: “Aji titi” [ft. Diego Raposo]
RIYL: Rosalía, homebrew El Alfa, stepping out of the club for a smoke and going right back in
Who they are: An Atlanta-by-way-of-Knoxville producer whose lively eclecticism and ability to craft a killer mix has made him one of most notable rising acts in electronic music. Electro, techno, dubstep, jungle—you name it, he’ll do it.
Why they’re so exciting: You never know exactly what you’ll get in a Nikki Nair song, but there’s always something amusing going on—gung-ho vocal snippets, mutated bass that springs and splatters, a mid-song switch-up that’ll make you think your speaker’s gone kaputt. It’s music that poses the question: What would it sound like to have a fainting episode while blowing on a kazoo?
What to listen to right now: Resident Advisor mix
RIYL: Impeccable drum programming, that Four Tet mega-playlist, the sound of appliances gone haywire
Who they are: An electric guitarist and composer with an expansive view of her instrument; sometimes she uses it to create raw material for electronic manipulation, and other times she rips off shredding solos.
Why they’re so exciting: At a time when ambient music seems omnipresent, Nayar’s compositions are atmospheric but rarely static, tracking huge emotional peaks and valleys while incorporating all manner of unexpected elements: jarring silences, thrashing drum ’n’ bass breakbeats, euphoric house keyboard stabs (or are those guitars, too?).
The song to listen to right now: “Heaven Come Crashing”
RIYL: Loop pedals, Midwest emo guitar without Midwest emo vocals, dreaming about raving, pretending your life is a JRPG
Who they are: Born in a rural Mexican town, the 25-year-old singer-songwriter distills pure emotion—heartbreak, hope, and everything in between—into songs that spotlight her voice and Venezuelan cuatro guitar playing.
Why they’re so exciting: On her debut solo album, 2022’s Marchita, Estrada recontextualizes the Mexican folk style son jarocho with gorgeous string arrangements and coming-of-age tales. She then pushed that sound even farther on her Abrazo EP, a batch of humble stories-turned-soul-stirring songs that seem to stop time.
The song to listen to right now: “Marchita”
RIYL: Joanna Newsom, stopping to photograph fields of flowers, singing when you’re sad
Who they are: The Philadelphia hardcore band thrives when they’re getting in your face, thrashing guitars in a start-stop motion, and screaming about state violence.
Why they’re so exciting: Soul Glo are confrontational in a way that feels like dunking your head in a bucket of cold water. Their music is a melted sample board of ruthless hardcore punk, aughts screamo, avant-garde rap, and randomized electronic samples. Lyrically, they take aim at everything from white allyship to hypocritical music scenes, cracking jokes in between. The fact that they sound rightly furious and even giddy delivering these messages on last year’s Diaspora Problems speaks to how cathartic their music can be.
The song to listen to right now: “John J” [ft. Kathryn Edwards and Zula Wildheart]
RIYL: Smashing side mirrors on cop cars, the Blood Brothers, doing bong hits in your car before the show, screaming as loud as you can to see what it sounds like
Who they are: The incendiary dance-punk quartet from New Orleans specialize in brash beats that straddle the line between club bangers and punishing noise.
Why they’re so exciting: Special Interest recognize dance music as an act of disruption—whether it erupts in a strobe-splattered club or a basement squat. Their fusion of house rhythms and distorted squall is fortified by frontperson Alli Logout’s raw and robust voice.
The song to listen to right now: “(Herman’s) House”
RIYL: Radical thought, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, people power, Larry Levan, blood, sweat, tears
Who they are: The Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter’s mischievous, frenetic genre-blending plays with your senses in the best way possible.
Why they’re so exciting: On Natural Brown Prom Queen, our No. 2 album of 2022, she floats from hushed R&B teasers to electronic lounge songs with ease. She’ll bring the record’s bold stylistic range and autobiographical flourishes to the masses this year while opening for Caroline Polachek on a string of West Coast dates.
The song to listen to right now: “NBPQ (Topless)”
RIYL: Sound baths, Solange, spontaneity, Funkadelic-style fearlessness
Who they are: A former sugar baby and unabashed provocateur whose exceptionally smutty dembow tracks have landed her collabs with Madonna and Rosalía—and incited the rage of holier-than-thou conservatives across Latin America.
Why they’re so exciting: Tokischa’s music relies on a few simple ingredients that are assembled effortlessly, like a family recipe you know by heart. There are raps about fucking, orgasmic moans, irresistibly onomatopoeic hooks, and freaky styling and visuals from her record label, Paulus Music. The result is a surreal spin on dembow, raising a middle finger to anyone who deigned to collapse the movement into a single aesthetic.
The song to listen to right now: “Delicuente” [ft. Anuel AA and Ñengo Flow]
RIYL: Rico Nasty, el desacate, being in your slut era, acrylics, posting thirst traps
Who they are: No one really knows, exactly—the members of this London electronic duo are secretive about their real identities, to the point that some fans are convinced they sent a pair of impostors to mime along to a pre-recorded mix for a Boiler Room set last year. The set itself, which mixed Two Shell’s anything-goes original productions with dancehall deep cuts, girl-group chart pop, and Justin Timberlake, gives a sense of their M.O.: As long as it bangs, it’s fair game.
Why they’re so exciting: Beyond the puckish presentation, there is the music itself, which knows when to pummel you with a stretch of metallic percussion and when to reward you with a glow-paint-splattered hook. On one hand, Two Shell embody the omnivorous, internet-addled sensibility of hyperpop; on the other, they have a deep (even reverent!) knowledge of the conventions of dance music proper.
The song to listen to right now: “home”
RIYL: Pitched-up vocals, pitched-down vocals, drums that slam like spaceship doors, gleeful doomscrolls, dyeing your hair pink
Who they are: An uncompromising Puerto Rican MC with an endless reserve of high-pressure, bad-bitch raps. She made a cameo at Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti concerts in San Juan last year, and also happens to be the lodestar for a new generation of queer and trans rappers on the island.
Why they’re so exciting: With her bratty, breathless punchlines, Villano Antillano can already body most of your faves. But the uniquely Puerto Rican way she bends Spanish and English, sculpting rounds of bilingual barbs into perfect bullets, makes her all the more impressive.
The song to listen to right now: “Cáscara de Coco”
RIYL: Megan Thee Stallion, throwing ass, leaving toxic men on read, perreando y llorando
Water From Your Eyes
Who they are: Two goofy BFFs in Brooklyn who make experimental pop that’s nothing to joke about. Following their breakthrough 2021 album Structure, they’re prepping a record for storied indie Matador, and setting out on tour alongside labelmates Interpol and Snail Mail in the coming months.
Why they’re so exciting: Rachel Brown and Nate Amos make music that’s architecturally bizarre, welded together from sunny tunes and surreal poems, brain-battered rock and suspenseful orchestrals. They indulge in the creative possibility of error and repetition.
The song to listen to right now: ““Quotations””
RIYL: The comedian John Wilson, rolling around in the grass, Jockstrap, being both the court jester and the sonneteer
Who they are: A swerving Southern rock band that’s following up their last proper album, 2021’s scuzzbucket epic Twin Plagues, with the upcoming Rat Saw God, a riff-ravaged record that marks their debut for Dead Oceans, home to Phoebe Bridgers and Mitski.
Why they’re so exciting: The Asheville, North Carolina quintet have a knack for zigzagging between the distorted grandeur of early Smashing Pumpkins and the weary twang of Drive-By Truckers. The smeared guitars are coupled with frontwoman Karly Hartzman’s observational lyrics—about that one cricket behind the fridge, Benadryl overdoses, and sex shops with biblical names—that feel as real, and as grimy, as the dirt stuck under your shoe.
The song to listen to right now: “Chosen to Deserve”
RIYL: Spiked sweet tea, the fuzz and the buzz, wading in the half-regrets of a misspent youth, burned leaves
Who they are: A Virgina-born virtuoso whose approach to the acoustic guitar—which involves playing it horizontally across her lap, adorning its body with percussive instruments like the kalimba, and placing a microphone on the floor to amplify her tap shoes—never takes precedence over her graceful sense of melody. Following her 2021 breakthrough Urban Driftwood, the 26-year-old is spending this year performing live and writing the follow-up, tentatively due in the fall.
Why they’re so exciting: Among a current generation of solo acoustic guitarists, Williams is a torch-bearer for incorporating new influences (like the D.C. funk genre go-go), new narratives (she has described Urban Driftwood as an abstract diary of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter uprisings), and new approaches to the instrument. With her bittersweet melodies and pop-minded songcraft, she has already developed a style both inviting enough to appeal beyond genre borders, and inventive enough to raise the bar in instrumental guitar music.
The song to listen to right now: “Urban Driftwood” [ft. Amadou Kouyate]
RIYL: Watching the sunset from a hill in a park, YouTube tutorials that make something very complicated look relaxing
Who they are: The Brooklyn singer-songwriter makes autobiographical, kaleidoscopic R&B accented with hip-hop, soul, and jazz.
Why they’re so exciting: Yaya Bey’s casually self-assured music dazzled on last year’s Remember Your North Star, where she centered Black womanhood in intimate and ever-expanding ways, sliding between sounds to create a radiant style all her own. She recently took to Twitter to tease more new music this year, and she’ll share a stage with the legendary Roy Ayers at an upcoming Brooklyn show too.
The song to listen to right now: “Keisha”
Recommended If You Like: Underdog anthems, neo-soul, eliminating any and all bullshit from your life