It’s hard out here for up-and-coming artists. Nowadays, newcomers need a lot more going on for them than that one-off hit if they want to be brought up to the big leagues. Keeping a consistent release schedule is just the half of it, as expectations branch out to maintaining an engaging social media presence, making friends at the cool kids’ table, and curating a strong identity for their brand. It’s sink or swim, and these 10 artists seem to have what it takes to become the next batch of names to blow up in 2016. Trust.
From: Los Angeles, CA
For fans of: Gladiator, Salva, Brenmar
Why you should care: Content, content, content. That’s what DJ managers around the world are preaching to their malleable young artists. Most post memes. Some makes tracks. Few know how to DJ.
Take a look at Kittens’ SoundCloud page, and you won’t find pages of original tracks, remixes and mixtapes. Instead, her page is a well-curated list of carefully picked collaborations, a few thunderous mixes and some love for her Athletixx crew. Sure, she’s got the look, but she’s already stacked years of club experience that can’t be ghost-produced.
Her style is a fast and furious blend of underground club music that spans the maelstrom of internet trends. You won’t see her wearing any loud colors, and her crew’s name, Athletixx, should give you a hint as to the kind of sportswear she’ll be draped in. Catch her spin, and you’ll hear her blaze through genres like Jersey club, grime and hip-hop. She’ll sprinkle in the necessary trap bits to keep you moving, but even the snarkiest of SoundCloud pundits will be caught pulling out their iPhones to Shazam. Don’t be fooled by her cute name or dashing looks—Kittens means business. —Troy Kurtz
Essential Tune: Kittens x Gladiator “Cute”
From: Washington, D.C. / Los Angeles, CA
For fans of: Skrillex, RL Grime, Bauuer
Why you should care: East Coast-bred, West Coast-based artist FAWKS (born Garrett Lockhart) is one of the true rising talents in the Southern California underground scene, due to his refreshing, genre-bending sound that weaves together hybrid strains of house, trap, bass, and beyond.
Emerging from the prestigious ICON Collective recording school in Burbank—alongside fellow graduates MakJ, JAUZ and Protohype—this L.A.-based phenom has developed a massive online following while delivering well-received releases on leading labels like Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak, Datsik’s Fire Power, and Aussie-based Vicious. Definitely be on the lookout for him in 2016. —Jason Black
Essential Tune: The Game & Skrillex “El Chapo” (Fawks Flip)
From: London, UK /Hannover, Germany
For fans of: Claude VonStroke, Shiba San, Amine Edge & DANCE
Why you should care: Like your tech house with a laidback gangsta lean? Then, you’re probably a hardcore G-house fanatic. Thanks to prominent underground labels like CUFF, DIRTYBIRD, Sleazy G and Bunny Tiger, this gritty, funky West Coast sound is dominating dancefloors worldwide.
Former drum & bass producers turned G-house heads Maximono are riding the sound’s current wave of popularity, while showcasing their “no rules” mix of bass beats, hip-hop, jungle, trap and beyond. In 2016, expect this dynamic duo to continue pushing boundaries and exploring urban sounds, spaces and scenes for established labels like CUFF, DIRTYBIRD, and This Ain’t Bristol. —Jason Black
Essential Tune: Maximono “Funk Ur Self”
Pep & Rash
From: New Zealand, Netherlands
For fans of: Martin Garrix, Hardwell, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike
Why you should care: This emerging Dutch duo have the uncanny ability to blend high-energy hooks and warm melodies into their mesmerizing festival mainstage sets. Standout selections include their latest chart-topping single, “Sugar,” alongside Shermanology and “Red Roses.” Over the past few years, they’ve garnered serious support from world-class selectors like Dutch phenom Martin Garrix, Hardwell, and Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, who are fans of their work in the studio. 2016 is set to be a breakout year for these two rising stars in the Spinnin’ Records stable! —Jason Black
Essential Tune: Pep & Rash “White Rabbit”
From: New Jersey
For fans of: Armin van Buuren, Above & Beyond, Christopher Lawrence
Why you should care: East Coaster Monoverse, aka Santos Torres, is a promising young artist whose stock is on the rise within progressive dance circles. The 24-year-old trance disciple has gained recognition for his solid studio work on notable labels like Dutch juggernaut Armada, Coldharbour, Enhanced and Lange, among others. Along the way, his mainstage-ready music has received support from genre pioneers including Armin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk, Markus Schulz, Gareth Emery, Cosmic Gate, and more. Monoverse’s signature, forward-thinking style is sure to find tons more fans in 2016. —Jason Black
Essential Tune: Monoverse “P.M.E.”
From: Toronto, Canada
For fans of: Dusky, Bob Moses
Why you should care: mau5trap’s signing of Jeff Hartford, known to the dance world as ATTLAS, certainly stirred up enough attention in 2015 to warrant keeping a close eye on him in 2016. The classically trained multi-instrumentalist moved from his hometown of Toronto to Santa Monica to work on film scores before edging into the clubbing world with several high-powered releases. They were merely a warmup, though, for the stunning trilogy of EPs that ATTLAS unleashed on mau5trap this year. Siren and Scene were eventually followed by Sin at the end of the year, and they all featured an eclectic exploration of sumptuous deep house, melodic progressive and polished crossover dance-pop with plenty of vocal guests. He’s woven enough sonic depth and songwriting into his trilogy that it’s abundantly clear he’s far more than your standard dancefloor producer. —Angus Thomas Paterson
“Thanks for giving me an amazing 12 months,” he announced on Facebook upon the release of Sin in November. “There’s more to come… I promise.” We’d definitely believe it.
Essential Tune: ATTLAS “Parallel Lines”
From: Lutz, Florida
For fans of: Justin Martin, Shadow Child, Kry Wolf
Why you should care: I spent 25 years of my life in Florida, and I couldn’t tell you where Lutz is located. I guess that shouldn’t really matter, but with this 18-year-old from my home state churning out chunky house tracks practically every week, I took it upon myself to do a little research.
Lutz, Florida, is about 20 minutes north of Tampa and is located near the University of South Florida (my parents went there!). It has one bar, Whiskey Willy’s, said to be “a great place to let it all hang out [with] down to earth people that love rock n’ roll.” Whiskey Willy’s did not appear to have any upcoming underground nights on their calendar.
With little to no music scene around him, Landis LaPace—like many other teenagers around the world—was shaped by sounds he found on the internet. Over the last few months, the young Floridian has landed on labels like AC Slater’s Night Bass Records, Billy Kenny’s This Ain’t Bristol, and Treasure Fingers’ Psycho Disco. 2016 is already shaping up to be a big one for Landis, as Treasure Fingers is bringing him on a 20-stop tour across America that kicks off in January. Git ‘er done, brother! —Troy Kurtz
Essential Tune: Landis LaPace “Shotgun”
From: Sydney, Australia
For fans of: Tchami, AC Slater, Motez
Why you should care: I’m going to blatantly generalize here, but I assume all Australians come out of the womb with an obscenely high tolerance for alcohol and knack for slang that would make even the saltiest of sailors blush. You’d have to think they’re also born with some innate proficiency in Ableton, because they’ve been pumping out dance music maestros en masse.
Two Australians who were definitely born with all three of the aforementioned traits call themselves Go Freek. Their sound is #GutterTech, and they’re “about as fond of generic club music as they are correct spelling.” That’s the kind of attitude you need to have to set yourselves from the pack, and Go Freek has been going vertical after a slew of heavyweight releases on Sweat It Out! Get familiar with these guys, because your next favorite DJ will be banging their tracks. —Troy Kurtz
Essential Tune: Go Freek “The Way You Dance”
From: London, UK
For fans of: Andy C, Pendulum
Why you should care: You can think of Frankee as a special gift to those who love the more euphoric side of drum & bass. While he’s been toiling away in the studio and polishing his sound for years, 2015 represented the turning point when Frankee really came of age as a producer, with a string of EPs and remixes on the mighty RAM Records label run by Andy C, who’s one of the true dons of the drum & bass genre. While Frankee is known for dipping his toes in all the different sides of drum & bass, he’s particularly driven it home this year with his hands-in-the-air anthems, showing how talented he is at crafting those peak-time cuts. —Angus Thomas Paterson
Example tracks: Frankee ft. Simon Franks “Downtown”
For fans of: Mark Knight, Hot Since 82, Âme
Why you should care: Hailing from origins unknown, CamelPhat are a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Yet over the past five years, this UK duo’s signature house sound—on respected labels like Spinnin’ Deep, Toolroom and Ultra—has surged up the charts and been in rotation with discerning DJs around the world, including Eric Prydz, Carl Cox, Sasha, Pete Tong, Annie Mac, MK, Eric Morillo, Mark Knight and Gorgon City, just to name a few. Could 2016 be their breakthrough year? We think so, with top tracks like “Constellations” and “Get Sick” making the rounds with the global DJ elite. —Jason Black
Essential Tune: CamelPhat “Get Sick”