Ten artists shaping the future of music
A big part of being a music fan is keeping up with the music of the moment; There’s a reason popular artists got where they are, after all. Another equally important aspect of being a savvy music consumer, however, is staying aware of up-and-coming artists who are ready to shape the industry in their own way.
That’s what Uproxx’s new Next Up series is all about.
Over ten feature profiles, you’ll discover artists who are currently laying the groundwork for some major things to come, things that will both emerge as strengths and influence those who come after them. Before these features start arriving, keep reading for a sneak peek at who we decided to be part of this conversation.
The pipeline from Disney Channel star to music icon has been fruitful over the years, as the likes of Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande got their start on the network and went on to huge musical success (also Olivia Rodrigo if you count her musical high school series on Disney+). Now he looks like Dove Cameron, whose lengthy acting resume includes starring in the Disney Channel series Liv and Maddie, could very well be next. His first EP, Bloodshot / Wastearrived in 2019 and she recently had her biggest hit yet in February with the dramatic single “Boyfriend,” which was her first, and likely not the last, song to honor the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
With her recent signing to Dirty Hit, Canadian-Japanese singer-songwriter Saya Gray finds herself in excellent company: esteemed artists on the label include The 1975, Beabadoobee, Wolf Alice and Rina Sawayama. His first album for the label, 19 Mastersis on the way in June and based on songs like recent single “If There’s No Seat In The Sky (Will You Forgive Me???)”, it’s easy to see why Dirty Hit brought the innovative young artist on board, who is adept at switching genres not just between songs, but sometimes right in the middle of them.
TikTok has become a veritable testing ground for up-and-coming artists as the younger generation is exposed to lots of new music on the platform. PinkPantheress managed to stand out from all the noise and earn themselves a recording contract with Parlophone. His music definitely embraces the fast-paced nature of TikTok: most songs from his debut mixtape of 2021 To hell with that are less than two minutes. That didn’t stop the multi-genre project from doing particularly well, as it landed in the top 20 of the charts in PinkPantheress’ native UK.
Speaking of TikTok, Atlanta rapper Kali has also found success on the platform and now she’s innovating beyond that. As Aaron Williams of Uproxx notes, she moves into a space traditionally dominated by male rappers, a space that is “marked by passive aggression, avoidant attachment and audio gaslighting, with rappers and singers who delight in keeping their loved ones guessing in the stories of their songs.” Kali turned her single “Mmm Mmm” into a debut EP, toxic chocolate. “UonU” with Yung Bleu is a highlight, on which she turns the tables and asserts her dominance, rapping, “It’s a two-way street, we in the same lane / Play before you play me, it is just my mind-frame / But you’re still mine, baby.
Chances are you’ve heard Tobi Lou working with one of your favorites before, as the rapper from Chicago via Nigeria has collaborated with some of his biggest hometown peers like Chance The Rapper, Dreezy and Saba. He was on the ballot for the 2020 XXL List of freshmen and while he hasn’t made the cut, he’s onto bigger and better things, like his recently released new album Non-perishable, which mostly features Lou Shining alone but also alongside guests like T-Pain and Chika. All the names are to illustrate that Lou has the support of people in high places, co-signs that show that Lou deserves consideration.
A lot has been going well lately for the 24-year-old Nigerian afrobeats star. Since landing a record deal a few years ago, Omah Lay’s rise has been rapid, as he’s had a hit on social media with “Bad Influence”, dropped a few EPs that landed on the Apple Music charts in Nigeria and caught the attention of Justin Bieber, with whom he recently released the collaborative single “Attention”. Additionally, Lay’s status as an afrobeats favorite was cemented with the launch of Billboardfrom the new US Afrobeats Songs chart in March. In the inaugural ranks, he had two songs in the top 30, including “Attention”, which graced the top five. Basically, Lay is on an uptrend, so if you haven’t paid attention to it so far, now is a good time to start.
Like many artists before him, Bakar started uploading songs to SoundCloud. It’s really one of the few ways the experimental British indie rocker resembles other artists. He gradually worked his craft, forged a distinct aesthetic identity and made a small hit in 2019 with “Hell N Back”, which popped up on several rock and alternative Billboard charts, including a #1 placement on Adult Alternative Airplay. Things have only gotten better since then as he had a feature on one of the highest rated indie/pop albums of 2020 in Benee’s Hi UX and released their first album, no one is home, in February. He got his hometown love for that one, because it was a top 40 album in the UK. Now it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches up with us.
The Chicago Horsegirl trio formed in 2019 when its members were all teenagers. While many teenage efforts are best forgotten, Horsegirl built on their beginning in a major way. They have since signed to Matador Records and have so far released two singles for the label: 2021’s “Billy” and this year’s “Anti-Glory”. As for sound, the band falls somewhere between post-punk and shoegaze, an area that has clearly worked for them given the aforementioned examples of success. It’s the kind of music that begs to be heard live, so there’s good news there, as one of the hottest bands of the year has plenty of tour dates planned. for this summer.
EP 2019 Better was important to Caracara, as the rocking effort landed them on many people’s radars. That includes acclaimed producer Will Yip, who has worked with everyone from Lauryn Hill to Keane to The Wonder Years. He also teamed up with Caracara on their recently released album New concerns (As the gods descend), which is highlighted by the single “Colorglut”, which features Circa Survive’s Anthony Green. The company of a band can say a lot about them, and so far many high profile people have found their way to the corner of Caracara. Now that the new album is out and music fans have something new to sink their teeth into, the Caracara corner is about to get even busier.
While social media has become the primary method of fan interaction for celebrities, many musicians have become legitimately hilarious social media personalities. Then there’s Zack Fox, who takes it the other way: he started out as a comedian, but in recent years he’s found solid grounding in hip-hop: his debut album, Shut your mouth talking to me, was released last year and he is touring with Freddie Gibbs this year. On top of all that, he’s still starring and has a recurring role in one of the most acclaimed comedies around, Abbott Elementary School. He is even an accomplished visual artist, since he illustrated the Thundercat album cover Drunk. Basically, Fox did something that you’ll probably appreciate in just about any art medium, which very few people can say.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.