23 Artists to Watch in 2018

© Ashlan Grey/Jaesung Lee/Brock Fetch/Ryan Farber/Abraham Recio
Written by Red Bull Music
These are the artists we're expecting big things from 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 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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)

Amber Mark

Although Amber Mark’s stunning debut album, “3:33 AM,” was one borne of grief, its standout hits are addictively buoyant and bright — “Lose My Cool,” a popular track, features mournful, angry lyrics set over a perky piano tune. The young R&B singer wrote and produced the seven-track project in the wake of her mother’s death. One year ago, she uploaded “S P A C E” — now the album’s third track — to SoundCloud for the first time, not knowing that it would eventually cross the desk of Beats 1 DJ Zane Lowe, inflating her play count to more than 100K, and earning her glowing reviews and write-ups in major music publications. She released “3:33 AM” months later. An exercise in emotional catharsis, the album is stacked with beautiful ballads about coping and loss, many of the melodies influenced by her travels to India with her mother. (Tasbeeh Herwees)


It's often said Skrillex “discovered” this 25-year-old talent, but Mija actually booked him for a show in her hometown of Phoenix in 2010. Affiliated with her mentor's label OWSLA, the young don with the fantasy-dyed hair built her sonic empire on style-hopping mixes and tracks that defy classification, from the dub-wubs of “Crank It” feat. Lil Jon, to the candy-coated glitches of her “time stops” EP and the d'n'b tinge of “Secrets.” In 2016, her FK A GENRE tour saw diverse supportive acts such as A-Trak, Anna Lunoe and Tokimonsta sharing stages. Her brand expanded to fashion in 2016, too, but her biggest pivot came at the end of 2017 when she unveiled a darker, more vulnerable project. “Bad For U” featuring vocalist Kelli Schaefer is haunting and soulful, the first taste of forthcoming EP “How to Measure the Distance Between Lovers” that sees the producer penning lyrics and singing them, too. It's phase two for an artist who's well-proven her taste and is now ready to prove her unfiltered spirit. (Kat Bein)


For 25-year-olds Catharina Stoltenberg and Henriette Motzfeldt, “Nothing is embarrassing.” This self-assured line appears draped in tape hiss and nestled over 808s in the duo’s latest single “Have Fun,” and it speaks volumes about the risks these best friends are willing to take. The two met in high school in Oslo and moved to Denmark after their school recommended they pursue a proper musical education. They fumbled around on Ableton out of a necessity to complete homework assignments before dropping out to focus on Smerz full time. Their warped style of pop music is an experimental blend of techno and R&B, and often times leans more Aphex Twin than Kelela. Their risky DIY productions caught the attention of XL Recordings last year, which signed the group to their esteemed roster alongside Adele, Frank Ocean and Radiohead. For a group that’s always sounded effortlessly cool, look for Smerz to be driving the sound of 2018. (Troy Kurtz)


Cuco is a Chicano Los Angelino producer and musician who casually sings over carefully crafted, synth-heavy beats. The 19-year-old swims in and out of English and Spanish, weaving together sensitive, heartwarming and romantic stories in a laid-back fashion. His 2016 release “Wannabewithu,” and 2017’s “Songs4u” exemplify his self-described “Alternative Dream Pop” sound and have resulted in sold-out shows that extend beyond his hometown. He kicks off his first headlining tour across North America this month which culminates with festival performances at Coachella and The Governors Ball and his third album is set to release sometime this year. (Emily Berkey)

Camp Cope

If fun had an all-female alter ego from Australia that sounded like one of the great garage bands of yore, that band would be Camp Cope. What they lack in bombastic, arena pop ballads, they make up for with a tightly wound sound and enough heart in their lyrics to get yours back in proper working order. Put on "Keep Growing" and you'll remember a time not too terribly long ago when life was tough for all of us, but there wasn't quite as much weighing us down in the world as there is in the daily news cycle. Camp Cope reminds me of when we all loved each other little more, and had no shame in dreaming of the better days that awaited us. (Coty Levandoski)

Baba Stiltz

If Baba Stiltz released the year’s biggest off-kilter techno anthem, put out a full-length ambient project on the side and produced a record for Drake, it wouldn’t be that surprising. The 24-year-old producer from Stockholm has a history of painting outside the lines, which makes forecasting weather in Sweden an easier task than plotting his next move. He started writing music in kindergarten and spent five years of his adolescence training to become a professional ballet dancer. He ultimately focused his attention on making music, but still finds time to dance as evidenced in his last Boiler Room set. A longtime collaborator with Yung Lean, Stiltz last year got a co-sign from OVO and was recently nominated for a Grammi, Sweden’s equivalent of a Grammy award. There’s an electronic thread that runs through everything he touches, but expect the unexpected on his rumored EP release this year. (Troy Kurtz)

Injury Reserve

Only in the internet age could one of the freshest sounds in hip-hop come from a trio out of Arizona. Injury Reserve are a testament to the power of sustained creative collaboration — producer Parker Corey found the perfect match for his adventurous, off-kilter beats in rappers Ritchie With a T and Stepa J. Groggs. They’re equally comfortable wildling on uptempo bangers like “Oh Shit!!!” and “See You Sweat” as they are waxing poetic on brooding, introspective tracks like the socially charged “Colors” and early-career standout “Ttktv.” Their current run of projects — they've dropped one each year since 2015 — has hardly missed a beat. Each release has refined their “blue collar rap” sound, bringing more experimentation to their production and lyrics. Whatever comes this year should earn them their proper due as one of hip-hop’s most forward-thinking acts. (Alex Herrmann)


Shortly after Superorganism released the video for “Something For Your M.I.N.D" last summer, the music media was soon swirling with the bizarre and charming story of an international DIY pop collective that met in New Zealand and moved to London to pursue music. Like most good pop music, Superorganism’s work is simultaneously ambitious and simple with abstract lyrics that anchor production that seems to be brimming with the joy of creating music. They’ve appeared everywhere from Jools Holland in the UK to the soundtrack of FIFA 2018, and have been added to the festival lineups the world over. The combo of what seems to be a special kind of collaborative environment and a can’t miss live show full of joy seems like a recipe for a big 2018. (Tim Dunham)

Avalon Emerson

When Avalon Emerson traded San Francisco’s tech scene for Berlin’s thriving club culture in 2015, she maintained a full--time position as a software engineer while her career as an electronic producer/DJ was simultaneously taking off. After releasing a handful of forward-thinking EPs that fused her knack for pounding techno and magical melodies, the demand for her presence behind the decks soon followed, thus ending her parallel life. International promoters took note of her meticulous DJ sets and called on her for more than 100 club and festival gigs in 2017, but it was tackling the legendary nine-hour closing set at the infamous Panorama Bar inside Berlin’s Berghain that cemented her status as one of dance music’s brightest new stars. Look for Emerson to continue to soar in 2018 as she drops into Coachella this spring after spending the start of the year in her studio. (Troy Kurtz)

Mall Grab

What does "lo-fi house" have to do with Bitcoin? From a technological standpoint, nothing really. But with naysayers and pundits quick to write off both as ill-fated trends, these two burgeoning online phenomena might be here to stay. Melbourne house producer Mall Grab was one of the scene’s first to rack up millions of plays on YouTube with tracks like “Feel U” and “Can’t (Get You U Outta My Mind).” Much like his DJ moniker — an ode to incorrectly holding a skateboard — his productions exude a nonchalant and carefree take on dance music. Armed with an unabashed amount of hissy tape saturation and a talent for picking samples (Alicia Keys, Kanye, OutKast), his popularity soared in 2017; he landed more than 100 gigs around the world. Mall Grab might outgrow the lo-fi subculture that he was borne out of, but he’s clearly found a groove that’s worth betting on. (Troy Kurtz)


It's tough to pin down which coast Clairo's music fits best on, but "Pretty Girl" would certainly play perfectly on HBO's "High Maintenance" Spotify playlist — the perfect little bit of Brooklyn chillwave that makes us all want to move there if we haven't already, and stay there for awhile if we have. She's been uploading her music to SoundCloud since she was 14 with arrangements that may seem fairly straightforward on a first listen, but over time reveal themselves to be masterfully orchestrated around a lyricist who whispers with a kind of indifferent urgency, as if World War 3 has started but there's not much we can really do about so maybe we should just go hang out on the front porch for a bit. And with co-signs from Chance’s manager and Zane Lowe, it seems we're not alone in thinking Clairo is one of the best new things coming our way. (Coty Levandoski)