2016 saw some fundamental shifts in the music industry, one of the biggest being a groundswell towards artists choosing independence over record deals. All eyes are now firmly focused on the next wave of independent artists to take control of their careers and break on to the scene in 2017. Let’s take a look at who we think will make their mark in what’s set to be the year of the independent artist.
After she dropped ‘Blue Lights’ on SoundCloud earlier this year, her hard-hitting messages and unique laid back vocals started setting tongues wagging, making music fans and the industry alike question “Who is Jorja Smith?”. I remember listening to the debut single in the back of a cab as my agent Emma Marshall told me it was something that I had to hear. I decided to text it to Skrillex, went in to The Nest in Dalston to see Madam X slay it and came out to see Twitter popping off after he tweeted it. Authenticity and real artistry travels and quickly. The next day my phone didn’t stop with agents, bookers and A&R’s asking about who she was. She has now recently supported Nao and is rumoured to have tracks on the way with global artists. Her story shows that really working on your craft and not putting anything out until it is totally ready is where it’s at.
Having already released music with Stormzy, SG Lewis and Wretch 32, Ray BLK’s voice is not only beautifully unique but honestly real. Dishing out real talks about growing up in Lewisham, South London she has appeared on Jools Holland and cites Amy Winehouse and Lauryn Hill as her biggest influences. She’s playing The Great Escape next year and has a headline show coming up at Village Underground. Catching her live is a must-do for 2017, especially as she’s just won BBC Sound of 2017 so her gigs are set to be ram-packed.
Having moved to the UK from Ukraine, Bloom Twins have had an emotional and outspoken journey so far. Choosing to document what they were witnessing in their country during the uprising in Maidan Square, their voices were heard far and wide. From working hard on the UK and European gig circuit this year they toured with Duran Duran whilst releasing some of their best music to date. With their online, social and live following increasing the twin sisters have depth and meaning to what they write about with strong social and political views carried with grace and understanding. With co-signs from The Guardian, The Sunday Times, Vogue and even a slot on Newsnight they are the epitome of today’s independent artist and remind us of the social power of music. If you are discovering them for the first time be sure to check out ‘Farenheit’ and ‘Blue’
As the ‘Ones To Watch’ lists have been dropped one by one this year there are certain names that music moguls and underground tastemakers stand by united. AJ Tracey has had an incredible 2016, already collaborating on tracks with the likes of A$AP Rocky, Dave, Clams Casino and Garage King MJ Cole. Sonically linking the UK and US, his music is tactically merging UK Grime with US Hip-Hop and Trap. Rising up through pirate radio, dropping free downloads and standing by the independent artist movement, 2017 sees a UK tour in his midst. Grime is well and truly on the global map right now and AJ could well be one of its new pioneers.
Liza Owen is one of the most hardworking and focused new artists I have ever met. You only have to follow her Instagram to see how dedicated she is to creating her future. Working hard in the studio between London and LA she has been collaborating with some serious songwriting masters. Gathering a loyal and growing following, her vision is clear and her distinctive modern pop tone and badass fashion narrative sets her apart. With the US market wide open, Liza is a force for the future not only state side but here on home soil. Check out her single ‘Better With Me’
Anyone that has been linked to Vic Mensa, Mick Jenkins and Chance The Rapper has got the music worlds attention. Part of the SaveMoney crew, Chicago’s Joey Purp is one of the cities leading voices right now. With the Hip-Hop world in one of the strongest places it has ever been, Purp has the ability to take things internationally in 2017. With tastemakers dropping his name as one to watch and a cult underground following with the kids that matter, his sound transcends genres, stereotypes and cultures.
Collectives are where the industry is at right now, individuals who know who they are, coming together to collaborate and pull on each other’s strengths. Meet Monster Florence (Dream McLean, Alex Osiris, Wallace Rice, Tom Donovan, Cameron Morrell, Jonny Poole) who are repping everything the UK scene stands for. Made up of rappers and musicians that are intelligently fusing Hip-Hop, Grime and Punk with close to the mark lyrical genius, heavy guitars and next level swag. With their live show about to take on London these lot are ones to watch out for next year. Not only for their boundary breaking sound but for their outspoken resolve.
Anyone that Skepta co-signs is on track to slay the game. I discovered Keedz
at the Levi’s Music Project at the V&A museum recently. Hand selecting new artists that were ones to watch for the future, the musicians spent time in workshops developing new music and collaborating with one another. At the final showcase each artist had their time in the spotlight. Watching Keedz for the first time is something I will never forget. A firey MC with lyrical bravery and ultimate stage presence she owned her craft and left everyone watching wanting to know her name. With videos racking up views online and new music on the way, Keedz is what the Grime and Hip-Hop worlds need. Fearless creativity and a drive to do things her way.
Standing in the foyer at Brixton Academy recently a humble Jay Prince and his team stand giving out flyers for his ‘Smile Good’ EP. Fans stumble by asking for pictures blown away that it’s actually him. He’s come off stage from just supporting Chance The Rapper on the European leg of his tour. Standing strong as an independent artist, his lyrical whit and sincere hustle have put Jay Prince on a worldwide map. His music is really important right now. It acts as a bridge crossing not only oceans but genres. Find his SoundCloud, open your mind and your ears and let Jay Prince educate you on his world.
Coventry 2013. I am sat in Jevon’s bedroom at his parent’s house (known as Flyboi back then). He is playing me beat after beat after beat that he has sat and made not only for him but for his mates who are all on the music thing. When you meet new artists that you know are destined for greatness, you feel it in your heart. There was never a doubt that I knew Jevon would break through, it was just down to timing. Fast forward to 2016, he’s recently back from a writing trip in LA, been announced as part of XL Recording’s new project ‘New Gen’ and has worked with Ray BLK, Steflon Don, WSTRN and Abra Cadabra to name just a few. Hard work and focus always prevails and 2017 will be Jevon’s year.
Outspoken, forthright and wise beyond his years, Kojey Radical’s prophetic demeanor has earned him respect from his peers and the music world alike. Riding independently, his foresight in to the importance of having full control of his project has meant that the music that he puts out is built on an undiluted and solid foundation. Recently appearing on Channel 4’s Fourtothefloor, he has been backed by The Fader, Dazed, Wonderland and Clash Magazine as well as being nominated for two MOBO Awards. Not everything he talks about is easy to listen to but sometimes the things that make us grow are the very things that make us uncomfortable. Kojey Radical is here for the long haul and his legacy is blazing a trail for the artists of the future.
Blending electro pop with PC Music influences, Siba has already produced for Bonzai, Zara Larsson and Charli XCX. From his Copenhagen roots, he talks openly about love, friendship and relationships. With Mura Masa and Sam Gellaitry paving the way in 2016, Siba’s experimental and slick production will soon be taking electronic music fans in to a new area of discovery. When you have the heavy weight pop world on your side and respect from producers like Mssingno you know that you are on to something pretty epic.
Silky, pure and here to prove that you can do things on your own, Slo formerly known as Jess Mills new project is crafted with detail and intricate beauty. With so many chilled slow jams online, you have to do something outstanding to shine. Slo’s simple yet perfect production ensures organic and sharable reach. Watching Jess Mills from a far she has been waiting for her time to come. Slo is authentic, unfiltered and soul touching. Now is her time.
Touring the world as the versatile diva vocalist for Gorgon City, Lulu James is here to make her mark on the world. Having spent time on the road with the band there is no doubt that she is a global star. The distinctive rasp in her voice cuts through the Internets crowded musical landscape. An artist in the richest sense of the word, her visual aesthetic is streamlined perfectly to her music. Having recently played shows in LA as well as Red Rocks in the US with Gorgon City, it will not be long before the crowds she is playing to become her very own. The UK scene needs a new powerhouse and Lulu James could be here to take the title.
Having been likened to Slaves and Wolf Alice, Cardiff based Estrons are at the forefront of a new wave of much needed rock music. They don’t fit in and they don’t want to. Flitting between singing in both English and Welsh and talking about subjects that most bands shy away from it’s their non-conformity that has made them stand out. Meeting back in 2012 and working hard on the underground gig circuit their intense and punchy melodies make them the perfect festival band.
2017 is set to be a hell of a year for the independent artists and everyone at FreshTunes is super hyped to play a part in supporting and enabling artists to manage their careers on their terms.
Check out the FreshTunes Ones To Watch 2017 Spotify playlist to get a taster of our FreshTips for 2017: