21 rising stars under 21 killing it in 2015
After celebrating the prodigious talent of Lorde, Earl Sweatshirt and Disclosure in our inaugural 21 Under 21 its now time for the next crop of young stars to step up. FL has gathered a list of 2015’s
most talented emerging acts (under 21 years old) from Australia and beyond. From indie darlings to emerging rappers, we believe all of these artists are destined for big things in the near future – some are even well on their way.
1. Tkay Maidza
19 years old and already one of the most exciting things in Australian hip-hop, Zimbabwe-born Tkay Maidza impressed everyone right out of the gate with her single ‘Brontosaurus’, released when she was just 17. Since then she she’s impressed further with her Switch Tape mixtape as well as her live shows. This year she performed at Laneway and joined a who’s who of Australian rappers to help Hilltop Hoods during the big finale of their show at the Beat The Drum concert. Tkay Maidza may not sound like anyone else in the country, but that’s part of her appeal. As she told Pigeons & Planes late last year, “Australian music is cool, but there are still a lot of people who think hip-hop should sound only one way, and I’m just going to keep doing whatever I like.”
Olivia McCarthy aka Joy is a 17-year-old classically trained multi-instrumentalist/producer/singer-songwriter from Brisbane who has already played shows at Laneway Festival and Field Day. Joy has also teamed up with Peking Duk on triple j’s Like A Version, locked in tour dates with Dustin Tebbutt, George Maple and The Kite String Tangle, and remixed fellow young gun Tkay Maidza.
17-year-old singer East was born in South Africa, moved to Dubbo when she was three, and now lives on the New South Wales central coast, but she’s not likely to stay in small-town Australia for very long. Since the release of her debut single ‘Old Age’ she’s been compared (perhaps inevitably) to Lorde and booked to open shows for Bombay Bicycle Club, Broods, Lisa Mitchell, and Art Vs Science. “I went through a punk phase, and then I went through a folk phase,” she told I-D magazine last year. “But a few artists who have stuck with me throughout all the phases are Jeff Buckley and Death Cab for Cutie.” Time will tell whether those influences shine through on the new material she’s been working on with Evermore frontman and producer Jon Hume.
4. The Districts
Although bassist Connor Jacobus turned 21 on the day the band played at the Governor’s Ball festival in New York alongside Drake, Florence and The Machine and My Morning Jacket earlier this month the rest of the band is still under 21 and technically banned from entry into American bars. The Pennsylvania crew have been playing together since high school in 2009 and they’re making waves with their vintage rock sounds. Their new album A Flourish And A Spoil was produced by John Congleton (St. Vincent, Cloud Nothings) and is out now through Fat Possum Records – home to blues legends like RL Burnside, T-Model Ford, Junior Kimbrough and younger acts like San Cisco, Temples and Wavves.
5. Sahara Beck
You might remember Sahara Beck from her amazing finger-picked folksy cover of Violent Soho’s ‘Covered In Chrome’ filmed on her iPhone and featuring the “yeah yeah yeah yeah yeahs” in impossibly high falsetto. She is also an impressive songwriter with two EPs to her name – her 2013 debut EP You Could Be Happy and last years’ Bloom. Beck was the third most played act on Unearthed in 2014 behind Perth rapper Coin Banks and Japanese Wallpaper and is set for big things.
Timbaland has said that Aaliyah appeared to him in a dream to say that Chicago rapper Tink is “the one”. That’s a huge co-sign and a lot of pressure to live up to when she finally drops her debut album Think Tink featuring the single ‘Ratchet Commandments’ some time later this year. The album follows a series of mixtapes stretching back to 2012 and collaborations with Jeremih, Kelela, Sleigh Bells and with Timbaland on the track ‘UFO’ which also featured a rare verse from Andre 3000. “I’m not a gimmick,” Tink told Billboard last year. “People stereotype female rappers a whole lot. They expect us to talk a certain way, to look a certain way [and] dress a certain way. And I’m not with that … I stick to my guns with that. I don’t want to be mediocre.”
Big Boi helped introduce the world to Killer Mike and Janelle Monae via his Purple Ribbon label and now he’s set to launch a new label with Outkast’s Mr.DJ. The first act signed by the duo is 14-year-old Cleveland Heights High School student Malcolm White aka Malcupnext who became a viral sensation after a few clips showing off his spectacular voice hit the net. Big Boi told Rolling Stone that his debut single ‘This Feeling’ is a feel-good song. “It reminds me of a young Michael Jackson or New Edition,” Big Boi says. “There aren’t any kid artists that are being kids that are really soulful. Everybody wants to be grown. Everything doesn’t have to be raunchy or too adult. We want to keep him like he’s 14; taking a girl to the movies and being in the lunchroom with his friends. Things me and Andre used to do when we were young.”
8. Japanese Wallpaper
Last year Japanese Wallpaper, aka Gab Strum, won the triple j Unearthed High competition and had to take the phonecall from Matt and Alex while on a school camp. For the electronic musician attending Melbourne’s Leibler Yavneh College it was another part of a great year, which included landing a spot on the lineup at Splendour In The Grass and one of his songs – ‘Breathe In’, which features Wafia – being chosen for the soundtrack of Wish I Was Here, the crowdfunded movie directed by Zach Braff. Now 18 years old and in year 12, Strum is releasing his debut EP this month.
The BBC chose Bridie Monds-Watson, aka SOAK, for the longlist of their Sound of 2015 poll and were spot on to do so. At that point the 18-year-old Irish singer-songwriter from Derry, a city in Northern Ireland, had played on the “introducing” stage at Glastonbury after putting out an EP called Blud, but it was when she released her debut album Before We Forgot How To Dream in May of this year that SOAK lived up to the hype. Her acute observations of teenage life have been well-received by critics, with the NME calling it “”accomplished and eloquent””:http://www.nme.com/reviews/various-artists/16082 while we went with “”spacious, delicate, and exceptionally human.””:http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/43014/SOAK—Before-We-Forgot-How-to-Dream
Raury was an unusual choice for XXL’s annual “Freshmen Class” this year. Not because the 18-year-old can’t rap – here he is freestyling over OutKast’s ‘Elevators’ – but because he’s better known for playing acoustic guitar and blending together folk and African influences than he is for occasionally throwing some hip-hop into the mix. Writing about his Indigo Child mixtape last year, Pitchfork summed up that crossover as an essential part of his appeal, “”shuffling disparate interests-rap, folk, EDM-into something logical.””:http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/19790-raury-indigo-child/