Top Tens: Musical Acts Under 21 to Watch in 2018

From hip-hop to indie-pop and everything in between, who are the young artists set to make big waves this year?

In an age in which there are countless young artists breaking through to fame in ways we’ve never before seen, it also seems as if we are constantly bombarded with ‘the next big thing’ on a regular basis. For every budding superstar, there seems to be dozens of others that never quite live up to their potential, for one reason or another.

Acts Under 21
(L-R) Rich Brian by @GunnerStahl.Us, Steve Lacy by @AlanTheG.

When you sift through the rubble, however, there are a few diamonds in the rough that are here to stay, pushing the musical scene forward with their own progressive sounds and playing their part in reshaping the ever-changing industry in the process.

Here we’ve compiled a list of a some of the most promising and fastest rising musicians under the age of 21 to watch in 2018 as they soar to new heights.

10. Steve Lacy, Aged: 19

Earlier this year, Steve Lacy released his debut solo project Steve Lacy’s Demo, showcasing the raw talent we knew he possessed since he joined The Internet back in 2015. The lead guitarist of the Odd Future band, however, has turned out to be sort of a jack-of-all-trades, as he also is a bassist, producer (having produced songs for the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Isaiah Rashad, Goldlink, Tyler, the Creator and more), audio engineer and singer-songwriter. When he joined The Internet as a high school senior, his youthful and invigorating approach to music was welcomed, and his EP is viable proof that he’s continued to evolve on his one-of-a-kind sound.

9. Lil Pump, Aged: 17

Hailing from one of today’s hotbeds for underground rap in South Florida, Lil Pump finds himself as an unlikely poster child for a new generation of angsty, rebellious and rambunctious rap. His rapid rise to fame on the back of two-minute tracks overblown with bass and repeated catchphrases like “Gucci Gang,” “Boss” and “D Rose,” is another case that falls under “SoundCloud Rap,” owing a lot of popularity and exposure to social media and the internet. Between the viral antics and references to prescription drugs, Lil Pump is certainly a controversial figure, but his formula has already carved out a decent niche and widespread popularity.

8. Billie Eilish, Aged: 16 

Often dubbed pop’s next it girl, Billie Eilish’s organic rise to stardom largely without the help of a powerful record label has been fascinating to watch unfold. Her natural talent and musical prowess is undeniable, as felt on her acclaimed Don’t Smile At Me EP, and she’s carved out a loyal following in the process, racking up over 3 million monthly plays on Spotify and a nearly sold-out tour.

Though she’s just 16, she has no interest in playing the innocent card like other comparable teenage stars, with many of her lyrics riding the line between sadistic and vulnerable, fittingly wrapped in an angelic voice. She appears to be destined for stardom, from her sound to the silver hair and on-point streetwear-meets-hipster fashion sense, and 2018 could be the year she makes the leap.

7. Trippie Redd, Aged: 18

Ohio MC Trippie Redd is heating up quickly–and for good reason. At a time in which many young artists are beginning to feel stale and cookie-cutter, Trippie Redd’s emotional, punk-fused melodies are a breath of fresh air. His experimental approach to music is reflected in his biggest musical influences–Lil Wayne, Marilyn Manson and MF DOOM, leading to a finished product that take elements from across the spectrum.

Thanks to his mixtape A Love Letter to You and smash hits such as “Love Scars” or “Fuck Love” with controversial XXXTENTACION, Trippie Redd was able to successfully get his name out there–and for all the right reasons. Add to that, his larger-than-life personality and magnetic charisma to compliment his alt-rock-hip-hop blend of emotionally-charged music, and you have a seemingly perfect star for 2018.

6. Rich Brian (FKA Rich Chigga), Aged: 18

When Rich Brian first rose to fame through the music video for “Dat $tick” in early 2016, it was hard to take seriously at first. However, once you saw past the fanny pack-wearing, Rubik’s cube-loving Indonesian teenager’s comedian demeaner, his music was thrust into the spotlight, with his unlikely deep voice becoming a signature of his sound.

[button color=”white” size=”normal” alignment=”center” rel=”follow” openin=”newwindow” url=””]RICH CHIGGA’S UNLIKELY HIP-HOP ODYSSEY[/button]

To date, that music video has garnered over 80 million views on YouTube and a year later, he’s releasing single after single, including features from the likes of 21 Savage and Ghostface Killah, while preparing for his debut album, Amen, scheduled to release in February 2018. He’s solidified himself as much more than a viral sensation and he provides an interesting case study as to where hip-hop is heading, all while showing promise and personality in the process.

5. Corbin, Aged: 19

Corbin Smidzik initially emerged as an artist under the moniker “Spooky Black” through a series of tongue-in-cheek music videos, most notably “Without You.” While his clips of the Minnesota artist were found on all corners of social media (mainly for the wrong reasons), the musical talent was evident.

To Corbin, however, music was always a serious thing and the change to his birth name marked a shift in direction, dismissing his meme-able past in favour of wanting to be taken seriously as an artist. Groggy, ghostly and intense, his 2017 album Mourn has elements of techno to new wave to post-punk influences throughout. A gifted singer-songwriter, Corbin has truly come a long way and matured as an artist since his first mixtape Forest appeared on the Internet in 2013.

4. Smooky MarGielaa, Aged: 15

From the age of seven, Smooky Margielaa was performing with his father, Malian musician Abdoulaye Diabaté, on tour across the US. In middle school, the New York native rose to fame on the Facebook on SoundCloud, where he released tracks he recorded on Garage Band on his cellphone.

After impressing A$AP Rocky in a chance encounter, the fellow Bronx rapper decided to make Smooky his newest rap protegé, and he appeared on five songs from A$AP Mob’s mixtape Cozy Tapes Vol. 2: Stay Cozy and also joined them on tour, and there’s been no slowing him down since.

3. Kodak Black, Aged: 20

Before Drake posted a video on Instagram of himself dancing to “Skrt” in 2015, Kodak Black’s name was already starting to gain traction with with other hits like “No Flockin” off the 2014 mixtape Heart of the Projects, and he subsequently went on to be listed in XXL’s 2016 Freshman Class.

Despite the smashing success of Kodak’s music and his soaring popularity, 2017 was marked by defamatory legal issues for the 20-year old. However, under the visceral bars lies a smart kid with undeniable hip-hop talent (he is co-nominated for a Grammy next month), that understands it’s his worrisome public image holding back his career from mainstream stardom.

2. Jaden Smith, Aged: 19 (turns 20 July 8 2018)

Leave your first impressions of Jaden Smith’s music (such as his family-friendly verse on Justin Bieber’s “Never Say Never” for his The Karate Kid remake) at the door. Despite his head start into the limelight, Jaden Smith has bloomed into a legitimate sonically progressive, risk-taking and ever-improving artist.

His influences from past hip-hop legends are evident on his debut album SYRE, with elements from the likes of Kanye to Childish Gambino. His technical rapping skills are off-the-charts, and he craftily executes a clear vision throughout the project. The future is bright for the new fresh prince.

1. Khalid, Aged: 19 (turns 20 February 11, 2018)

While most of us celebrated our high school graduation surrounded by empty smirnoff bottles, Khalid was busy finishing off his senior year dropping his debut album American Teen. His incredible vocal talent is obviously the most captivating element of his music, but many were shocked to hear how polished and refined the album was from top-to-bottom.

Khalid’s talent as a singer-songwriter is on full display on hits “Young Dumb & Broke,” “8TEEN” and of course platinum single “Location,” which became relatable anthems for those on the verge of adulthood. He’s gotten very big, very fast, with American Teen moving over 1 million copies, and he’s found himself the voice of an entire age group–and he’s handled it all with grace and humility.

Words by Braeden Alexander.

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Director of Content