The way music is created and released seems to shift on a daily basis.
The rise of streaming has demolished the traditional release schedule, maintaining a continuous flow of music into our Inbox.
All of which means that it's increasingly difficult to define what's 'new' in 2019 - after all, if an artist can sell out huge venues and gain an international audience without releasing a full album, what does the term even mean?
That said, it's a New Year, and in the interests of sweeping the slate clean and putting our reputations on the line, here are nine artists who we believe will slay 2019...
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High-octane spitter Slowthai is infectious in his punk spirit, bold in his sound - drawing on grime, dubstep, hip-hop and garage - and refreshing, sometimes surprising, in his lyricism. Flitting between roadman caricature, hard-hitting socio-political commentary - “The majority are at the bottom / That's the realest thing” - and artfully playing with ideas of race and identity (see the lyrical dexterity in teasing yet deadly serious ‘Rainbow’), the Northampton-and-proud MC is too skippy, too versatile to be put in any box.
Despite his clear and present anger - “F*** Theresa May!” he screamed to the crowd at a Bristol show in October - there’s also a joyfulness, a playfulness, to Slowthai’s energetic delivery and idiosyncratic beats (his building, surging, grimey ‘T N Biscuits’ bars, the humorous BBC News-like samples on punk-frenzied ‘Doorman’); it’s a juxtaposition that’s impossible to resist…we’re not looking away anytime soon. (Emma Finamore)
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Traversing her own idiosyncratic path between grime and UK rap, with punchy yet poetic bars and industrial beats, the South London rapper by way of Nigeria (who famously shouted out her Bermondsey postcode on God Colony’s ‘SE16’) dropped a series of dynamic cuts at breakneck speed - much like her dexterous, take-no-prisoners flow - in 2018, ending the year on a high with her debut EP ‘Wild Yout’, a collaboration with shape-shifting producer Clams Casino, and a spot on the BBC’s Sound Of 2019 longlist.
Her vitality, infectious energy and unique style won the hearts of fans and industry alike. Far from allowing the dust settle, Flohio is set to have another explosive 12 months, starting with an international tour kicking off this month including high profile festivals like SXSW and Primavera.
“So why the fuck would I wanna be anybody else?” Flohio spits on ‘Watchout’. We can’t think of a reason right now. (Emma Finamore)
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The nebulous, open-ended term ‘jazz’ hardly seems sufficient for some of the noises coming out of London right now. Take Steam Down – a collective who centre on the Buster Mantis venue in Deptford, they share equal strands of their DNA with Wiley and Herbie Hancock, Roni Size and Pharoah Sanders, Channel One and Blue Note.
Set to record and film a full live performance this month, Steam Down’s approach is less about approaching definitions and more about opening up fresh spaces; a stage for complete creativity, it uses jazz as a launching pad for expression, tapping into the pleasures, pains, and frustrations of daily life in London.
Of the many, many new groups expanding definitions of jazz in London right now, few do it with so much gleefully infectious energy as Steam Down. (Robin Murray)
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Tottenham’s Headie One established himself as a frontrunner of the drill scene last year with the re-release of his ‘The One’ mixtape, followed by its sequel ‘The One Two’ both via Relentless Records.
A master of hooks and ad-libs, Headie One had an underground hit alongside RV with ‘Know Better’ but has already turned things up a notch for 2019 with his Dave-assisted ‘18HUNNA’, which looks set to take him into the top 10 singles chart this week. (Grant Brydon)
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Whatever you think of Jimothy Lacoste (or maybe just Jimothy now, as we hear a particular brand of clothing have ‘asked’ him to drop the stage surname…), or even if you think his whole musical presence is an elaborate hoax, there’s no denying this larger-than-life North London sort-of rapper is creating something new, unusual and, yes you guessed it, quite exciting.
His cartoon-like spoilt-little-rich-boy aesthetic and playful antics (think dancing on top of a bus, or nonchalantly riding a bike through a tube station) fit perfectly with his low-fi production and louche, naïve flow, but it belies his more complex life story (growing up poor amongst wealth, his experience of not having a father, battling depression) and his DIY production approach, drawing on everything from grime, house, UK garage – which he was exposed to via older graffiti kids he hung out with as a teen – and even Somali pop.
Now signed to Black Butter Records, the home of Rudimental, J Hus and Octavian, Jimothy is set to release a full project this this year, as well as embarking on a national tour in February, and we’re fascinated to watch the ride. In 2019, it looks like life for at least one person will continue to be quite exciting. (Emma Finamore)
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Sports Team tap into that aspect of the British psyche which will forever belong to the suburbs – to crap Sam Smiths pubs, chipped concrete on the pavements, Britain In Bloom competitions, and holidays to a caravan in the Lake District. But alongside celebrating the ordinary the band’s witty, perpetually infectious songwriting uncovers hidden ennui, beguiling melancholy, and that feeling of being stuck, stuck, stuck.
Early singles such as ‘Beverly Rose’ and ‘Kutcher’ lit a fire, but it’s ‘Margate’ which has become the band’s calling card. An ode to the pleasures of the faded seaside resort, it somehow balances that line between faded romanticism and gritty disgust while supplying a soaring, hopelessly endearing indie pop ear-worm.
In an era when British life has rarely felt so comprehensively under the microscope, Sports Team feel like a coy, refreshing, and utterly vital voice. (Robin Murray)
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Bakar is impossible to pin-down. Indie songwriting viewed from the prism of grime and UK rap, his debut mixtape ‘BADKID’ was an explosive display of unhinged creativity, gaining co-signs from Skepta, Elton John and almost everyone in between.
The fashion-forward multi-disciplinarian takes this energy into 2019, fresh from a sold out UK and an appearance at Paris Fashion Week. Blisteringly honest, profoundly creative, his songwriting seems to bulldoze his influences, using the rubble to construct something unique, and completely true to him.
Carving out his own path, Bakar is dedicated to realising his own ‘Big Dreams’: “Young brother will you please believe…” (Robin Murray)
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Following the success of 2017’s ‘Rules’ which caught the attention of SZA, Kehlani and Bjork, Tenessee’s BbyMutha was super prolific last year with five EPs, the most recent of which landed on Christmas Day!
The mother of two sets of twins is preparing to release her debut album ‘Christine’ this year. The ambitious LP will see her bringing disco, punk and trap to the melting pot, as she delivers a loosely autobiographical narrative that spans three decades of music. It’s been in the works since last Summer, but judging by the music she served up throughout 2018, whenever she does decide to share it with us ‘Christine’ will be well worth the wait. (Grant Brydon)
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Spanish singer ROSALÍA slowly climbed the charts in her native country throughout 2017 with her debut album ‘Los ángeles’ remaining their for a total of 80 weeks, but began attracting a global audience last year with her second album ‘El mal querer’.
Co-produced with El Guincho the record sees ROSALÍA blending flamenco with pop attitudes to explore a toxic relationship inspired by the anonymous 13th century novel Flamenca. Her combination of irresistible rhythm and melody, with striking visuals and timeless themes make the record one that keeps you coming back for more.
Get practicing your palmas, ROSALÍA is just getting started. (Grant Brydon)
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