With our Best of 2018 coming to a close, we always like to end the week with a list of artists we believe will have a serious impact in the new year. In previous years, we’ve highlighted artists that we felt would change the scope of electronic music; this year, however, we’re expanding our scope to include artists across the musical spectrum, focusing on dance music, hip-hop, R&B, and more. Each artist on our list has the potential cross over into exciting new territories beyond their own genre, and we’re proud to put on for the next best thing.
Read on for our picks for Who To Watch in 2019, and check out all of our Best of 2018 categories here.
NEST HQ Best of 2018: Who To Watch
*10 artists listed alphabetically
Though not completely unknown, we’re surprised the sexy, funk-fueled Channel Tres hasn’t totally blown up just yet. He officially broke out in 2018 with “Controller,” the lead single from his self-titled debut EP released through GODMODE — just press play on this tune if you haven’t become obsessed with it yet, and you’ll understand why Channel Tres is expected to reach for the fucking stars next year. This genre of hip-house has been attempted by up-and-comers in previous years, but Channel Tres has got it nailed as he couples it with his steamy vocals and scorching production. This kind of dance music is downright sophisticated and unbelivably hot enough to stand the test of time. I’m fully prepared to see this guy take on Coachella and beyond. — JM
For an artist awarded BBC Essential Mix of the Year in 2017 and the first woman to receive the award at that, I had a hard time finding any social media presence for Helena Hauff. Well, that’s because besides a SoundCloud page, she doesn’t have any and god, does that just scream German underground techno. Besides a few Boiler Room performances, there’s little to no video of her online that wasn’t taken with a shaky iPhone camera, and the best part is she’s chain-smoking in every one. Hauff is known for her darkened, stripped-down productions with influences in acid house, electro, and EBM, recorded strictly with analog equipment. In 2018, she released her third full-length Qualm LP and began to break into the US market, with a standout Cover Mix for Mixmag and performances at Goldenvoice’s Panorama Festival and Detroit’s Movement Festival. Hauff is representative of everything I find exciting in dance music right now, and as more people catch on to her talent in 2019, she’s bound for a meteoric rise. — CS
Out of all the artists on Who To Watch, I think I am genuinely most excited for the Russian socio-political duo IC3PEAK. Despite being relatively unknown, the band has been amassing serious stream counts on their YouTube page, which features a slew of powerful music videos driven by photography and styling that highlight their distinctive brand of gothic violence. Their music is a fun mix of hyper-distorted 808 hip-hop beats with screamo spoken word laid roughly over the top, and it too carries through the violent overtones that their visuals do. The post-internet band is focused on activating socio-political conversations that criticize their government’s stance on homosexuality, femininity, and more. — DN
Of all the “Please hear us out” quips that exist on these lists, this might be the biggest one… but really, hear us out. The first single “Trapped” from the mysterious JUMEX honestly slaps. The song has amassed over 3 million plays in under a month on SoundCloud, and was one of the heaviest hitting songs at Camp Flog Gnaw this year. Albeit another face tatted 18-year-old soft boi, if JUMEX can continue to release singles as hot as this first one, it would be naive to ignore the potential he’ll have in today’s markets. Keep an eye out and maybe next year we’ll be saying “I told ya so.”
“Art is just gay as fuck,” says Mikaela Straus, the just-turned 20-year-old (and just as in three days ago) singer-songwriter known as King Princess. She’s far from undiscovered, with a co-sign from Harry Styles who cryptically tweeted the lyrics of her debut single “1950,” which, at the time of writing, has 175 million plays on Spotify. But that’s not the only explanation for her rapid success; Straus possesses the lyrical sensibility and self-awareness of someone well beyond her years. Her five-track Make My Bed EP is touching and raw as she sings about her queer relationships with obvious gendered pronouns because she wants it to be obvious. She’s spoken about the influence of queer media in her own, and how shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer helped her to be comfortable with her own identity; now, she wants to do the same for the next generation. It’s hard to believe Straus made her official debut less than a year ago — in such a short time, she’s gathered so much momentum, but she’s the real deal. Pop music has always been about marginalized communities, and it seems the world is ready for an openly genderqueer pop icon. — CS
I know what you’re thinking: Lil Baby is a pretty big artist to put on our Who To Watch list. But think back to January of this year when his name just began to float around the pop culture sphere and compare it to what he’s accomplished now. In just one short year, Lil Baby went from an artist who put out lengthy mixtapes with the help of his friends like Gunna and Lil Yachty to being featured on records with Young Thug, Tory Lanez, and Ski Mask the Slump God. Despite his success in 2018, we predict Lil Baby is going to take his career to the highest level next year among some of the greats who’ve been in this industry for a lot longer than he has. Trends come and go, especially in hip-hop, but Lil Baby is an artist who’s destined to walk through the rap industry’s smoke and mirrors. — JM
Can you believe Normani debuted her solo project just this year? Walking out of the shadows of her X Factor appearances and her role in the all-girl pop group Fifth Harmony, Normani claimed her identity with her own project and did it with a bang. She introduced herself as a solo artist with the single “Love Lies” in collaboration with Khalid, another R&B artist who’s quickly becoming a heavyweight. She’s only put out two other singles this year, one in collaboration with Calvin Harris and the other with 6LACK, making her destined for R&B royalty. You may have already known her from her work with Fifth Harmony, but Normani’s standing tall with her own voice now, and that voice represents the kind of R&B that’s going to infiltrate countless corners of the musical spectrum. — JM
The irony of the name of RAT BOY’s forthcoming Tim Armstrong-produced debut album INTERNATIONALLY UNKNOWN is that it’s exactly what’s going to blow him up worldwide next year. His style effortlessly combines everything we love about punk, skateboarding, hip-hop, electronic music, and streetwear and somehow manages to not come off as derivative. The RAT BOY aesthetic, both personally and sonically, is a perfectly distilled amalgamation of everything unique to both UK and SoCal punk and skate worlds. We can’t wait for the Essex-hailing 22-year-old to be everywhere next year, if only because he’s so damned fun and casually confident that it’s infectious. Heading into 2019 feeling as if the whole world is burning, we really don’t need a cause to be a rebel and RAT BOY is the perfect soundtrack for that collective sentiment. — MH
Tierra Whack wowed the music industry when she released the most social media consumption-friendly audio-visual album of the year. The Philly native became so prolific doing spoken-word poetry that her parents pushed her into rapping, and you can hear in the way she articulates how fully formed her identity as an artist seems. Each of the 15 tracks on Whack World is exactly one minute long, each with their own visual vignette strung together into a narrative that seems to question fixed patterns of societal behavior and how we’re expected to interact with the world. Making an Instagram-friendly album for a major label sounds like a recipe for disaster on paper, but her ruthless authenticity carried the project and left us with our jaws on the floor. 2019 is about to be even more Whack and we’re completely fine with that. — MH
Vein, seemingly out of nowhere, dropped one of the best hardcore albums of the year (it was highly debated whether or not we should’ve included it in our best of albums) and then backed it up with a tour run that upheld their reputation as musicians and performers. Errorzone is a short gut punch, only 27 minutes long, but powerful as fuck and one of the most destructive and fun hardcore records we’ve heard in a long time. These dudes have a lot to back up after this first record, but if they manage to, they’re going to really pop off. — DN
Words by Dani Noguera, Molly Hankins, Jordan Mafi, and Cassie Sheets