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The Mid Year Report launched in 2016 with the intent of spotlighting 10 artists within the realm of music who share and represent the adventurous, independent spirit of NEST HQ. Similar to our end-of-year superlatives, the Mid Year Report recognizes those musicians who are outpacing their contemporaries due to fearless creativity and deliberate integrity, and this week, we’ll be discussing 10 artists who we believe are pushing their genre forward in 2018.

Read below for our Mid Year Report on Ekali.

It was just ten months ago when Ekali joined the OWSLA family and released his debut single “Babylon” featuring rapper Denzel Curry. The new sound on the roster spread like wildfire and within just three months, he was taking off on his ‘Babylon World Tour’ with support from josh pan, Medasin, X&G, Y2K, and Judge for a totaled 42 performances in North America, New Zealand, and Australia. Fans and tastemakers alike raved about this new kid on the block releasing, playing, and combining all genres into one smooth flow of creative expression. Following the tour, Ekali launched what would become his beloved Awakening Mix series, collaborated with a multitude of artists, and made a guest appearance on triple j’s Mixdown 2.0. Born Nathan Shaw, he hasn’t seemed to rest since stepping into the spotlight last year, but there may be more reasons for that than what first meets the eye.

His journey began at 19 when he took the spot as Said the Whale’s bassist, a well-known rock band based in Vancouver, where he was an active member for five straight years. Within that time he was also one of 60 applicants worldwide to be chosen for the Red Bull Music Academy Tokyo in 2014, where selects would learn, practice, and collaborate with seasoned industry professionals during their stay. From the Academy came Shaw’s first electronic release titled “Unfaith,” which would later be sampled by Drake on his iconic 2015 If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late mixtape on the tracks “Preach” and “Wednesday Night Interlude,” both featuring R&B’s PARTYNEXTDOOR. By 2016, Ekali’s massive remix of Flume’s “Smoke & Retribution” and his collaboration with G Jones titled “Dark Matter” caught wind and his fanbase began to grow — especially after his energetic Coachella and HARD Summer performances that followed.

As someone who has climbed into the position of an EDM icon in such a short amount of time, it’s Shaw’s persistence that has yet to fail him. So far this year, Ekali and ZHU’s collaboration “Blame” was coined by Billboard as a “shadowy electronic cut [that] features ZHU’s smooth falsetto vocals and Ekali’s trendsetting sound design” even before the song went viral on Spotify. Next came Ekali and Medasin’s loving, futuristic serenade titled “Forever” featuring Elohim. The unearthed emotions on this single pushed on and Ekali’s Awakening 5 mix delivered a soulful piece from his heart (as previously talked about on Shaw’s Instagram). Just over a week ago, Ekali returned fired-up and charged with the trap rendezvous “Bad Moon” with fellow artists TYNAN and Hekler.

As 2018 hits the halfway mark, we suspect Ekali to give the latter part of the year everything else he has to offer. On Wednesday, he tweeted: 

So thanks to his natural-born talent, drive, and a deep connection to his career, Ekali has earned his spot here on our Mid Year Report. He’s built an electronic empire in less than a year since his big break and has generated a dedicated fanbase worldwide, so much so that it seems he hasn’t even had a chance to take a breath. As an honest and dedicated creative, his name has flourished into one that’s respected and loved right before our eyes — it’s such a special bond to watch attach itself from artist to crowd, and we’re excited to have witnessed his rise throughout the year. With a rumored EP and tour on the horizon, we wait eagerly for the next masterpiece he has to bring to the table; whether it’s trap, bass, atmospheric, or all three, there is no doubt it’s coming.

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Words: Sadye Auren