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The 22 Top Breakthrough DJs Of The Year 2022

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This new generation of DJs are rising to prominence and shaking up the dance music landscape

  • Words: Patrick Hinton, Megan Townsend, Gemma Ross, Becky Buckle, Isaac Muk | Nostra font designed by Lucas Descroix
  • 20 December 2022

The first full year of events since 2019 has given a new cohort of DJs the chance to make their mark on the dance music landscape, and we haven’t been let down. DJs from across the globe have risen up to delight ears and feet with their refreshing sets. The passion they show a figureheads of emerging scenes and in pioneering musical movements that should give any established headline names that have been phoning it in a much-needed fright. Read on for our pick of the top breakthrough DJs of 2022 (in alphabetical order).

Read this next: The 22 DJs who defined the year 2022

AMÉMÉ radiates energy with his excitement and pride behind the decks that is mirrored into his crowd. The West African artist has relocated to New York, where the One Tribe collective he founded has become known worldwide. From playing inside Coachella’s Yuma Tent to Space Miami with Black Coffee, AMÉMÉ spread the sounds of West Africa internationally. His Lab LDN was flawless and refreshing, and gave the UK a preview of his potent single ‘Balafonerra’ on Armada Music. The self-taught musician has released a spectrum of work this year. Tracks ‘Never Forget’ and ‘Conga Mongo’ came from his groove-laden house EP ‘Power’, showcasing the future of One Tribe.

2

Ariel Zetina

With a deep-rooted love for all things weird and wonderful in dance music, Ariel Zetina’s fast-paced blend of archival house favourites, frenetic techno and sass-heavy pop has given her a reputation for mind-blowing, referential party sets. Having been a resident at Chicago’s storied Smart Bar since 2018, Ariel has worked to highlight the work of the city’s legendary queer scene — while also inserting nods to her Belizean heritage, incorporating elements of brukdown and punta into her music. This year saw the release of Zetina’s debut album ‘Cyclorama’, a blissed-out nine-tracker that masterfully manoeuvres every element of her sonic persona — glittering synths, punchy percussion, sexy riffs and silky vocals to boot. Beyond Chicago, crowds either side of the Atlantic have been falling over themselves to catch her at the likes of Unsound, Brooklyn Mirage, Nowadays and more; while spine-tingling mixes for CRACK, Boiler Room, Daisychain and FACT have had us all salivating next to our Rokits.

3

Charisse C

Pulling influences from her London upbringing, and South African and Zimbabwean heritage — Charisse C has explored a multitude of genres within her selections since turning her hand towards the decks — delving deep into the structure and form of sounds from the diaspora and exploring the stark contrasts, as well as deep-rooted similarities between the worlds of UK bass, gospel house, gqom and more. Though for the past few years her sets have become synonymous with the stratospheric rise of amapiano. Alongside joining genre-superstars Major League DJz at their Warehouse Project and Boiler Room Ibiza shows, Charisse has also seen in regular appearances at London’s Piano People, FABRICLIVE (for its first amapiano show ever), and launched her own party Abantu at Werkhaus. Abantu, a platform started as part of her bi-weekly No Signal residency #AbantuNoSignal, translates to “people” in a number of Nguni languages, which seems to be the core mission of much of her work. With a number of off-shoots including the culture-focused podcast #AbantuPod and her #AbantuArtists segment, which shines a light on artists across the spectrum of electronic music, she’s putting education and elevation at the forefront of whatever she does. Her monthly NTS show, which takes a playful approach to the bass-heavy soundscape of South Africa, has also had us all hanging on her every blend this year — with guests including Vigro Deep, Mr Jazziq and Southern Rebelz.

[Photo: Boiler Room]

4

Chloé Caillet

From being named as a resident of Ibiza’s favourite Monday night party CircoLoco and playing across some of the Europe and the USA’s biggest festival stages – Coachella, Glastonbury and Three Points Miami to name three – Parisian DJ and producer Chloé Caillet has had a monster year. She’s done so by getting hips shaking with her singular, soulful, funk and disco brewed take on house music. With another stacked year of gigs for 2023 lined up, Caillet also has releases scheduled on Defected, Crosstown Rebels, Innervisions and more – cementing her status on the top shelf of house and tech-house music.

Those who managed to push their way into Glastonbury’s packed out Babylon Uprising and Stonebridge Bar to see Coco Em this summer were fortunate enough to witness a new East African star in full flow. Diving into her career in the pandemic, 2022 was really the year Coco could jump into her music with a sense of freedom, with sets that united stomping feet and rolling shoulders. Coco is sharing the music of Africa in every way she can, including collaborating with Bone Soda, Black Noi$e and Earl Sweatshirt for a special NTS episode that showcased amapiano among styles such as house and jungle. A newfound talent of Coco’s is her ability to produce outstanding productions, which led to her releasing her debut EP ‘Kilumi’ this year. Challenging herself to create a new beat every day in the creation of the EP, she produced more than 70 ideas for the eventual seven-tracker, which featured collaborations with fellow Kenyan artists and came out through Nairobi-based non-profit organisation Santuri East Africa studios. This same community have been a part of Coco’s Nairobi-based female-fronted collective Sim Sima.

[Photo: Paddy Gedi]

6

Crystallmess

Having spent the past few years grinding away to become Paris’ go-to for nail-biting techno, soul-affirming jungle rollers, feverish footwork and downright rude hip hop edits, it felt like this was the year it was avoir un coup de foudre for CRYSTALLMESS for the rest of the music world. Based in the French capital, this Ivorian/Guadeloupean DJ and producer, real name Christelle Oyiri, has had an undeniably killer year — having spent much of it in the throes of a world tour that’s featured stops at Miami’s Art Basel, REIF at Berlin’s Panorama Bar, London’s Body Movements and Brooklyn’s dweller. Alongside being chosen by Frank Ocean to be the first guest on his Homer Radio show on Apple Music 1, described as by the ‘Blonde’ artist as “what he listens to in the office”, Oyiri has delivered some much-talked-about mixes for Fact, Dazed, Borsch, NTS and Boiler Room — all infused with the same club-focused, sultry flavour that she’s been dishing out in spades in the basements of the Île-de-France and her Rinse France slot for half a decade. C’est ça!

7

Eliza Rose

An artist that was guaranteed to make this list is the one and only Eliza Rose. It’s been an undoubtedly hectic yet thrilling year for the London DJ and producer who rocketed into fame with her UK Number One belter ‘B.O.T.A. (Baddest Of Them All)’. It was the soundtrack to this summer and probably many to come judging by the rate that it’s still getting rinsed across clubs today. Before its release, Eliza played out the soon-to-be hit at The Lab LDN where its response foreshadowed its success. More recently Eliza performed the track on the stage of the MOBO Awards, bringing along Sweet Female Attitude and Sonique for a remarkable medley. Let’s hope for more chart-topping anthems in 2023.

8

Girls Don’t Sync

In December of 2021, something special went down within the walls of a Liverpool club. When Girls Don’t Sync caused havoc at Mixmag’s Lab on Location, it rose to become one of our most viewed sets of the year. The rowdy two-hour showcase set in motion a great year for the four-piece DJ group, who pulled together an incendiary run of shows in 2022, making their debut overseas at clubs including Berghain and Ibiza Rocks, pulling off their first sold-out headline show, and playing to a packed-out tent at Glastonbury Festival. At just a year old, this high-energy quartet have been on one hell of a journey so far, and it shows no sign of stopping yet. Earlier this month, Girls Don’t Sync announced their debut England tour in 2023 where they’re slated to play every major city in the country.

This year IYRE has proven himself to be a gamechanging artist in the realm of drum ‘n’ bass. Hailing from the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, he fuses aural influence from South Asian melodies and even rock and metal music into his techy and liquid d’n’b, crafting a distinct hybrid sound that has caught ears across the globe. At the same time, he’s used his own come-up to draw attention to the overlooked drum ‘n’ bass scene on the Indian subcontinent, platforming the wealth of talent from the region alongside more established names with his must-listen mixes and the 93-track compilation ‘FLOODLIGHT’ he co-curated with pyxis to raise funds for those affected by the flooding in Pakistan.

[Photo: Che Studio]

10

JADALAREIGN

JADALAREIGN is a DJ success story that reflects the value of building steadily. She hasn’t ‘exploded’ onto the scene in a flurry of viral moments, instead taking the time to hone her craft, put in the work in her community, and mark herself out as one of the most important figures in New York’s dance music scene. Her sets are rooted in Black American house and techno, liable to hit rave-fuelled peaks while maintaining a compelling sense of momentum and flow. Having taken on a role as a booker and resident at Nowadays last year, she’s been instrumental in maintaining its rep as NYC’s best-loved club. Now the rest of the world is catching up to her brilliance, with tour dates in Europe and the launch of her NTS residency this year.

At the start of 2022 La La heralded a year that was due to bring “lots & lots of firsts”, and she’s duly kicked on for a stellar breakthrough year. From an all-night-long set alongside Skream to a fabric debut, the Glasgow DJ kept up the pace throughout 2022, including making her debut in Mixmag’s Lab LDN where she marked her territory in her newly adopted home of London. On top of an endless run of shows, La La stepped into Berlin’s HÖR for an hour-long takeover, smashed through a Rinse residency, and held up her name at consistent Ibiza shows, and this tech-house delight has only just dipped her toes in the world of dance music.

The most exciting thing about a Manami set? You will not be able to guess what she’s going to do next. A sonic chameleon if there ever was one, this Japanese-born/UK-based DJ and producer has built up a steady platform around herself within the underground music scene — she’s been on tour with Bicep, her Bristol-based party Better Days has brought the likes of Call Super, Sassy J and Amaliah to the South West, and her Worldwide FM and Noods slots have given her a loyal following of listeners. But, in 2022 as the club/festival circuit fully opened its doors, Manami really showed us what she’s made of, and we must confess… we’re into it. As much a lover of face-scrunching jungle as she is hands-in-the-air noughties bangers, she’s proven herself to be an unmissable set for any dance music fan worth their salt. Appearances at Waterworks, Love International and Love Saves the Day have provided some of the best festival moments of this year, while her HÖR and Mixmag’s The Lab LDN streams — with the latter seeing her getting lofted into the air after dropping ‘No Diggity’ and Darude’s ‘Sandstorm’ — have provided a plethora of feel-good viral moments. Underestimate Manami at your own cost.

13

Mixtress

With her rapid, mind-frying style blending drum ‘n’ bass, jungle, footwork, hardcore and more, Rukmini Mukherjee AKA Mixtress has had a fittingly faced-paced year – playing up-and-down the UK each weekend and holding down a Rinse residency. She also formed the fantastically named Team Woibey DJ collective, with ohmydais, Ell Murphy and Fae, who have been taking over club rooms and radio slots over the past year. Having first developed a love for the sounds of the UK’s hardcore continuum in her native Amsterdam, she’s been taking them to her own plane – grabbing the already sharp sounds of drum ‘n’ bass and jungle with an extra dose of edge.

14

Nick León

Starting out as a behind-the-scenes hip hop producer, DJ and hip hop head Nick León has emerged into the global dance music consciousness in 2022. The Miami-based artist delivered a full-throttle mix for RA, ahead of dropping a four-track EP of Latin-infused techno on Colombian label TraTraTrax with remixes from Pearson Sound and Doctor Jeep in June which stood among the year’s finest. A whirlwind summer tour followed, with León becoming a central figure for the renewed focus on music from Miami that merges influence from Latin America. He’s currently finishing off the year in Europe and is due back across an already enormous-looking 2023, with confirmed dates across the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and more.

As a founder of Black Artist Database (B.A.D.), a platform uplifting the work of Black musicians and creatives, NIKS has been an activist and champion within electronic music circles for a number of years now. But 2022 has seen her DJing calendar swell, as she started a Rinse FM residency, alongside playing up, down, left and right across the UK, and taking a trip to Berlin where she played a by-all-accounts magical early morning Panorama Bar set. Her style of groovy-yet-considered electro, heads-down house and ’90s techno should be charming dancefloors for many more years.

16

Nooriyah

Fusing Middle Eastern, North African and well-known dance classics, Nooriyah has an ear for heaters and blends that are bound to make any crowd go wild. Her collective Middle of Nowhere, built to give people the opportunity to celebrate the music of SWANA (South West Asian and North African), has built a rep as one of the premier parties in London this year with a series of stand-out events. Their Boiler Room takeover has been lauded for producing one of the most iconic moments on the platform. Preceding the setlist of masterfully curated setlist of roof-raising bangers, Nooriyah was joined by her father playing the oud to astound the audience from the room to our screens — there’s never been an intro quite like hers.

[Photo: Yvonne Shelling]

As a favourited radio host and producer in Mexico City, Paurro is a familiar name for anyone acquainted with the Mexican underground scene. But as someone who in the past leant towards melodic house, her sets this year have taken on a more pumping, rave-y edge. With the development of her sound came a flood of international gigs and recognition, as 2022 saw her first European tour, which included a special closing of iconic Berlin club Tresor’s 31-year anniversary festival. It also included her dipping into the waters of production, releasing her debut EP – a fun, banger-filled five-tracker built for any kind of dancefloor on Matias Aguayo’s Cómeme label.

[Photo: Jada]

18

Sedef Adasi

In claiming one of house and techno’s most prized gigs – a Panorama Bar residency – the Augsburg-raised-and-based Sedef Adasi has had quite the year. She’s delighted the ever switched on crowds of the Berlin institution with her classy selections rooted in house and techno, but which almost constantly break beyond the blunt genre definitions. Her profile has also broken out of the borders of Berlin and Germany, having graced festival stages and club d-floors across the European continent from Glastonbury Festival in England to Prague’s Ankali.

[Photo: Julius Ertelt]

19

Skin On Skin

Although coming across as a somewhat shy character, Skin On Skin has sprung into every single party’s speaker this year. Merging the worlds of drill and techno to create a miraculous harmony with his track ‘Burn Dem Bridges’, he’s made a blueprint that looks to be the future of a new strain of dance music. Meanwhile his captivating sets have made him a must-see DJ. And if you witness him in action, he might just rock-up to your afters.

20

TAAHLIAH

The first time we heard TAAHLIAH we were immediately gripped by her fearless sonic palette and the way she contorts familiar pop sounds and out-there experimentalism into music that feels genuinely disruptive, refreshing and intoxicating on a dancefloor. We were sure should would kick onto big things when the Impact mix she made for Mixmag last year was chock-full of unreleased cuts, and she’s duly delivered across a mighty impressive 2022. She’s played at best clubs up and down England and Scotland, and earned bookings across European hotspots and as far afield as Melbourne. She’s also released a number of killer collabrative tracks, her Boiler Room debut became an instant classic with many labelling it among the best ever, and she stole the show at AIM Awards, winning Best Independent Mixtape and moving the crowd with a powerful speech about accepting people from marginalised identities. An icon in the making.

21

Two Shell

It’s fair to say Two Shell ruffled a few feathers this year. With cagey, self-destructing interviews and pre-recorded live streamed DJ sets fronted by imposters (if rumours are to be believed), the club scene has a new set of pranksters that have divided opinion. Whether you fall into the camp of turning your nose up at these antics in the serious business of dance music or appreciate having a bit of fun, it’s all immaterial when you push past the playful façade and focus on the tunes — which undeniably bang. Their ‘Icons’ EP stood among the year’s best, and their bookings have duly surged, with the duo (or, people representing them at least) playing at just about every favourite club in the UK and Ireland, including their beloved Venue MOT in South London, as well tour dates across Europe, in the US and now finishing up 2022 in Japan.

[Photo: Nancy McNulty]

22

Uncle Waffles

Uncle Waffles became a viral superstar in late 2021, drawing attention from all over the world for her on-point amapiano DJing and exuberant accompanying dance moves. This year the captivating performer behind decks has proved she’s no flash in the pan, building on that platform with her chart-topping debut EP ‘Red Dragon’, gigs all over South Africa, a UK and a European tour, debut Boiler Room set and a BBC Radio 1 residency, to name a few achievements. Originally hailing from Eswatini, a small country bordering South Africa formerly known as Swaziland, Uncle Waffles had to work hard to make her way to the top of the neighbouring nation’s vibrant music scene. She’s now proven she has the staying power to conquer the globe.

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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