Dance

Billboard Dance Emerging Artists April 2021: The Four Acts Heating Up Our Speakers This Month

Tommy Cash
Dmitri Gerasimov

Tommy Cash

It's a strange time to be an up-and-coming artist. The clubs and festivals you'd typically cut your teeth at are closed and cancelled. The fans you'd be aggregating at such events are banned from gathering. Some artists might be pulling massive livestream numbers, but that's hard to do when big audiences don't yet know your name.

And still, a year-plus of quarantine has provided artists (and most everyone) with the most precious commodity: time. New and new-ish acts have had weeks and months to tighten their productions, network online, smash those livestreams, dream up stage productions and get fully ready to blow the doors of the damn place -- when the damn place finally opens back up.

Beaming into our ears from the UK, Estonia, Mexico and beyond, these are four of the artists heating up are speakers this month -- and four of the acts we're most excited to eventually see IRL.

Tommy Cash

Someone grab a crown; the scene has a new king weirdo. Estonian DJ and producer Tommy Cash debuted in 2014 with a surreal experimental album called Euroz Dollaz Yeniz, on which he rapped cartoonishly over plopping, trap-infused beats. It was gritty and bizarre, but also super catchy, mixing Enya samples with car-crash bass monsters.

His universe has only grown stranger and more authoritative. He kicked off 2021 with major fashion collabs with Adidas Originals (for "the longest shoes in the world") and Maison Margiela for loafers that, naturally, looked like actual loaves of bread. Last week, he dropped his latest EP, a chaotic mix of hip-hop inspired club bangers called Moneysutra with features from Diplo, Riff Raf, $uicideboy$, Bones and Eldzhey.

Moneysutra is all about collabs, energy between personas,” Cash says in a press release. “This idea was of me going back to my roots -- when my pants were all saggin’ -- and the culture that I so much love, that in the end is running through all the elements and things that I do. Thank you life for letting me do those crazy ass songs.” -- KAT BEIN

Anz

The lead synth line in Anz’s track “Unravel in the Designated Zone,” from her new OTMI001 EP, sounds like how its cover art (also by her) looks: a neon noodle of light, beaming like a beacon in the dark and ready to strike a dopey smile on the face of even the most stoic dancefloor observer. The producer, DJ and sometimes-illustrator -- who also works a day job as an event coordinator and culture specialist -- seemingly does it all yet still aims for more, having just launched via the EP her new record label, Otras Mitades (OTMI, for short).

Up until 2020, Anz’s production output over the last few years has been scarce, but it’s made each release feel all the more massive. There are EPs like Invitation 2 Dance, which she dedicated to “the frontline soldiers who turn up to every rave, every time,” and Loos in Twos (NRG), her Hessle Audio debut which made multiple best-of-2020 lists. Then there are her annual mixtapes like Spring/Summer Dubs 2020, in which Anz glides through 35 original tracks across 84 sweaty minutes. She keeps that same energy in her DJ sets, where she can flip a vibe from jump-up elation to heads-down dark and back again with her deep and diverse repertoire -- spanning grime, jungle, hardcore, U.K. garage and beyond.

Despite breaking through locally, Anz has yet to really tour outside of the UK -- though the pandemic is partly responsible, and a Panorama Bar gig is certainly nothing to sniff at. Until then, you can listen to her multiple excellent Boiler Room sessions, monthly NTS Radio shows and most recently on BBC Radio 1 as part of its Residency program. -- KRYSTAL RODRIGUEZ

Broz Rodriguez

Mexican DJ Broz Rodriguez stepped into spring with his new single “Closer,” teaming with Belgian producer Dennis Cartier for a refreshing track that blends tropical house with Spanish guitar. Rodriguez has displayed his Mexican pride in past releases, which include a club remix of the traditional “El Jarabe Tapatio” and “El Fieston,” an electro-house anthem delivered in Spanish. (He produced the latter track with his wife and fellow DJ, Momis Alanis.)

Rodriguez uses his platform to amplify the music of other DJs in Latin America, too. Last year he helped orchestrate the 100 Latin Producers project. Now, he's using his weekly Dash Radio show The Happy Hour to plug electronic music created by Latinos. Rodriguez recently crossed the 100 show mark, with the support of DJs like Steve Aoki, R3HAB, Laidback Luke, and Sam Feldt, who lent him exclusive mixes for the program. “Closer” is another taste of Rodriguez fusing his Latin roots with his love for EDM. “We just need to keep on bringing cool music," he tells Billboard, "so that people can vibe with it and accept it." -- LUCAS VILLA 

Twinkids

If you think you know everything about Twinkids from a glance, you might want to look a little deeper. The Los Angeles-based duo of Jin Fukui and Matthew Young blend shimmery synths and earnest melodies for a full and bewitching sound, positioning them to be among the very best in class. After a string of EPs, singles, and remixes for artists as diverse as Beacon and Dawn Richard, they release their debut album, Nobody Likes Me, later this month on Om Records.

Though they’ve been signed to Om since 2017, it’s an unlikely home for the duo. The imprint is best known for its mixed-compilations from Andy Caldwell, Colette and DJ Heather, Mark Farina’s legendary Mushroom Jazz series, and launching the career of a DJ named Kaskade. While Twinkids don’t have much in common sonically with the rest of the roster, Fukui and Young seem to thrive in unlikely situations -- be that studying songwriting with Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning, or touring with indie duo Matt and Kim. Throughout their work, their identity as queer artists is front and center -- in both their lyrics about same-gender relationships, and in their zeal for playing with electronic pop music conventions. They have, perhaps, cornered the market on crafting alternative gay-empowerment anthems disguised as lush and layered love songs.

In some ways, Twinkids’ comfort with injecting the warmth of emotion into sometimes antiseptic electronica is very much aligned with the west coast house music roots of Om Records. Their album’s lead single, “I Know,” is equally alluring in its downtempo ambience to previous upbeat bops, “Jigoku Tengoku” and “Eighteen,” but there’s a certain maturity in their sound now. Though Twinkids continue to forge their own unique musical path, like all kids, they’re growing up too. -- ZEL MCCARTHY