SXSW’s 30th edition is already in full swing, getting an official welcome from President Barack Obama in his opening keynote speech last Friday (March 11). But tomorrow (March 15) is the official kickoff of its Music Conference and Festival, the longest-running wing of the marquee Austin, TX, event, with over 2,100 artists performing at hundreds of stages and showcases all around the city. With a dizzying array of options, Billboard looks at 10 artists to watch at SXSW this year.
After star turns all over Dr. Dre’s Compton LP last summer and a well-received foray out on his own with January’s LP Malibu, it’s Anderson .Paak’s time to shine, and the Cali-bred singer/rapper seems ready to fully embrace his moment. He’ll be performing all over Austin, so catching one of his sets shouldn’t be too difficult. But if you miss him entirely, you might not be able to catch him at small venues the next time around.
Niger-born Bombino, who’s making some of the best music around right now, just recently began bringing his brand of guitar-based world ambience to American audiences. As he gears up to release his excellent new album Azel at the beginning of April via Partisan Records, the Tuareg singer/songwriter and excellent guitarist should deliver an electrifying set when he gets to Austin.
Jackson Phillips is taking the Day Wave show to a wide smattering of sets all around Austin this year, hoping to bring his alt-rock aesthetic to a wider audience. His debut EP, Headcase, arrived last July, proving that the one-time aspiring jazz drummer has more to offer than just a guitar and a stage.
Just three months ago, Desiigner was an unknown 18-year-old kid from Brooklyn with a sole buzzworthy single to his name, the menacing, Future-esque “Panda.” But then Kanye West came in and changed the trajectory of his career, re-purposing “Panda” for “Pt. 2” from The Life of Pablo, signing the young MC to G.O.O.D. Music and adding his vocals to “Freestyle 4” to boot. SXSW will serve as the biggest showcase of his talents to date, and a proving ground to measure whether Desiigner has more in the tank than his breakout hit.
Much has been made about Canada’s musical renaissance of late, with Drake, Justin Bieber and Alessia Cara all bearing the torch for the neighbors up north. But Toronto-based rockers Dilly Dally are the most energetic of the bunch, and their debut album Sore, released last October, was a proper introduction to the band’s no-holds-barred approach. With a live set that surpasses the ferocity of their LP, the four-piece is already building a reputation as can’t-miss live performers.
Already buzzing around the world, Spanish quartet Hinds dropped their indie rock debut Leave Me Alone in January and have been on an upswing ever since. With a slew of sets at SXSW, the all-female group from Madrid is well worth keeping on the schedule.
You may know her from her recent guest spots on songs by Pusha T, G-Eazy, Justin Bieber and Zayn Malik, her recent appearance on Future’s Snapchat, or from her excellent Grammy-nominated mixtape You Should Be Here. But know at least that Kehlani’s star is rising so fast that it’s difficult to keep up. Catch her this year at one of her myriad SXSW performances before you lose the chance next year.
Lewis Del Mar
Laid back surfer bros Danny Miller and Max Harwood may seem like they’d be behind chill-wave acoustic vibes when making music from their Rockaway Beach, Brooklyn home as Lewis Del Mar. But the Columbia Records signees’ self-titled debut EP is anything but standard beach tunes. Instead, its folk-y base is transformed by electronic tinges and an unexpected energy that transforms the music into a mishmash of enticing sonic experimentation. With the EP arriving just this January, there’s still plenty of time to catch the wave.
It’s been a slow but steady ascent for Canadian songwriter/rapper Tory Lanez, but the newly-minted Interscope signee seems finally set to capitalize on his growing fan base and the success of his single “Say It” at the festival this year. After spending plenty of time as a writer behind the scenes, Lanez has landed placements on projects by Meek Mill, G-Eazy and Freddie Gibbs, and with a debut album on the way, he’s poised to make a big leap.
Vince Staples’ true breakout may have come in 2015, as he released his critically acclaimed Def Jam debut double album Summertime ’06. But that’s just what makes this year’s SXSW so important: critics love him, but now it’s time to win over the fans. As a performer, he’s just about as entertaining as they come, interspersing off-the-cuff jokes with his dark, brooding narratives of life growing up in Long Beach, Calif. Take in one of his many headlining sets at a day show while you’re in Texas to see for yourself what everyone keeps talking about.