Purple Sneakers’ Artists To Watch for 2021

Purple Sneakers Artists to Watch 2021

It’s a new year, and as we all try to put the hellfire that was 2020 behind us and look optimistically towards the future, we here at Purple Sneakers are keeping our eyes peeled on the next crop of artists coming through primed and ready to make 2021 theirs.

Here, we’ve curated a list of some of our favourites who have impressed us recently: from underground producers to slow burners, international sensations to local legends. We’ve got hip hop, dance, rave, pop, indie, RnB, soul, electronic and everything in between. Some are old favourites, and some are brand new discoveries.

Ultimately though, this list has something for everyone and is comprised of 24 rising stars we cannot get enough of. Check out our Spotify playlist featuring a track from each act, and peep below for why we reckon they should be on your radar for 2021.

Agung Mango

Why they’re one to watch:

He first appeared on our radar back in 2019, but it was his 2020 efforts that really solidified Agung Mango as a name worth keeping an eye on. From ‘RODENT’ to ‘LITTLE BUM’ (which we dubbed one of the best hip hop songs of the year) to a full collaborative project with producer and multi-instrumentalist Nikodimos titled SON OF AGUNGAgung Mango‘s work ethic matches his innovative, frenetic and unbridled artistry and sonic creativity, and as he continues to push the boundaries of what modern hip hop can sound like coming out of Australia, we will continue to totally eat it up.

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AK Sports

Why they’re one to watch:

A veteran DJ, community member and producer, AK SPORTS made waves with the release of her debut EP, Polarize, in 2020 via Gallery. Incorporating fierce creative and a desire to push past not only external expectations but those she has of herself as well, she incorporates an array of styles into her music, melding elements of breakbeat, rave, UK Club rhythms and so much more. Having laid the foundation back in 2018 with her debut single back in 2018, ‘Professor Bitch’, to building on that with a slew of other singles before capitalising with Polarize as well as her loyal commitment to her hometown scene and her dedication to the international dance music community with her BALAMII Radio show, AK SPORTS remains plugged in and ready to go.

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Barkaa

Why they’re one to watch:

Malyangapa/Barkindji artist Barkaa is a recent discovery of ours which makes her all the more thrilling. Carving out her own space with a string of exciting singles, the rapper and singer delivers music that is 100% her, even rapping in both English and Barkindji on songs like her most recent release, ‘Groovy’. Building on from the impressive foundation she laid with ‘Our Lives Matter’ and ‘For My Tittas’, she continues to carve out her own path with each and every release. Having signed to Briggs‘ Bad Apples label, she is now primed to make 2021 hers and we cannot wait to see what she does next.

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DJ Life

Why they’re one to watch:

Melbourne’s DJ Life cemented himself as a force to be reckoned with in 2020 after a string of impressive releases, but none caught our eyes or ears as much as his release on revered Manchester-based label Dansu Discs titled Hypersonic. The EP reaffirmed everything that makes DJ Life strike a chord with so many, and was an exciting addition to the reemergence of almost-defiantly upbeat releases which encouraged optimism in dance music when everything else around us told us otherwise. On a firm upwards trajectory, we’re expecting even more to come from DJ Life this year!

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Felivand

Why they’re one to watch:

Having already laid impressive foundations in her hometown in previous years, it was 2020 which saw Felivand continue to grow as an artist on a national scale thanks to the release of her Nerve EP. A culmination of her glorious neo-soul, jazzy and electronic-tinged music which gets immediately under your skin mixing with her visual artistry in the form of impressive video clips and stunning imagery, Felivand proved she’s the full package. While we’re not sure as to when we might get new music as she’s deservedly still celebrating the release of Nerve, there’s no denying this EP has seen the Brisbane artist really hit her stride. It’s only up from here.

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First Beige

Why they’re one to watch:

Much-loved neo-soul, future-jazz outfit First Beige continue to slowly but surely convert listeners to fans with each and every move. In the short period of time in 2020 when they were able to play shows, including some brief interstate moments at the start of the year, they wowed audiences with their uplifting, intricate and wholly impressive live performances as well. While it was a quiet year in terms of releases from the band with a couple of remixes and a single in ‘Not Gonna Feel The Way You Asked For’, the band wrapped up last year performing a sold out headline show at iconic Brisbane venue The Tivoli, and are gearing up for more music in 2021. We cannot wait to see what they’ve been cooking up!

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flowerkid

Why they’re one to watch:

Despite having released two singles in 2018, it wasn’t until 2020 and ‘miss andry’ that we were introduced to flowerkid and immediately understood there was something special about this artist. From the heartfelt way he performs his music to his immediately captivating visuals, his rejection of traditional genre constraints to his devastating and raw lyrics, there’s so much that makes flowerkid so exciting, and we are buying front row tickets every time.

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Genes

Why they’re one to watch:

There’s not much better in this world that a good old pop song, and Townsville-via-Melbourne rising star Genes has plenty of ’em. Having first popped up at the end of 2019 under her Genes moniker, 2020 saw her really start to make moves with a string of singles, a collaboration with Commandeur, and a video courtesy of taking out triple j unearthed‘s NIDA comp. In 2021, she looks set to keep it pushing, delivering relatable, effervescent and forward-thinking pop that will make you feel better every single time. We cannot wait for more from Genes!

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Health Club

Why they’re one to watch:

Queensland producer Health Club has been a name on our radar for a while now, but 2021 looks set to be a year like no other for the artist. He released two singles in 2020, and is gearing up for a full new live show for his upcoming set at FNQ festival Day Trip, which gives us cause to believe there’s still plenty more to come from him. Possessing a knack of being able to bring his collaborators into his world and get the best out of them while still maintaining his own high quality music, consider us lifetime members of Health Club, thanks!

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Hope D

Why they’re one to watch:

With three killer singles in ‘Second’, ‘Common Denominator’ and ‘Miscommunicate’ making waves in 2020, FIVE sold out hometown shows at the end of last year, a debut EP out February 5th and her biggest tour yet announced to celebrate, it’s safe to say it’s all systems go for rising Brisbane artist Hope D. With a hope of making music to make others feel less alone, her immediately captivating and relatable music continues to strike chords with listeners everywhere, and with her debut EP, she looks set to really make her mark in 2021 just as she did last year too.

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James Pepper

Why they’re one to watch:

It was James Pepper‘s For All My Wrongs which marked the debut release from new Sydney label, Gallery Records in early 2020, and its his new EP which marked the label’s first 2021 release as well. Whether you believe in signs or not, this pattern can only mean good things for the rising Sydney producer who still had a very impressive run in 2020 despite the circumstances, so if he’s not going to let a pandemic get in the way of making his name known with his forward-thinking house and techno creations, there’s absolutely no stopping him this year either. He’s already released heaters such as ‘Triple Take’ this year, so we’re taking this as a sign of even better things to come from Mr Pepper!

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Jesswar

Why they’re one to watch:

We’ve continued to go on and on about how excellent Jesswar‘s sole release of 2020 was, but such is the strength of that single that we’re gonna do it all over again here too. ‘Venom’ was a powerful warning shot of things to come from the Fijian rapper, putting everyone who has ever doubted her on notice. In 2021, she will finish what she’s started with even more fearlessness, power and yes, venom in her stride and will take her rightful spot on her throne. We can’t wait to see what she does.

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JK-47

Why they’re one to watch:

JK-47 became one of 2020’s most hyped artists, and for good reason. The Northern NSW rapper pairs relatable and raw stories with honest bars and fierce lyrical prowess to tell his and his community’s stories while making his mark on the hip hop scene at large, and his debut album, Made For This, cemented himself as a serious force to watch. He’s continued to rise with each and every release, and while 2020 might’ve been his biggest year yet, we reckon he’s still got plenty more where that came from.

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Liyah Knight

Why they’re one to watch:

Sneaking in at the end of 2020 with her debut EP, Nesting, Liyah Knight was a last-minute burst of fresh air and confirmed she was one to keep both eyes firmly planted on as we headed into the new year. For fans of Sampa The Great or SZA, she immediately captures your attention with her stunning voice and lyrical prowess, cutting right to the emotional core of her music as she draws you in. She fearlessly explores her own life and experiences through her music, and while her 2021 movements haven’t been confirmed yet, we’re betting there’s even more where this came from we’ll hear very soon.

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Logic1000

Why they’re one to watch:

Easily one of the most hyped names on this list (and for very good reason), anyway you look at it, Logic1000 is absolutely one to watch this year. Her new EP, You’ve Got The Whole Night To Go, is has already dropped last month and excitement remains at an all-time high for her thanks to the already exceptional singles we’ve heard from it prior to its release, as well as the brilliant two-track release she shared last year in ‘Perfume / Blossom’. She’s since picked up some major critical love for You’ve Got The Whole Night To Go, once again elevating her status as a major rising force in the international dance community. The Berlin-via-Sydney producer has been an exciting force in the international dance scene for a few years now, but 2021 – even despite its difficult circumstances when it comes to artists touring their music – looks set to be the biggest year yet for Logic1000.

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Morgan Huggins

Why they’re one to watch:

When we premiered his debut single at the end of 2020, which doubled as the debut single for Sydney label Lovejoy, we knew there was something exciting happening with Sydney producer Morgan Huggins. ‘Nan & Pop’ is such a gorgeous track, it stays with you long after its finished and continues to evoke something new in your mind with each and every listen. Lovejoy has since confirmed an EP is on its way from Huggins, and if ‘Nan & Pop’ is anything at all to go by, we are in for something seriously special indeed.

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Phil Fresh

Why they’re one to watch:

Phil Fresh has been a name on our radar for a while now, and with each and every year he continues to prove he’s in a league of his own. 2020 was no different with the release of his own music as well as a number of collaborations, and releases from both of these categories found their way into our Best Songs of 2020 list (read: ‘GLOW’ by Phil Fresh, and ‘TOMMY’S IN TROUBLE’ by Kwame featuring Phil Fresh and CLYPSO). Last year, Phil Fresh came into his own more than ever before, and armed with his tireless work ethic and impressive ambition that sees him continue to build on his already solid foundation, we’re anticipating another exciting twelve months from the Sydney artist.

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Pretty Girl

Why they’re one to watch:

From the release of her own single at the start of 2020 in ‘Message’ to a seriously ripper remix of Human Movement‘s ‘Waiting’, Melbourne’s Pretty Girl looks primed and ready to continue to build and grow this year thanks to her emotive, polished yet still evocative and infectious dance music. Perfect for any setting, Pretty Girl‘s music is dancefloor ready or the ultimate soundtrack for headphones, great for solo driving, perfect for late nights or early mornings and everything in between. Combining elements of house, electronica, ambient and more, her sounds are wide-reaching and appealing for everyone, and we have her tipped to have a pretty epic 2021 indeed.

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Queen P

Why they’re one to watch:

From a surprise collaboration with Holy Holy to unleashing her own formidable solo material, Queen P elevated herself in 2020. Having landed on our radar back in 2019 around when she played BIGSOUND, it’s clear she’s really coming into her own and ready to claim what’s hers. ‘GIDDY’ provides some insight into just how much potential she really has, and as 2021 is now well underway, we have both eyes firmly fixed on Queen P as she is set to live up to her name.

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RINSE

Why they’re one to watch:

Prolific musician Joe Agius has an admirable resume already under his belt thanks to his achievements with The Creases and as part of Hatchie, but its his latest venture that has us particularly excited for what he’s been working on. Under the moniker RINSE, he channels that same whimsical, 90s charm we fell in love with Hatchie for, but pairs it with influences from the likes of Echo & The Bunnymen and his own impressive musicality to deliver a refreshing take on post-punk we can’t help but dive into again and again. His latest single ‘Tamaryn (Wherever I Am)’ is released alongside a video Agius directed and edited himself, and its this mastering of his artistic vision that is setting him apart from the rest.

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Skeleten

Why they’re one to watch:

If being one of the first artists to join the Astral People Recordings’ roster isn’t a sign of good things to come, we don’t know what is. Russell Fitzgibbon, artistically known as Skeleten, is no stranger to making music having already cut his teeth thanks to being apart of legendary, renowned production duo Fishing, and while their music will always hold a special place in Purple Sneakers’ heart, the peculiar, quaint, gentle and captivating sounds of Skeleten have found a home there too. ‘Mirrored’ was a perfect introduction to his new project, and by following it up with ‘Biting Stone’, his 2020 efforts confirmed what we knew all along: there’s something special about Skeleten and we are 100% hooked.

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Squidgenini

Why they’re one to watch:

Squidgenini is one of Brisbane’s best kept secrets. When she’s not delivering goosebump-inducing live performances of her neo-soul, jazz-influenced, electronic-leaning RnB, she’s busy behind the decks offering up chugging, intense and expertly curated DJ sets. And, with new music confirmed to be on the way, we’re certain she’s not going to remain a secret for much longer.

Must listen:

Squidgenini Live Set @ Arcadia Live Stream 2020 from Arcadia Events on Vimeo.

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Sycco

Why they’re one to watch:

2020 was Sycco‘s year: she released hit after hit (with ‘Dribble’ even making it to number #29 in triple j’s Hottest 100), signed to Future Classic, delivered one of our favourite Like A Versions ever, and introduced herself to the nation as a genre-defying superstar-in-waiting. In 2021, she’s already kicking things off with a bang having just announced a national headline tour and has hinted we haven’t seen anything yet, so consider us psychos for Sycco!

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X Club

Why they’re one to watch:

When they’re not throwing excellent parties throughout their hometown of Brisbane, producer/DJ duo X Club can be found remixing for the likes of Dro Carey, collaborating with Skin on Skin and releasing killer original tracks and appearing on compilations alongside the likes of Kettama and Aloka. With a steady and considered approach to all they do, X Club are part of the many crews putting their city on the map and even despite the challenges 2020 presented them, managed to keep busy. Now, in 2021, we have a feeling they’re going to take this momentum and run with it, and we can’t wait to see what comes next.

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Words by Emma Jones

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About:

Just a Robyn stan who loves going to the club.