After listing our favorite Drum & Bass tunes and labels of the year, it’s time for the most challenging list of all! The best Drum & Bass artists of the year.
It’s almost criminal to list artists for the phenomenal year every corner of the scene has had this year. However, we have somehow managed to narrow down our list of producers and DJ who in our opinion had an outstanding year. 2021 has seen heaps of new talent channel into the genre while stalwarts and big guns alike released groundbreaking music as always on underground and the mainstream spectrum of Drum & Bass.
So, here is a list of our favorite Drum & Bass artists this year in no particular order:
Black Barrel is not normal. It’s almost as if he makes music while he’s asleep, while he takes a shower, while he runs errands; basically, the Russian badman does not stop making music and everything he puts out, turns to gold. Championing the low-end side and the steppy side of Drum & Bass, Black Barrel had a casket full of releases this year which included his second studio album ‘Just Keep My Life’ on Dispatch Recordings. By the way, it’s not just Black Barrel; he has been releasing tunes with the same velocity through his Dubstep alias, Leo Cap.
Another artist who had releases coming out for fun this year and just like Black Barrel, all of his releases were outstanding. Starting his year with the ‘Snoar’ EP on Critical Music, Waeys went on to release music on labels like Hospital Records, Flexout Audio before ending the year with the ‘Prima Dollo’ EP with his Dutch compatriot, Rueben on Overview Music. It’s the best 12 months Waeys has had in just his second full year as a producer. It’s frightening and exciting, to say the least.
Harriet Jaxxon is a proper phenomenon. A brilliant producer who can switch styles for fun, she had three thumping releases on Hospital Records, and Drum&BassArena which were followed up by a remix for Southampton Bass group, FooR. While this is her producer side, Harriet Jaxxon’s DJing skills are otherworldly. In our opinion, she is one of the top 5 DJs Drum & Bass has on offer that is how she turned heads this year while the lengths of the United Kingdom. Here is a glimpse of her ferocious ability behind the decks.
How do we even begin talking about these guys?!! All we can say is that the future of Drum & Bass is in the safest of hands thanks to these supermen from Toulouse. Visages‘ synth-driven style of Drum & Bass has now created a niche for themselves in the scene and they have adapted with every shade of the DnB genre that they have been tasked to work with. Regulars on Alix Perez’s 1985 Music, Visages have released tunes that span that the lengths of Drum & Bass, and they also had a hand in one of 2021’s biggest bass tunes, ‘Hardware’ with Monty, Strategy, and PAV4N.
We have so much love for Ruth Royall, it can barely be quantified in words. A vocalist, composer, writer, vocal mentor and the lead of her band Paper Dragon, Ruth Royall’s rise to one of the best artists in the game has been inspirational. It’s crazy to think that her Drum & Bass journey began in 2019 because it almost feels like she has been involved in the scene for YEARS! This year, Ruth Royall delivered some of her best work with the likes of Makoto, Mollie Collins, along with her solo releases. 2021 has also seen Ruth’s DJ Motif take off through her vocal infused DJ sets. She is one of the most prominent voices in Drum & Bass through her #KEEPITREAL initiative which promotes body image positivity and disregards the cruel social media norms.
Another artist who makes us feel that the future of Drum & Bass is in safe hands. A self-described e-girl and feline lover, Gyrofield is one of the genre’s youngest and most fascinating talents who is dominating scene with her wonky brand of Drum & Bass at the age of 18! Raised in Hongkong and now in Bristol to study music, gyrofield’s music this year has come from the farthest of the dystopian and psychedelic lands of music and ‘Superheat’ is just one of those humdingers she released from the abundance of tunes from Inspected Records, Overview Music, and Liquicity this year.
We hate saying this because we all know that Fred V and Grafix made a move away from each other to go solo and they are absolutely smashing it with every release, but we wish they were still together. But nostalgia aside, Fred V, since going solo has taken his trademark melodic and emotional style to the next level. 2021 saw the producer drop his debut album ‘Radiate’ which has 15 tunes are beyond extraordinary. Combining soul-stirring songwriting with future bass, electronica along with a mix of big room steppers, Fred V delivered one of the best Drum & Bass albums this year.
RIYA & COLLETTE WARREN
Starting their label, Carnelian Music, coming together to deliver the first ever collaborative female vocal album ‘Two Sides of Everything’, being a part of the twelve representatives of the Women Make Music initiative by PRS Foundation (UK’s leading charitable funder of new music and talent development across all genres), there are few artists who have come close to the heights Riya and Collette Warren have reached this year. Their collaborative album just wasn’t an ordinary album; it included collaborations with heavyweights in the scene like Roni Size, Visages, Random Movement, Bcee, Monrroe, Technimatic and many more! One of our top 3 albums of the year for sure.
South Asia represent! Sri Lankan producer IYRE is the finest talent to emerge from the region in recent years. Starting his Drum & Bass exploits with Pxyis’ Headsbass imprint last year, IYRE landed his first release in 2021 with an outrageously good two-track EP on Goldfat Records which fused contemporary DnB elements with eastern samples and his love for Metal music. IYRE followed up on his debut on Goldfat with releases on labels like Celsius Recordings, Fokuz Recordings, and finally a gorgeous two tracker on UKF’s Pilot Records to close a great year. He has some big releases lined up in 2022, so keep an eye out for IYRE next year!
Another artists whose monumental rise to the top has been jaw-dropping. Starting his career in 2020, Disrupta got his big break on Hospital Records’ ‘Future Symptoms’ compilation this year and since then he has turned his name as one of the hottest and exciting producers in the game with seminal releases on Onyx Recordings, V Recordings, 4NC¥ // Dark Mode before closing his year with his trademark melodic and synth driven roller on UKF called ‘Like U’. If this is the year he has had, we cannot wait to see what the man has in store for us in 2022!
The year has finally come to a close and Drum & Bass like always has captured our hearts like no other artform; and we hope it continues for years and years to come.
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