The last decade has seen massive changes in culture, music, and technology. Social media has changed how we communicate, progressive social movements have changed how we think, new music has change how we move, and a global pandemic that has changed how we work and live.
Despite the whirlwind of changes, inspiring innovators have emerged to guide us through. We’ve compiled a list of 10 innovative artists and brands embracing and leading us to better futures.
One of the most exciting new singer-songwriters, London neo-soul artist Greentea Peng burst on the scene in 2018, capturing attention with her magnificent debut EP ‘Sensi’. Her jazzy, electronic influenced variety of psychedelic R&B sound pulls in influences from artists like Finley Quaye, Erykah Badu, and Lily Allen.
Greentea Peng was born in the multicultural melting pot of South London. Her hybrid sound is centred around themes of shared humanity and interconnectedness, while her silky-smooth voice delivers potent lyrics channeling her deepest inner-thoughts and explorations into different states of being.
With releases like 2020’s ‘Ghost Town’, she explores more political themes, with an impassioned rail against gentrification in her south London home. In the wake of lockdowns, race riots, gender struggles, Greentea Peng continued to push her boundaries on her debut album Man Made. The album sees her go from internal reflection to contemplating the world at large and our place in it. Ever focused on positivity and unity, stand-out tracks like ‘Hu Man’ and ‘Revolution’ have medicinal qualities to them. The album also sees her collaborate with UK heavyweights Mala and Swindle.
In a short time, East African DJ, Kampire, has cemented her place in the electronic music scene. As a core member of Kampala’s Nyege Nyege collective, her bass-heavy sets have transported her to clubs and festivals around the globe.
Kampire launched to stardom with a viral broadcast from Nyege Nyege festival in 2018, after which snagging features from Dekmantel, Pitchfork, and FACT, and being included in Mixmag’s Top Ten Breakthrough DJs of 2018. Through her residencies on London’s Rinse FM and NTS she has shone a light on rising East African talent like Hibotep, Faizal, Mostrixx & Catu Diosis.
In addition to music, Kampire is the co-founder of ‘Salooni’ which is an art installation exploring black hair as a science, culture and art. She’s taken the experiential project on tour from Uganda, Kenya, and Ghana to London.
Since its inception in 2014, BATEKOO has become the leading hub for black and LGBTQA+ young people wanting to create new narratives in Brazilian culture. BATEKOO has amplified the voices of marginalized communities in Brazil by connecting art, music, and entrepreneurship with activism. As a Black owned platform with the heritage of the Afro-Brazilian population, BATEKOO transcends the shallow representations aiming at more valid presentations.
The platform’s activities are divided between four focus areas of fashion, music, audiovisual and dance. In addition to the editorial work, they run events in five major cities in Brazil (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Recife, and Salvador).
Their work has garnered international attention, with participation in American festivals NYC Summerstage, Afropunk, Femmepremacy, Red Bull Music Festival in Santiago, Chile, and an eight city European tour with their first signed artist, Deize Tigrona.
In the midst of the pandemic Arthur Kozlovski, Angela Fan, and Paul Bui launched Community Bread as a livestream platform to make it easier for artists from marginalized communities to receive donations. Since their founding in 2020 the platform has curated 50+ artists for immersive A/V streams consisting of DJ sets, live performances, and conversations, while raising over $20,000.
As a queer-owned platform, fighting social and economic injustices has been a centrepiece of their work. Community Bread has featured 25+ LGBTQ+ & POC nightlife collectives and raised money for organizations such as Trans Women of Color Collective, The Ali Forney Center, ORAM, G.L.I.T.S., & The Trevor Project. They also compiled a directory of resources for artists, venues, and businesses as well as toolkits for disrupting oppressive structures.
Proving to be one of the most groundbreaking artists of our time, Arca has blazed a path through the zeitgeist over the past eight years to become a cultural icon. Always shapeshifting to defy expectations, in a short time she’s manifested as a sound sculptor, diva, philosopher, model, and club kid.
Transformation has been a major part of Arca’s work, taking her from childhood in Venezuela, coming of age in the States, and flourishing in NYC’s fashion nightlife. This amorphous being has taken her from producing her own music to producing for Bjork, and FKA Twigs, composing for MoMA, modeling for Burberry fashion week runway shows, DJing for Frank Ocean’s PREP+ parties, and co-designing her own instruments.
Her latest work KiCk i is the first installment in a themed series. With KiCk i Arca uses pop as a framework to reconcile her trans, non-binary, and Latinx identity. The pieces journey from apocalyptic reggaeton, ballads, club bangers, to noise and psychedelia. Arca defies genre classification with the message that being non-binary transcends gender, it’s a mindset of multiple meanings and realities coexisting.
Juliana Huxtable is arguably one of the most exciting creative polymaths to come out of the NYC culture scene in the last ten years. Her multidisciplinary work spans music and nightlife, performance, writing, text-based prints, and social media. As a DJ she has performed from Berlin’s legendary Berghain to Seoul’s Cakeshop, as a visual artist she has exhibited in New Museum, Institute of Contemporary Arts, MoMA, and other top institutions.
Juliana was born in Texas and after completing her studies at art school Bard College in 2010, she moved to NYC, quickly finding her place among the city’s fashion-forward nightlife scene. In 2013 she founded the infamous nightlife project, Shock Value, run by women DJs, artists, and fashion icons. Alongside becoming an in-demand DJ, Juliana’s art practice expanded, exhibiting visual and performance work exploring socio-political issues, gender history, and the body. In 2020 she relocated to Berlin to further push the boundaries of her work.
Emerging out of 2013 Soundcloud, PC Music’s take on the aesthetics of consumerism, advertising, and cyberculture have become one of the biggest influences for global alt-pop movements. Starting as more of an artist collective than a true label, PC Music blurred the line between net art and music.
Founded by British artist A.G. Cook, the early Soundcloud releases went viral through their use of cryptic artist personas, exaggerated pop themes, meme slang, and cartoon imagery. After garnering hundreds of thousands of streams on Soundcloud, the label’s first official releases came in 2014 from Hannah Diamond and QT. The success of the releases led to a string of performances from SXSW to RBMA festival fronted by Cook and affiliate Sophie.
Since then, PC Music has worked with artists like Sweden’s Namasenda, Charli XCX producer, EASYFUN, and French synth-pop band, Planet 1999. They have cemented their place in the modern hyper-pop movement.
Berlin is the fitting home for cult-favourite fashion brand OTTOLINGER. Founding designers, Christa Bösch and Cosima Gadient, focus on beautifully destroyed and superbly tailored garments that fit right into Berlin’s radical DIY youth culture.
In five years they’ve pushed the boundaries of the commercial fashion scene, garnering international presence showing in both New York and Paris Fashion Week, and co-signs by icons Dua Lipa and Nicki Minaj.
If there is any brand that’s synonymous with club culture, it’s Serhat Isik and Benjamin Alexander Huseby’s, GmbH. Birthed from Berlin’s club scene in 2015, GmbH embraces the founders’ immigrant roots with subversive flips on traditional workwear apparel.
Sustainability and social consciousness is at the core of their work. GmbH sources a lot of their material from high-end deadstock fabrics, and frequently weave political messages into their pieces. Since their beginning, inclusivity has been a focus with representation of models from a variety of body types, nationalities, gender presentations, and age groups. The brand is as unapologetic as their Berlin home-base.
LSDXOXO is the moniker of Berlin-based American DJ and producer, Raushaan Glasgow. Over the past ten years he has released a string of mixtapes, singles, and remixes while destroying dancefloors from NYC to Berlin.
LSDXOXO began his career with the highly popular edit series Spit or Swallow on micro-blogging platform Tumblr which led to early productions for buzzing rappers, Bbymutha and Big Momma. He then relocated to NYC and quickly became a staple at trendsetting queer parties GHE20G0TH1K, Papi Juice, and Joey Labeija’s ‘Legendary’ night. Following frequent tours across the US and Europe, he relocated to Berlin and established the essential Floorgasm party.
In May 2021 he released the celebrated Dedicated 2 Disrespect EP on XL Recordings. With the EP LSDXOXO enters an exciting new phase, utilizing his own voice and songwriting rather than samples.
To discover more innovators who shaped the past two decades in a new immersive environment,
enter The Cube.
Published November 29, 2021. Words by Phillip Allen.