2021 has been a huge year for music, seeing some of the biggest album releases and the return of live gigs after what felt like a decade of being in and out of lockdowns. It’s safe to say it’s been a pretty good year for many, and despite the black cloud of more lockdown talks surfacing, we’re excited to see what the new year will bring for the music industry.
As we round up the year, we’re reflecting on some of our favourite playlists and collaborations with some of the best emerging talent around. From the electrifying sounds of Lolo Zouaï, to the soulful vocals of Ruti, we’ve complied a selection of our favourite playlists curated by the artists themselves, featuring their top tracks of the moment. Whatever mood you’re leaving 2021 in, we have the mixtapes to soundtrack it.
LOLO ZOUAÏ TALKS GALIPETTE, MERGING 60S YÉYÉ, R&B AND HIP-HOP
We’d be surprised if the name Lolo Zouaï hadn’t come up on your music radar recently. Laureen Rebeha Zouaï, more commonly known as Lolo, has been dominating the female R&B scene since the debut of her album ‘High Highs to Low Lows’ which has been making some noise both on and offline for the past two years. From collaborating with H.E.R. on their self-titled Grammy-winning album, to working alongside Stelios Phili (frequent collaborator with Young Thug) and now touring with Dua Lipa, it is clear to see why the French-born singer songwriter has gained such a respected following.
Zouaï’s hard hitting track, ‘Galipette’ arrived earlier this summer, merging 60s Yé-Yé, R&B and hip-hop into one electrifying beat. Accompanied by a music video directed by the talented Amber Grace Johnson, it shows a brand new energy and electrifying sound that we expect Zouaï to carry into her next upcoming album. From boxing underwater to falling in love with Britney Spears as a kid, we hit up Lolo to chat about the artists inspirations, writing process and being invited to tour with Dua Lipa. Click here to read more.
DOWNTOWN KAYOTO ‘NAVIG8’S HIS SOUND
Downtown Kayoto is the Zimbabwe born, Hull raised artist mixing pop, soulful R&B, rap and 00s indie into his genre-blending tracks. The melancholic songwriter has been making noise online, receiving co-signs from Jessie Ware, Zane Lowe and Nick Grimshaw as well as being nominated as Radio 1’s Future Artist. With stand-out hits such as ‘Karma Called’ and ‘Hello World’, Downtown Kayoto is back with new single ‘NAVIG8’, merging smooth R&B vocals with alt-pop beats.
Speaking of the track, Downtown Kayoto tells us “I wrote a lot of it in the night and outside. At the time of lockdown, I felt lost but strangely hopeful of the future, I was studying during the day and pursing creative interests through the night and in between school trying to find a place to live in.” It feels like a coming-of-age project; “The expression in ‘NAVIG8’ comes from how at this point in my life, I felt as if I was navigating every single aspect of my being, my future, my relationships, my character as well as my place in the world.”
We caught up with the emerging artist about ‘NAVIG8’, the journey of experimentation finding his sound, and how legendary albums such as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Blonde influenced his creative process. Click here to read more.
FASHION THROUGH SOUND: THE TOP 10 TRACKS THAT LEVELLED UP RUNWAY
With what feels like an infinite amount of song choices, we can only begin to imagine the pressure of choosing the right track to accompany a runway show. For something that sets the tone for the entire show, it’s imperative for a brand to select a track that not only compliments the collection, but encapsulates its audience from the get-go. Classic vs. contemporary, lyrics vs. continuous beat, a chart topper vs. composing your own song; with so many options available, it seems almost too easy to get it wrong.
As a tribute to those that did get it right, we’re flicking through the fashion archives to find our top favourite runway music moments, where leading brands managed to level up their collections through a soundtrack. From Kanye West at Virgil Abloh’s debut show for Louis Vuitton, to lesser known tracks from this year such as Gucci’s Aria presentation, take a look at our favourite tunes which have been featured on the runway. Click here to read more.
NÁPOLES TALKS NEO-SOUL, HIP-HOP & OPENING FOR BEYONCÉ & JAY-Z
Neo-soul is having a serious moment right now. Blending sultry vocals with r&b melodies, the genre has taken off in the last few years and boasts some of today’s most popular artists. Nápoles – a singer, DJ and musician, lies under this umbrella, forging a female-led revolution in the creative spaces of Stockholm.
However, her music pushes boundaries – a quality that the Cuban, Russian and Scandinavian singer takes pride in and actively seeks out in her network. Influenced by wide ranging genres, from gospel to dance tracks, her work feels intimate, yet relatable – and is focussed on connectivity. From the clubs of New York and London to forging a space for females in music in Sweden, Nápoles is no stranger to bringing people together through music.
Aside from laying down some smoother-than-smooth tracks, Nápoles plays a huge role in her co-founded DJ collective, LadiesLoveHipHop. We sat down with the artist herself, before the release of her EP ‘Cloud 9’ to find out more about her experiences singing, DJing and crafting a female creative revolution. We also had to ask about the ‘pinch me’ moment of opening for Jay-Z and Beyoncé on tour, her quick-stop guide to Stockholm, as well as the trials and tribulations of creating a cohesive body of work. Click here to read more.
RUTI’S SOULFUL RHYTHMS ARE WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS TO HEAR RN
It’s not everyday you discover emerging talent as soulful as Ruti. Merging silky smooth vocals with laid back beats in each track, we find ourselves escaping our hectic day-to-day lifestyle and mellowing to the chilled out melody. After gaining exposure from winning The Voice UK under mentorship of Sir Tom Jones, it wasn’t long before Ruti was deep diving into writing music, going on to releasing two EP’s; ‘Racing Cars’ and ‘All At Once’, which was released mid-pandemic. For what was undoubtedly a rocky year, All At Once shone a light on the importance of slowing down, a message that still rings true in a post-lockdown world.
We spoke to Ruti about where her music career began, inspirations behind the beautiful ‘My Sunshine’ and the tracks she’s loving right now. If you’re looking to relax and unwind tune into the playlist featuring the best of Ruti, her favourite tracks and some of our top chilled beats. Click here to read more.
FIXUPBOY AND THE FRESH SOUNDS OF EMO TRAP
Growing up in the town of Hertfordshire, Fixupboy grew his name in the underground hip hop scene, building a loyal following since the release of his first single, ‘She Said.’ At the ripe age of 20, this emerging artist in the emo trap scene has gone on to release his debut EP ‘Pink Roses’ including tracks such as ‘Overdose‘ and ‘Miss You When I’m Gone‘.
Fixupboy‘s raw and personal lyrics arrive as a transparent telling of the artist’s real-life experiences, connecting to his listeners on a deeper level through his music. With millions of listeners on Spotify and watchers on YouTube, it is clear to see that his first EP drop is just the start of what will be a huge career and influence on the industry. CULTED linked up with Fixupboy to chat about the journey of creating his latest EP, plans for the remainder of the year, and tracks from other artists he is vibing with. Click here to read more.