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2022: The Artists

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2022: The Artists

What a year 2022 has been for so many artists, we’ve seen DRS completing the first ever nation wide drum and bass vocalist headline tour, Turno raising awareness for men’s mental health and Charlie Tee taking over the hot seat of the BBC Radio 1 drum and bass show.

But one of the least expected achievements was Venbee and goddard. reaching the dizzying commercial heights of Number Five in the UK charts, which can only mean opening new opportunities for our beloved genre. This is just a few of the highlights, there were so many, many more. With far too many to mention we asked out regular contributors to round up their standout artists of 2022.

Enta

Twelve months of frequent live sets, a 10-track album and now rounding all that off with a New Zealand tour, it’s safe to say 2022 has been a very good year for Enta – and an even better one for his fans! In his debut album, Enta has showcased the production talents of a seasoned veteran with ‘Digital Rage’, backed by Biological Beat’s head honcho Fatman D, as well as track support from the likes of Kings of the Rollers, Andy C, T>I and Benny L to name a few. Dabbling in a variety sub-genres, from jump up and rollers to dancefloor, Enta has had various other releases throughout the year including a three-track EP ‘Computer Entertainment’ on Souped Up Records, and ‘Keep Your Distance’ featuring on the Hospital Mixtape curated by Lens. 

Alongside his production, Enta has spent a year shelling dancefloors and festivals – Glastonbury, Westfest; Boomtown; as well reaching international audiences – including Belgium and now New Zealand. Over the last twelve months Enta’s work rate, consistency and ongoing momentum are all to be applauded, and it will be very exciting to see more of this in 2023.  (Ilan Rubens)

Lens

Whilst the links between Lens and the drum and bass powerhouse Hospital Records go back to 2018, the past year has been especially fruitful as the partnership has continued to flourish. Earlier in the year, the Rinse FM resident made waves in the world of drum and bass with her debut release – none other than her own Hospital Mixtape. Considering artists who have been commissioned to produce a Hospital Mixtape in the past include label mainstays Fred V & Grafix, S.P.Y, and Etherwood, it is safe to say that the future looks very bright for the Brighton-based selector. In addition to this landmark release, Lens has also graced Hospital-affiliated Spearhead Records with her Marufo EP (containing Feels Like, a standout piece of soulful jungle), and collaborated with legendary vocalist Doktor alongside fellow Hospital artists Unglued and Whiney on the dubbed-out roller If You Like That.

Even though Lens has smashed it on the production front this year, she has not made any sacrifices when it comes to spending time behind the decks. If anything, her profile as a DJ has only reached new heights. High profile performances at events and venues including Let It Roll, SUNANDBASS, Motion, Hospitality On The Beach, and WHP are testament to this, as is a well-deserved Best DJ nomination at the Drum&BassArena Awards.

Lens is now firmly a part of the drum and bass furniture, and her eclectic selection of dancefloor-oriented jungle and drum and bass is sure to win over legions of fans from across the genre in the very near future. (Ed White)

Visages

Remixes, EPs, VA appearances, collaborations, and a mini-LP… where do we start? 2022 was the year Visages levelled up, and 2021 certainly wasn’t a down-year. The Toulouse-based four-piece kicked off the year dominating raves with their Hagakure EP. The release was end-to-end quality, but most significantly came a pair of deadly DJ tools in Lunar Eclipse and Lunar Eclipsed – allowing seamless 140 to 174 transitions or vice versa. How could you resist playing these ones out?

After putting a firm stamp down early, Visages kept their foot on the pedal. In came the remixes for the likes of Zero T’s ‘Can’t Hide’, Boombox Cartel’s ‘Reaper’, and Wingz’s ‘Sorrow’. Going from soulful, to heavy, to deep respectively, they prove their bag is unmatched. More examples came recently on the Atlas / 2 VA on 1985 with the lively liquid track ‘Love Conspiration’ and in complete contrast ‘TEK’ with Monty.

Rounding things off for 2022, the excellence continues. We get eight more tracks that cross the D&B spectrum in their mini LP ‘From Lead To Gold’. The collaborative moments are special on here – ‘Ace of Spades’ with Monty and ‘Ouija Board’ with En:vy give more of that liquid energy. While their first ever collab with Alix Perez ‘Black Katana’ goes down the darker path, the patented 1985 dubstep sound. The breakdown of this track alone I could listen to on loop. 

Double trouble. Dual wielders. Bass amphibians – whatever you want to call them, Visages are owning drum & bass and dubstep. If this trajectory continues into 2023, it’s going to be another great year for bass-heads. (Sam Yates)

MC Chickaboo

At last, MC Chickaboo is getting her flowers. As the first ever female jungle MC, and with 30 years in the game under her belt, Chickaboo has been criminally underrated within the drum & bass scene until recently. That’s all changing this year, with her snapping up a nomination for Best MC at DJ Mag’s Best of British awards.

How did this switch-up come about? Well, first of all Chickaboo has been delivering some fire bars on stages up and down the country, and people are finally starting to take notice. At Boomtown in August, she was easily one of the hardest working artists, supplying vocals for Sherelle, Unorthodox and Flight on the colossal Origin stage. In her delivery, she repeatedly pulls off a balance between hyping up the dance and sprinkling in conscious lyrics, which bring the marginalisation of black and queer ravers within drum & bass to the fore. 

That’s on top of her ongoing involvement with Unorthodox, where she is a regular fixture in drum & bass’s rising LGBTQ+ community, and EQ50, where she helps to redress the gender balance in the scene by mentoring up-and-coming women and non-binary artists. 

Both collectives have come a long way with her help, though there is still a way to go. Recently, on Chris Inperspective’s YouTube channel, Chickaboo opened up about the persistent lack of women MCs within the scene, even when women are getting more opportunities elsewhere in dance music. She also spoke about the issue of cultural appropriation of Jamaican culture, when black artists continue to be made to feel unwelcome by some areas of the scene. Drum & bass is a work in progress just now, and we can but hope that Chickaboo gets her dues for helping to push it to a more inclusive place. (Becca Inglis)

The Caracal Project 

Every once in a while an artist appears as if from nowhere with a sound so unique, a vision so distinct, and an output so impressive it has you wondering what planet they landed from… The Caracal Project is one of those otherworldly figures.

A true auteur in every sense of the word, his repertoire this year has been nothing short of brilliant, and i’m convinced he’s an ancient soul visiting us in this realm in the form of a talented young Frenchman. 

Launching into 2022 with a stunning collaboration with IMANU on Critical Music, ‘Neiges’ & ‘La Fournaise’ (ft. Josh Pan) set the tone for what would be a fresh chapter for The Caracal Project – real name Félix – and his sonic evolution. Crunchy, atmospheric brilliance, it was a perfect appetiser ahead of the main course later in the year…

2 brilliant remixes for the likes of Apashe, YMIR, Boombox Cartel, Moody Good & Calivania, and a powerful reunion with IMANU aside, his output on UKF this year has been straight up genius. Truly ground-breaking, genre-blurring productions and some of the most exciting arrangements i’ve heard all year.

First came a delightful collaboration with Buunshin & Rhode on bouncy gem ‘I need a break.’, but it’s the next trilogy of singles that absolutely floored me…

‘The lights on your face.’ saw him debut his own vocals on a tune for the first time ever – revealing a penchant for the Arctic Monkeys and an Indie tone that swung the range of possibilities to his music wide open, cementing a deep sonic identity that some artists can only dream to achieve within their lifetime.

Then ‘Journée de merde.’ entered our lives: Probably his most personal release to date – it again featured his own vocal, a heart-wrenching, yet playful piano, his now signature crunchy bassline, and a delectable guitar solo (performed by Félix himself) that thrust the tune back into the multi-faceted, genre-blurred dimension where his music thrives the most. ‘Journée de merde.’ was more than just a single – with it came a visual identity and aesthetic so strong it set the tone for the release and announced itself as sheer brilliance before we even heard a single note of the track. And brilliant it was, standing out as my favourite track of the year.

He rounded the year off with the techno-infused ‘This is fine.’ – linking with Berlin duo BAUGRAPPE90, once again making a real sonic statement with the thumping progression of the tune. And again came the striking visual identity – casually setting himself on fire for the artwork, with a teaser that looked more like a trailer for a Sundance-nominated feature than it did a teaser for a single. But that’s now to be expected from Félix… As honest as he is raw, he pours his heart into his projects and has a vision for each aspect of his releases, with artistic integrity at the forefront of absolutely everything he does.  

This is music with no boundaries. This is art. And something tells me this is just the tip of the iceberg of what The Caracal Project has to offer. (Maja Cicic)

Hedex 

Time and time again, Hedex pushes the limits and boundaries of jump up. This year, the Manchester-based artist has continued to go from strength to strength to make 2022 his most successful year yet. Of course, this is the expected result when an artist is uncompromising in the development of their sound and strives to produce music which extends beyond existing creative frontiers. Hedex’s brand of stripped-back, highly energetic jump up has inspired a new generation of ravers. His remixes of Spinning Method by DJ Guv and Move Your Body by Öwnboss and Sevek have soundtracked 2022, lighting up raves and social media alike as DJs from across the drum and bass spectrum draw for these weapons. Hedex has also taken his ‘My Home Is The Rave’ performance concept across the UK and Europe, and is due to headline Printworks next year for a show which sold out in 30 minutes. 

Despite taking a selective approach to releases, having only published four tracks this year at the time of writing, the jump up icon has continued to dominate the drum and bass scene thanks to a distinctive mixing style full of surprise switches and a seemingly unending collection of unreleased material. Anyone who has viewed clips from his shows will no doubt be familiar with the heaps of dubplates Hedex has at his disposal, including his infectious bootleg off Talking The Hardest by Giggs, Do You Like That (a collaboration with Bou), and many other as-yet-untitled cuts. Fingers crossed some of these see the light of day in 2023! (Ed White)

Lens (again!)

If there is one particular theme from the last year in drum and bass that has done good for the wider scene, then the growth of female selectors has to be one of them. There is an insane crop of talent making a name for themselves right now, including Sabrina, Ruth Royall, Natty Lou, Ama, Anaïs, Frenetic, A Little Sound and Kara. But I’ve got to shout out Lens in particular. It feels like she has been around for a long time, but really, it has only been a few years. On the decks, she’s one of the most exciting watches with her unpredictable switches and seamless blends, and when it comes to production, she’s making a name for herself with damn good jungle productions. She only released her productions in 2022, and it sounded like an artist who was five years deep with releases. Feels Like literally feels like it has done the rounds for months, and her debut Marufo EP shows signs of an artist with a huge future ahead. (Jake Hirst)

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