Happy New Year! Welcome to 2012 but before we go steaming ahead, let’s look back at the Best New and Emerging Music that graced our ears in 2011…

Where do we even begin? 2011 has been an exciting year for music but more specifically, for new and emerging music from all around the world. This article is simply to specially highlight and showcase our best of the best out of the influx of new and emerging music that we’ve been blessed with this year.

We realize that in writing this piece – as with many end of year music round-ups, articles or lists – there will be people that do not agree with our selection. The comments section is very much available for you to air your grievances and we very much await them.

As far as the criteria for being mentioned here or criteria for what “New & Emerging Music” is to us, well that is also simple – if an artist has yet to release a full length album, then they are for all intents and purposes New & Emerging so Maverick Sabre gets considered, Ed Sheeran doesn’t. Michael Kiwanuka gets considered, Ben Howard doesn’t. So without further adieu, here is our “list” of Best New & Emerging Music of 2011 (in NO particular order)… ENJOY!




Taken off of what has to be said to be one of the best releases of the year in UK Hip-Hop – The Bus Stop EP – this AKS and Kadija Kamara collaboration was/is hands down our favorite song on that EP and by far one of this year’s best songs. With rich production from P.Y of Our Music, lush vocal harmonies from Ms. Kamara and lyrical dexterity as well as ample content from AKS, “Truth Be Told (I, I, I)” captures the true essence or artistic integrity and so much more.




24-year old Malaysian Singer/Songwriter Yuna Zarai – on the back of signing with the FADER label – released her US debut EP titled Decorate back in March to rave reviews and much critical acclaim. The 5-track EP was simply breathtaking but we’ve come to find out that “breathtaking” is a simple walk in the park for Yuna as her Malaysian fans had come to expect from her two previous releases in her home country. The criminally short “Decorate” was the first song from Yuna that captured our ears, hearts and minds and we couldn’t stop playing it for a good few months.



Nigerian born (East London raised) alternative Pop/Soul singer, songwriter and producer Azekel came with a fresh and different sound at the top of the year with his massive underground smash of a debut single titled “New-Ish“. It got the UK underground and emerging music scene in the mad frenzy with it’s exciting and imaginative musical backdrop and while the “New-Ish” visuals – which has now disappeared from the internet – only added to the well-deserved hype, we patiently await Azekel’s follow-up to this undeniable goodness.



From her Demo EP to her The Wild Heart EP and the His Young Heart EP sprinkled in between, London-based singer/songwriter and musician Daughter (Elena Tonra) has released some pretty amazing music in 2011 that it proves pretty much impossible to pick one single track to highlight because there were quite a few outstanding songs from Daughter this year and that’s not even an exaggeration. We could easily have gone with “Your Kisses” – the reason we first fell in love with Daughter – or “Landfill” or “Candles” from His Young Heart but we’re gonna go with “Youth” from The Wild Heart EP.



Arguably one of the BEST songs to grace the UK Top 40 Singles Chart this year – entering the charts at #18 – was Maverick Sabre’s “I Need“. Off of his forthcoming debut album Lonely Are The Brave, “I Need” is simply one of my favorite songs of 2011. What else can you really say about this track really – compelling lyrics + the lush laid-back musical milieu + Mav’s undeniable vocals? Priceless is what I say.



Kate & Max are a “Down Tempo Skunk-Funk” duo from Brisbane, Australia and the amazing “23rd of June” is one of the standout songs from their debut EP, The Great Unseen which was released in August via Bedlam Records. “23rd of June” is a playful feel-good Pop/Jazz number that works on any and every level – from the enjoyable yet engaging vocals to the lush acoustic guitar strums to the harmonica solo arrangements. This song was on constant repeat for a good chunk of the year and it knew how to pick me right up anytime I needed it.



Fast-rising London Soul singer/songwriter Michael Kiwanuka was one of the rare finds of 2011. We first got wind of him back in April on his Soulful Afrobeat-infused debut single “Tell Me A Tale”. He followed up that debut single and EP with the even better “I’m Getting Ready” and the rest – as they say – is history. Now signed toPolydor Records and gearing to releasing his debut album in March 2012, Kiwanuka is the true epitome of GOOD MUSIC and if ever you were in doubt about this man then “I’m Getting Ready” was the point at which you were completely and 100% sold.



The debate about who sang this song better – Bridget Kelly, the singer or Frank Ocean, the songwriter – rages on and will continue to do so but what is without question and rather unarguable is how massive, beautifully crafted and amazing this song is. Frank Ocean’s songwriting skills are on excellent show here and the singing – on both his and Bridget Kelly’s version – is on point to the last tee even though I’m slightly biased towards Mr. Ocean’s version.

Frank Ocean – “Thinking About You”:



Take Our Time” was at the apex of emerging UK R&B and Hip-Hop music in 2011 in my eyes and it wasn’t because this song was so popular on the scene – even though it slowly but surely crept into the consciousness of  a lot of people as the year progressed – it was because this song is just pure CLASS. Taken off of his critically acclaimed debut mixtape The Shakka Crown Affair and sampling J.Dilla’s “So Far To Go”, Shakka’s “Take Our Time” is simply THAT TUNE!



Not a single foot was put wrong in by Warwickshire-born singer/songwriter Lucy Rose in 2011. Releasing two superb singles this year – “Middle Of The Bed” and “Scar” – with the latter excellently building on the success of the former, Ms. Rose went on to tour with Bombay Bicycle Club – also appearing on their Top 10 UK Album A Different Kind of Fox via the amazing “Shuffle” – and Ben Howard in 2011 while gaining plaudits from everyone from NME to The Independent toThe Sunday Times and more. I believe that 2012 is the year that Lucy Rose comes of age and explodes all over the UK mainstream and “Scar” gives us the strongest indication of this inevitability.



While the global profile of Afrobeats music was significantly raised in 2011 with the signing of D’Banj and Don Jazzy to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music label, theBET Nigerian Hip-Hop Cypher and BBC 1Xtra’s Tim Westwood putting many artists on via his daytime radio show among other landmark moments, the one name that stands out for us in terms of new and emerging African artists in 2011 is 19-year old Nigerian singer, songwriter and producer Davido. Making a splash on the scene early in the year with the Naeto C-featured “Back When”, his follow-up single “Dami Duro” is tearing it UP right now that it was near enough impossible to omit it from this list.



One of the biggest Hip-Hop artists in Africa, M.I resurrected his record label Loopy Music this year and the first taste of music from that label was this absolutely breathtaking ballad titled “Okay” from Soul/R&B singer Ruby – who possesses one of the most soulful and compelling voices to come out of Nigeria in recent times. “Okay” is miles ahead of anything that is in Nigerian mainstream music, it is beautifully written and it is sung perfectly. I simply cannot wait to hear what this woman comes with in 2012.


T H E S L O W D O W N – “Sex”

Emerging and rather elusive Manchester Indie band T H E S L O W D O W N – formerly known as B I G S L E E P – have been steadily building up their fanbase with gigs up and down the country after their re-introduction with the new name. Their “introductory” single titled “Sex” is an anthemic feel-good record that is sure to get you moving regardless of whether or not you listen to Indie music and while we await their Sex EP (coming soon, they said back in July), “Sex” stays on constant repeat around here.



The Guardian premiered this gem of a Pop song titled “Sister Wife” in the first month of 2011 by fast-rising Detroit Indie/Pop singer-songwriter Alex Winston – now signed to Island Records – and it’s been a staple in our music players all through the year – helped along nicely by the Star Slinger remix of the already massive tune. Granted you hardly hear women singing about Polygamy in this way but with “Sister Wife”, Alex Winston provided the 2011 anthem for all the Polygamous people out there and in outstanding fashion too.


Honorable Mentions
KOF – “Looking At Me
Kelly Erez – “Letters
Sneakbo – “The Wave
Kelow + Irie Li – “To The Heart
Nina Smith – “I Won’t Forget YouRather Obvious Mentions We Thought To Leave Out
Frank Ocean – “Novacane
The Weeknd – “The Morning
Lana Del Rey – “Video Games
A$AP Rocky – “Peso
Azealia Banks – “212

And there you have it. See you in 2012 with more of the Very Best New & Emerging Music from all around the world!


Ayo Adepoju
Latest posts by Ayo Adepoju (see all)

About the author:

Head of PR + Publicity @WPGM_PR // Founder + EiC @WePlugGoodMusic. Follow him on Twitter / Facebook.

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