10 New Artists You Need to Know: August 2015 – Rolling Stone
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10 New Artists You Need to Know: August 2015

Travis Mills, CL, Halsey, Cold Beat and more

Tunde Olanarian and CL

Tunde Olanarian and CL

Jason Shaltz; YG Entertainment

Once again, we talked to 10 of the hottest artists who are climbing the charts, breaking the Internet or just dominating our office stereos. This month: One of Korea's most popular female MCs, a social-media sensation turned pop star, goth rock's gravest new pleasure, a Blink-182-inspired party rapper and more.

travis mills

Travis Mills

Sounds Like: "California Love" for the iHeartRadio crowd

For Fans of: Wiz Khalifa, Twenty One Pilots, Flo Rida's "I Don't Like It, I Love It"

Why You Should Pay Attention: Like his grade-school favorites Blink-182, this Riverside, California, native has thrived off boyish charms and bratty, immature lyrics. Unlike the pop-punk band, though, Mills raps and sings — a move inspired by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. His breakthrough single (released as T. Mills) was 2011's "Vans On," as in "I fucked her with my Vans on," a glitzy club-rap single that led to an appearance at, yes, Vans Warped Tour and girls sneaking out of their parents' houses just to see him. Now signed to Lava Records and rapping under his government name, Mills retains both the same taste in women as before (hint: he's an ass man) and a rabid social-media following (1.3 million Facebook fans). For his upcoming debut album, he is working with Dr. Luke and Wallpaper, producers who are fittingly adept fusing hip-hop, pop and dance.

He Says: Travis thanks his parents for supporting his love for music, no matter what: "Some of the kids I grew up with, they were older than me and listening to NOFX and Blink[-182], like old Blink. So when I was in fifth or sixth grade, I went to a record store and I saw what my friends would always talk about. I bought Cheshire Cat, Buddha and Dude Ranch, and I just became obsessed. Oh, and NOFX's Heavy Petting Zoo! My mom opened the CD — she freaked out. 'Oh my god, what did I just let you buy?' I had to challenge her. I was in sixth grade, telling my mom not to censor stuff. She was so cool — she took away the booklet and let me keep the CD."

Hear For Yourself: While Mills does tone down his language in "Young and Stupid," he sounds like he is having just as much fun, this time with 99-cent kazoo melodies and a guest verse by T.I. By Christina Lee

cold beat

Cold Beat

Sounds Like: Tales of urban alienation conveyed through resolutely catchy post-punk songwriting and bolstered with rich vocal harmonies

For Fans of: Ex Hex, Wolf Parade, La Luz

Why You Should Pay Attention: Cold Beat's second album, Into the Air, reaffirms Hannah Lew's penchant for writing songs that are at once ebullient and subtly sinister. And, as always, the use of vocal harmonies is excellent. (Lew came to prominence as a member of post-punk trio Grass Widow, who excelled in that category as well.) What's different here is an expansion of the band's range: They can still simultaneously evoke the Zombies and punk anthems, but there are also songs that make much bolder use of keyboards and electronic elements, playing up the sense of dread and alienation inherent in the group's music.

They Say: When talking about Into the Air, Lew contends that there's a more collaborative aspect present on this album. "I invited people to participate a little bit more, to try that out with the project," she says. "I think you hear a few different voices on the record." But the electronic elements – which grew out of a brief stint when the band had no drummer — are also critical, and they're something that Lew feels reflects the evolution of her own music. "I've been leaning more towards making electronic music with less people," she says. "I'm sort of in awe of bands that just play rock music for a long period of time. I think it takes a lot for that to be sustainable."

Hear for Yourself: "Cracks" addresses a sense of perpetual disquiet, one of this band's preferred themes, but the emphasis here shifts away from guitars and towards an ominous synthesized earworm. By Tobias Carroll

CL

YG Entertainment

CL

Sounds Like: Bad-bitch anthems for listening to atop a queenly throne

For Fans of: Miley Cyrus, Sasha Go Hard, Rihanna

Why You Should Pay Attention: The self-proclaimed "Baddest Female" is one of the buzziest female rappers in Korea, and she's poised for a major breakthrough in the U.S. come fall with a debut EP out on Mad Decent. One fourth of the wildly famous K-pop group 2NE1, CL is now taking her career solo stateside under the helm of Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande manager Scooter Braun. Still, she's hesitant to label herself too quickly. "I don't actually like calling myself a rapper," CL says. "I'm more a performer. I don't like to box myself into anything, because I also sing and I love to dance; I do everything." And while the raspy-voiced singer's debut EP is still shrouded in tight-lipped mystery, for now CL has collaborations with Skrillex, will.i.am and Diplo under her belt, plus a spot on the latter's Mad Decent Block Party tour.

She Says: "I don't want to take too much responsibility, where I'm like, 'Oh, I'm representing Asia,'" CL says of whether her imminent breakthrough into Western pop will serve as a gateway for K-pop stars. "I'd want to, of course, because I am Korean, and after Psy, there were no Asian artists out here doing music. I would love to represent Asian girls and be an example or an idol for girls [in the U.S.] That is my dream, but I don't want that to be my main goal. I just want to do something I love, and music comes first for me."

Hear for Yourself: CL's catchy trap track "Doctor Pepper" —written while the MC was annoyed with Diplo after he canceled a recording session — brims with icy sass. By Hazel Cills 

boogie

Jack Wagner

Boogie

Sounds Like: Urban dreams and nightmares from a young father in Compton

For Fans of: Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Vince Staples

Why You Should Pay Attention: Anthony "Boogie" Dixson has established himself on the West Coast rap scene with two mixtapes of impressive depth. On last summer's Thirst 48, he harmonized ruefully over a broken relationship. The Reach, which hit the Internet in June, is one of the best rap projects of the year so far, and finds him rapping with hardened purpose as he critiques L.A. gang culture and acknowledges his past as a Campanella Park Piru Blood. "I ain't in this shit, but I'm still in this shit," he raps on "First Evergreen." Boogie remains proud of his set, but the 25-year-old has evolved since his teenage years. His six-year-old son, Darius, features heavily in Boogie's music. On The Reach cover, Darius lies in bed, sleeping, as an anonymous stranger looks over him from a window. Meanwhile, Boogie pays respect to Darius' mother on "Intervention," a refreshing sign of growth after the frustrated anger he exhibited towards women on Thirst 48. "On this tape, I decided to show that it's cool to glorify the good women that we do got out here," he says. "But I still go through my phases, like 'fuck bitches,' you know?"

They Say: "The title of The Reach came about because, after Thirst 48, I started getting a little more public notification, and my people around me started acting weird, like we made it, reaching into my comfort zone, always asking me questions. It's just a local term that called 'reachin',' when people do that. At the same time, I was reachin' for a different level in my life," he says. "I'm still adjusting [to all the attention]. Lately, I've been letting them know that I'm still working, and I haven't really accomplished what I feel I need to."

Hear For Yourself: On "Oh My," which has clocked nearly 1 million YouTube views, Boogie and his crew get lit over a Jahlil Beats banger. By Mosi Reeves

bjarki

Atli Thor Alfredsson

Bjarki

Sounds Like: Hard, nuanced techno unaware of its own limits

For Fans of: Nina Kraviz, outside-the-box drum programming, for-the-club bass

Why You Should Pay Attention: Bjarki grew up in northern Iceland and began making music when he moved in with his dad at age 12. "It was his turn to make me do better at school," the DJ says, as he twirls a cigarette in his Copenhagen basement. Bjarki's grades never rose, but he learned his most important lessons from a friend's older brother who demonstrated how to make basic beats — hard trance, then Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy — on a home computer. His break came when he almost met Nina Kraviz at the end of a long night out. After he accidentally got too drunk at an early Tiësto show his girlfriend had forced him to attend — "bullshit," he says — she made it up by passing a USB of his tracks to the Russian DJ. One year later, Bjarki's first single, "I Wanna Go Bang," is the breakout hit from Kravis' new label, Trip.

They Say: "I got into techno because of a promoter in Iceland who brought in Mistress Barbara," Bjarki recalls. "I went to the show — snuck in — and there was this attitude, this anger in the music. I was like, 'I want to make something like this.' Then I made 'I Wanna Go Bang' two years ago. I had come back to Iceland, and I was working a shitty job. Those were really tough months. I guess I was missing the 'bang' I had found in Amsterdam. I finished it in 40 minutes, and it was sitting on my computer this whole time."

Hear for Yourself: "I Wanna Go Bang" finds Arthur Russell's melancholy via DJ Deeon's hard loops, then reconfigures the title sample amid nervous snares and pulsing bass. By Nick Murray

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