Chief Keef has been hailed both as hip-hop’s next big thing – he's been namechecked by Jay-Z, among others, and was recently in Paris to record a track for Kanye’s next LP – and criticized as a symbol of everything that’s wrong in young, black America. "He scares me," Lupe Fiasco said. "Not him specifically, but just the culture that he represents." Responds Keef: "I really don’t give a fuck," he says. "People don’t know what’s going on underneath." Does he want them to? "Nope. I really don’t give a fuck." "People need to see what's going on in our urban communities," says Idris Abdul Wahid, a member of Keef's management team, about gang-fueled chaos that Keef came up in. "These young guys damn near raised themselves. They're like the Lost Boys."
When she was a teenager, Deap Vally singer-guitarist Lindsey Troy worshipped one rock star above all others: "This may sound bad, but it was Courtney Love," she says. "She was so raw and badass." Now, with drummer Julie Edwards, Troy is making some major noise of her own. The L.A. duo's fuzzed-out riffs have landed them choice spots from Bonnaroo to Lollapalooza – and gotten Troy a lot more attention from dudes. "I take it with a grain of salt," she says. "That's part of the magic of rock & roll: It casts spells on people."
If you're going to rebel, you might as well rebel big. "Our music is about the presence of the Antichrist," says one member of the anonymous Swedish metal group Ghost B.C. The band plays doomy, operatic music disguised as hooded Nameless Ghouls while masked lead singer Papa Emeritus II dresses up like a satanic pope. "He's Don Corleone, Dracula, Freddie Mercury and Hitler in one person," says one Ghoul. This year, they led a Facebook campaign to get him elected as Pope Benedict XVI's replacement. Adds the Ghoul, "He got more votes than the actual pope."
While other young rappers fall over one another chasing trends, 18-year-old Brooklyn MC Joey Bada$$ has made a name for himself by staying true to the hard-knock beats and blunted rhymes of Nineties East Coast hip-hop. But there's nothing stale about his throwback style. He even got golden-age beat genius DJ Premier to give him a track – a total coup for a kid who wasn't even born when Nas' classic Premier-assisted debut, Illmatic, came out. "Right now," the MC says about his Pro-Era posse, "it's just us."
Los Angeles is full of awesome weirdo musicians, but six-string bass virtuoso Thundercat is way up there with the weirdest and most awesome of them all. Don't believe us? Ask friends like fractured-hip-hop shaman Flying Lotus and bass bud Flea. Thundercat's new single, "Oh Sheit It's X" – the true story of an MDMA-fueled New Year's party – is an early candidate for 2013's greatest summer jam. "That party was one of the most epic things that has ever happened," says Thundercat with a laugh. "Two and a half days of full-on shenanigans, man."
Ashley Monroe's sound is classic Nashville. Her lyrics? Not so much. The Tennessee native's feather-ruffling breakout hit, "Weed Instead of Roses," suggests pot, heavy metal and "whips and chains" as a way to spice up a boring marriage, and her excellent new album, Like a Rose, features country's first Fifty Shades of Grey reference. "I only write about things I know," she says. "I met Willie Nelson the other day, and I was like, ‘Man, Willie, you smell incredible.'"
He could have ended up as dance music's Pete Best, but Eric Prydz, who got his start DJing with three buddies who went on to form Swedish House Mafia, is anything but a footnote. After scoring one of the biggest pop-EDM hits of all time with the Steve Winwood-sampling "Call on Me," Prydz made an aggressive anti-cheese adjustment to his sound. These days, he rules megafestivals with techno and house jams that are tougher, weirder and just plain cooler than his former Mafia bros'. "I don't really make music to release," he says. "I make music that I feel is missing from my record box when I'm out DJ'ing."
This ecstatically fun U.K. punk band built a following the old-fashioned, DIY way, skipping the trendy London club circuit to make its own scene in its sleepy Lambeth neighborhood. The Palma Violets’ great debut LP, 180, recalls the Clash and Sixties garage rock. It’s a classic British sound that’s been missing from British rock lately. “In London right now, it’s a very Nineties dream-pop thing,” says bassist Alexander “Chilli” Jesson. “We don’t have anything against it. But I do like a bit more . . . balls.”