Ten Manchester Artists To Watch In 2018

Manchester has rarely failed to deliver when it comes to music. Its unique cultural melting pot was the necessary breeding ground for iconic scenes such as Madchester, and its inner city nurturing clubs like Sankeys and The Warehouse Project. But for a time, the 0161 was buckling under the weight of its own history. The early 2000s saw its burgeoning grime scene fail to deliver on the scale that its London counterpart did, in part owing to the authorities’ clampdown on raves similar to the enforcement of Form 696, but also due to the fact Manchester’s musical infrastructure wasn’t ready for a new era. What emerged in the mid-noughties was pioneering parties, collectives and artists that reignited the city’s underground, fuelled by the spirit of DIY and driven by an ambition to once again put Manchester at the forefront of musical innovation. The legacy of boundary-pushing nights such as Hoya Hoya, Murkage and Hit & Run, and the industry-flaunting blueprint of Bugzy Malone, LEVELZ and Bipolar Sunshine, is a new generation with even bigger dreams. Scroll through below to see who’s up next.



If you haven’t already heard of IAMDDB, then shame on you. The BBC Sound Of 2018 longlisted artist broke through with her third EP Hoodrich Vol. 3, after honing her self-coined ‘urban jazz’ sound through the growing pains of transitioning to adulthood laid bare on Waeveybby, Vol. 1 and Vibe, Volume 2. But its the aesthetic cohesion of her BTS-style visuals, in part owing to work put in by longtime stylist Meme Gold and director KC Locke, that ensured IAMDDB emerged a fully-formed superstar, her attitude perfectly surmised in the ‘Uber, Uber everywhere’ lyric from her summer anthem “Shade”.

Black Josh

Although he’s most recently been riding the trap wave, for the last decade Black Josh has consistently shown his ability to finesse any style, becoming one of Manchester’s most prolific rappers. Cutting his teeth on grime while still at school, he then formed Ape Cult while at college with producer Metrodome, going on to release hip-hop on Blah Records. When he joined genre-eschewing Manny supergroup Levelz, he found another home among fellow leftfield artists determined to disrupt the status quo. And although his latest album is called Brexit, Josh is more interested in street politics, offering up a slew of hood bangers as an apt antidote to the recent political upheaval. 

Sleazy F

Brushing his teeth with Hennessey in the video for “Y.N.I.F” from his Blaa Records-released 2016 debut All Blahk Tracksuit, Rusholme’s Sleazy F sees Manchester’s limited resources as no obstacle for curating an ever-more outlandish onscreen persona inspired by childhood heroes Nas, Jay Z and Diddy. But it’s his early adoption of the trap sound that cemented him as the pioneer of Manchester’s new aesthetic, with 2017’s undeservedly slept-on “Let It Go” a favourite among the city’s prominent DJs. His latest visual for “Drip”, featuring girlfriend IAMDDB, is a taster of what he has in store with his forthcoming project.


Somali-born HMD burst onto the local scene with his track “Mancunian Way”, quickly impressing Manny dons Bipolar Sunshine and GAIKA with his distinctive flow and melodious take on growing up in the city’s Moss Side. Exploring themes of love, loss and identity through a sonic lens shaped by formative years spent listening to pop and R&B while living in Denmark, debut EP W16NTER cemented HMD’s status as one of the city’s most intelligent lyricists, while the record’s duets, “Baranoid” with Sleazy F and “Dayz” featuring Family Ranks’ Ruby-Ann, showcase the artist’s multi-genre versatility. 

Just Banco

Drawing on the burgeoning UK trap scene to create something all of his own, Old Trafford-hailing Just Banco’s ‘trapanese’ is the stylistic thread connecting “Goin Missing”“Can’t Stay” and “Soo Yung”, tracks whose club-leaning Auto-Tuned hooks are sung over dark, spooky beats. Accompanied by technically accomplished videos that simultaneously pay homage to Manchester’s architectural feats of yesteryear and celebrate its current cultural diversity, Just Banco’s vision puts a fresh spin on the trapper’s lifestyle narrative, earning him a co-sign from Stormzy in the process.


Hailed by fans as a ‘Manny legend’, South Manchester’s Slay was a member of the notorious Meyhem Crew alongside Shifty, Remdog and Slayer when still a teenager in the early 2000s. While many of his peers turned to pop-rap during grime’s struggle to gain mainstream recognition, Slay stayed true to the genre, with his integrity setting him up for one of the most authentic comebacks the city has seen. Re-emerging with a string of unapologetically hard tracks (see: 2017’s “Man Like” or the Chimpo and Coco collab “Mek Body”), he spent the second half of last year in dubstep pioneer Zed Bias’ studio, cooking up more new material set to come out soon.


“Hate myself, but who don’t?”, Sangy declares on the Complex-premiered track “Wa$ted”, demonstrating a characteristically Manc gift for black humour-tinged introspection. But the Chorlton-hailing MC is not only one of the rainy city’s most honest and quick-witted storytellers, but also one of its most promising for crossover appeal, thanks to his ability to take on grime, hip-hop and trap, showcased across an already impressive body of work. Perusing every dark corner of the human condition, he explores self-doubt on “Second Best”, the drudgery of the daily grind on “Tired” and the current political climate’s debilitating effects on his most recent track, “D£ATH”, while his passionate freestyle for Toddla T illustrates his heart is firmly betrothed to 0161.


Layfullstop has a rare ability for someone with the DNA of a solo artist: to let others shine while working collaboratively. This is how her performances as part of Manchester collectives Roots Raddix and Cul De Sac never felt as a precursor to her own project, although it’s when she’s given the full breadth of a song that the Erykah Badu-inspired vocalist is most powerful. Case in point: the ‘90s R&B-flavoured “Angel Halo” or her newest track, the neo-soul homage to female spirituality “Bohemian Queen”.

Stef Smith

Formerly known as Sfinx, Stef Smith’s return to the Manchester scene was one of the most highly anticipated of 2017, as alongside twin brother Slay the MC came to prominence as one of the coldest spitters from Mayhem. Planting the seed for his return was a support slot on Bugzy Malone’s Walk With Me tour, but Smith decided to take his time, first opening himself up to the fertile possibilities of working with Manchester’s new crop of producers, before crafting a string of well-executed videos. The hard work of a well-planned comeback paid off, with Smith re-emerging with a slick ode to the ‘90s, “Got Ya Money”, before capping off the year with the DJ Semtex-endorsed “Manchester Live”.


After landing his big break with Young Dro as part of production duo AudioKlique (with Romayne Erin), an impressive string of placements with the likes of T.I., Travis Scott, Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan prepared the 21 year-old producer for creating Manchester’s own trap sound. As well as producing the biggest song to come out of Manchester in 2017, IAMDDB’s “Shade”, the Old Trafford beatsmith has helped craft the sound of Sleazy F, Black Josh and Stef Smith, most recently applying his Atlanta-perfected Midas touch to Bipolar Sunshine’s forthcoming Imaginarium EP.