With an unprecedented amount of talent brewing on the streets of Australia and New Zealand, there are countless upcoming artists bringing unique perspectives to the culture and killing it in their area code. Here’s a handful of rising NZ stars we think you need to know. Check out the list below!
There's an exciting scene brewing across the ditch, here are five of our favourite upcoming artists from Aotearoa right now.
01. Lil Dust
Wellington rapper Lil Dust is known for pushing the boundaries of New Zealand hip-hop as his style of craft takes influence from West Coast hip-hop and DMV rap, a sound largely unheard of in Aotearoa’s rising music scene. Originally from the South Island, Lil Dust steps out of the box and is amongst the impressive pool of emerging rappers coming out of New Zealand. With his smooth and braggadocious attitude, witty wordplay and effortless flow, Lil Dust has accumulated around 500k views across YouTube for his smash hits like ‘WOKE UP’ and ‘OXY’. The Wellington rapper combines his own mix of trap-influenced lyricism with a heavy emphasis on bars and rhymes that is showcased in his bop of a track ‘PERC’. Lil Dust has a crispy rap delivery served over hard-hitting modern instrumentals. With his striking global appeal, Lil Dust has sold out multiple shows in New Zealand and is currently working on an album expected to drop this year.
Follow Lil Dust here.
02. imugi 이무기
Silky electronic-hip-hop duo imugi 이무기 have created a cult following across New Zealand for their extraterrestrial sound since releasing their first EP in 2017, ‘Vacasian’. Over the years, imugi 이무기 have built a name for themselves as a popular Auckland music act destined for international acclaim. Made up of singer-songwriter Yery Cho and producer Carl Ruwhiu, the two combine every aspect of their experiences grappling with identity, culture and belonging as a part of the East-Asian diaspora and as a white-passing indigenous Māori. The duo take inspiration from an eclectic range of musical influences and refuses to limit their craft to a certain genre. imugi’s 이무기 music brings you into a dreamy world of synth-pop, modern R&B, bedroom indie pop, spoken word and funk as heard in their 2020 sophomore EP ‘Dragonfruit’. Their signature aesthetic blends punk stylings, ‘90s streetwear, otherworldly nuances and hints of nostalgia that set them apart from the rest. imugi 이무기 dropped their latest EP ‘It’s OK to be a lil Alien’ in March.
Follow imugi 이무기 here for more.
03. lilbubblegum & Letoa
These 18-year-old rappers are standout amongst the fresh talent emerging from Aotearoa, New Zealand. Each successful in their own right, the two combined create a Nesian superpower, blazing a trail in the scene. The young artists built themselves a die-hard fan base through the grips of the internet, creating an insatiable fandom amongst their generation with their infectious music. Having amassed literally hundreds of millions of views/streams across their platforms, lilbubblegum and Letoa are producing incredible numbers for two young Pasifika boys coming out of Auckland. With songs like ‘guap’, ‘e girl’ and ‘Stepback’ the pair have a distinct dark-trap style, with music videos directed by NZ’s own Jodo Valley that add another layer of bubbly personality with their aesthetic animations and gen-z visuals.
With lilbubblegum’s Adventure Time-referencing namesake showing his light and dark persona, the rapper pushes out of the confinements of aesthetic rap by showing his versatility with ‘mounty bop’, a UK drill garage beat twist. Samoan rapper Letoa, with ties to Australia and Fiji, collaborates with many international and local creatives to forward his pursuit in music, with his latest single ‘So Fresh, So Clean’ showing no signs of slowing down. The two young pioneers are putting New Zealand on the map, and in the best way.
Follow lilbubblegum here and Letoa here for more.
Taebz is an ambient wunderkind on a steady rise to new heights. With ambiguity at the very centre of the Auckland-based artist’s craft, Taebz takes influence from both his Korean and New Zealand cultures, combining them to create an ethereal blend of R&B, soul, electronic pop and hip-hop. Raised in Palmerston North, Taebz is derived from Taebin (‘태빈’) and draws inspiration from musical heavyweights like Lil Wayne, Frank Ocean and The Weeknd. His lyricism reflects his real-life experiences, with his first silky single of 2022 ‘Shadows’ touching on ambition and the fear of loss, with his brother Woo! adding in the final touches. Taebz always makes his craft a family affair. With his latest EP ‘Gloss’ out now, the Auckland artist is all gas no brakes. With his calm, cool and collected sound over glossy, downtempo instrumentals being a staple of Taebz style, the New Zealand artist takes a unique approach to shaping the listener’s experience for his fans.
Follow Taebz here for more.
05. Ray Leslie
Originating from the city of Cebu in Philippines, alt-hip hop artist Ray Leslie is building a name for herself as a rising star in the Auckland underground music scene. With melodic vocals over intimate lo-fi beats being a staple of Ray’s style, the 23-year-old rapper dropped her sophomore project SPRINGBOARD in January, showing off her lyrical flair and boundless versatility as she levels up with each release.
Using innovative wordplay to convey her journey throughout the past year, Ray Leslie paints an ambitious picture of working hard to achieve her artistic dreams. Throughout the years, music has always been at the very centre of Ray’s life and she dropped her first project ‘Demolition’ in 2019. Musicality is a talent that comes ever so naturally to the New Zealand artist and the older she gets, the more she perfects her sound. With the rapper’s effortless flow and atmospheric soundscape, Ray Leslie is in pursuit of new creative heights, making her one to watch.
Follow Ray Leslie here for more.