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Alternative Top 100 DJs 2021, powered by Beatport

Using data from voting in this year’s global Top 100 DJs poll with a genre filter based on insights and data from Beatport, we present the DJ Mag Alternative Top 100 DJs 2021

This is the fourth year that DJ Mag has presented the Alternative Top 100 DJs list in association with Beatport. In 2021, the genres included in the poll have been widened to include a number of high-selling genres, including house, techno, drum & bass and other derivatives that have in recent years been underrepresented in the main poll.

The main Top 100 DJs list, which was won by David Guetta, is still dominated by EDM and trance DJs, so the Alternative poll gives us a chance to shine a light on DJs playing less commercial sounds on the periphery of the global poll in recent years, despite commanding huge audiences worldwide.

The result, as we have seen in previous years, is a vastly different chart. Last year, Belgian techno DJ Charlotte de Witte topped the list. Read below for 2021’s standings.

1.
Charlotte de Witte

From: Ghent, Belgium
DJ style: “Techno, acid and related.”
Best known for: “Tomorrowland 2018 Main Stage/New Form live streams in lockdown.”
Fave tune of 2021: “WNDRLST ‘Vertigo’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Indira Paganotto.”

Charlotte de Witte is one of the most recognisable techno DJs on the planet, and in ordinary times plays hundreds of gigs a year. Rather than revelling in time off during the pandemic, though, she kept on working to expand and evolve her KNTXT empire.

This year alone there have been two new solo EPs on the label, a chart-topping remix with Enrico Sangiuliano, a historic live stream from the Italian Formula 1 race track Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello (where she also got to drive around in a Ferrari), various themed playlist hook-ups with Apple Music, and even a boutique clothing range in collaboration with Belgian activewear brand 42I54. She also briefly opened up the label for demo submissions as part of her unspoken mission to diversify techno.

“I think this year was a good opportunity to try and explore other things,” Charlotte says with a smile over Zoom. “Obviously, I couldn’t go on tours, and didn’t have so many shows, so it was really nice to stretch my arms and see what other things I could get involved with.” At this point, the Belgian shouts out the behind-the-scenes team who help bring her ideas to life. She says she gets as creative as possible with them and sees no real limits as to what can be done. “Although the music will always be the main focus, it doesn’t have to be the only focus.”

This year, that music took on a certain trance element, with her more recent ‘Asura’ EP being lit up by psychedelic influences that take her back to her roots. As a youngster, Charlotte would go to all manner of acid, hardcore and trance raves, and when she first started DJing she was all about electro. She remembers those experiences fondly, and that’s why their influence has crept into her work this year.

“My whole background is such a variety of electronic music that revolves around techno, so for me, it’s really nice to sometimes be in touch with where I come from,” she says. “I don’t think anyone making music should necessarily limit themselves because something is considered not techno enough. What the hell does that mean anyway? If you just feel like doing something, I think you should. It’s interesting to sometimes reach out to another type of electronic music that shows where you come from and show that storyline a bit.”

Her biggest tune this year was the remix of ‘Age Of Love’ by Age of Love, produced with Enrico Sangiuliano. “It’s an homage,” she says, mindful of certain corners of the internet who claim Charlotte shouldn’t have touched such a classic because it cannot be bettered. “We were just having fun in lockdown. We didn’t want to improve anything, we just wanted to pay respect with a contemporary tribute to that remix.”

After winning a DJ competition 11 years ago, aged just 16, life has been pretty much non-stop for the Ghent-born artist. She has gone from being a “next-gen” DJ Mag cover star in 2017 to now winning the Alternative Top 100 DJs poll for the second year in a row.

This award is not the only good news Charlotte has had in the last 12 months. At the end of 2020, she got engaged to Italian DJ and producer Enrico Sangiuliano. “It’s not the easiest job to combine with any type of social life,” she explains. “I mean, you’re never synchronised with anyone since you’re always away at the weekend, so it’s very tough to maintain friendships or relationships. But it looks like now it has just worked out fine.”

The idea of a small wedding somewhere in the near future, followed by a bigger celebration down the line, is what appeals to Charlotte. But it might not quite match the scale of the upcoming KNTXT parties she has just announced, with the biggest ever set to take place in her hometown of Ghent at Flanders Expo, the former home of Belgium’s legendary I Love Techno event, in February 2022.

“I just love it all,” she says of what motivates her most, having already achieved so much at a young age. “Being with sweaty bodies in the club, feeling the music, travelling, trying local foods around the world. It’s just an insanely exciting adrenaline rush.” That said, one thing she did take from the last year was that she needs to make “better decisions” to preserve her physical and mental health and ensure career longevity. “Before, I would fly from the East Coast to the West Coast of the US on consecutive days. That’s just too demanding, it’s not humane.”

Over Charlotte’s shoulder in the background is a DJ bag, packed and ready for weekend gigs in France and then Switzerland. Unlike many high-level DJs, she still checks new music for herself, every single day of the week, and reloads her SD cards with whatever she finds. “I still love doing that, but what has become more difficult these days is actually going to the club myself and enjoying the music from the dancefloor.”

While that’s a pleasure she’s missing out on herself, it’s one she provides each and every weekend for fans all over the world.

2.
Carl Cox

From: UK
DJ style: “Techno and house – played with passion.”
Best known for: “Sharing the love of all music styles, bringing a positive energy to the dancefloor and still known as the People’s Choice.”
Fave tune of 2021: “Dubfire & Flug ‘Rubber’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Franky Wah. He is coming at ya!”

What hasn’t already been said about Carl Cox? Not much — but we’re gonna try anyway! Surrey-raised and Hove-based when he isn’t in Australia, Cox has been a shining light for electronic music lovers for over three decades, playing clubs, stadiums and festivals world-over and promoting the sound wherever he’s had the chance.

A veteran of the scene and a true titan, Coxy’s passionate and genuine enthusiasm has failed to dull over the years — you could even argue that his light has only shone brighter in 2021. In January, the King of Ibiza began collaborating with Virtuoso, hosting his first online DJ workshop for the music education platform, and in February premiered a live set on Resident Advisor. He continued the much-loved Cabin Fever sessions from his garage on Mornington Peninsula, near Melbourne, too, choosing a different theme every week from his vast record collection that he was locked down with.

Following on from these sessions, in April he began his BBC Radio 1 Residency, holding themed specials including rave, drum & bass, a Space Terrace Ibiza mix and an ‘88 to ‘89 mix, to name a few, and in May announced his signing with major label BMG and his first album in a decade. So far, so very busy.

What many people may not know about Cox is that he’s a big motorsport fan, has held a professional racing license for eight years, and belongs to the ‘6-second club’. He took part in the Sydney Dragway race this year, even playing a set after the event, and ranks motorsports alongside his passion for music.

But it doesn’t stop there. After holding another Awesome Soundwave Live festival online and dipping into the digital space, launching the Djenerates NFT collection alongside Paul Oakenfold, Paul van Dyk and others, Cox returned to the UK in July, after 16 months away. As soon as he touched down his first port of call was a DJ set on Brighton Beach. Some 5,000 people rocked up for the outdoor event — a UK tour quickly followed.

In August, Cox published Oh Yes, Oh Yes!, his long-awaited autobiography, which made the bestseller list and told the global ambassador’s story in all its unadulterated glory. “When I heard that Oh Yes, Oh Yes! was a bestseller I had to pinch myself,” he tells DJ Mag. “It seems a million miles from playing my dad’s records in my parents’ front room.”

To top it off, Cox’s track ‘Carnage’ was featured in the Hollywood blockbuster Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which hit the US box office in September, just in time for his October US tour. We could go on: his achievements are seismic. It all goes to show what a supernatural force Cox is. Not even a pandemic can stop him.

3.
Claptone

From: “Planet Earth.”
DJ style: “House.”
Best known for: “Music.”
Fave tune of 2021: “Vintage Culture feat. Roland Clark ‘Free’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “John Summit.”

The ever-mysterious Claptone consolidates his place in the Alternative Top 100 this year. Since winning the Highest House award in the 2019 main Top 100 DJs poll by reaching No.53, and climbing ever since, the golden mask-wearing act continues to reach dizzying new heights in his career.

It was his early productions on the Berlin-based label Exploited that first gained mass attention, his debut EP ‘She Loves You’ in 2011 hitting No. 4 in the German Club Charts. Since then his remixes of Sirens Of Lesbos and Metronomy have reached the coveted No.1 top spot, while his follow-up EP ‘Cream’, released in 2012, proved to be yet another smash hit. While continuing to build a strong discography with Exploited over the years, he’s also released on labels such as Defected — ‘The Masquerade’ compilation in 2016 — and two studio albums on London-based Different: ‘Charmer’ in 2015 followed by ‘Fantast’ in 2018.

Claptone is an act that has been full throttle ever since bursting onto the scene, and he’s been on a roll with his music lately too, finalising the production of his third studio album ‘Closer’ (out this November), co-produced with Grammy Award-winning producer Stuart Price, and with some big-name collaborations involved including Seal and Barry Manilow. As well as this milestone accomplishment, he’s recently remixed the likes of Elton John & Dua Lipa, Faithless, Sofi Tukker & John Summit, Rag’n’Bone Man and MØ. It’s not the first time the golden-beaked maestro has remixed the stars; previous years have seen him rework the likes of Florence & The Machine, Mark Ronson, New Order and many more.

Since the clubs have re-opened, he has flown straight back into an all-systems-go touring schedule, with gigs in the USA and in Europe via Paris, Madrid, Prague, and Budapest. His own hugely successful Masquerade parties have also made a welcome return, with events in Montréal, Amsterdam and London — and that’s just in October alone. The parties — inspired by the classic masked Venetian masquerade balls, and aiming for a fully immersive clubbing experience equipped with impressive lighting and production — had previously gained momentum worldwide with shows in Melbourne, Miami and Buenos Aires to name a few, plus a memorable season at Pacha in Ibiza where he invited iconic names such Felix Da Housecat, Basement Jaxx, Kerri Chandler and Todd Terry to play alongside him. The international man of mystery has also kept up a popular online mix series named Clapcast that boasts 322 mixes to date.

4.
Peggy Gou

From: South Korea
DJ style: House
Best known for: Tracks like ‘Nabi’ and ‘It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)'

In March 2020, as clubs shut down across the globe, Peggy Gou’s career as a touring DJ came to an abrupt halt. It led her to spend a few months at home in Seoul with her parents where she rested, recharged and shared a slew of home workout videos — her mother and father taking part in the background. For someone so creative, driven and seemingly running on an endless reserve of energy and ginger shots, the pause could have been challenging. Instead, the slowed-down pace of life in her family home reaped more benefits than she could have imagined. “Creative people need to sometimes do nothing to be creative,” she explains in her ‘Pleasure Garden: Behind The Scenes’ video on her IGTV and YouTube channel. The short film details her time in London before, during and after the Pleasure Garden party she curated in Finsbury Park in August 2021. “That’s why I was able to give birth to my baby ‘Nabi’ and ‘I Go.”

Peggy is referring to the two singles that dropped on Gudu Records in June and July of this year, respectively. Warm basslines, summery chords and springy synths pulsate off each track, just in time for the reopening of nightclubs and festivals in various parts of the world. Speaking about ‘I Go’ on IGTV, Peggy explains why this track, in particular, resonates with her. “The lyric ‘I Go’ is a sound that Korean people make when they’re surprised in a good or bad way. I was saying that a lot because I was having a lot of back pain. But the word in English ‘I Go’, it means ‘but no matter what, I’m still going’. So it was kind of encouraging lyrics to myself. For 2020 and 2021, it was about how to challenge positive and negative and learning how to be present a little bit.”

This theme sums up the years since Peggy’s breakout on Ninja Tune's Technicolour imprint with her ‘Seek For Maktoop’ EP. Up until early 2020, Peggy had been travelling non-stop for gigs spanning Asia, Europe and North and South America, adding partnerships with Nike, Louis Vuitton and Samsung along the way. She also established a clear visual identity across each project she took on, be it in her streetwear line Kirin or the sleeve of ‘I Go’. But since her time away from a schedule sandwiched between sleep deprivation and back-to-back touring, Peggy appears to be approaching her craft at a slightly lower-octane pace.

But that doesn’t mean the demand for Peggy has plateaued. Remaining a magnetic DJ, producer, record label owner and merch designer who continues to surprise, it’s no wonder Peggy’s position in the Alternative Top 100 DJs poll has gone up this year.

5.
Boris Brejcha

From: Germany
DJ style: “High-tech minimal.” Best known for: “My joker mask and my own music.”
Favourite tune of 2021: “Of course, one of mine: ‘House Music feat. Artic Lake’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Moritz Hofbauer.”

In the summer of 2019, Boris Brejcha played his first shows on the White Isle: at Ushuaïa, with techno icon Sven Väth, and Hï Ibiza, with his FCKING SERIOUS label mates Ann Clue, Deniz Bul and Theydream. With his trademark mask, inspired by the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro, and self-styled “hi-tech minimal” sound, Brejcha marked himself out as a unique prospect for Ibiza’s packed summertime calendar of mega-clubs and festivals.

Later that year, he entered the Top 100 for the first time at No.60, an amazing achievement for a producer and DJ who keeps his everyday life away from the spotlight, letting the music — and the mask — take the focus instead. In recent years, Brejcha has been steadily climbing up the rankings in the Top 100 and the Alternative Top 100. Last year, he polled at No.6 in the Alternative Top 100 — and this year, he’s up one place to No.5.

In 2020, despite the pandemic hitting clubland hard, Brejcha continued to release a glut of solo and collaborative original music, including ‘Space Diver’, his first album for Ultra Music. A step up from his previous album, 2016’s ‘22’, ‘Space Diver’ moves away from the strictly minimal techno sound that Brejcha came up through, and towards a more focused take on his “hi-tech minimal” blend of minimal techno, melodic house and rough electro.

In celebration of the album, and with his sights set on making his performances as impactful and memorable as possible, Brejcha played a set at the Grand Palais in Paris, marking the venue’s exhibition ‘The Moon’, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. In the stunning glasshouse setting, as the sun began to set, Brejcha played a DJ set of just over two hours of his own music, leaving the crowd in no doubt of Brejcha’s musical scope. Alongside his own album (and various singles and EPs), Brejcha moved into 2021 with a focus on his FCKING SERIOUS label, releasing music by rising producer and DJ Moritz Hofbauer, fellow Germans and long-time touring partners Ann Clue and Deniz Bul, and Swiss duo Theydream.

As clubland gradually returns for millions worldwide, Brejcha is charting his own path back to the dancefloor. With shows scheduled for the UK, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina and more — including a massive New Year’s Eve party at Berlin’s impressive Funkhaus, alongside Sven Väth, Amelie Lens, Len Faki and other techno titans.

6.
Amelie Lens

From: Belgium
DJ style: “Techno.”
Best known for: “Techno.”
Fave tune of 2021: “Ahl Iver ‘There Is Always Light’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Milo Spykers.”

As anyone with half an eye on dance music trends will know, hard and fast techno has been having a moment for a minute. Whether it’s coming from New York warehouses, sex clubs in Copenhagen, or indeed mega-clubs like Labyrinth in Belgium, the hypnotic thunder of lean and muscular techno has clubbers all over the world in its grip, and there are few figures as synonymous with the scene as Amelie Lens.

For most people, Lens seemed to burst into the stratosphere from nowhere around 2016, but in actual fact she’d been on the circuit in Belgium since 2009, playing then as RENEE and making music for fashion industry brands like Yves Saint Laurent and Armani, before an unbilled gig at Tomorrowland caused her to revert to her given name. The change paid off almost immediately and a year later she was on the bill at Belgium’s most famous festival — only this time everyone knew who she was.

Fast forward to the present day and Lens is one of the most in-demand DJs in the world. Pre-pandemic she would play four or five times per weekend, headlining alongside peers like Charlotte de Witte and Dax J, and veterans like Adam Beyer, DJ Bone or Richie Hawtin. Her style is generally one of unrelenting techno slammers, though there are hints of trance and early rave in the mesmeric gallop of kicks she usually showers her audience with.

Her label, Lenske, certainly nods to a rave sensibility with its emergency services aesthetic and black and neon contrast. With the label, Lens has also built a formidable crew of like-minded producers and DJs from Belgium, including Farrago, Ahl Iver and Mylo Spykers, as well as AIROD from nearby Paris. Each of whom has their own slightly different take on Lenske’s modus operandi: huge tracks to boot off in huge crowds.

Lenske releases have kept up their steady pace (AIROD’s ‘Venom’ EP from the tail-end of last year was a particular highlight) and she has just completed her year-long residency on BBC Radio 1. She even starred in one of the animated Tomorrowland: Around The World streams.

With more touring in Europe on the way, including the hotly-tipped Terminal V in Edinburgh, expect to see Amelie Lens’ star continue to shine. “I’ve just finished a soundtrack for a fashion show in Paris together with Matteo from Tale Of Us, this has been a lot of fun and super new for me,” she tells us. “And I also did a collaboration EP with Slam on Soma Records and remixed the legendary Kevin Saunderson’s track ‘One Nation’ for Drumcode.”

7.
Jamie Jones

From: UK
DJ style: “House to techno.”
Best known for: “Paradise parties, Hot Creations and ‘Hungry For The Power’.”
Fave tune of 2021: “Technasia ‘Bring It Back’.”
Rising DJ / Producer of 2021: “Wheats.”

Jamie Jones has long since proved to be an unstoppable force of nature in the music industry; from his early days on the DJ circuit in London to headlining clubs and festivals the world over, co-founding the globally recognised label Hot Creations to launching the highly successful party Paradise that enjoyed a long-standing residency at DC-10 in Ibiza, he’s been unstoppable.

Although the seasons have been delayed on the White Isle, Paradise will return with a brand new home at Amnesia as soon as the clubs are declared open next season. In the mid-’00s his music defined an exciting new wave of house that was emerging at the time and Jamie was a key player in that movement, with notable releases that came on Freak n’ Chic, Crosstown Rebels and of course the ever-building catalogue on Hot Creations, the internationally renowned imprint that he launched alongside Lee Foss in 2010. Around the same time, the band Hot Natured was also born; a venture alongside Lee Foss, Luca Cazal and Ali Love releasing hits like ‘Forward Motion’ and achieving chart success with ‘Benediction’ back in 2012.

Hot Creations as a label also became a springboard for emerging artists, and is the proud home to early releases from the likes of wAFF, Patrick Topping and Richy Ahmed to name a few. The imprint has maintained its success over the years, and right now it continues to be a go-to label for club-ready sounds. This year releases have come from the likes of Ninetoes, Blackchild, Tim Taylor, East End Dubs and Tommier Joyson, plus Jamie’s very own ‘Handy Work’ released in September, with forthcoming EPs from No-e and Rich NxT. Sub-label Hottraxx has also seen a steady stream of music and is now up to its 76th release.

“The main and best thing that’s happened to me this year — and ever — is that I had my first baby daughter,” Jamie tells DJ Mag, when we ask him how 2021 has been for him. An exciting life change for the producer and DJ, and it hasn’t stopped his passion and dedication to his work. This year Paradise has returned stronger than ever, throwing events at Brooklyn Mirage in New York, with Jamie inviting the likes of DJ Deeon and Kate Simko amongst others to join him. There was also a Paradise In The Park at Pershing Square in Los Angeles, a takeover at Warehouse Houthavens in collaboration with Loveland at ADE in Amsterdam in October, and he’ll return to Space Miami this December. Jamie also has in his tour diary the highly anticipated Amnesia Closing Party in Ibiza, Tobacco Dock in London, Citizen News in Los Angeles, Time Warp USA in New York, and all-night-long set at Fabric in London.

8.
Nina Kraviz

From: Russia
DJ style: “Playing my favourite music.”
Best known for: “Being your favourite dentist.”
Fave tune of 2021: “Majide ‘Stamp Your Feet Hard’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “u.r.tracks.”

One of techno’s most iconic performers, Nina’s latest single, ‘Skyscrapers’ (her first since 2019), marked a seismic shift in direction for the Russian producer and songwriter. She has always dabbled with vocals — her monotonous monologues were, for a time, her trademark — but ‘Skyscrapers’ felt like her most direct attempt at classic songwriting, complete with a verse/chorus/verse structure and newfound confidence in her singing voice. Remixes from the likes of PTU, Ryan Elliot and Solomun acted both as proof of its crossover intention and a reminder of her cross-cultural appeal. The single was the harbinger of a new EP and later album which promise to further explore Kraviz’s admiration for pop music.

Her label трип (pronounced Trip) continues to showcase Kraviz’s particular taste for clipped, knotty techno, not least with the fantastic ‘green trax’, a collection of A-grade dubby, minimal tracks by the UK veteran Steve O’Sullivan. Roma Zuckerman’s ‘Stage Of Loyalty’ from earlier in the year — an uncanny and slightly haunting mixture of rubbery basslines and early electronics-style electro beats — is undoubtedly an instant standout, too.

More is promised from the label, and indeed its less dancefloor-focused subsidiary, galaxiid, while in the meantime Kraviz has wasted no time in getting back in the booth, her recent sets at Exit Festival in Serbia and Fabric in London particularly causing a storm: reminders of Kraviz’s skill in manipulating the push and pull needed for mammoth sets.

9.
Adam Beyer

From: Sweden, now lives in Ibiza
DJ style: “Techno and all its relative styles.”
Best known for: “My label Drumcode and spearheading the European techno scene as a DJ and producer since the mid-’90s.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Layton Giordani. He’s been on Drumcode for a few years now, but really made a lot of progress in the last 12 months coming off the back of his second album ‘New Generation’.”

Swedish DJ and producer Adam Beyer’s Drumcode empire has become inescapable, spawning its own Amsterdam-based festival in 2018 and being heard in massive venues around the world — Beyer’s DJ sets alone reaching from Berghain to EDC Las Vegas. Arguably, nobody has helped techno become a global phenomenon with as much streamlined professionalism.

It’s not been an overnight success, with Beyer starting out in the speedy, loopy days of the mid-‘90s, when the movement born in Detroit had already starting booming in Europe. Many have fallen by the wayside since then, but Beyer’s prolific work — both in the studio and behind the decks — has been matched by an adaptability that’s seen him whether the sound’s peaks and troughs while simultaneously steering its direction with a steely vision.

Drumcode’s flagship radio show has thousands of listeners a week, and his tireless work ethic has earned him a loyal fanbase. The label’s output has continued unabated during these turbulent times too; Dubfire, Alan Fitzpatrick, Luigi Madonna, Bart Skils and Jay Lumen are amongst the big-hitters who’ve contributed to pushing the Drumcode legacy further in 2021.

Beyer himself teamed up with Chicago’s DJ Rush, another techno stalwart, their collaboration ‘Restore My Soul’ sounding like both a reflection on the world’s enforced domesticity and a reconnection with the roots from which Drumcode sprouted. This was evident when Beyer assembled ‘Re:Generate’, a huge remix project of tracks by E-Dancer, aka Kevin Saunderson, one of the founders of Detroit techno. Drawing together other techno pioneers, such as Robert Hood and DJ Bone, with the current wave of youthful stars, including Amelie Lens and rRoxymore, Beyer’s curation skills highlighted his standing across techno’s various communities.

Unsurprisingly then, he also has his hand in the UK techno scene, thanks to being a director and shareholder of Junction 2, which launched in 2016. Having played host to momentous moments, such as his 2018 back-to-back with Carl Cox, the two-day festival suffered the same sort of disruption as everybody else over the last 12 months. But this August Bank Holiday welcomed it back in the form of Junction 2: Inner-City at East London’s massive Tobacco Dock, with Beyer helming the second day’s roll-call of techno DJs, including Dax J, Nina Kraviz and VTSS. Junction 2’s 2022 edition, meanwhile, happening on the Bank Holiday weekend of June 3rd-4th, shows Beyer’s touch once again, with Blawan, Anastasia Kristensen and Dense & Pika amongst those joining him.

It’s an impressive portfolio of achievement for anyone, yet Beyer also juggles it alongside being a family man — married to fellow Swedish techno DJ Ida Engberg, with whom he has three children. It’s a nurturing spirit he brings to Drumcode, an extended family encompassing artists across different continents and a huge fanbase that spans the world.

10.
Nora en Pure

From: South Africa/Switzerland
DJ style: “Melodic house.”
Best known for: “‘Come With Me’.”
Favourite tune of 2021: “Claire feat. Delhia De France ‘Anyma & Janus Rasmussen’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Paradoks.”

Over the past five or so years, Nora en Pure has played at festivals and clubs like Ultra Music Festival, Coachella, Tomorrowland, Ushuaïa Ibiza and Mysteryland USA, and held residencies at Privilege Ibiza and Marquee Dayclub Las Vegas. But under the Technicolor lights of these behemoth settings, she’s always taken the crowds on a more gentle, healing journey than some may expect to go on. It’s evident in the style of house music she makes and plays — deep, melodic grooves, with ambient melodies and flowing, elemental samples. “I always like to have a strong nature focus, using sounds of wildlife or organic instruments that create a sense of wanderlust, while keeping it crisp and tight,” she once said. “Back in South Africa, I grew up so close to the African wilderness... as kids, my brothers and I spent most of our time outdoors, playing and exploring.”

During lockdown, as well as continuing to host Purified Radio — her long-running weekly radio show championing music from her Enormous Tunes label family, among others — Nora En Pure wrote new, original music inspired by this time away. In early 2021, she released the ‘Monsoon’ EP, and this April, the ‘Oblivion/Thermal’ EP. The latter beckons the listener towards the dancefloor with its undulating basslines, euphoric tinges, emotive piano lines and violin-led crescendos. This June, she released ‘Won’t Leave Your Side’, a tender single featuring UK-based jazz vocalist Liz Cass, and her most nature-indebted track yet, ‘Aquatic’.

The release of ‘Aquatic’ marked a new project for Nora En Pure: a long-term partnership with Beneath The Waves, a non-profit organisation that helps to raise awareness for ocean conservation, with a focus on threatened species such as whales and sharks, and protected marine areas, like coral reefs. On ‘Aquatic’, samples of whalesong and rushing waves give the driving piano-and-horn melody greater depth and meaning. With the single, Nora En Pure hopes to bring attention to the organisation and its work.

As clubland returns gradually across the world, Nora En Pure has begun to re-emerge, too. This June, she performed a special live-stream event for Beatport from the shores of the stunning Lake Arnen, near Gstaad, Switzerland. And this winter, she’ll perform at two major Mexican festivals — Kygo’s Palm Tree in Cabo San Lucas and the brand new Departure on Playa Del Carmen, in December 2021 and January 2022 respectively.

11.
Black Coffee

From: South Africa
DJ style: House music
Best known for: Ibiza residency, being South Africa’s most well-known DJ

Nkosinathi Maphumulo’s star continued to rise in 2021. The artist, better known by his stage name Black Coffee, released his sixth studio album, ‘Subconsciously’, in February to glowing reviews. The 12-track record was packed with music heavyweights, including Pharrell, David Guetta and Usher, reviving the SA house legend’s signature smooth and subtle sounds, with a few more radio-friendly cuts thrown in for good measure. He took to the road following the release, playing at venues in New York, Miami, Las Vegas, Zurich and Ibiza, and even revived his world-renowned Deep In the City nights. South Africa’s top DJ also gave a Tiny Desk performance in March, becoming the second DJ to do so, and in September it was revealed that his No.1 single ‘Drive’ was the most streamed South African song in Apple Music history, proving Coffee’s staying power after more than 25 years in the game.

12.
Fisher

From: Australia
DJ style: “Tech-house.”
Best known for: “‘Losing It’.”
Fave tune of 2021: “Cher ‘Believe’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Cloonee and Sosa.”

In a few short years, Australian DJ/producer FISHER has cemented himself as a renowned artist. Since his massive ‘Losing It’ elevated him from unknown to headliner, FISHER’s continued upward trajectory has made him one of the world’s most sought-after DJs. Though he’s spent the year “playing shows, hanging out with family and friends and getting music ready to release”, the surfer-turned-selector allowed the last 18 months to be a break after a whirlwind few years.

His label Catch & Release has championed the sounds of his peers and new artists, while his own tunes have continued to gather momentum: ‘Just Feels Tight’ carries the torch of ‘Freaks’ and ‘Wanna Go Dancin’, instantly cementing itself as a banger to be played in clubs across the world. With a slew of singles under his belt, a successful label and an Ibiza residency, it feels like the Grammy-nominated artist is still only just getting started.

13.
Green Velvet

From: Chicago
DJ style: Jackin' house
Best known for: 'La La Land', 'Flash'

Chicago's Curtis Jones is truly a singular artist. With a peerless ability to intuitively know what a dancefloor needs, Jones — better known as Green Velvet — draws on decades of experience to pull together sets which flow seamlessly between genres. His place in the Top 100 DJs list is no coincidence: he founded two beloved US house labels, Cajual and Relief, and he’s been top of his game since the early 1990s. His discography also boasts a producer who skips through genres effortlessly, with tunes like ‘Flash’ and ‘Brighter Days’ (under his Cajmere alias) sitting neatly alongside 2021’s ‘Critical’.

With an array of singles under his belt, nearly two dozen EPs, several compilation albums and five studio albums, Green Velvet is a true stalwart figure in both the house and techno scenes.

14.
Deborah de Luca

From: Naples, Italy
DJ style: Techno
Best known for: “I think many may know me from my Cercle show in 2017, however, I’ve been doing this job since 2008!”
Fave tune of 2021: “Jam & Spoon ‘Right In The Night (Balthazar & JackRock 5AM Rave Remix)’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “He’s not really a rising star but I think Michael Bibi has had a great year, despite the pandemic.”

Italian superstar DJ Deborah De Luca finds herself riding high in the Alt Top 100 DJs poll list again, after a year in which she continued to be one of the busiest DJs in the business. 2021 has seen her jetting between Romania’s Saga festival, Switzerland’s Caprices Festival, Slovenia’s FUKSi, Chicago’s Arc Music Festival, Zadar Sunset Festival, to name but a few — not to mention appearances at Fabrik Madrid, Egg LDN and the massive Circus birthday party in Liverpool.

De Luca’s first release was back in 2014 on her own Solamente label, which has since gone on to release no-nonsense, peak-time techno from artists including Alex Mine, Kulage, Jason Cuff, Fatima Hajji and more. This year, Solamente was home to De Luca’s dancefloor-targeted ‘Synthesis’ EP and the four-track ‘Maybe I’m Wrong’ EP. She also showcased her mastering of old-school references in her ‘Be My’ and ‘Engine’ singles in collaboration with Alessandro Zingrillo, both of which carried a heavy flavour of ‘90s rave among the techno futurism. 2021 also saw the release of Carl Cox’s superb remix of her ‘Fuori’ vocal track, taken from last year’s ‘She Sleeps’ album.

15.
Maya Jane Coles

From: London, UK
DJ style: “House and techno mixed with any other genres I manage to sneak in.”
Best known for: Crossing genres and producing under multiple aliases.
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Anna Wall.”

Multidisciplinary artist Maya Jane Coles continues to reach impressive heights, with an ever-expanding discography and a tour diary that has seen her play across the globe. With a career that spans over a decade, London-based Coles built her name from the ground up, causing waves through the underground and beyond with her breakthrough hits on Dogmatik and Real Tone, and reaching global success with four studio albums — two under her own name and two under her Nocturnal Sunshine alias. Voted Best Producer at DJ Mag’s Best of British awards in 2011 and 2015, she’s also remixed the likes of Little Dragon, Depeche Mode and The xx to name a few.

This year she’s been finishing her latest album, ‘Night Creature’, and the artwork for the cover and singles. She’s also shot videos for two of the singles, ‘Run To You’ and ‘True Love To The Grave’ featuring Claudia Kane, with director Charlie Lightening. “I’ve also been working on a bunch of new tracks under my CAYAM alias which is slightly more techno/bassy and faster-paced,” says Maya. “I produced a track for Sting on his new album too, which is super exciting. Something a little different.”

16.
Solomun

From: Bosnia/Germany
DJ style: Deep, emotive house
Best known for: Diynamic label and Solomun +1 parties in Ibiza

For more than 15 years, Mladen Solomun has been pumping out high-spec, svelte tech-house, with a particular knack for remixing tracks and choosing the best hooks, becoming one of Ibiza’s most beloved residents in the process. His Solomun +1 party at Pacha was one of the most consistent club nights on the White Isle for several years pre-pandemic, while his regular touring takes him to the hottest spots from LA to Shanghai. After a relatively quiet spell this year, we’ve seen him back to his productive best with remixes for Nina Kraviz, Bob Moses and RÜFÜS DU SOL, as well as a new LP for the first time in 12 years. Never one to shy away from what he perceives to be a spiritual element to dance music, the album, ‘Nobody Is Not Loved’, was a timely cry for connection amid the backdrop of the pandemic, while guest appearances from the likes of Jamie Foxx took even the biggest Solomun fans by surprise.

17.
Honey Dijon

From: Chicago
DJ style: House/techno/disco
Best known for: Being Honey fucking Dijon

Chicago-born Honey Dijon has gone from strength to strength, particularly over the last few years, with an ever-expanding discography on Classic Music Company and the release of her successful album ‘Best Of Both Worlds’ on the label back in 2017. Also a regular face on the fashion circuit, in 2019 she launched a collaboration with Japanese clothing brand Comme des Garçons named ‘Honey Fucking Dijon’. This year she released a single, ‘Downtown’, which features the vocals of Nikki-O and gospel singer Annette Brown, and three remixes by New York house legend Louie Vega. Since the reopenings, Honey has been back on the festival circuit, making an appearance at EXIT in Serbia, SWF in Amsterdam, Lost Village and Parklife in the UK, plus regular spots in New York. Club gigs in the pipeline include Berghain in Berlin, DGTL in Amsterdam, Grand Park in Los Angeles, and Homobloc Festival in Manchester, with lots more to come.

18.
MK

From: USA
DJ style: House
Best known for: ‘Burning’, ‘Always’, ‘Love Changes’, remixing ‘Push The Feeling On’ by Nightcrawlers.

Marc Kinchen, aka MK, has had a good year. It’s been a cool three decades since the Detroit DJ broke through with ‘Burning’, a groove-laden, smokey house cut, and in that time he’s managed to remain at the top of his game, producing dancefloor fillers and remixing top-tier artists the world over. In this year alone, he refashioned Celeste’s ‘Stop This Flame’ and Martin Ikin’s ‘How I Feel’, released melodic banger ‘Lies’ and this summer’s undisputed hit, ‘Chemical’. The AREA10 label head also returned to Creamfields to host its famed stage and made an appearance at a slew of other festivals including Leeds, Reading, Belsonic, CRSSD and BoB. Other career highlights include a remix of Nightcrawlers’ ‘Push The Feeling On’, a chart-topping remix of Storm Queen’s ‘Look Right Through’, and the monster single ‘17’. With some five million monthly Spotify listeners, fans across the generations, and collaborations spanning house, R&B and pop, it’s no wonder MK has made it further up the Alt Top 100 DJs list this year.

19.
Nicole Moudaber

From: Born in Nigeria, moved to Beirut in her teens
DJ style: “House and techno.”
Best known for: “Zero fucks given.”
Fave tune of 2021: “Kaz James & Nick Morgan ‘I’m Not In Love’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Sly Faux.”

Nicole Moudaber sits atop an impressive discography of techno drops, while commanding a veritably moody empire in the form of her MOOD promotions, MOOD record label (whose roster includes Carl Cox), and her widely syndicated radio show, In The MOOD. In addition to her fierce musical endeavours, Moudaber’s candid relationship with her fanbase and consistent philanthropy really set her aside. It’s worth going in search of the various charities and projects with which she’s been involved if you want to get inspired yourself, and borrow some of that energy Moudaber seems to have spare.

It was also announced this year that Moudaber appears performing in full-length movie Alia’s Birth, an LGBTQ+ indie flick by Egyptian-American director Sam Abbas, already shortlisted for Cannes in 2020 before the pandemic postponed the festival. No surprise that the wide-ranging career of Moudaber is growing wider.

20.
ANNA

From: Brazil
DJ style: Techno
Best known for: “‘Forever Ravers’.”
Fave tune of 2021: “Special Request ‘Family Doggo’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Giorgia Angiuli. I have been appreciating her music more and more, and the direction her sound and work are taking.”

Brazil's ANNA, aka Ana Miranda, has been DJing to huge crowds since the age of 14. So when she was unable to continue, she focused the same energy and commitment into “studio work, creating music and sounds!”

Known for her huge techno sound, which in the past has taken her to festivals such as Awakenings and Junction 2, the contemplative period of lockdown led to her writing an ambient album instead, out next year. She started “a new project that will run parallel with my DJ work” and ticked off some giant bucket list achievements, remixing Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore, as well as Orbital’s classic ‘Belfast’.

Having hit her stride, she used this momentum to create an Anaweh Studio Masterclass online course, which lifted the lid on various production tips, tricks and techniques she’s learned along the way. And drawing from the contents of her hard drive, she’s also put together her own sample pack, available soon from Splice.

21.
Solardo

From: Manchester, England
DJ style: “Energetic, upfront and banging.”
Best known for: “Partying.”
Fave tune of 2021: “Solardo x Maur ‘Power’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Maur.”

When we speak to Mark Richards, one half of Solardo alongside DJ and production partner James Eliot, he’s still nursing the after-effects of the pair’s Higher festival, which took place in Dubrovnik at the end of September. Joined by the likes of wAFF, Danny Howard and Heidi, it marked the festival’s proper debut. There’s little time for recovery, however, with an American tour starting the next day.

Such is the the pace of life in the Solardo camp. Having just dropped an EP with none other than Calvin Harris, under his Love Regenerator guise, further collabs are forthcoming with Vintage Culture and the House Gospel Choir, while Mark promises another “couple of really big tunes that are being finalised”.

Despite Mark decamping to Mexico at the start of the year for a few months with his family, which includes two young kids, Solardo also used lockdown to start two new labels, adding to Sola, the highest tech-house seller on Beatport. Sola Nauts offers deeper sounds, while Sola Eclipse promises to venture even more underground.

22.
Marco Carola

From: Naples, Italy
DJ style: Techno
Best known for: His Music On parties in Ibiza.

Marco Carola is one of Italy’s most influential DJs, famed for lengthy DJ sets of slamming techno and funky tech-house, and for championing the Italian techno scene. His career began back in 1995 with his first release on Milan’s Subway Records, and he’s since put his music out on Minus, Plus8 and Primate Recordings, recorded a fabric mix, released a clutch of artist albums, and put out music under a plethora of aliases too — including C.O.M.A., Comodo, Locomotive, M.C. Production, Question and more. His Amnesia residencies have become legendary over the years, with the party announcing its move to Pacha Ibiza before the pandemic shut down the island's clubs. 

Like many others, Carola’s DJing for much of this year was via livestreamed events, but as restrictions have eased, he’s brought his particular brand of sleek techno and ruthlessly effective tech-house to events like the Antidote festival in Paris, Elrow Island in Croatia, Albania’s Epizode and Romania’s Sunwaves.

23.
Tale of Us

From: Italy
DJ style: Melodic techno
Best known for: Afterlife

Berlin-based Tale Of Us, the Italian duo of Carmine Conte and Matteo Milleri, have long made the sound of dramatic, emotive techno their own. And while their home city’s wider techno scene has been adopting a harder/faster attitude, the pair have stuck to their guns to please wafters the world over.

The start of the year found them curating and appearing on fundraising comp ‘Unity Pt.2’. A 25-track release on their Afterlife label, it raised money for the coronavirus medical relief fund, helping areas hit most heavily, such as Lombardy in their native Italy. Both also announced solo projects, Carmine debuting his hardware and modular-heavy solo project MRAK live at MUTEK, Matteo announcing his new Anyma moniker with the four-track ‘Sentient’ EP and a debut album, ‘Genesys’, due later in the year.

If this could signal cracks appearing, their partnership still seems as rock-solid and successful as ever. Moving from livestreams for the likes of Tomorrowland back into IRL gigs, their recent Afterlife Théâtre Antique D’orange picked up where they left off with a sold-out show in an old Roman Amphitheatre.

24.
The Martinez Brothers

From: New York City, USA
DJ style: House
Best known for: “24 hours++ sets at Space, Miami.”
Fave tune of 2021: “The Martinez Brothers feat. Fuego ‘Pendiente Al Paso’.”

Few duos embody the spirit of New York’s house scene quite like The Martinez Brothers. Their father deserves some credit — he introduced Chris and Steve to music at a young age when he purchased their first set of DJ equipment. The Bronx-bred siblings scored their first Ibiza residency back in 2011 at DC-10, which helped them amass a global fanbase. Even as most clubs on the island remained closed due to the pandemic, The Martinez Brothers played a series of seated, open-air events on Sundays this autumn at Ushuaïa Ibiza’s Palmarama, for which the top club was transformed into a tropical (and comparably Covid-safe) oasis.

Meanwhile, they kept the party alive stateside by dishing out releases on their Cuttin Headz’ record label, kicking off Teksupport’s summer series in Brooklyn and appearing on the line-up for Chicago’s first-ever ARC Festival. Their new piano-laced cut ‘P.A.P.’ features singer/songwriter Fuego, and offers that hallmark bit of Latin flair that sets them apart. “We have some bombs ready to drop over the next few months,” they share excitedly.

25.
Richie Hawtin

From: Canada, originally
DJ style: Techno
Best known for: “Plastikman.”
Fave tune of 2021: “F.U.S.E. ‘F.U. (Hector Oaks Remix)’.”
Rising star DJ/ producer of 2021: “Decoder, aka Gautham Garg, is a 17-year-old producer from Dallas, Texas.”

Decades into a career of moulding Detroit techno’s DNA into new deep-dive and heavy abstractions, Canadian-British legend Richie Hawtin has found fresh creative solace in a recent period of quiet. Having co-founded the influential Plus 8 Records, and released countless classics as Plastikman or F.U.S.E., he’s been consistently busy for years, but he's far from musically spent. “The past 18 months have re-balanced the producer brain inside my head,” says Hawtin. “Being in the studio each day has been a dream come true.”

It’s sometimes an unintended consequence, that going on tour can sap musical creativity as much as inspire it, and for Hawtin, spending more time in the studio has helped to “relight” that producer “fire”. It’s firmly paved the way for his next Plastikman material, challenging Hawtin to rethink and plot out what sounds might begin to emerge on the returning touring circuit. “I’m happy and excited to feel in charge of both of my talents, production and performing, fully,” he tells DJ Mag.

26. Reinier Zonneveld

27. Andy C

28. Dubfire

29. Nastia

30. The Blessed Madonna

31. Purple Disco Machine

32. CamelPhat

33. Bicep

34. Patrick Topping

35. Anfisa Letyago

36. Enrico Sangiuliano

37. Maceo Plex

38. Seth Troxler

39. Meduza

40. Michael Bibi

41. Ellen Allien

42. ARTBAT

43. Kölsch

44. Pan-Pot

45. Sven Väth

46. Rebekah

47. Eats Everything

48. Hot Since 82

49. Kerri Chandler

50. Sub Focus

51. Sasha

52. Sonny Fodera

53. Disclosure

54. Loco Dice

55. Fatboy Slim

56. Jeff Mills

57. John Digweed

58. Ricardo Villalobos

59. Chris Liebing

60. Gorgon City

61. Joris Voorn

62. Skream

63. Dax J

64. Jay Lumen

65. FJAAK

66. Joseph Capriati

67. Roger Sanchez

68. Monika Kruse

69. Claude VonStroke

70. Paul Woolford

71. Andrea Oliva

72. Dennis Ferrer

73. Ben Klock

74. Sam Divine

75. Radio Slave

76. David Penn

77. Alan Fitzpatrick

78. Sam Paganini

79. SPFDJ

80. Dixon

81. Fatima Hajji

82. Midland

83. VTSS

84. Jayda G

85. Yotto

86. Cristoph

87. Sama’ Abdulhadi

88. Helena Hauff

89. Denis Sulta

90. PAWSA

91. John Summit

92. Robert Hood

93. SHERELLE

94. Octo Octa

95. Paula Temple

96. Steffi

97. Kevin Saunderson

98. Chelina Manuhutu

99. DJ Koze

100. Stacey Pullen