From: Newport Beach, California, USA
DJ style: “The Touch of Death.”
Best known for: “Bringing forth the Neon Future. The third chapter, to be exact.”
Fave tune of 2018: “BTS ‘Fake Love’.”
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2018: “Riot Ten.”
Hectic is an inadequate description for Steve Aoki’s schedule in 2018 — a year that saw him play everywhere from Romania to Iceland, Japan to Dubai, and fit in lots of studio time along the way. The EDM boss started the year with a new EP, ‘5OKI’, featuring hook-ups with stadium dance names Hardwell, Quintino, LOOPERS, Vini Vici and Laidback Luke. He also continued his commitment to cross-pollinating trap with dance, collaborating with rapper Lil Yachty again on ‘Pretender’ (after their previous track together, ‘Night Call’). Back in August, Aoki announced that his forthcoming album, ‘Neon Future III’, will feature another popular MC, Nicki Minaj, as well as poppunks Blink-182.
In order to keep up with the many demands of his diary, Aoki has a set of philosophies that enable him to dodge industry pitfalls, and he has some words of advice for fellow DJs.
“In general, always work on bettering yourself,” he says. “Be kind to people as well. The more good vibes you put out, the more good vibes you receive.”
Words: BEN MURPHY
From: Morocco/The Netherlands
DJ style: “Energetic.”
Best known for: “High-energy and festival bangers and R3HAB Remixes.”
Fave tune of 2018: “R3HAB x Mike Williams ‘Lullaby’.”
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2018: “Waysons.”
It's been another exceptional year for Dutchman Fadil El Ghoul as he continues to cast his wavy spells while shinning his way up the EDM tree. Building on the dizzy heights of 2017, during which he released his debut album ‘Trouble’, Fadil released yet another LP ‘The Wave’. Rippling with beaty airwave-friendly chills and feels, his latest long’un plays the consummate foil to his much more energetic DJ style.
Renowned for playing across the big room board, Fadil has spent yet another year jolting crowds across the globe with his emotional selector shockwaves. There’s one particular corner of the world he’s found particularly exciting. “I am really focused on touring in Asia,” he tells us. “I think China is a lot of fun to play. The fans and energy there are incredible.”
Already working on album number three, we suspect 2019 will be exceptional for the man like R3HAB too...
Words: ANGUS PATERSON
DJ style: “POP.”
Best known for: “‘Favela’, ‘BYOB’, ‘Hear Me Now’, ‘Fuego’, ‘Never Let Me Go’, ‘Me & You’, ‘Ocean’.”
Fave tune of 2018: “Fisher ‘Losing It’.”
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2018: “Vini Vici.”
Whether he’s opening his heart and getting all emotional on massive mid-tempo pop-sprinkled chartlets like ‘I Miss U’, laying down thick Brazilian bass mutants with his mates Vini Vici and Armin van Buuren, or travelling the world playing to some of the largest crowds of his career so far, one thing is certain: Alok has been having a blast this year.
“This year I have travelled and worked a lot at a very insane and crazy pace,” explains the young DJ, who’s now enjoying his fourth consecutive year in the Top 100 — jumping up to an impressive No.13. “I toured in Asia, North America, Europe and South America in surreal and amazingly remarkable festivals and events.”
But don’t worry if you’re concerned he’s over-working himself; just like all the wisest DJs this year, Alok’s paying attention to his wellness and those close to his heart. Echoing his dewy-eyed lyrics and feels on pivotal 2018 tracks of his such as ‘Bella Ciao’ or the massive ‘Ocean’, Alok is every bit the sensitive, caring soul his music suggests. “I always make sure I come home and give my family and fiancé some time, attention and love,” he explains. “It is crucial.”
Words: DAVE JENKINS
From: The Netherlands
DJ style: “Big room house, trance.”
Best known for: “Energetic sets, music, and our NWYR project.”
Fave tune of 2018: “Armin van Buuren ‘Blah Blah Blah’.”
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2018: “Maurice West.”
W&W have been on a real musical journey. They started out making trance, then veered more towards electro and big room. But in the last year or so they’ve somewhat gone back to their trance roots with a new project, as well as completely rebranding their entire label and radio show.
“We felt like our time with Mainstage was coming to an end and was too focused on only being a label,” say the pair, aka Willem van Hanegem and Wardt van der Harst.“Rave culture is an entire movement, which encapsulates all genres of dance music. We want to make everyone who raves feel welcome and a part of the community.”
Also this year the pair started their first full production world tour, Year Of The Dragon (because they’re born in 1988, Chinese year of the dragon). It sees them play two sets — one as W&W and another as NWYR, which is where they go back to their trancey roots. “Last year we experimented with a more Euro-dance kind of sound,” they say. “But we always want to keep pushing ourselves to do new things.”
Words: KRISTAN J CARYL
Nothing shocked the dance music world more this year than the tragic passing of Avicii. The Swedish DJ/producer (real name: Tim Bergling) died in April in Muscat, Oman, after a long and widely-publicised battle with addiction and mental health issues. Shortly after his death, his parents released a heartbreaking statement implying the DJ had taken his own life. The tragic event brought into sharp focus the insane pressures put on young people in the music industry, particularly artists suddenly thrust into the spotlight with little support or stability. Avicii, who shot to fame as the posterboy of the late-noughties EDM boom, was reportedly playing up to 300 shows a year at his touring peak, developing acute pancreatitis as a result of his hectic life on the road. His exhaustion and anxiety were well documented in his fly-on-the-wall Netflix documentary, Avicii: True Stories, which was removed from the streaming service shortly after his death. Despite the tragic nature of his passing, the dance music community has rallied together to celebrate Avicii’s life and creativity — Bergling is reported to have been working on 10 new tracks with disco legend Nile Rodgers at the time of his death.
No word yet on if the tracks will see the light of day, though the diverse and impressive catalogue left behind by the Swede will be more than enough to cement his enduring legacy. Many fans voted for him in this year’s Top 100 DJs poll, and lots of Top 100 DJs have namechecked him to underline the point that he is sorely missed by everyone.
Words: CHARLOTTE LUCY CIJFFERS
From: Ontario, Canada
DJ style: Big room house
Best known for: ‘Tsunami’
Now a regular fixture in the Top 100, DVBBS have had a busy year in 2018. They’ve put out three singles, including ‘I Love It’ with Cheat Codes and ‘Listen Closely’ featuring Safe. They’re both accessible tracks with pop choruses and big room house beats and have clocked up millions of plays between them all over the internet.
The multi-platinum pair also served up ‘IDWK’ with Blackbear, which recently got official gold certification in their native Canada. They first teased it at Coachella earlier in the year and it has since shot up the charts and picked up 10 million plays. “Blackbear has always been an artist we’ve wanted to work with and to walk away with a record like ‘IDWK’ is something we are so proud of,” DVBBS said at the time of release. “We both stepped outside of our comfort zone on this record... and I think that’s why it came out so special.”
They’ve also played shows in Vegas Red Rocks, The Olympiastadion in Berlin, and judging by their social media accounts, enjoy driving around in their Ferrari and tweeting mantras like ‘Do right things even when no one is watching’.
Words: KRISTAN CARYL
DJ style: “Melodic house/deep house/electro-house.”
Best known for: “Good vibes.” Fave tune of 2018: “Chris Lake ‘Turn Off The Lights’.”
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2018: “San Holo.”
Rocketing into the Top 100 last year at No.26, Belgium’s Felix De Laet has enjoyed an equally rocketing career trajectory since he broke into the big-time with his breakthrough 2014 smash, ‘Are You With Me’. Establishing a partnership with Armin van Buuren’s iconic Armada camp, where he dropped his ‘Less Is More’ album a few years later, Felix says the biggest development this year was his live debut at his country’s Tomorrowland festival.
“This year has been really big for me,” he tells DJ Mag. “I’ve been working hard on my very first live show, which involved no DJ gear on the stage at all! The debut at Tomorrowland was 100% the highlight of my summer. Other than that, I’m finishing my second album, which will be a little bit more electronic than the first one, though it’s still rocking those melodies I usually work on.”
Additionally, Felix points to the launch of his Found Frequencies label as a highlight, and supporting upcoming acts like Two Pauz, Mordkey & Mastrovita and Petit Navire. “I can’t wait to show everybody what’s coming up next!”
Words: ANGUS PATERSON
From: Berkeley, CA
DJ style: “Ethnic EDM.”
Best known for: “‘Power’, ‘Wildcard’, ‘Secrets’, ‘Carry Me Home’.”
Fave tune of 2018: “‘Killshot’ by Eminem.”
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2018: “Brooks.”
KSHMR has experienced the highest highs and lowest lows this year. “The best thing about 2018 was getting to do a full tour of India alongside my grandfather,” he tells DJ Mag. “And the hardest was when he passed away soon after.”
Born Niles Hollowell-Dhar, the American takes his stage-name from the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, also referred to as “paradise on earth”, and in the last year has launched this own new label, Dharma. It’s focused on putting out music from upcoming producers, and he’s also worked on a new live show with a fully animated story, which is what he’s wanted to do for a long time. “It’s a magical story, intertwined with my own songs,” he says.
This year he’s also DJ’d alongside a small orchestra, and he’s done so in many countries around the world. He’s also produced big new electro-house tunes likes ‘Carry Me Home’, with more to come before the year ends.
“I’ve really experimented in the studio this year and had an open mind,” he says. “Instead of limiting myself to tracks I think will work on the dancefloor.”
Words: KRISTAN J CARYL
DJ style: “Big room-infused deep house.”
Best known for: “Remixing remarkable vocal-driven classic songs and becoming a pop star in his home country, Brazil.”
Fave tune of 2018: “Rüfüs du Sol ‘No Place’.”
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2018: “CamelPhat.”
Vintage Culture makes yet another leap up the poll this year, following a jump of 23 places in 2017. This time he’s up another 12 and has finally broken into the coveted top 20. Well, what do you expect after the year he’s had? “I was able to bring my music to amazing places such as Rock In Rio Lisboa (Portugal), Ushuaia (Ibiza), Mysteryland Festival (Amsterdam), EDC (Orlando), Lollapalooza (São Paulo),” the Brazilian tells DJ Mag. Back in his homeland, VC’s also supported Martin Garrix for four dates of his tour. And his own Só Track Boa label parties haven’t been doing too bad either, hosting events in World Cup arenas around the nation — some reaching up to 20,000 attendees!
VC adds that he’s also enjoyed working on “lots of new music and collabs, meeting Adam K — a new friend and great studio partner from Canada — and shooting nice and inspiring video clips.” Sounds like a pretty great year to us, and now his Top 100 DJs placement can be the icing on the cake!
Words: BEN HINDLE
From: Stockholm, Sweden
DJ style: “Electronic.”
Best known for: “The music and the shows EPIC & HOLO.”
Fave tune of 2018: “Cristoph ‘Voice Of Silence’.”
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2018: “Cristoph.”
It's been a typically big year for Swedish DJ/producer Eric Prydz. He just wrapped up his second installment of his ultra-popular residency at Hï Ibiza, which ran throughout the summer with support from local UK lads like Solardo, Cristoph and CamelPhat, alongside a much-anticipated cameo from Deadmau5. No stranger to a marathon set, Prydz says one of his favourite things about the residency is the chance to play longer, with the Pryda man spinning three hours or more on most nights.
“I’m playing three or three-and-a-half hours each time,” he told DJ Mag Ibiza. “I just really want people to feel like they’re stepping into a different world — the world of Eric Prydz!”
But it’s not just the music selection that’s bringing in fans in their droves — it’s the impressive lightshow too. The Swede is well-known for his penchant for lasers and big budget holograms, with his EPIC shows helping catapult him from headline DJ to household name over the last decade. 2018 has seen him launch a whole new performance project titled HOLO, that made stops in both Glasgow and Belfast before a sold-out slot at UK festival Creamfields in late August. Next up, he’s set to close out the year with several b2bs with long-time pal Adam Beyer, with Prydz playing under his well-loved techno alias, Cirez D. They’ve got shows locked in LA and New York for late November, so get yourself Stateside to nab your final Prydz fix before the year is out.
Words: CHARLOTTE LUCY CIJFFERS