From: Los Angeles, USA
DJ style: Eclectic
Wesley Pentz Jnr is a busy man. Making his name as Diplo, today he’s best known as a serial collaborator. In 2018 alone, he announced two new groups — LSD, a pop project with Sia and Labrinth, and Silk City with Mark Ronson, dedicated to slick commercial house. These stack next to his ongoing, bass-heavy link-up with Skrillex as Jack Ü, and his main concern, Major Lazer.
Though Diplo originally made his name as a DJ and beat-maker while living in Philadelphia, merging niche dance music genres from around the world into explosive hybrids — as on his work with M.I.A., debut album ‘Florida’, his Hollertronix mixtapes or still-excellent Fabric mix — he’s now far more influential as a pop producer, working with megastars such as Beyoncé and Drake. In fact, as unlikely as his beginnings in the dance underground would have it, he’s probably more of a household name than any other DJ in this list. Worth an estimated £20m, and with a residency at XS in Las Vegas, he’s more likely to be propping up the top 10 chart with Justin Bieber collabs or megahits such as ‘Lean On’ these days than he is occupying the playlists of his original hipster fan base.
Words: BEN MURPHY
DJ style: “Progressive house.”
Best known for: “‘Toulouse’, ‘I Could Be The One’.”
Fave tune of 2018: “‘Be Somebody’, my collaboration with Steve Aoki & Kiiara.”
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2018: “I love how incredibly talented Ookay is. We hung out during rehearsals in LA and he plays so many instruments live. He’s incredible.”
He might still be baby-faced, but Nicky Romero has now been touring the globe for more than a decade. This year the Dutchman has been trying to push himself further than ever, while at the same time staying true to the fundamentals of what got him where he is today.
“I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with many talented artists across genres this year and I plan to continue doing so in 2019,” says the man who worked with ROZES on ‘Where Would We Be’, Spyder on ‘PRTCL’ and also remixed Steve Aoki’s ‘Lie To Me’ in 2018.
“I’ve found a lot of joy returning to progressive house,” he continues. “Going into the studio and pulling up old projects or sounds I haven’t explored recently has been really exciting and reminds me why I love producing and performing.” Romero has previously admitted to having suffered burnout owing to his jam-packed touring schedule and recognises that losing Avicii was a tough moment for him this year. “He was a dear friend, collaborator and an inspiration. I don’t think we’ll see anyone like him again.”
Words: KRISTAN CARYL
From: Born in Russia, raised in Germany, based in the US
DJ style: Dance-pop
A mainstay in the Top 100 since 2012, the Russian-born, German-raised, US-based artist Anton Zaslavski — best known as Zedd — continues to dominate big billings. He’s been commanding a fair old chunk of airwaves too, as this year has been characterised by some of his most significant and highest charting hits since his commercial breakthrough ‘Stay The Night’ in 2014.
Kicking 2018 off the way he intended, his track ‘The Middle’ with super-producer Grey and country singer Maren Morris became a global hit, scoring a cool No. 7 in the UK Top 40 and a record-breaking 28 weeks on Billboard’s Hot Dance Electronic Songs. Zedd then followed this up with another sparkly, poppy airwave charmer this summer in the form of ‘Happy Now’ with singer Elley Duhe. Another heavily emotive singalong piece that continues to compound Zedd’s skills as a versatile musician and songwriter, it’s been on radio rotation ever since its August release.
Speaking of things in rotation; Zedd’s DJ performances still remain a big drawer as the 29-year-old is resident at Omnia, one of Las Vegas’ most illustrious venues, and continues to play select shows around the world. He also headlined a number of key summer festivals such as Germany’s Airbeat and Poland’s Music Power Explosion, and even hosted his own al fresco sesh — Zedd In The Park was the first electronic music event in LA’s State Historic Park in five years. Naturally for a man of his command, it sold out quicker than you can recite your A to Zedd.
Words: DAVE JENKINS
DJ style: EDM
Alessandro Lindlad — better known to his 3 million-strong fanbase as Alesso — is no stranger to the Top 100 DJs poll, having made his first appearance back in 2011. It looks as though the Swedish superstar hasn’t slowed the pace since then, with a back-catalogue of hit singles that repeatedly top the charts.
His first chart-topper was the major collaboration ‘Under Control’ with Calvin Harris, and last year’s ‘Let Me Go’ with Hailee Steinfeld and Watt dented the lower reaches of the charts. Right now his summer single ‘Remedy’, featuring the vocals of British singer Conor Maynard, is still doing the rounds. This year he’s been once again gigging across the USA and Canada relentlessly, including a string of shows at the Hollywood Palladium, Ushuaa and Pacha in Ibiza, not to mention pit-stops at Daer Nightclub in Atlantic City, Echostage in Washington and Marquee in New York. The hitmaker’s story continues...
Words: ANNA WALL
From: Detmold, Germany
DJ style: “House.”
Best known for: “‘Drop That Low’.”
Fave tune of 2018: “Fisher ‘Losing It’.”
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2018: “Fisher.”
In a country best known, in dance circles at least, for tough techno and deeper, hypnotic fours, Tujamo is a break from the norm. Packing fresh, upbeat, house-leaning big room stuff into his productions, this year’s monster, ‘With U’, is a case in point. Finding favour with Romania’s Untold Festival, which used the track as its anthem, only accentuates how powerful the tune was. The same can be said for his recent Spinnin’ release, ‘Jook It’. A collaboration with Salvatore Ganacci that marries stomping kicks with the lyrical flair of reggae vocalist Richie Loop, it clearly shows Tujamo’s willingness to play with genre and explore new avenues to create dancefloor weaponry.
Bookings over the last year match for scope. Sets have taken him everywhere from his native Germany to Tomorrowland in Belgium, and on to China, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. Reflecting the strength of his sound in the emerging Asian dance scene, it marks him out as a name that’s helping club culture continue its global march forward. “One of the best things is to see how the crowd reacts to my new music,” he tells DJ Mag. “That’s always really exciting!”
Words: MARTIN GUTTRIDGE-HEWITT
From: The Netherlands
DJ style: “Everything.”
It's been another global whirlwind for dynamic Dutch duo Jim Taihuttu and Nils Ronhuis (third member MC Bizzey left in 2016), as the success of 2017 catapulted their Yellow Claw brand ferociously into 2018. Not wasting a second of the momentum from the success of their second album, they dived deep into another endless international tour cycle and yet another album. Dispatched less than a year after ‘Los Amsterdam’, their new album ‘New Blood’ propelled them to even higher levels as it featured a rollcall of flavours, collaborators, MCs and vocalists. From San Holo to DJ Snake, A$AP Ferg to Kalibwoy, ‘New Blood’ documents their broadest sound and abilities so far.
“We have travelled increasingly more and met so many new interesting people,” they said when the album came out. “This album will show a level of differentiation and variation more than ever, a true globalization.”
Jim and Nizzle’s Barong Family label has also been a consistent source of dancefloor firepower this year. Releases have ranged from the grizzly sizzles of drum & bass don Nymfo to the glitchy 23rd century garage of Slowbody by way of Wiwek’s debut artist album ‘Jungle Terror Saga’. A relentless reflection of their wide-armed bass-heavy, genre-melting DJ sets, Barong Family’s wide range of releases captures the essence of why these two have remained a Top 100 constancy since 2015 and have headlined pretty much every European, Asian and US festival imaginable. The global whirlwind continues.
Words: DAVE JENKINS
From: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
DJ style: “It’s a mix of many things, so I would say Cat House.”
Best known for: “Having many cats.”
Fave tune of 2018: “Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa ‘One Kiss’.”
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2018: “Fisher.”
Brazilian duo Cat Dealers come prowling up the poll since first charting last year at number 74. Formed of Luiz Guilherme and Pedro Henrique, the pair’s breakthrough came in 2016 with their remix of ‘Your Body’ by Tom Novy, switching up the cheesy hit with a pitched-down vocal and stomping festival-ready pulse. Big bass wubbs are a sound that feature in many of the fraternal felines’ tracks, with their new 2018 rendition of Guru Josh’s ‘Infinity’ (produced with Beowülf) combining big room and bass house sonics too.
Don’t go thinking Cat Dealers are all about fur-ocious festival bangers though; after telling us last year they were “doing more pop stuff”, Luiz and Pedro have turned out some much more melodic efforts on Sony Music. Teaming up with singer Lauren Mayhew for the sultry, deep house-leaning ‘Hush’, they followed up with ‘Keep On Lovin’’, a bouncy, party-friendly number feature the vocals of Le Dib. All these tracks and more have earned the lads millions of Spotify and YouTube plays, also using the latter platform to keep their fans up-to-date with video blogs. And, as with near enough every DJ in this chart, Cat Dealers have been performing throughout the year. Their seemingly constant tour has, this year, seen them rock huge stages at Lollapalooza Brazil and Ultra Mexico. “This was our most busy year since we started, but I guess the main thing we have been up to is world touring,” they tell DJ Mag. “That’s something new for us and we are loving it!”
Words: BEN HINDLE
DJ style: “Emotional and energetic dance music.”
Best known for: “‘9PM (Till I Come)’.”
Fave tune of 2018: “Post Malone ‘Rockstar’.”
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2018: “Vintage & Morelli.”
German superstar ATB’s marriage to wife Laura this summer, who he honeymooned with in Greece, marked yet another chapter in his ongoing success. Almost twenty years since his global smash ‘9PM (Till I Come)’ (insert joke about wedding night here), it’s Laura who he credits with helping him avoid the industry pitfalls that have claimed so many now-forgotten names who rose up alongside him during trance’s heyday.
Andre Tanneberger, to use his given name, is still a globe-trotting headliner, touring the world from America to Eastern Europe and headlining huge events such as S2S in Manchester and numerous Awake events across his home country. These days it’s balanced with his private life. There have been weekends off to savour in South Germany and Italy, the sign of a man who knows that his reputation was assured long ago. Following up 2017’s ‘neXt’, fans will also be ecstatic to know that for the rest of the year he’ll be working on a new album. Expect this in the early part of 2019.
Words: JOE ROBERTS
DJ style: “Electro.”
Best known for: “Bringing dance music closer to being a mainstream genre.”
Fave tune of 2018: “Diego Miranda & Mr Black ‘Boomshakalak’.”
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2018: “WAO.”
It's been a slow-burn of a journey to the Top 100 for Diego Miranda, but since his first release in the mid-noughties hard work and persistence has kept the Portuguese star in the ascendency.
A quick review of 2018 reveals his worthy standing amongst the biggest names in electronic dance music. A summer spent in Ibiza? Tick, thanks to weekly appearances on the revered and road-blocked stages of both Hï Ibiza and Ushuaïa. An international following, including in the up-and-coming territories likely to define reputations and fees in the years to come? Tick, thanks to extensive tours in China, India and South America, plus the firming up of essential European shows like Tomorrowland. A Beatport number one? Tick, his collaboration with Mr Black and vocalist The Kemist snatching the top spot with its sawing electro bassline and ragga-inspired vocals.
There are, he promises, even bigger things to follow, including a host of soon-to-berevealed collaborations. Given all of this, it’s no wonder that his motto is: “The best is yet to come”.
Words: JOE ROBERTS
From: London, UK
DJ style: “Enthusiastic.”
Best known for: “Our awesome Anjunafamily.”
Fave tune of 2018: “Gabriel & Dresden ‘You (Myon x Elevven Remix)’.”
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2018: “Spencer Brown.”
“Last weekend we hosted the 300th edition of our radio show Group Therapy in Hong Kong,” says Tony McGuinness of trance trio Above & Beyond, “with an all-star line up, and debuted half a dozen new productions of our own.” It’s a neat encapsulation of just how high the London crew behind the hugely popular Anjunabeats label is flying at the moment.
In 2018, Above & Beyond released their fifth album ‘Common Ground’, which featured collaborators such as Zoë Johnston and Richard Bedford, and spent much of the year performing it for their devoted fan-base around the world. Their almost constant touring took them to Ukraine, Japan, Canada, the US, Australia and Indonesia, while they managed to squeeze in a few new singles along the way too, including ‘Rocket Science’ and ‘Red Rocks’. And as if that wasn’t enough, their label Anjunabeats continued to pledge its allegiance to the deeper end of trance; McGuinness is particularly chuffed at signing one of his favourite duos. “We got Gabriel & Dresden onto Anjunabeats, where they belong, after years of trying,” he says. “Their second album has done rather well.”
Words: BEN MURPHY