The New Manchester Sound: One’s To Watch 2018

When you think of Manchester what do you think of? Bucket hats, maybe. Football, sure. But music – definitely.

Before I start this post, forget any pre-conceptions you might have about Manchester’s music scene. Of course Oasis, The Stone Roses, Joy Division and The Smiths are artists that might naturally first spring to mind (and this post does not aim to diminish their individual influences having helped shape the path of the music industry over the past 35+ years), but times change and that means so do trends. Looking at the current music scene its obvious to note the change – the charts are increasingly dominated by more modern r&b and hip-hop artists, the vast-majority of festival line-ups with more urban additions (Glastobury’s recent headliners for one instance) and the Mercury Prize Award WInners and nominees of the past few years taking a different turn to the standard alternative/rock of the past are but few things to highlight. Reflecting this change further comes the new Manchester sound – Manchester Neo-Soul.

Sure Manchester might still be the go-to place for indie-rock, but you’d be pretty naïve to think that’s all it can offer; in fact, the most exciting acts in the city are certainly not of this genre. Manchester has always been the front-running influencer when it comes to paving the way for musical exports and we think it’s dead important that such artists in this new wave are given a deserving showcase – Manchester is still the city with some of the most exciting music scene after-all. Below are a few of our top picks.

Berry Blacc

Hip-Hop, Rap, Producer & Vocalist | @blckthbrry

Being the son of two DJs might be a daunting prospect for some, with the pressures no doubt coming from being born into a life mounting with expectation to follow in similar footsteps – living, breathing and creating music. This doesn’t seem to have been a problem for Berry Blacc. Berry is a part of the exciting (and very upcoming) hip-hop collective Cul De Sac alongside Layfullstop (more on her in a bit), Truce and Kid Katharsis. He also recently linked up with Blind MIC to form the duo Azalea Avenue – busy guy. With various performances at  Band on The Wall under his belt, friends in the the likes of Manny legends LEVELZ, Chimpo and The Mouse Outfit to cyphering with Kendrick Lamar and even running community based projects for young people, it won’t be long til’ Berry is on everyone’s books.

On his name Berry has stated that it ‘comes from [him] wanting to stand for something that represents black people and their struggle… [Blacc] originally used the name Blacka Tha Berry. It was supposed to mean something to people, a symbol of hope and voice for the voiceless.’ This guy barely has any social presence (0 tweets) and my bets come that it’s totally deliberate – don’t let that put you off him, it’s all without hype and strictly back to music. Go see him.



Neo-Soul, UK Hip-Hop | @layfullstop

With IAMDDB. quickly picking up pace garnering a lot of eyes and big-eared fans in the past few months,  gracing the covers of various big-name publications (and even a slot in the BBC’s Sound of 2018 list) you’d be mad to say that Neo-Soul isn’t having a resurgence of sorts. Neo-soul will definitely be a big genre playing a part in the music scene in the coming years and Manchester is at the forefront of this. Another artist following suit, yet wholly different, is Layfullstop. Upon a first listen it would be easy to mistake the two musicians – for the narrow minded comes the limitations and struggles as a female soul-singer from Manchester and the question as to whether there is the space for two in the same ranks, but Lay is something else entirely. Blending soul from past era with UK hip-hop and with a clear influence taken from the Manchester scene, Layfullstop is holding her own and doing her own thing amongst a scene flooded with male MCs and indie bands alike. You can tell she’s worked on this for some time.

To mention Kendrick again, not only can Lay can hold more than a tune but can spit bars like no other upcoming woman in the industry – bubbly in person and soft, yet fierce when performing creating a seamless and exciting concoction. There’s something incredibly special about what she’s doing, and it’s totally her own thing – even Kendrick Lamar has taken note on a excursion to the city and when she performs it’s almost like you’re watching multiple people.



Hip-Hop, Soul, Experimental | @kinkaimusic

KinKai has been creatively expressing himself through UK Hip Hop over the past few years and the release of his debut album is really setting him off to be one of the most upcoming and exciting MC’s Manchester – and in my opinion, the UK – has to offer. In 2015, KinKai independently released his debut EP ‘Distortions’ and in came a flurry of very excited ears in the music industry. Fast forward to 2017 with Hip-Hop, Rap and now Grime dominating the UK music scene,  KinKai has created something wholly unique and incredibly distinctive – a sound that turned some big names right onto the undiscovered MC and his newest release proves thus further. Production is maybe a key element the musician needs to be commended for – it’s slick. Rarely seen without an appearance from Glue70, a local producer of whom is stamped all over his latest album ‘Mellow Mermaids and Malibu’ (a local producer who is picking up serious plays with over 5mil on Spotify and climbing and who absolutely deserves a mention in his own right) – something I find most interesting about KinKai is his means for using rap to explore his route into manhood.

KinKai’s reason for creating music is to ‘encourage those who listen to not be a product of their circumstances by being themselves’. This is a factor I believe to be in the veins of what it is to be of this new Manchester Sound and has always been what Manchester has been about – it’s humble. It’s down to earth. It’s about the music and it’s about making the most of everything you have, not forgetting where you’re from but knowing that it isn’t all you should limit yourself to.


[ K S R ]

R&B, Soul Artist  | @ksroosevelt

At only 19, and with ridiculously minimal info, Roosevelt Sigsbert is already beginning to have a lot of eyes on him. Going under the name of [ K S R ], the Soul artist has only 300 or-so Facebook likes and a mere 2 videos to his name, but don’t let that put you off – it’s been all of the right attention. To have such minimal traction yet with fans already by the way of Manchester favourites Children of Zeus and The Mouse Outfit singing this guy’s praises, I don’t think it will be long before [ K S R ] get’s snapped up – kind of crazy for a musician who was first really discovered word-of-mouth through his Facebook cover-videos.

[ K S R ] is really giving UK R&B a new lease of life away from that of the 90s scene; oozing soul, electronica and chill-out trapp-y beats to meld into the new Manchester melting-pot creating something pretty spectacular. Big things are coming – watch this space. Roosevelt will be performing his first headline LDN show 23 December @ Birthdays and we expect a lot more in the coming year.


Tobi Sunmola

Spoken Word, Rap/Hip Hop, Alternative | @tobisunmola_

Though everyone on this list has been hand-picked for doing their own thing, Tobi Sunmola might be most worthy of this name. With an appearance at Radio 1’s Big Weekend in 2016, to an intimate performance at this year’s Off The Record at the Northern Quarter situated venue The Castle (essentially a back-room sized venue), Tobi has the rare ability to encapsulate the attention of whatever crowd he’s in front of – treating every performance like his own Wembley, there is no wonder music influencers are choosing this guy to represent them and the innovative future of UK music. Moving to Manny at age 16 as a spoken-word poet/rapper from Nigeria it’s obvious to see that music and passion run through him. As the video above documents, Tobi blends hip-hop with spoken word, decadently danceable African rhythms all with an aim to take a stand against important social and racial issues we still see around us. He’s incredibly down to earth and really standing and doing his own thing, which is quite clearly a passion for music.

To be quite frank, Tobi is unlike any other artist of recent years that I have ever come across. Already working alongside some ENORMOUS names like Wretch 32, Bipolar Sunshine, Jacob Banks, and Joe Heartz – I know, right?! –  it goes without my saying, don’t expect this guy to be under the radar for much longer. Tobi is dropping material to no end, a particular stand out comes with his new body of work ‘City Of Dreams‘ and I think 2018 will be his year.

Watch our session with Tobi Sunmola here.

Special mentions: Children Of Zeus, A Broken Camarilla, Metrodome, Slay, Black Josh, Loz Goddard, Inka, Abnormal Sleepz, HMD, Cul De Sac, Khadu, Kong, Blakk Ice, Shunya, Katbrownsugar, Woddy Green, Mayo De Zulu, Kid Katharsis.