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22 Music Artists Who Made Themselves Known In 2012

Mark Davis, John Shearer, Christopher Polk, Paul Morigi, Kevin Winter, Getty Images
2012 was a year that introduced us to a lot of brand new artists, and gave a lot of others who have been in the game for a minute, their proper time to shine. From the underground world of hip-hop, to the mainstream and country, our ears got a lot of great music from a slew of musical talent. Here are a few of the names that saw major iPod screen time in 2012.


A$AP ROCKY

Long live A$AP.
 
 

A$AP Rocky hit the scene in 2011 with with his critically-acclaimed mixtape 'LiveLoveA$AP,' featuring hits like 'Purple Swag,' and 'Peso.' But 2012 saw A$AP really catch steam as he joined Kendrick Lamar as the opening act of Drake's 'Club Paradise Tour.' He also collaborated with Drake on the club banger 'F**kin Problems,' as well as 2 Chainz, and Rihanna ('Cockiness'). Look out for his studio album debut in early 2013, 'LongLiveA$AP.'

 

CARLY RAE JEPSEN

Could someone please call her, maybe?
 
 

In 2012 Canada continued to remind us they are without a doubt the country that produces the most artists who always seem find a way to get stuck in our heads. As if Drake and Justin Bieber weren't enough, 2007 Canadian Idol runner-up Carly Rae Jepsen became a household name with her smash single 'Call Me Maybe.' She also had a solid collab with Owl City on 'Good Time,' and a pretty decent follow-up single with 'This Kiss.' We blame Bieber.

 

DIPLO

The funkiest white boy allowed by law.
 
 

Diplo has been on his DJ tour hustle since his Hollertronix days in the early 2000s, but 2012 saw the end result of Diplo becoming one of 2011's most sought after producers in the game. From radio smashes like Usher's 'Climax,' and Alex Clare's 'Too Close,' to infectious underground bangers like Nicky Da B's 'Express Yourself,' and 'Original Don' from his Major Lazer side project - Diplo crushed 2012 on all levels of the music game. In addition to his non stop touring, look for Diplo to juggle multiple projects in 2013, including Snoop Lion's reggae project, as well as tracks with Britney Spears, Mike Posner and Lil Wayne.

 

LANA DEL REY

Self-styled gangsta Nancy Sinatra.
 
 

The singer-songwriter with the cinematic sound made herself known with the 2011 viral smash "Video Games," and subsequently released her second studio album in January 2012, selling over 2.8 million copies worldwide. She also served as the model for the Fall and Winter 2012 collection for her endorsed clothing line H&M. Not a bad year if I'd say so myself.

 

FUN.

They set the world, and every bar sing-a-long, on fire.
 
 

Fun. is the indie band from New York responsible for drunken sing-a-longs in just about every college town in America. Chances are, you were somewhere after 2 A.M. this year as their hit single 'We Are Young' blared, and people swayed from side to side - singing (horribly) at the top of their lungs. Their follow up single, 'Some Nights' wasn't bad either, making it their second Top 10 single of the year, and the band's second song to reach platinum status in the U.S. Now that's what I call fun. See what I did there?

 

GOTYE

In 2012, no one could cut him off.
 
 

Even though you still may not know how to correctly pronounce his name, Gotye (Go-Tee-Yay) made his mark on 2012 with the international smash 'Somebody That I Used To Know.' Oddly enough, the Belgian-Australian multi-instrumental musician and singer-songwriter - who has been making music since 2001 mind you - still thinks of himself more as a tinkerer than a music man. Newsflash: Dude, you're a musician, and an artist - and a damn good one at that.

 

ALEX CLARE

The Microsoft Internet Explorer commercial song dude.
 
 

I promise you, Alex Clare isn't just another singer-songwriter from across the pond (even though our list definitely features it's fair share). But, would you believe me if I told you that the same song that you heard in all those Internet Explorer ads was a single on the album that Clare's former label considered a "failure?" Clare saw 'Too Close' reach the Top 10 in 2012, but even with all his fame, he remains very religious as an Orthodox Jew, who will not perform, work, or travel on the Jewish Sabbath or religious holidays. He even stays kosher during his travels with his own pots and pans! He also dated the late Amy Winehouse for over a year before gaining critical success, but does not discuss his relationship with her with the media. Do you think that maybe 'Too Close' was about... nah, maybe not.

 

ELLIE GOULDING

Anything can happen.
 
 

With her first studio album debuting at number one in the UK in 2010, and performing her cover of Elton John's 'Your Song' at Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding in 2011 - it looked like things were going pretty good for Ellie Goulding. Well, in 2012, good got better when her debut album's title track 'Lights' would climb to number one on the Billboard Pop chart in the U.S., and go certified triple platinum. She dropped her her second album 'Halcyon' in October, and even though they split back in October, she found time to date (and share the same hairstyle) with dubstep-guru Skrillex for a brief spell. Anything can happen, right?

 

ONE DIRECTION

Boy bands are back.
 
 

One Direction proved that boy bands were not just something we laughed at from the late 90s. Not only is the group is credited with sparking the resurgence of the boy band concept, as of June 2012, One Direction represented a $50 million empire. Like most of today's teen hearthrobs, the majority of their success is propelled through social media, proving that these days, it's not the song that's the star, but instead, the act. If you disagree, just go peep their Twitter game.

 

FUTURE

The future is now.
 
 

Future blew up the streets in 2012, giving us bangers like 'Tony Montana,' 'Same Damn Time,' and 'Magic.' (rumored to be the first track TI hopped on after he was released from jail.) It wasn't until he dropped 'Turn On The Lights' that Future really flexed his auto-tune versatility on a track that sounded like Zelda's soundtrack to rescuing Princess Ratchet. Future plans on dropping his second studio album in 2013 with features from Kanye West, Jeremih, Kelly Rowland, Drake, and Rihanna.

 

MEEK MILL

Welcome to his house party.
 
 

He's young. He's gettin' it. His name is Meek Mill, and before signing with Rick Ross and MMG, the Philly-born rapper was signed by T.I., but due to Tip's legal troubles, Meek was never able to release an album under the label, and subsequently parted ways. 2012 saw Meek making up for lost time with one banger after another. Amen.

 

KEVIN GATES

Makin' em believe.
 
 

If there was one local name that made itself known this year, that name would have to be Kevin Gates. The Baton Rouge rapper built his own recording studio in his grandparents home during his middle school years, but never took music seriously. Then, things took a dive when his grandfather died shortly after he started high school. He self-destructed, turned to the streets, and eventually found his way shot up, and behind bars. Luckily, a 30 year sentence only ended up keeping Gates behind bars for three summers - and when he was released, he hit the ground running in late 2011. With hit singles like 'Love You' and 'Satellites,' Kevin Gates' unique style ranges from heavy metal, to rap and country. 2012 was just his start, as Gates is looking to keep changing the game in 2013.

 

PSY

One billion strong, and growing.
 
 

I've never heard any of Psy's music before 'Gangnam Style,' and honestly, it doesn't matter if he never makes another song again. Now that his viral dance craze became the first video to ever reach one BILLION (yes, billion) views on YouTube, he doesn't have to ever make another song as long as he lives. He has secured his place in pop culture history, as well as future Vh1 countdowns, going from little-known to global superstar faster than you can say 'Gangnam Style.' It doesn't matter if you hate it. You know it, and you can't escape it. You can only hope to find the strength to resist riding an air horse when it comes on.

 

FRANK OCEAN

Sweet life.
 
 

Christopher "Lonny" Breaux grew up in New Orleans and relocated to the west coast after Katrina to pursue his dream of becoming a singer-songwriter. Breaux would then change his name to Frank Ocean, and see an early career of ghostwriting for the likes of Justin Bieber, Brandy and John Legend. In 2010, Ocean became a member of the alternative hip hop collective Odd Future. In 2011 he dropped his debut mixtape, 'Nostaligia Ultra,' to critical acclaim. He soon gained the attention of artists like Beyonce, Kanye West, and Jay-Z - allowing Ocean the opportunity to be featured on the 'Watch The Throne' project. 2012 saw Frank Ocean finally drop his debut studio album 'Channel Orange,' featuring singles 'Thinkin Bout You,' and 'Pyramids' - as well as the news that he was bi-sexual - a risky move in an industry known for openly expressing it's homophobia. Regardless of his sexual preference, Frank Ocean is an exceptional talent, and 2012 only showed us the tip of this artist's iceberg of potential.

 

TRINIDAD JAMES

Don't believe him, just watch.
 
 

Is it possible for 2012's most exciting rap artist to have less than a year of experience under their belt? Introducing Trinidad James, an all-gold rapper who shook up the hip-hop world only eight months after he picked up a microphone and started writing. His debut mixtape ('Don't Be S.A.F.E.') featured the hit single "All Gold Everything," which became an instant viral hit, landing James a major deal with Def Jam. The 25-year-old rapper gets his name from his birthplace of Trinidad, but reps ATL. From the streets, to a college campus near you, Trinidad James is definitely what's sweatin'. (Woo!)

 

BIG SEAN

Oh God!
 
 

Big Sean definitely made his mark on 2012, but his story has been a long time coming. His debut album title 'Finally Famous' perfectly describes the story of the Detroit rapper who was discovered by Kanye West in 2005, but not signed to his G.O.O.D. Music label until two years later. It wouldn't be until four years later that we would see Sean's debut in 2011, which featured singles 'My Last,' 'Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay,' and 'Dance (A$).' Sean took things to another level in 2012 with a new mixtape and arguably two of the hottest verses of the year on 'Mercy' and 'Clique.' With a sophomore album already lined up, the sky is the limit in 2013 for this G.O.O.D. Music emcee.

 

SKRILLEX

So that whole dubstep thing wasn't a joke after all.
 
 

So that whole dubstep thingy - yeah, that actually happened - and Skrillex was on the forefront of it all. If all you know of Skrill is that 'Cinema' song on your girlfriend's iPod, then shame on you. 2012 saw Skrilly touring heavy in support of the release of his late 2011 'Bangarang EP.' It also saw a brief romance with songbird Ellie Goulding, and even more Grammy nods to go along with the three out of the five nominations that he snagged at the last ceremony. All that, plus being the guy who brought an underground subgenre to the mainstream? Skrillex is a household name. Dance with it, or deal with it.

 

RITA ORA

Party, and bulls**t.
 
 

When you're hand-selected by Jay Z, AND he personally brings you to the radio station to introduce your new single to the masses, you know you're doing something right. Rita Ora gave us the summer anthem 'How We Do' as her lead single, and followed right behind it with her second single, ironically titled 'R.I.P.' (because her career is anything but dead.) She also found time to date Rob Kardashian for a minute (ummm?), and have her first wardrobe malfunction - but trust me, no one was mad at that. Look for Ms. Ora to keep things moving in 2013.

 

HUNTER HAYES

All grown up.
 
 

Remember that cute 4-year-old kid Hunter Hayes from Breaux Bridge that played multiple instruments and sang really well for his age? He was on all the TV shows back in the 90s, showcasing his talents at such a young age. After graduating at the age of 16 in 2007, Hunter relocated from Breaux Bridge to Nashville in 2008 to sign a songwriting deal with Universal Music Publishing group. In 2010, he signed to Atlantic Records Nashville and began working on his debut album as a solo artist. 2011 saw Hunter touring with acts like Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts, as well as releasing his self-titled debut. 2012 was the year that Hunter became a household name, a heartthrob, and a Grammy nominee for Best New Artist along with the wild success of his single 'Wanted.' Not bad for a boy from Breaux Bridge, eh?

 

2 CHAINZ

Truuuuuue.
 
 

2 Chainz wasn't new to the scene in 2012, but it was the year he successfully reinvented himself as an artist. From ridin' round and gettin' it on 'Spend It,' to the infectious Drake-assisted hook of 'No Lie' - not to mention some of the hottest feature verses of the year, Chainz definitely had our ear, as he quietly upgraded from his former DTP image as one half of the ATL duo Playaz Circle ('Duffle Bag Boy'). In 2012, Chainz dropped his debut, ('Based on a T.R.U. Story') toured with Nicki Minaj, had prominent verses on Kanye's 'G.O.O.D. Music - Cruel Summer' project, sold out most of the dates on his first solo worldwide tour, earned tons of nominations, awards, endorsements, and still found time to be crowned 'Man of the Year' by the Source Magazine. No lie.

 

THE WEEKND

Everyone loves the weekend.
 
 

The best musical talent since Michael Jackson? According to MTV, BET, Rolling Stone, XXL, and The Source, Ethiopian-Canadian recording artist/record producer Abel Tesfaye (better known as The Weeknd) is just that. Last summer, he dropped his 'House of Balloons' mixtape, which according to Complex, beat out Drake's 'Take Care' and Jay Z & Kanye's 'Watch The Throne' as 2011's Album of the Year. The Weeknd remastered and re-released that mixtape, along with the two others that he dropped between March and December of 2011, in a 30 track compilation dubbed 'Trilogy.' He also featured on successful singles from Drake, ('Crew Love') and Wiz Khalifa ('Remember Me'). Is he really the best talent since MJ? I guess only time will tell.

 

KENDRICK LAMAR

....Drank.
 
 

If that "drank" song ('Swimming Pools') is all you know about Kendrick Lamar, then you definitely owe it to yourself to hit Google and dig a little deeper. One of the best things that 2012 gave us musically comes in the form of a 25-year-old kid from Compton known to some as K-Dot, but to most as Kendrick Lamar. His album 'good kid, M.A.A.D. city' was one of the best albums released this year, plus - how many other rappers can say they watched 2 Pac and Dre as they filmed the music video for 'California Love' in real life when they were 8 years old?

 

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