From Willow Smith’s Soundcloud gems to Yung Lean’s Auto-Tuned boredom, music’s teens have never been more self-made
Needless to say, the time between being a child and an adult has always been an endless form of artistic inspiration, with youth culture being the fuelling flame behind pop culture. But what about the art springing from teenagers themselves? Whether you’re a revolutionary teen feminist, an agenda-setting Instagram photographer or the lead singer of a riotous rebel girl band, age has never been less of an artistic barrier. And with the possibilities of the Internet forever in reach, teens are forging their identities and creative expression now more than ever before.
Nowhere can this been seen clearer than in the ever-changing landscape of music. With outspoken, DIY artists like Lorde, Grimes and Tinashe dominating the mainstream, pop music has began to shed its polished, pre-packaged skin and enter an autonomous, self-making new era. Right at the forefront of this era are pop’s teen producers – because who says that just because you’re not old enough to buy booze you can’t make a new beat? Here’s a rundown of some of our favourite teen producers who are doing it themselves.
15-year-old Willow Smith has come a long way since her swaggy, head-drill of a debut “Whip My Hair”, choosing to ditch the amped-up pop production for her own self-made beats. While her “official” releases might be few and far between, her Soundcloud is full to the brim with experimental collaborations and homemade jams. The teen feminist also lends her production talents to her mates (who, by the way, you’ll wish were your mates also – if you were 15).
Swedish oddball Yung Lean has been creeping around the internet for so long, it’s easy to forget that the rapper/producer is just 19. Like an Auto-Tuned embodiment of teen boredom, and a cartoonish mouthpiece for empty-headed capitalism, Lean’s sad beats and heavy-lidded rap style has managed to birth a slew of young Tumblr clones obsessed with bucket hats, puffa jackets and pokemon cards. “The industry has never been interesting,” the Dazed 100 alumnus told us last year. “It’s the people who create that are interesting.”
Just like most of the grime kings that came before him, 18-year-old South London MC/producer Novelist makes all his own beats and writes all his own bars. “When I’m out and about, I stay local, headphones in cos I’m antisocial,” he bops over 140bpm lines and echo-shaking bass in "Ignorant and Wot" (below), showing that you can still sound fresh by sounding old school. Along with grime crew The Square (which he bowed out of last month), Novelist has been at the forefront of the genre's newest wave of sound.
Leeds producer Happa has been co-signed by Four Tet, launched his own record label PT/5, and he’s only just turned 18 years old (kill us now!). “I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease…I was off home with nothing to do. I got tired of watching Jeremy Kyle” he explained to Clash. “I knew about FL Studio (music software) because my bother had shown me it. I got hooked from there.” These days, he makes deep, brutalist techno beats with a unique, euphoric flourish of indie-punk.
Lauren Auder might not be as big as some of the others on this list, but he’s already been picking up some traction within London’s underground, and he’s quickly becoming one of our favourite new artists. With his woozy, far-away vocals and dreamy, half-baked beats, the 17-year-old French-English producer sounds like King Krule if he got heavily into hip hop and pushed his music through a coedine-coated seive.