There's nothing quite like South by Southwest (SXSW). Since its founding in 1987, the 10-day conference in the heart of Texas has grown from a regional music festival to a major nexus of creativity and ideas for three separate industries: music, film and interactive.
As the conference has grown, so has its influence, and artists like B.O.B. and Janelle Monae have received critical career boosts after their SXSW performances became the talk of the town. With that in mind, we bring you five new artists poised to break out at SXSW 2011.
Dominique Young Unique
This 18-year-old spitfire from Tampa's kinetic songs are a refreshing blast of youthful energy and ecstatic, occasionally foul-mouthed individualism. Her breakout MP3 last year, "Show My Ass," was tailor-made for the hippest of house parties. Unique's new mixtape Glamorous Touch is even hotter, and it just came out yesterday, the week before the conference. Perfect timing.
The poster child for hip hop's Southern renaissance, the gifted rapper from Mississippi produces all of his music and took the music world by storm last year with his self-released mixtape Krit Wuz Here. In the short time since, he's been signed to Def Jam and honored as one of XXL Magazine's 2011 freshman. This year, he's already been lighting up the blogosphere with the first songs from his debut album Return Of 4 Eva, including the soulful "Dreamin."
Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino
The 27-year-old co-star of NBC sitcom Community and former 30 Rock writer has also had his own stand-up special on Comedy Central and co-wrote the 2009 film Mystery Team. But being an actor/writer/comedian is the easy part for the overachiever. His biggest challenge is hip-hop: Glover has been rapping under the name Childish Gambino since 2009 and just released the credibility boosting freEP Freaks and Geeks. This year he takes the show on the road with a new tour and a very high-profile gig hosting the MTVU Woodie Awards from Austin in the middle of SXSW.
An affiliate of Slim Thug's Boss Hog Outlawz, this Houston hard-hitter broke out on his own with last year's well received mixtape Natural Born Killa. Kyleon's sparse delivery and penchant for dripped-out production make him something of a throwback to Houston's golden era. With the release of Natural Born Killa 2 later this year, he'll make his bid for a place among the oil city's many venerated hip-hop icons.
It's hard to remember a hip-hop group as suddenly sensational as Odd Future. The Los Angeles-based collective counts 10 members among its roster, many of them teenagers. But the group's prolific musical output, both as a group and as individuals with free mixtapes, is anything but kid-friendly. Odd Future's graphic, absurdist narratives detailing murders, rapes and various expressions of lawless, fatherless anarchy have attracted enough critical essays in the music press over the last several months to fill several books. Just as titillating is the Odd Future live show, which helped the crew go truly viral after a landmark performance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon last month. This month, OF is on the cover of Billboard, and group leader Tyler the Creator is scheduled to release his solo major label debut, Goblin, on XL Records later this year. With a number of shows scheduled for SXSW, these kids are well on their way to becoming household names. Parents beware.