From 70s Chicago DJs, to 90s dance music superstars, and today’s musical boundary-pushers, this list will introduce you to a wide spread of house music artists.
Birthed in Chicago in the late 1970s, house music is a genre that is broad, diverse, and hugely influential on the world of contemporary music. It is perhaps the most ubiquitous form of electronic dance music, and has had an enormous influence on pop music all over the world.
Building on the foundations of disco, a four-on-the-floor kick drum is essential to the sound of house music, as well as, typically, off-beat hi-hits. From that simple foundation, house music takes all manner of twists and turns. It has spawned a swathe of sub-genres including tech house, acid house, deep house, electro house, and many more besides.
From its underground golden age originators and beyond, this list will introduce you to some of the best house music artists you need to know.
One of the biggest names in house music today, the euphoric sounds of Belfast-born house duo Bicep illustrate everything there is to be excited about in electronic music. The young, dynamic Irishmen bonded over their shared love of house music to create their blissful, yet nihilistic, repertoire.
Matt McBriar and Andy Ferguson’s tastes began forming after frequenting their local, and now legendary, club Shine which played heart hammering, deeply intense music, solidifying their desires to become part of that scene. They created the blog “Feel My Bicep” to share and discover old electronic tunes which influenced their own sound and soon became where the pair would get discovered.
British deep house producer Jimpster discovered his affection for house music at the age of 10. Coming from a musical family, Jimpster (aka Jamie Odell) was exposed to synths and recording equipment which formed the foundations for his DJ style.
Odell’s music plays between serenity and attitude and has found fans globally, playing in infamous clubs around the world including Output in New York, Womb in Tokyo, and Watergate in Berlin. Odell’s formative 1999 LP Messages From The Hub paved the way for future releases both by himself and other house artists.
3. Maya Jane Coles
Maya Jane Coles is a house artist that lives and breathes her craft. Being in control of every stage of the record, from writing, to mixing, to designing the sleeve allows her music to be authentic and truthful.
From British and Japanese descent, Coles unique form of house music infuses elements of dub, jazz, soul, and punk into her tracks to create a sound that has progressed over the course of each of her records. Her now iconic 2014 track ‘What They Say’ has been sampled multiple times by many mainstream artists, solidifying her spot as a truly influential house music artist.
4. DJ Pierre
Chicago-born house music artist DJ Pierre exhibits exceptional innovation within the genre. In the mid-1980s, he was part of musical trio Phuture, who, in 1987, released their EP Acid Tracks – which is widely considered the first acid house recording. Along with his Phuture co-members Earl “Spanky” Smith Jr. and Herbert “Herb J” Jackson, DJ Pierre helped develop the sub-genre of acid house.
DJ Pierre’s music can be identified by the signature squelchy sound of acid techno. He incorporates a swathe of instruments including 70s disco-style synthesisers and eclectic guitars, making the tracks feel both classic and modern.
5. Djinji Brown
Djinji Brown, afro house artist, has his parents to thank for his deep appreciation of music from all corners of the globe. Hailing from the Bronx, Djinji is the son of saxophonist Marion Brown. Djinji travelled the world alongside his father, becoming exposed to a huge array of music genres that influenced his sound.
In his 2002 debut album Sirround Sound, you can hear the influences bouncing through every beat of the record. There are elements of hip-hop taken from his home roots, latin rhythms to drive the tracks, as well as more traditional house techniques. A super interesting house music artist.
6. Ross From Friends
Ross From Friends’ catalogue of music is perfect for those who are looking for something a little laid-back. His records, while still maintaining an upbeat drive, incorporate the melancholic moods found in lofi music and contain a grainy sense of irony and nostalgia throughout.
Ross From Friends (real name: Felix Clary Weatherall) focused his musical talents in both bands and in his own solo work throughout the late 2000s. In 2012, when his pseudonym was created, he began releasing music through small UK electronic labels. He soon found success with his track ‘(Talk to Me) You’ll Understand’, released in 2015, which reached global audiences on YouTube.
Kenny Dixon Jr – better known as Moodymann – is somewhat of an enigma. He rarely speaks publicly, forcing his listeners to form their own interpretations of his records. Through this distance, Moodymann allows us to focus on the origins of house music and preserves the foundations on which the genre was built on.
Within his tracks, Moodymann combines analog and digital techniques, using both live and computerised instruments, and utilises samples from 70s classics. Born in Detroit, Moodymann worked in a number of record stores in the mid 90s, forming his style and influencing his use of instrumentation.
An essential house music artist that everyone should know.
8. Carl Cox
Carl Cox began his DJing career at 15 and went on to become titan of house music. In particular, Carl Cox was pioneering in the acid house movement, after finding inspiration in the early stages of Chicago house music.
Although quickly becoming a household name after his debut single ‘I Want You,’ Cox decided to stick to his roots, choosing to continue playing in underground venues rather than chasing fame.
His artistic integrity has certainly paid off, with Cox being nominated for numerous awards over the span of his career. He has also hosted a residency known as “Music is Revolution” at the Space Ibiza nightclub every summer for multiple years.
9. Frankie Knuckles
Frankie Knuckles, known as ‘The Godfather of House Music,’ played a vital role in the popularisation of the genre in 1980s Chicago. At just 22 years of age, Knuckles was a regular DJ at Warehouse, a nightclub in the hub of Chicago. After gaining credentials in his hometown, Knuckles travelled to London where he DJed at Heaven for many years.
Frankie Knuckles’ sound can be defined by his experimental use of disco, indie soul, R&B, and gospel, even incorporating elements of British new wave.
A pioneer within the genre, Frank Knuckles is one of the essential house music artists that everyone should know.
10. The Supermen Lovers
The Supermen Lovers is the stage name of electronic musician Guillaume Atlan. Atlan began his musical journey at school, learning the piano and composing music with friends. At just 24, he opened his first label Lafessé Records and released his debut single through the label ‘Marathon Man.’
The artist’s most notable work is his single ‘Starlight.’ The record opens with dramatic, theatrical chords that, at first, fool you into thinking this isn’t a house track. Soon the chords descend into a funky rhythm, a characteristic familiar in other The Supermen Lovers records. Even if you aren’t into house music, this one will get you dancing – guaranteed.
11. Farley “Jackmaster” Funk
Writing some of the most influential house tracks in the 1980s, Farley “Jackmaster” Funk was a pioneer of both Chicago house and acid house. Farley first found his musical footing in 1981 as one of the original members of the Hot Mix 5, a DJ team in Illinois who broadcast on local radio. This team of spinners helped bring house music to a much wider audience.
Through Hot Mix 5, Williams started playing at the infamous Warehouse. His records reached the UK where he first found his mass notability and after, began a residency at the Playground (now Candy Store).
A musical legend and one of the most important house music artists of all time.
12. Peggy Gou
Peggy Gou is an artist who has been turning heads recently. Originally from South Korea, the artist now resides in Germany and brings the origins of Chicago house into her more contemporary, deep house groove. Her tracks are dark and mysterious which form abstract sets and intriguing new sound combinations.
Stepping into the world of music with no professional training, Gou recently headed out on her first North American tour in 2017, including making her debut at New York’s Boiler Room. She’s also played at numerous music festivals including Coachella and Glastonbury.
One of the most exciting house music artists of our generation, and a DJ who should be on everyone’s radar.
Hidden behind a plague doctor mask, gentlemanly top hat, and white gloves, Claptone is somewhat of an enigma when it comes to his appearance. That being said, his music doesn’t cast the same shadow of mystery with its catchy vocals and down-right fun melodies often favouring a major key.
Specialising in tech house, Claptone creates highly danceable tracks that incorporate the fast BPMs familiar with house music, alongside electronic climbs and drops that create euphoric experiences. MixMag have described his tracks as “crisply produced and effortlessly infectious” and we have to agree.
14. Lane 8
If you prefer to experience things in real life rather than through the screen of someone else’s iPhone camera, then Lane 8 is a DJ you might get on well with.
Making a name for himself as a deep house artist, Lane 8 (real name: Daniel Goldstein) created his own label This Never Happened which hosts phone-free events, encouraging attendees to connect with the music and be more present.
His dreamy style of music, paired with an audience that aren’t distracted by their devices create an uplifting, atmospheric experience.
15. Robert Ownes
Robert Owens encapsulates everything there is to love about house music.
In his youth, Owens would sing at his local church, helping him develop his skills as a performer. He went on to make his name known as a DJ during the ‘golden age’ of house music in late 1980s Chicago. Owens was part of the house music collective Fingers Inc, along with Larry Heard and Ron Wilson.
Robert Owens’ tracks are classic house summed up. He teamed with house legend Frankie Knuckles to produce ‘Tears,’ perhaps his most well known feature where he laid down an impressive vocal track.
16. Ron Hardy
Ron Hardy was the chalk to Frank Knuckles’ cheese. Although both pioneers of early Chicago house music, their styles were vastly different.
Hardy created a far more unhinged listening experience with a focus on tension and release techniques spurred on by an endless spiral of energy. His presence on the decks held less attention on the quality of the sound, but zoned more in on what you can do with the samples.
Ron Hardy was a regular at the Muzic Box, a Chicago house music club and is now remembered as a true innovator within his genre. A legendary house music artist – this list would not be complete without him.
17. Jesse Saunders
As a creator of several independent labels, and widely recognized as the creator of the first house record (‘On & On,’ co-written with Vince Lawrence), Jesse Saunders is much more than a DJ – he’s a true music entrepreneur.
On the turntables, Saunders liked to spotlight certain moments in songs. He would focus on these snippets and, using techniques such as loops and repetition, let the audience know the importance of that moment.
These deck acrobatics would soon become Sunders’ signature moves and are still recognised today as true DJing innovation.
18. Daft Punk
Daft Punk are hugely well-known French house artists that did an exceptional job of integrating their music into the mainstream. With house influences from the UK and Detroit, as well as a keen ear for production, influenced by the likes of Dr Dre, the duo made numerous slick entrances into the charts.
Their music takes elements of 70s disco and 80s crooners to create records that have garnered critical acclaim across the globe. The pair reached No. 2 on Mixmag’s ‘Greatest Dance Acts of All Time’, and placed No. 28 in DJ Magazine’s ‘top 100 DJs of 2011’ list.
Dave Whelan and Mike DiScala make up the English tech house DJ duo CamelPhat. Before teaming up, the pair were both disc jockeys at the local nightclubs and soon realised their potential as a team.
They released several singles under more than 5 different names and found a sprinkling of success before settling as CamelPhat.
As the newly established CamelPhat, they began releasing records through their own label Vice Records in 2010. Their 2017 single ‘Cola’ peaked at No. 3 in the UK Dance Chart and No. 18 in the UK Singles Chart, and remains their best known track to date.
20. DJ Seinfield
Lofi house music artist DJ Seinfield – born Armand Jakobsson – creates beats that capture the spirit of Chicago house pioneers, while infused with Jakobsson’s own lofi flair. His music often has a nostalgic mood, underpinned with emotive chord progressions.
DJ Seinfield first built his following after uploading his track ‘U’ to Soundcloud. Cut together with samples of Bob Geldoff expressing his recent heartbreak, ‘U’ is a perfect example of how real Jakobsson is within his production and how dedicated he is to capturing those emotions.
One of the biggest names in lofi house and an artist that all house music lovers will appreciate.
Header image: Frankie Knuckles
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