50 Indiana Artists to Watch – 2020

This list may have been conceptualized and the foundation for it formed years ago, but the craziest part about this for me is how many Indiana artists I wanted to include but was forced to throw out for the sake of brevity. Some of these are names you may recognize from my Hoosier Highlights reviews series or the corresponding playlist, while others will no doubt be brand new to your eyes and ears. I can guarantee that you’ll find at least one or two new favorites from this list, no matter what your stylistic preference may be.

800 lb. Gorilla – This jazzy, groovy collective crafts an insanely catchy blend of electro funk, although even that doesn’t feel like it adequately sums up their sound. They’ve been a staple in the Indianapolis music scene for quite some time now, but it’s their latest project, Metro Manila, that has all the potential to get them recognition far beyond the Circle City.

Addie Kosten – Having just released her debut EP back in October, Kosten is relatively new to the scene, but you wouldn’t know that from the quality of Headspace. Her powerhouse vocals will draw you in right away, while the expansive and percussive nature of her music will hold your intrigue.

Alex Franc – Not only is Alex Franc a great singer-songwriter and producer, but he also runs a cool independent label called MATTE BLACK RECORDS. Look for both entities to make some serious moves this year, as several releases between the two are planned to see the light of day by the end of 2020.

Allison Victoria – Very rarely will an artist have such wide name recognition and influence in their city before putting out any sort of music, and yet, that’s exactly what happened with Allison Victoria. The musician, host, and curator didn’t release her debut single “Let Go” until last July, and by then she had already built up a substantial following over the course of years. Something tells me that Victoria has a lot more planned now that her first song is finally out.

ameriKKKen – Coming off performances at both CHREECE 5 and the inaugural New Hands Festival, in addition to appearing on the Netflix original series Rhythm & Flow, ameriKKKen is no doubt making moves, and rather quickly at that. Last year also saw the rapper drop her debut project Khaotic, in addition to a few standalone singles as well. She’s already gotten mentions from the likes of the IndyStar newspaper, so who knows where you’ll see her name next.

Andy Greenwell – When I think of prolific Hoosiers, Andy Greenwell is one of the first people that comes to mind. Not only is Greenwell a full-time member of both 800 lb. Gorilla and Philia, but he also plays with countless other fellow musicians around the city of Indianapolis, in addition to having his own solo material. The Franklin native just dropped “Beg,” the third single from his forthcoming solo debut Lilac Fire, and it is an absolute banger.

Antlerhead – He briefly relocated to Iowa, but Antlerhead centerpiece Ty Bush (formerly of The Orphan The Poet) is now back in his homestead for good. Last year saw the indie rock outfit release Am I Dreaming along with its companion EP In a Day Dream, and while 2020 seems like it will be a far quieter year for Bush and friends, Antlerhead is still a name you need to know in 2020.

Audiodacity – A party band if ever there was one, this fun collective hasn’t released any new music in a while, but that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped making moves. In fact, if anything the eclectic rockers have made up for the lack of new music by being a steady live fixture both in and out of town. Thankfully chances are very high though that we’ll finally get this ever-elusive new music before the year is up.

Baby Ebony – It seems like Baby Ebony is always cooking up something. Case in point: we’re less than a month into 2020, and he’s already graced us with yet another new single. Look for that trend to continue for the Indianapolis-based rapper over the course of this year. 

Bitter Breath – 2019 saw the debut of Bitter Breath: the metalcore collective released three singles – the most recent of which being December’s “Paradox” – in addition to playing their first show. And with both a debut album and a supporting tour planned to take place in 2020, the Midwest natives don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon either.

Bobby Donnelly – In addition to playing shows and releasing a live album over the course of the past year, this songwriter and guitarist has been hard at work on new music. There’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll get to hear more of Donnelly’s fuzzy blend of funk and blues this year, whether that’s in the form of new songs or a new full-length album.

Bri Green – There’s this minimalistic feel to singer Bri Green’s blend of bedroom pop, an appeal that has landed her on all sorts of playlists, even as someone who just started putting out music within the past year. She released several singles throughout 2019, and will at the very least continue to do so in 2020. Who knows? Maybe we’ll even get a full album from her.

Clint Breeze and The Groove – In many ways Clint Breeze and The Groove feels like Indianapolis’ quintessential supergroup. Featuring members from all sorts of different bands and walks of life, and transcending several genres, the seven-piece always knows how to put on a great show. Most of the city knows that at this point, but you may not have known it until just now. I had the privilege of hearing a brand new unreleased song at their CHREECE 5 performance last August, and if it’s any indication of what’s to come for Breeze and company in 2020, we’re all in for quite the treat.

Cole Woodruff – This Americana folk singer has been steadily releasing music since 2017, and with his latest single, the rocking “Little Faith,” less than a month old, methinks Cole Woodruff is very likely to continue that same trend in 2020.

Dead Silence – Indy’s Dead Silence has spent quite a bit of time honing in on his lyrical craft as a battle rapper, and last year that seemed to pay off. The hip-hop artist released his first project, played Indiana premier hip-hop festival CHREECE, and even got one of his songs placed on city radio station Hot 96.3. With several things already in the cards for Dead Silence, 2020 looks like it will be an even bigger year for him.

Diop – Diop is often one of the first names to consistently come up in conversations with regards to the best emcees in the Circle City, having rapped and built his brand for over a decade now. While he may have dropped two joint projects towards the tail end of 2019, I’m expecting to hear more from Diop in the coming year with how steady his musical output is.

DisTinct – Speaking of top tier emcees in the city, this 3rd4Low main man has been one of my favorites ever since the first time I heard “Level Up” nearly two years ago. His signature melodic delivery and fantastic wordplay never cease to amaze, and with the forthcoming Apollo certain to drop this year, 2020 looks to be another big year for one of Indianapolis’ most talented hip-hop artists.

Double A – Not entirely unlike many of his peers, Double A has been putting out projects on a regular basis – with at least one every year since 2017. The rapper and entrepreneur also owns and runs local business Naptown Thrift, so ambition and drive is something that translates into more than just the artistic aspect of his life. This ambition has already yielded him recognition from such outlets as the IndyStar. Even if 2020 is a quiet year for Double A with regards to new music (which I don’t think it will be), there’s no doubt that it will still be a busy year for him.

Dream Chief – After releasing several singles over the span of a year, 2019 saw very little activity from this electro-pop duo, which leads me to believe that they finally have new music planned for some time this year. They’ve done quite a bit of touring with The Band Perry and are still signed to Absorb Music, so all signs point to the pair of cousins still fully intent on releasing new tunes.

E. VINCENT – Somewhere at the crossroads of R&B, hip-hop, and alternative rock stylistically, E. VINCENT also brings to the table his distinct raspy yet soulful vocals to give him this unique R&B sound. Last year saw VINCENT release his first three singles, so he’s already on a slow, steady trajectory upward. Be on the lookout for more music from VINCENT in 2020.

Emma Peridot – In just over six months the artist formerly known as Emily Morrone has unleased four fantastic tunes, all of which are bangers. The Indy-based singer melds pop with trap, EDM, and even rock at times. It’s a unique sound that’s already earned her placements on numerous Spotify playlists, and with her first EP coming in a matter of weeks, Peridot is set for takeoff.

Forstory band photo courtesy of Mckylan Photography.

Forstory – Put simply, this dynamic indie pop quintet could be (and has been) characterized as “Paramore with a saxophone,” but I feel like that would be selling them short by oversimplifying their sound. Forstory combines this fun, often summery blend of pop rock with synths, and yes, that signature saxophone. For now, they’ve just been putting out singles, but even if that continues, we can expect at least a handful of new tunes throughout the year.

Foxd’legnd – This Indianapolis rapper has been steadily on the rise since his first project Living Proof. There’s this force to Fox’s flow that helps him stand out from his peers in the scene. 2020 looks to be yet another year where he releases music and simultaneously expands his following.

JAC – Indie pop hitmaker JAC already has five insanely catchy tunes available on all digital platforms, but his busiest year to date is just underway. With two 7-track releases out by summertime and another collection of new tunes slated before the year is up, expect nonstop infectiousness all throughout 2020, all courtesy of JAC.

Jake Schlegel – 2019 saw this songwriter release his debut LP, in addition to playing several shows outside of the Hoosier State. Schlegel starts 2020 as a finalist in the return of Indianapolis’ Battle of the Bands competition, so the sky’s the limit for this Americana-tinged guitarist whose music oozes authenticity.

James Otha – While he’s still putting the finishing touches on his newest project Limbo, this artist and producer has gained quite a bit of notoriety lately thanks to his 2018 song “Lotus Flower Remastered” going viral on TikTok. It’s quickly approaching a million Spotify streams, and in the meantime Otha has just released a new teaser from Limbo, which feels destined to drop in 2020.

Jeff Kelly & the Graveyard Shift – The folksy rock sound of Jeff Kelly may be something you’d be accustomed to hearing in a Nashville, per se, but Kelly’s music has this unique flair to it that sets him apart. I’m convinced that it would stand out even in as big a scene as Nashville, so it’s certainly a breath of fresh air in Indianapolis. The Worst Thing for You is less than six months old, and I fully expect it to continue turning heads well through this year.

Photo of Jeremiah Stokes courtesy of Digital Dutchess.

Jeremiah Stokes – Easily one of the most talented wordsmiths in the entire city, this 24-year-old emcee has been on my radar ever since I first heard his single “Ardyn” two years ago. His darker style and jaw-dropping wordplay will immediately capture your attention. Having released several stellar singles last year, Indianapolis’ Stokes looks primed to take over the world with his debut project in 2020.

John Stamps – Just one member of the locally-revered, now-defunct hip-hop group Ghost Gun Summer, Stamps’ unique blend of pop and trap music is already taking him places, and with more new material coming very soon, he doesn’t look to be stopping this momentum either.

Joshua Powell – Normally around this time of year everyone’s favorite Circle City indie rocker is gearing up to head out on tour. This time, though, Powell is opting to hibernate for the sake of writing new music. While his follow-up to the year-old PSYCHO/TROPIC feels like it’s still quite a ways away, just the thought of a new project being on the same level as my 2018 album of the year is enough to be excited about.

Kristen – This fun alt.-rock band named after its fierce frontwoman appeared on my very first “Hoosier Highlights” singles roundup, a monthly column which I admittedly dropped the ball on for the final third of last year. Although things have been fairly quiet for Kristen since that initial release of “Therapy,” the group hasn’t stopped playing shows. More music feels inevitable for 2020.

Marsiell – Marsiell’s influence on the Indianapolis hip-hop scene is undeniable, as he is often lauded as one of its staples. His newest project Strides 2 just came out back in October, and he’s planning at least one more tape by the end of this year too. Don’t expect him to compromise quality though by any means.

Michael Bruner – He only has one song out right now, but with it the Bloomington native brings chill, low-key vibes that take on this reggae-like characteristic. In addition to singing and songwriting, Michael Bruner is also a producer and visual artist. Bruner has plenty more material of his own slated for this year, including a new single dropping very soon, so keep an eye out for that. 

Mikayla Geier – There aren’t many things Mikayla Geier can’t do: from dancing and creating to producing and editing, the IU student is already paving her own way by wearing a multitude of different hats. Her debut single “Deja You” is barely two months old, yet it’s already reached tens of thousands of plays, garnering Geier a solid listening base that is no doubt ready to hear more from her.

O.D.D.I.T.Y – This Indianapolis native and Steadfast 2019 alum had several other noteworthy performances last year as well, including one in Switzerland and one at the halftime show of a Muskegon Risers game up in Michigan. His latest effort, last May’s Love Is ___., continues to push the boundaries of many different genres and styles. It will be tough to top a year as big as 2019 was for O.D.D.I.T.Y, but somehow I don’t find it that out of the question.

Okara Imani – Initially it felt strange including an artist who has yet to release any songs of her own, but after taking into account all the moves singer and poet Okara Imani has made in the past year or so, this inclusion feels very necessary. Lots of material has been written, and 2020 looks to be the year that some of it is finally released.

PONCÉ – Though they are currently based in Nashville, there’s no denying the Poncé brothers’ Indianapolis roots. The pop rock duo is currently in the studio hard at work on new music, so I think it’s a safe bet to say that we’ll get to hear something before the year is up.

Pope Adrian Bless – Known around the city for his signature scream, Pope’s unique blend of alternative hip-hop puts him in his own lane, one that’s earned him countless features across peer releases. 2019 saw the release of his own banger of a single in “Love Yourself,” and he’s bound to follow suit with more this year too.

Rhetoryk – He dropped a stellar full-length at the very tail end of last year, one that was long-awaited, but well worth the wait. It even landed on my albums of the year list for 2019 as an “honorable mention.” I’m confident Perspective will continue to help Rhetoryk make plenty of more noise well into this year as well.

Saint Aubin – Not only is the debut LP from Saint Aubin the band’s first release since a major personnel change, but it’s also quite the departure from their folky roots. Synths are at the forefront of Losing Control, and with several tour dates outside the Hoosier State, this indie rock act is really looking to keep the ball rolling.

Shiny Penny – Between Ryan, Ray, and myself, there are quite a few bands and artists that could fall under the “TUNED UP artist” title and go hand in hand with the blog. Shiny Penny is easily the most notable of such acts from Indiana though. The Kokomo natives craft this catchy, uplifting combination of indie pop and synth rock. They always put on an incredible live show too, so this feels like a given.

Sirius Blvck – Blvck packs this powerful punch into much of his wordplay, all while consistently offering up top-notch production across his catalogue. The rapper has been hard at work on TOMAHAWK, and with the first single “I Am Not Your Martyr” already out, it’s only a matter of time before we get to hear the rest of the new material.

Skypp – After grinding for years, it’s looking like all of his steady hard work is finally starting to pay off. Skypp’s latest full-length, U 4 U, reached the top 40 of the iTunes rap / hip-hop charts not long after its late November release. It’s an impressive feat for an independent emcee without any major backing, and that alone is reason enough to keep an eye out for Skypp’s continued rise this year.

Stay Outside – They played the very first Steadfast Fest back in 2016, and since then these indie rockers have released multiple EP’s, toured all over the region, and even gained the endorsement of Manchester Orchestra frontman Andy Hull. I will echo Ryan’s sentiments from his review of “Overboard” when I say that 2020 is looking promising for Stay Outside.

THE WLDLFE – Currently on tour with fellow indie pop group Nightly, this Indianapolis-based quintet released their full-length debut back in 2018. Although they put out several singles over the course of last year, 2019 was the first year without an EP or album from THE WLDLFE. I have a funny feeling they’ll make up for this with their sophomore LP sometime this year. That’s right, you heard it here first.

Trajik – Rapper Trajik just released his latest studio album Welcome to Traptown, and while he’s been making waves in and around Indianapolis for quite some time and hustling for even longer than that (to the tune of a decade), his acting has also helped put him on the map as of late. Whether it’s the stage or the screen, the hustle doesn’t stop either.

Willis – His music has blown up across the pond, specifically in Germany, and with the two-month-old LP Welcome to the Universe being his strongest project to date, Willis is poised for yet another big year in 2020.

wolfi – Regardless of how you feel about his music, you have to admit that the meteoric rise of wolfi from local upstart to millions of streams and hundreds of thousands of listeners in just a few years’ time is nothing short of remarkable. The pop crossover singer-songwriter kicked off 2020 with his sophomore full-length White on New Year’s Day, and the album has got some seriously fun bangers on it too.

Yadin Kol – This singer and guitarist’s unique style, a sound I dubbed “island soul pop” back when I first heard his debut single “True Love” in the summer of 2018, is a refreshing change of pace in a scene as heavily hip-hop as Indianapolis is. Kol has been hard at work writing and recording, and since whatever it is will be the first taste of new material since “True Love,” it’s bound to come sometime this year.

Zachery Le’on – Tight production, feisty flow, and consistent musical output: all of these are characteristics of Zachery Le’on as an artist, and all three when combined have the potential to result in success for the rapper. Don’t lose sight of Le’on and what all he’s got going on, or else you’ll probably miss out on one of his new releases.

Listen to and follow the playlist below and discover some new favorites!

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