CE’s Top 10 Female Underground Producers
Underground music has long been a force for exponential change and growth within music. From house and techno to R&B and rock-n-roll, nearly every major genre imaginable began in the imaginations of a handful of dedicated creators experimenting with new sounds before they hit a stroke of good fortune and went worldwide. Unfortunately, when looking at the history of many of these genres, their genesis is almost always credited to men. While men have certainly been responsible for some amazing things in music, our history often leaves out the adjacent contributions of women.
There are many clear reasons for these inequities—lack of opportunity, little time to pursue individual interests due to traditional child raising and house care, and of course, plain old-fashioned discrimination from men in positions of power. With this, we’d like to reiterate some statistics from Part One of this series: women executives get paid 30 percent less than men, according to Forbes. Another study from USC’s Annenberg Foundation, which examined three creative roles in music, found that women comprise only 22% of artists, 12% of songwriters, and a mere 2.1% of producers.
Finally, though, the tides are beginning to not just turn but to build up to a surge in the opposite direction. Women are rejecting the gender norms they’ve been stuffed into for decades, forging their own spaces within every industry, and demanding not just that they be allowed in but that they be allowed to thrive. Women are choosing not to cater to what men say they need to possess to rise to the top, but instead building their own venues, studios, and labels as safe places to share their voices.
For this Women’s History Month, CE joins the critical conversation surrounding gender inequality in the music industry by celebrating the females that are truly making a difference. Over the next few weeks, expect to see our staff picks for Top Commercial Chart Toppers and Top Underground Tastemakers, Top Industry Powerplayers, and Top Vocalists in EDM—all of the feminine persuasion.
We carefully named females only in our nomination, voting, and selection process. This is not to infer that there aren’t plenty of strong female players in male-female duos, but CE chooses to celebrate the full extent of GRL POWER this month. In a male-dominated music industry, every other month seems to celebrate men at the top of their game. March means 100% female empowerment.
Without further ado, here are Conscious Electronic‘s Top Ten Female Artists flexing their tastemaking skills and rocking the underground scene.
Table of Contents
Twenty-one-year-old Emily Mucha, known best under the stage name Vampa, has been making music since she was in college. Like most novus artists like her, she started off with just a laptop and some music software, slowly learning and developing her own wobble-heavy sound over time. She cites early influences by artists like Zeds Dead and UK dubstep, folding these into her reservoir to later evolve into a hard-hitting style that makes subs vibrate the floor and heartbeats race.
The Chicago-based producer sees herself not just as an artist but as a curator of experiences. In keeping with much of the underground movement, she leans heavily into the spiritual and space bass side of music, drawing from the ethereal to create out-of-this-world sets. She often provides her own breathtaking vocals, lending a witchy, dreamy vibe to many of her songs.
With tracks like “Shapeshifting,” and “Dark Matter,” it hasn’t been hard to enchant the hearts and souls of the more consciously attuned electronic lovers. She’s played at countless festivals and events including but not limited to Wakaan, Forbidden Kingdom, Radiance, Sunset, Okeechobee, Hulaween and more. She’s also opened for artists such as Mija, Boogie T, EPROM, Yheti.
Mucha’s main goal through all of this is simply to unleash her musical talent and creative content to the world while inspiring others along the way. Vampa has worked hard for her success over the years and has been watching her dreams unfold right before her very eyes.
In this new era of rapid bass music expansion, Lucille Croft is paving the way. From teetering between the genres of bass house, Melbourne bounce, and mid-tempo to fusing her childhood love for Nirvana and Led Zeppelin by collaborating with rock and metal bands, Aussie-born Lucille is forever blossoming as an artist.
Using menacing musical cuts and dramatic dubstep as a form of her true self-expression, Croft has proven herself the embodiment of creativity in its most alluring form. Armed with a dark and electrifying musical auteur attitude, along with a dystopian discography, her cuts are as alluring and addictive as they are jarring and head-thrashing. Just look to her recent releases in the relentless track, “Resonate,” or the boiling 100 bpm energy of “Control” to see the full gravitas of her sound design.
Supported the likes of Illenium, Kayzo, marshmello, ShockOne, and Black Tiger Sex Machine (BTSM), Lucille Croft has also released music across notable labels from BTSM’s Kannibalen Records to Spinnin’ and Bourne Recordings. When she’s not in the studio, with collaborations with Bijou and Blanke as well as a highly-anticipated EP coming down the pipelines, she’s touring all over Australia and Asia. She’s performed at Ultra Australia, OMNIA (Day Club), It’s The Ship Festival, and Ministry of Sound Club, with a very strong eye set on the US for the future.
Hair-raising, spine-tingling, and eerily viscous are only a few wats to define her body of work. But one thing is certain: Lucille Croft is one name in bass that large mainstage crowds may know very well soon enough. For these reasons, and many more, the Australian dame flies in at our No. 9 spot for top underground female talent.
We reached out to Lucille Croft for comment on being female in the industry, to which she inferred that she tries not to think too politically about her gender.
Yet, with women making up a mere 2.1 percent of music producers, according a recent USC Annenberg Foundation study, it’s a statistic that is glaring at all of us in the face. Since women in the EDM sector make up the vast majority of this 2 percent, it’s important that women in EDM encourage and mentor women seeking to get into the creative-technical side of music. That, in itself, does not have to be political in the least.
Hailing from Minneapolis, Megan Hamilton is on a life mission to fulfill her mantra of “causing funky riots and catchy house tunes” and does so without apology, as her Instagram suggests. While seeming to find delight in pushing the bounds of civility, it is more about remaining open to the world’s possibilities that drives Megan to produce her art, and a desire to show others that wonder.
The producer/vocalist has traveled happily through musical styles influenced by funk, glitch, and house, allowing her creative flow to move her in the direction that the energy wants to flow. Most recently she completed her latest project, the Le Beau EP which centers on time spent in San Francisco at the height of the pandemic and features the track “What Have We Done”.
In addition, Megan Hamilton is also a graphic designer and has shown how fully encompassing visual art can enhance the auditory experience. Videos for her latest, as well as the very controversial “Feed the Animals,” produced by Gravitas Recording, were both fascinating pieces of narration. An interesting development did occur however that was a riot in itself when the Federal Communications Commission flagged the “Feed the Animals” video for decency. The event was much heralded by Megan, as it seemed to her absurd, and proved the point her art was asserting.
Megan Hamilton inspires through the strength found in a voice that wishes to show the world as it is, rather than as we would have it. Art, in many instances, is a place where a celebration can occur that is spontaneous and free, without the chains of cultural and social paradigms and constructs. This is a kind of freedom, a freedom brought to us through warrior/artists like Megan.
There is more to being a powerful woman in the music industry than simply being a woman (although naturally, that helps). The ones who stand out from the crowd do so with originality, talent, hard work, and a willingness to help others along the same path as them. One such artist is Anna Morgan, a trailblazer not only for herself but for countless other underground ladies within the bass music scene, as well.
The Japanese-American artist cites her multicultural background often as inspiration–raised by Jamaicans, in a Latinx-prominent neighborhood of the Bronx, NYC. Her city certainly influenced her sound, and she creates a depth out of left-field bass that can’t be found anywhere else. An entirely unique fusion of urban club music, bass, tribal and Carribean sounds, and breakbeat have led to mixes that quickly garnered interest from others, and she’s a long-standing radio host for a popular show where she spins her own stuff as well as promoting guest artists. DJing in clubs and on the radio may be where her career began to take off, but it certainly isn’t her final landing place.
Now, she continues to do the above while also running a music blog (The Footwork Jungle), as founder and owner of Worst Behavior Recs label, and co-founder of a recurring all-female NYC multi-genre event HEAVY. This last accomplishment is one of particular pride for Morgan, as it heavily promoted “more challenging” music that pushes the boundaries of standard styles. It also marketed itself as all inclusive, fostering an environment supporting POC, women, and non-traditional genders as the artists. In this way, Anna Morgan is ensuring not only her own success, but that of the she’s and they’s paving the way for the future.
She bounces all over the world performing, both as a regular in cities like NYC and LA, as well as playing various countries such as Europe, Russia, Asia, Canada, and India. If you haven’t seen her in one of these locations, you may have caught her opening for a range of popular artists, including CloZee, Ivy Lab, Truth, and Barkley Crenshaw among others. Festival performances range from the iconic Dirtybird Campout to Shambhala to Bass Coast, showing off how diverse her range truly is.
Powerful newcomer Zingara, or Gabriella Mirabile, has already made major waves in the bass music scene with her self-coined style of music “astral trap.” Hailing from Baltimore, this spiritual guru and medium turned producer is bringing mindfulness back to bass music. Making a smooth entrance into the scene with bass-heavy trap infused tracks like “Medusa” and “Mind Control,” this young northeastern prodigy is on the path to enlightenment, and she is taking her listeners on the audial journey with her.
It wouldn’t be long before Mirabile caught the ear of the GRLGNG founder Jeanie, with Zingara’s entrancing sound earning her a spot in the all-women collective’s impressive ranks. Appearing on both RIOT! and Wreck The Halls Vol. 1 as well as a 40 minute mix for the collectives radio series, it is clear the casual listeners and professionals alike cannot get enough of this talented rising-star’s sound.
With expertise spanning far beyond the world of music, this Maryland native is also a wildly talented film producer. Using her collegiate knowledge of film to diverge into music, she has mastered multiple DAW’s and mediums in her journey through light and sound.
The young producer recently released a self-directed and produced music video for her collaboration with ROYALFLU$H and Notorious Nick…oh, and she stars in it too. “The 12th Density” is a track representing the highest level of consciousness, and the video follows suit with dreamy images of sacred snakes and manifestations.
The underground bass scene is in desperate need of a bright and positive light these days, and it seems Zingara is here to illuminate the industry. It is clear that this is the beginning of a long and impactful career for Zingara, and by using her positive outlook and multitude of talents there are no limits to where her career will take her.
ALSO CHECK OUT
After showcasing her next-level sonic capabilities for years under her spacegeishA project, Philadelphian Becca Drylie-Perkins took some time away to reassess the culpability of her artist alias. Despite earning widespread praise for her stunning bass productions, she put her stage name under a microscope and came to the realization that it had potential to evoke feelings of cultural appropriation. So, through much deep reflection and a laudable sense of self-awareness, Perkins translated her artistic project into the more culturally sensitive one known today as VEIL.
Still holding onto her stunning array of bass alchemy as spacegeishA, she doubled-down under her metamorphosis into VEIL and came out flying to new heights. As a new force on on Liquid Stranger’s esteemed imprint, Wakaan Records, VEIL has taken naturally to the left-field imprint with a two-track EP of half-time heavy-hitters, titled Summon, as well as a highly experimental joint-EP with NotLö called Exoplanet, which hit radio waves just last month.
While still in her infancy under the veil of her new artistic endeavor, one would be remiss to not remember this is still someone whose played Burning Man, Symbiosis, and Denver’s celebrated underground venue, The Black Box. She’s also co-owner of Street Ritual, a West Coast flavored conscious bass label and collective that represents over 70 artists and boasts a catalogue of over 100 releases.
Forever an undulating underground talent in her own right, yet a veteran who leads a whole pack of newcomer talent, VEIL still manages the fight the need to conform to the commercial spotlight. Perhaps it’s because she’s always craved the dark, dingy vibes of the underground, or perhaps because she draws major influence from Dave Tipper. In a recent interview with Uncut Republic, she described the moment her “robot ear orgasm” after stumbling across the Godfather of the Glitch Underground.
She’s a true shapeshifter in terms of her own artistic identity and her stylistic form, Perkins is constantly pushing the limits of her sound as she brushes the boundaries of glitch, glitch-hop, halftime, drum & bass, dubstep, grime, breakbeat, psybass, and dark progressive. It’s really no wonder VEIL earned herself a top-ranking spot on CE’s Top Underground Females short list.
The artist known as ill-ēsha has long been established as a leader in the industry through the tenaciousness of her originality and the power of her voice. Born Elysha Zaide in Vancouver, British Columbia, though now living in Denver, ill-ēsha found herself in her teens wrapped up in the rave scene of the city, which she asserted herself to become apart of: “I’m not really an observer,” she says, adding, “Everything I do in my life quickly becomes way more than a hobby… First I wanted to be part of this culture as a DJ, doing vocals and curating music. After that, I also had to participate in the music I was playing.”
While ill-ēsha’s career first garnered attention way back in the late 90s, she has continued to evolve as an instrumentalist, vocalist, producer and songwriter through the different genres and styles of music she chose to pursue. In the 2000s, she was one of only a few leading female producers in the DnB genre who had national recognition.
“I spent about a decade in the Drum & Bass world,” she tells CE. “I was one of two Drum & Bass female MCs in the whole country, for a long time. That’s how I got my start and started touring.”
As that era began to wane, however, she found herself drawn to glitch and became a pioneer in the Glitch hop and future bass movement, which led to tours in 2013 with Beats Antique and Big Gigantic. Ill-ēsha has performed in more than 20 countries across the world at legendary events such as Boiler Room, Coachella, and Lightning in a Bottle. Today, besides continuing to produce music, she can be found organizing the EDM community through the EDM production discord she runs as well as leading teaching and leading youth workshops.
Ill-ēsha is a truly multi-dimensional artist who stays in touch with her origins while continuing to incorporate innovation in her music and through artistic outreach. Being on stage demonstrating the power of her vocals, playing her keytar, and busting the loop pedals is her happy place. Additionally, she is an artist who wants to bring this experience to others, whether it is as the listener, or, better yet, the future artist who needs an inspirational push.
A Hundred Drums
Attempting to manufacture a sound that synchronizes the heartbeats of all who listen is A Hundred Drums, the sonic production of Gabrielle Watson. This dubstep/psytrance hand-grenade has been steadily spreading her ashes all around the industry with her evocative and distinct sound that has left speakers shaken and crowds transported.
Growing up as a multi-instrumentalist, Watson’s ear for production was a long time coming. Making her way through wind instruments like the saxophone, clarinet, and flute with a breeze, Watson eventually developed an intimate connection with drums and percussion, a capability fans can hear being exercised in several of her tracks and collections, such as her (AHD) Sonder EP, a lo-fi project Watson released in 2020.
Just don’t get too comfortable listening to the enchanting melodies presented on her mellow side, because A Hundred Drums has bass that will leave listeners completely puddled. Her self-titled debut LP that dropped in February 2020 bares all the evidence fans need to understand the strength and versatility of this bass artist that grew from an environment she created for herself.
After spending her life in Los Angeles, Watson felt deprived of a music scene that resonated with her. As a result, in 2014 she and a couple of friends started throwing underground dubstep shows in Hollywood. This pursuit eventually amounted to an entire event and production company called B-Side that she still helps run today. In addition to her work on B-Side, Watson is also a board member for Shakti Sound, an all-female ran organization that focuses on educating women in music, production, DJing, and everything in between.
Securing spots at festivals such as Coachella, Sonic Bloom, Deja Voom, Tribal Gathering, and Freestyle Sessions, Gabrielle Watson has clearly established herself as one of the top-rising artists in the underground. Expect to see A Hundred Drums name on lineups coming to a re-awakened live music sector very soon. In the meantime, catch her next weekend, March 26-28, as she headlines CouchFest’s one-year anniversary live stream.
Goddess of deep dubstep, Khiva, has captivated audiences across the globe with her low frequency, bass-driven 140-centric styles, and ethereal sound scapes. Presenting a thoughtful and cohesive catalogue of work, this divine femme proves that sound system culture is for the girls, too
“We’re all artists expressing in our own ways and the closer I feel in alignment to my true self the more true I see my art to be, a reflection.“
While she may be Canadian-born, this nomadic star doesn’t feel right calling anywhere home. Moving around the west coast for much of her upbringing, she accredits her current approach to music and life with her early unconventional lifestyle. Khiva embraces her surroundings and finds deep importance in daily mindfulness practices as well as connection with the world around her. Much of her body of work has been influenced by her world travels, and the copious amounts of global influence can be heard throughout her unique and impressive discography.
Debuting her first EP, In The Quiet, on the prestigious bass label Deep Dark & Dangerous, the guys of TRUTH saw from the very beginning that Khiva and her work were something special. Over the years she has gone on to release multiple singles and EPs with the highly sought-after home for left-field and low-end bass, aligning herself with some of the industries very best talent. Along with securing herself a monthly slot on UK bass online radio station, Subtle FM, she has performed on the internationally-renowned stages of Europe’s Outlook, British Columbia’s Shambhala, and New Zealand’s Northern Bass. There is one thing to be sure, this masterful manipulator of bass is here to stay.
Khiva’s haunting and thought-provoking cuts have earned a permanent spot in our ears and hearts, and the coveted number two spot on our top ten list. Her ability to convey intangible elements through sound is unmatched, proving itself a truly ephemeral experience for any listener, whatever that may be. We are eagerly awaiting Khiva’s future to see what otherworldly creations she unveils next.
As one of the promising new artists releasing under the Mean Mug stamp, NotLö has been creating seismic waves in the world of underground bass music. So much so that she shot straight to the top spot in our Underground Producers Top Ten. Unexpected? Not so much, considering how CE has been following the artist for over a year now as she’s worked with Aftershock, a 40oz Collective, Headbang Society, and The Untz.
From her early days working alongside Wreckno, to the age of quarantine live streams, to her recent signing onto CloZee’s newly-minted Odyzey Music, it seems almost serendipitous for this artist and her label manager both top our lists. “I seriously cannot believe that an artist I have been listening to for six years has taken interest in my project,” NotLö told CE in an exclusive interview. “CloZee is an 11/10 human being, and it’s been an honor to work with her.”
“For people to receive my project this well is crazy. I really wanted to make sure that my style and sound stood out to people and I am really excited that these goals are being achieved.”
When asked if she’s ever felt discouraged being a female music maker, she tells us that she simply translates that negativity into a drive to work harder: “It sucks to say, but yes I have. There have been remarks that one would call ‘discouraging,’ but I translated it to motivation. I should probably say thank you for the discouragement because it has led to me pushing personal boundaries with my sound.”
NotLö’s gracious demeanor makes her a light that shines in the darkness that consumes so much of the music industry. This is precisely why we selected her as a Rising Bass Spotlight artist last year, a list that has been dominated by up-and-coming males. Why this is is still a mystery that hasn’t fully been unpacked, but NotLö feels like women have been “stepping up and showing out” in the underground scene as of recent.
As for the advice NotLö gives aspiring femaleDJ hopefuls looking to “make the leap” into music production as a profession, NotLö responded:
“I say go for it, and don’t let anything hold you back. Production as a whole seems so hard, but there are so many tools to help you learn. I learned sound design and arrangement on my own through tutorial videos and experimenting. I also interned at a studio under a professional sound engineer here in Denver. That really helped me understand the logistics of making my creations sound good. If you reach out and research, you will find many tools to aid you. Whether the tools are about sound design, engineering or even marketing; you can learn so much!”
For the second part of CE‘s March Women’s Month promotional series, our focus shifted from the commercial powerhouses and lineup headliners to the underground tastemakers who are upending the very genres that inspired them in all new ways. As for the predominance of bass music females on the list, that may merely be reflective of our staff’s tastes, but it is in no way meant to be all-encompassing. There are plenty of amazing women who are dominating the techno underground warehouses, for instance.
These are the ladies who are transforming the bass music scene from the ground up, fighting for female equality and empowerment in the very roots of the EDM community. These women encompass everything from label owners to radio hosts and event organizers, all while still spinning and crafting their own unique, glass-ceiling-shattering beats.
We leave you with our specially-curated playlist for Top Underground Female Talent and one finale reminder: that celebrating and lifting up female artists is just as important as critiquing the dominant status quo. Only through discourse can we begin to upend a power system that works to subjugate women in order to keep male talent at the top.
Next week, tune in for our Top 10 Industry Powerplayers who have carved out female spaces on the business side of EDM. These are the publicists, photographers, booking agents, artist and label managers, and more— all of whom are making moves and making names.
A conscious way to consume EDM.