Written by: Jonno Coll
Wireless Festival is one of the most innovative urban music festivals in Europe, with few others having done quite as much to push conventional festival norms. It made its return from the pandemic last year at a slightly later September date, and picked up where it left off with headline sets from Skepta and Migos.
This year is split across three editions, kicking off on in Crystal Palace before two concurrent festivals in both Finsbury Park and Birmingham, all set to unfold this July.
It’s held a unique space in Britain’s festival circuit for nearly 20 years, though it’s drive towards showcasing the best in hip-hop and grime is a more recent phenomenon.
The maiden edition way back in 2005 featured New Order, Keane, Kasabian, and several other staple indie bands. Grime really made its breakthrough in 2016, when Boy Better Know shut down a festival that would then never look back. It was a seminal moment for the festival itself and for the UK’s urban music scene as a whole, proving that the list of genres that could headline festival main stages was wider than ever.
We’ve picked out five acts from across the three festival sites for you to keep an eye on this year.
Having cut his teeth in East London’s Nasty Crew alongside the likes of D Double E and Kano when they were blowing up, Ghetts is one of the scene’s fastest rising stars.
He recently collaborated with Stormzy on 'Skengman'; a track which seemed to send some sideways shots at Chip, and has never been one to shy away from a battle. His excellent 2021 album Conflict of Interest saw him step out of the shadow of some of Nasty Crew’s more established names, and now he’s breaking the UK festival circuit.
French The Kid
French The Kid, as his name would suggest, has the unique knack of effortlessly switching between French and English in most of his tunes. His journey to the top has been an interesting one, having been born in Essex which provides his distinctive twang, before spending time growing up in both France and Australia.
At the tender age of 22 he’s done much to demonstrate his outrageous talents, moving between rapping and singing as easy as he drifts between languages. Last year’s album Never Been Ordinary was sensational, and with feedback from his sold out performance at London's Islington Assembly Hall being similarly brilliant, this could be one of the performances of the weekend.
One of the biggest artists at the festival - and perhaps one of the biggest on the planet full-stop - Dave’s discography speaks for itself, but he really broke into the mainstream in early 2020 with his poignant, searing performance at the BRIT Awards. By this time he’d already released the outstanding 2019 album Psychodrama, but since then he’s somehow managed to elevate things further.
His cerebral, storytelling rap style has seen him carve out a unique space in the UK grime scene. The likes of 'Both Sides of a Smile', a collaboration with James Blake, showcase the full breadth of his musical and storytelling talents. He’ll also soon become the youngest artist to headline both Reading and Leeds Festival, and if the last few years are any guide then there is no ceiling to his potential.
British-Jamaican performer Mahalia will be adding some alternative R&B to proceedings at the Birmingham edition of the festival. Her live shows in particular have earned her rave reviews, often taking breaks between tunes to tell anecdotes of her journeys through relationships. She brought a similar energy to her Colours performance in 2017, nailing a rendition of 'Sober' that has endured to be one of the series’ best.
This sort of breezy, relatable storytelling is a feature in some of her most popular songs. The likes of '17' and 'I wish I Missed My Ex' speak to being unapologetically yourself as you navigate the pitfalls of love and youth. Mahalia is a supremely talented artist who is well worth your time when the festival touches down at the NEC.
Having not yet turned 20, ArrDee’s ascent to the top has been a rapid one. He started rapping aged 13, and caught the nation’s attention in early 2021 by featuring on Tion Wayne’s number one single 'Body'. His debut single 'Oliver Twist' followed shortly after, and from there he’s never looked back.
The baby-faced Brighton rapper has had a lot of mainstream success, but also earned critical acclaim when he stepped up to freestyle on Daily Duppy and delivered a surprisingly raw, stripped-back masterpiece. He’s more versatile than many give him credit for, and is perfectly at home alongside some of the biggest stars in the business.
Wireless Festival 2022 takes place at both London's Crystal Palace Park and Finsbury Park, and Birmingham's NEC Arena on 1-3rd July and 8-10 July. For the latest info from the festival, join the Wireless Festival 2022 Waiting List.