The world is constantly introduced to a variety of individuals that impact, influence, and innovate. Without them, we are incapable of experiencing different types of artistic expression. Designers, musicians, photographers, writers, etc. – they all inspire us with their work.
This year, especially, was full of impressive creations from progressing, as well as famous, artists. Each of them are visionaries, shaping new aspects in their craft. Acknowledging their talent, we composed a list of esteemed creatives with distinguishing qualities, all of which thrived this year. Here’s our highly anticipated 40 CREATIVES OF 2016.
40. Akera Miles
Occupation: Publisher, writer, photojournalist, creative director
Known for: NOVICE Magazine
Akera Miles is extremely lowkey, but her words are louder than ever. The founder of NOVICE Magazine, hailing from Maryland, has influenced and inspired many artists not only from her area, but across the nation. With the release of the first print issue of her magazine earlier in the year, she and her team of creatives have gained notability amongst artists of all sorts.
39. Santiago Fletcher
Occupation: Visual artist
Known for: Art, style
The laid-back genius known as Santiago Fletcher has been painting for a very long time. It’s safe to say he has mastered the art. He has orchestrated his own raw, versatile style and a method of executing it. This year, Fletcher hosted his own panel at dozens of art shows and painted his throne as artistic royalty in the DMV area.
38. Samera Paz
Occupation: Photojournalist, visual artist, creative director, philanthropist, organizer
Known for: Girl Power Meetups, Locals Only DC, photography, art
Samera Paz is a 22 year-old visionary from Washington D.C. best known for her philanthropic achievements and endeavors in the creative, female, and black communities. She has used her artistic talents and interest in photography to promote social change and impact the world around her. She is the founder of Young Women’s Movement Girl Power Meetups and creator of Locals Only DC. The artist has experienced a year of growth within her movement, influencing girls and artists not only in her group, but across the nation.
37. Luka Mihas
Occupation: Designer, musician
Known for: NightFire Clothing, NightFire Records, style
Luka Mihas is a 19 year-old designer and musician hailing from Ontario, Canada. Over the last 2 years he has been running NightFire Clothing which has gained attention from around the world. The designer has accomplished a lot before reaching his 20s, most notably, this year, some of his clothing was stocked at Disney in Orlando, Florida. He has had names like YesJulz, Ugly God, and others rocking and endorsing his work. In 2016, he founded his own record label, NightFire Records, where he and many other artists such as Dutchboy, Black Smurf, and Brothel have released music.
36. Jake Lord
Occupation: Musician, photographer, designer
Known for: Music, style, photography
Born and raised in Connecticut, Jake Lord is a fashion designer and photographer turned musician who has reached heights he probably didn’t expect this year. Jake released his first song entitled “Finer Things” back in March, which now has amassed almost 80,000 plays on Soundcloud. Then, Niykee Heaton got a hold of the track and remixed it herself. The remix gained almost 200,000 plays on Soundcloud and allowed Jake Lord to perform alongside Niykee at the Billboard Music Festival in front of thousands. The young Lord is currently working on a debut album and is ready to kill it once again in 2017.
35. Tyler Mitchell
Occupation: Photographer, filmmaker
Known for: Photograhy, filming Brockhampton + Kevin Abstract music videos, El Paquete
It’s assumed that anyone can pick up a camera and consider themselves a photographer, which seems to be a popular speculation due to the numerous amount of self proclaimed masters of the craft. However, the theory is a myth. Atlanta native, Tyler Mitchell, is one of the few genuine photographers with candid, quality work. He’s partnered with Brockhampton and Abra, filming some of their music videos, which are all incredible to watch. Also, he has a photo book compiled of vivid pictures depicting the enthralling setting of Cuba, titled El Paquete. At just 21 years young, Mitchell has accomplished a lot and bound to continue to do so.
34. Rory Fresco
Occupation: Rapper, vocalist, producer
Known for: “Lowkey”, music, style
Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri is young music prodigy, Rory Fresco, who had a crazy year. In January, he received an unexpected endorsement from Kanye West, following the release of “Real Friends”. Thanks to Soundcloud’s Related Tracks algorithm, Rory’s song, “Lowkey”, happened to play right after Kanye’s. Rory’s song immediately went from a few hundred plays to a few thousand. Then from a few thousand to 20,000. 20,000 to 50,000. 50,000 to 100,000. Then a few weeks later, Rory found his song at over 1 million plays. This opened many doors for the Kansas City native. About a month later, he was signed to Epic Records, was featured in multiple magazines and music platforms, and had some studio time with legendary producer Timbaland. His song, “Lowkey”, now has over 4.5 million plays on Soundcloud.
33. Jeremy Thomas
Occupation: Visual artist
Known for: Portraits of various artists
Illinois native and visual artist, Jeremy Thomas, gained the spotlight this year with his many digital paint portraits of popular artists. You most likely saw some of his work on your Twitter or Instagram timelines throughout the year, such as his colorful renditions of various artists, or his Gucci Mane t-shirt. His most popular work thus far was his artwork of Chance The Rapper, Frank Ocean, Kanye West, and Kid Cudi, obtaining almost 4,000 retweets and 5,200 likes on Twitter. His work was endorsed by 21 Savage, Revolt TV, and other popular outlets.
32. Savage Suan
Occupation: Designer, creative director, visual artist
Known for: DAMAGED INTENTIONS, style
His alias is a perfect reflection of his no-fucks-given attitude and dark, gritty aesthetic. However, it will never outshine his rare talent in design and pure ambition. Savage Suan, a 19 year old designer from Baltimore, Maryland, has been slowly building his streetwear empire, DAMAGED INTENTIONS, from scratch since 2014 and the growth is off the charts.
31. Bryant Giles
Occupation: Visual artist, designer
Known for: Art, style
Bryant Giles is an artist living in Chicago, but his vision has reached the world. The young artist could be considered a modern day Basquiat, with his abstract and beautifully detailed style of painting. But this young visionary’s talent doesn’t stop at painting, oh no. Bryant Giles is a designer, intertwining his avant garde creative taste of art with his elegant and minimal taste in style. Giles’ has been featured in Vogue and many other platforms throughout the year, including his own art exhibition.
30. Nick Lenzini
Occupation: Brand owner, creative director, filmmaker
Known for: STAYBROKE
Nick Lenzini went from a kid drawing on his own clothes in Missouri to a creative director drawing on his own clothes in the heart of Los Angeles, all within a year. He is living, breathing proof that truly believing in your vision will get you exactly where you wanted and need to be in your creative career. Known for creating the streetwear brand STAYBROKE, Lenzini has single-handedly founded a movement that is centered around the greatness of being yourself and staying true to your vision, and this alone has gotten him very far. Over the last year, his clothing has been spotted on a number of notable names and artists, all while holding pop up shops in various places across North America. Last month, he attended Tyler, The Creator’s annual festival, Camp Flog Gnaw.
29. A. Johnson
Occupation: Designer, creative director, photographer, musician
Known for: DEMODE Clothing, style, music
A. Johnson, has been stunting on everyone in the fashion industry for about 2 and a half years now. Not only with his own personal style, but his streetwear brand and canvas-of-choice, DEMODE Clothing. The clean fitted designer has been a one-man band for the last three years, designing, curating, and bringing quality pieces to the growing world of style. His clothes have been seen on names such as Zendaya, King Bach, Aerin Creer, DC Young Fly, Wolf Tyla, Ugly God, Trevor Jackson, and more.
28. Denis Haze
Occupation: Photographer, visual artist, rapper
Known for: HAZEHAZE, A Haze Blue, photography, style
Denis Haze is a fist in the air, cultural embracing artist. You’ve probably seen him on your twitter feed ranting about a variety of topics or ran across his powerful and conceptual visuals. We interviewed Haze earlier in the year to get a better understanding of who he was, fortunately discovering a maverick creative. Due to his rare style, sick dance moves, and individual artistry, the man is inimitable. He speaks his mind, wears what he wants, creates what he wants, and quite frankly doesn’t give a damn. WE LOVE DENIS HAZE!
27. Cary Fagan
Occupation: Photographer, art director
Known for: Photography, taking pictures at Kanye’s latest fashion show
Houston native, Cary Fagan, is an ascending photographer with an exquisite approach to capturing more than just pictures. His images are genuine illustrations of landscapes, people, places – all of which seem to be conventional yet compelling and enticing to observe. Fagan has worked on many photography projects all over, and notably grasped the attention of Kanye West thus allowing him shoot at Yeezy Season 4. He published his first book this year titled Naked, comprised of impeccable film shots that are crude and unembellished by harsh editing or photoshop, which is quite rare to run across in the photography realm today. Fagan has a favorable path ahead and definitely earns a spot on the list as one of the most notable creatives of 2016.
Occupation: Designer, creative director
Known for: NASASEASONS, style
This editorial wouldn’t be complete without 19 year-old Parisian designer and creative director of NASASEASONS, Alexandre Daillance (aka Millinsky). He is known for his highly relatable, as well as quotable, hats which he has sold all across the globe, including to Rihanna, Wiz Khalifa, Tyga, and many more. Daillance had a crazy year, kicking it off with his own editorial in Forbes Magazine. From there, he spent the rest of 2016 making a majority of his moves in Paris, New York City, and LA, including founding his own self-named consulting company to bring quality creative assistance to aspiring designers and artists of all sorts.
25. Gianni Mora
Occupation: Designer, creative director, filmmaker
Known for: Summer Note Cap, HELLAGAIN, Helder Vices, style
Gianni Mora — first hitting the scene in 2014 with his infamous Summer Note Cap is now an unstoppable creative force. After befriending his favorite designer, Virgil Abloh, as well as notable members from A$AP Mob and other creative LA royalty, Mora has officially become one with the young greats. This year, he spent his time growing his fashion house and expanding his creative endeavors. In October, he released a short film, External Pleasure, a True Spectacle, in which he wrote, shot, and directed. 2017 will welcome him with more growth and blessings.
24. Shane Gonzales
Occupation: Designer, creative director
Known for: Midnight Studios, AWGE
Midnight Studios founder and creative director, Shane Gonzales, can put another great year in the bag. The 21 year-old designer is continuing to take the fashion industry by storm and keep everything he does at the next level. This year, he collaborated with the iconic watch brand, G-Shock, to bring a limited edition Midnight spint on Mudmaster GG-1000 watch. It’s only a matter of time before we see what Gonzales has planned for us next.
23. Ian Woods
Occupation: Visual artist
Known for: Art, style, AWGE
Visual artist Ian Woods probably didn’t expect his 2016 to go as good as it did. Toward the end of 2015, he was just doing what he usually does, which is make extremely dope, grungy caricature style works of art on his tablet. Then suddenly, he found himself as the leading visual artist in A$AP Mob. And now, after a year of creating AWGE’s sickest cover art and visuals, he has gained the spotlight as one of this year’s brightest visual artists.
22. Gunner Stahl
Known for: Photography of your favorite rappers, best tweets of 2016
You’ve most likely seen his tweets on your timeline. He’s the guy with the iconic pastel pink avi and the cross emoji as his Twitter name. Well, his name is Gunner Stahl, and he’s a 23 year old photography who has become known as the one documenting the evolution of hip-hop culture. He has become known for his raw, candid photos of artists in and out of the studio; just simply living their life. His most popular shots are of artists like Lil Yachty, The Good Perry, A$AP Rocky, and others. His most notable accomplishments of the year include shooting scenes for Metro Boomin and Gucci Manes’ cover stories for The FADER Magazine.
21. Glyn Brown
Occupation: Designer, creative director, visual artist
Known for: 448c, style
Glyn Brown has been on the radar for about 2 years now. He is most known for being the founder and creative director of clothing brand and creative platform, 448 CREATE. His unique designs and creative expression are always two steps ahead of the next guy. Simply put, this man is a visionary and we need to keep our eyes on him.
20. Kevin Abstract
Known for: Brockhampton, music, style
Among Brockhampton, a group composed of competent creatives – rappers, producers, designers, and such – is Kevin Abstract. He recently released his sophomore album titled, American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story, which correlates to the sound of the project precisely. The album is relatable yet refreshing and definitely opens up a new perspective on current music. It’s a compilation of grunge and hip hop merged together with Abstract exploring love, sexuality, high school clichés and typical stuff in an innovative way. He also threw an All American Drive-in Prom in Los Angeles (which was free by the way), announcing his upcoming tour, Death of a Supermodel, commencing in February 2017. Although being previously involved in music, the big break for Kevin Abstract’s thriving career is now.
19. Luka Sabbat
Occupation: Model, stylist
Known for: Style
Birthed by two fashion connoisseurs, Luka Sabbat was destined to be apart of the industry. He’s created a name for himself and maintains his presence among different forms of media. Known for verging high fashion with streetwear and sporting outfits in his own authentic debonairness, Sabbat has gained immense admiration from his peers and role models. He’s appeared in runway shows (notably Yeezy) and several fashion publications. Constantly travelling from place to place for shows or just for the hell of it, Sabbat lives a lifestyle that everyone wants to live.
18. Kali Uchis
Occupation: Singer, director
Known for: Music, style
Northern Virginia-born artist Kali Uchis popped onto the scene about 2 years ago, with her vividly retro-centric aesthetic and smooth vocals. It wasn’t until this year, however, she received massive acclaim for her music and directorial work on her music videos. Kali is currently working on her debut album for 2017.
Known for: Music, style
Washington, D.C. native, Goldlink, isn’t quite new to the music scene. If you didn’t know about him, now is a good time to get familiar because you’ve been missing out. His music is dynamic and bouncy leading you to head nod and make ugly faces at the potently sensational sound. Along with the production is his animated flow which adds flair to the music. He’s also worked with notable producers Kaytranada, Sango, and Rick Rubin. Look out for him in the near future. He’s definitely on the come up.
16. Petra Collins
Occupation: Filmmaker, photographer, artist
Known for: Keep Sailing film, Love Is So Much! film
24 year-old Canadian filmmaker and photographer Petra Collins might’ve not gained as much recognition as she should’ve, but she definitely did her thing this year. From shooting and directing Lil Yachty’s film Keep Sailing to directing other films for i-D and The Fader, Collins will continue to bring her colorful and glittery vision to life through the lens in 2017.
15. Anderson .Paak
Known for: Music
California’s own Anderson .Paak had an amazing year of exposure this year. From being a part of the XXL Freshman Class 2016 to releasing his second studio album Malibu, .Paak is definitely preparing us for another great year in 2017.
Known for: Music, mystique
Chi town native, Noname, formally known as Noname Gypsy, started off attending poetry slams and casually freestyling. Delivering an alternative image of a female rapper, rather than being raunchy or vulgar, Noname renders a poetic and raw approach to music. She has featured on many projects with artists such as Saba, The Social Experiment, Thundercat, and good friend, Chance the Rapper. She also debuted her first project in July, providing pure vibes and smoothly composed tracks. Her flow and talent is on a different level, guaranteeing her a spot on our list.
13. Ian Connor
Occupation: Model, stylist, creative director
Known for: Style, Yeezy Season, A$AP Mob, REVENGE X STORM, controversy
The previously deemed King of the Youth, Ian Connor, has had one hell of a year. After ending 2015 off with a bang, he went into 2016 a little shakier than usual, with sudden accusations of raping multiple women, getting into various beefs and fist brawls with former friends, losing his spot on Kanye West’s team of creative advisors, and eventually losing thousands of formerly beloved followers. However, if there is one thing about Ian we should know, it’s that he is unstoppable and too ambitious to be brought down. So, he found his way back to the top by doing what he does best — creating the next wave of style. Ian is working on bringing the world a new shoe and apparel brand known as Revenge x Storm, and so far, the feedback has been nothing but praise.
Occupation: Event coordinator, artist management, creative director, curator, DJ
Known for: 1 AM Vibes, event hosting, curation
Julz Goddard, or YesJulz, as everyone calls her, is popular among social media, obtaining an impressive amount of followers on each platform. Unlike many famous social media people, she is well known with a reason. She’s an expert at what she does, which is promote and manage brands, DJ, direct, and well, pretty much everything. According to her snap, she’s always at functions, always travelling, always working – simply always on the go! Goddard is shaping a new image for the typical business woman. She’s lively, determined, and enthusiastic, while also assuring she’s resolute about her profession. Who says you have to be stern and monotonous to be about your career? Definitely not her! Props to the YesJulz team for pioneering a new perspective on the marketing/branding sector for women.
11. Amandla Stenberg
Occupation: Actress, activist
Known for: Playing Ruth in The Hunger Games, Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows, appearing in Lemonade visual, style, activism
Stenberg has flourished since her big break on The Hunger Games as Rue, which ignited her requisite to discuss polarity between races in the film industry. Since then she has constructed an activist image, becoming one of the most wise and influential teenagers around. Speaking on subject matters such as social injustice, girl power, trans rights, and pretty much any social issue out there, she doesn’t repress her personal assessments and has no regard for opposing notions. Stenberg is an admirable, enlightened post millennial who definitely influences us to live with more open minds and inclusive view points.
10. Lil Yachty
Known for: Music, style, Yeezy Season 3, red beaded braids
ATL native, Lil Yachty, is beyond his “soundcloud rapper” classification days. Modeling in Yeezy Season 3 in February, dropping his debut mixtape in March, collaborating with D.R.A.M on Broccoli in April, featuring on Coloring Book with Chance the Rapper in May, and releasing a second mixtape in July, shows that this year has definitely been full of action for the nautical rapper. He also ended the year off buying his mom a house, an emblem of his success!
9. Willow Smith
Occupation: Musician, vocalist, actress, activist
Known for: Artistry, music, style, philosophy, activism
What would this list be without Willow Smith? She’s only 16 and has an authentic individuality that is hard to find in teenagers these days. Her level of thinking is higher than people twice her age, and she’s definitely woke when it comes to ideological topics. Besides having an intriguing philosophical mindset, Willow also has a laudable sense of style. This is inferred by not just us, but also by Karl Lagerfeld as he assigned her Chanel’s AW16 eyewear ambassador. Not to mention her music is pure genius. Bottom line is – she’s amazing.
Occupation: Singer, actress, art director
Known for: Artistry, music
Solange medicated the world with her refreshing and soul rejuvenating album, A Seat At The Table. It illustrates the essence of what it is like being black in today’s society in an artistic and divine manner. With everything that went on this year from continuous police brutality and social injustice, the album came out at the most appropriate time. A Seat At The Table not only conveys a strong message but it also covers a spectrum of emotions from pain, meditation, coping with difficulties, and possesses a self celebratory element as well. There wasn’t any way she could have executed the art more ideally. Everything from the visuals, interludes, tracks, lyrics, etc., blended together perfectly, creating a highly significant album of not just 2016, but for years to come as well.
7. Jaden Smith
Occupation: Rapper, vocalist, designer, filmmaker, actor, visual artist
Known for: Music, style, activism, philosophy, avant-garde state of mind, MSFTSrepublic
Jaden daringly started off the year as the face of Louis Vuitton’s Spring/Summer Collection in a dress which stirred controversy. The good thing about Jaden is that he doesn’t care. He rocked the dress without an ounce of fear about being judged because he’s an artist with a desire to be dauntless and make a statement. Obviously he’s doing something right with the immense amount of admirers that support and look up to him. He’s an important aspect of our generation; he is the future.
6. Frank Ocean
Occupation: Singer, rapper
Known for: Music, style, making us wait
Perhaps one of the most versatile talents of this generation is embodied in California native, Frank Ocean. The contemporary R&B and psychadelic pop artist was on everyone’s minds for the last 4 and a half years, after making the world wait a little too long for the release of his extremely anticipated sophomore album, Blonde. After finally releasing the album back in August, it receieved massive acclaim and a number 1 spot on the Billboard Top 200 and was listed as the third-largest debut of the year.
5. Tyler, The Creator
Occupation: Rapper, musician, designer, photographer, producer, filmmaker, writer
Known for: Music, humor, potty mouth, unique sense of style
Tyler proved his brilliance long ago, but this year he definitely showed us his versatile artistic abilities. In June he finally presented his first fashion show that exhibited the vibrant, eccentric Golf Wang collection. The show was zany with skateboarding and carefree models rocking the gear casually, making the runway Tyler’s own unique vision. He also dropped the Golf le Fleur sneakers which are said to be available early 2017. Tyler continues to be a trendsetting, rule breaking artist. It’s impossible for him to fade away from being an influential figure.
4. Kid Cudi
Known for: Majestic signature humming, hard-hitting alt/rock, hip hop music
Cudi didn’t exactly have a smooth year. He was admitted into rehab for depression and suicidal urges in early October and had a small feud with mentor, Kanye West. Despite the setbacks, he still managed to deliver a kick ass album with the most appropriate title for everything he’s been through this year – Passion, Pain, & Demon Slayin’. Being able to recuperate from rehabilitation and get back on his feet to deliver an album as promised is inspiring. In the end his beef with West was squashed when the two hugged it out on the Saint Pablo Tour, giving fans reassurance that they’ll continue to work with another. It’s safe to say that Cudi is unstoppable, in spite of his demons.
3. Chance The Rapper
Known for: Music, style, being Chance
Young mastermind, Chance the Rapper is on top of his game. He definitely was on an ultralight beam this year, co-writing and featuring on The Life of Pablo, dropping his successful third mixtape, the virtuous gospel and rap fused, Coloring Book, and curating and hosting his own festival, Magnificent Coloring Day over the summer. Chance also channeled his inner activist on social media by voicing his concern with social injustice and gun violence. It’s without a doubt that Chance is a creative inspiration. He has accomplished so much and still remains unrestricted from record labels, as an independent artist.
2. Kanye West
Occupation: Rapper, producer, designer, art director, filmmaker
Known for: Music, style, creative ventures, controversy, attitude
Kanye West is entering his 40s and still killing it and staying 100% in tune with the youth. From releasing his highly anticipated eighth studio album The Life of Pablo, to his live function at Madison Square Garden (which attained over 20 million viewers worldwide), to his numerous Yeezy Supply clothing and shoe releases, to selling out arenas across North America, and to a sudden mental break down — it’s safe to say Yeezy had a crazy year. The world can only imagine what Kanye has in store for us in 2017.
1. Donald Glover
Occupation: Rapper, singer, musician, comedian, actor, producer, director, screenwriter
Known for: Rap alias Childish Gambino, music, style, Atlanta, various acting roles
This year has been extremely eventful for multi-talented Donald Glover. He arranged Pharos, a concert in the middle of nowhere delivering mega vibes to fans. Utilizing his witty screenwriting skills, he released his self produced show on FX titled Atlanta, which impressed not only his fans but major television critics as well, earning it a second season. He’s casted as Lando Calrissian in a new Star Wars’ film and is expected to have a role in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming film. Additionally, he dropped the grooviest album of the year, Awaken, my Love! Glover took a risk by not playing it safe and sticking to the usual Childish Gambino sound. Instead he went out on a limb and experimented with funk music, implementing his personal touch, creating an amazing piece of art. Let’s not forget, while all of this was going on, he also welcomed his first born child into the world. What is it that Donald Glover can’t do?