The best underground DJs are known for producing and performing cutting-edge music at the forefront of the electronic, house, and techno music genres.
These pioneers have earned their reputations DJing at some of the most iconic venues in America and the biggest music festivals worldwide.
Read on, and we’ll break down the background, music genres, and headline performances from these dancefloor legends.
The 10 Best Underground DJs To Follow In 2023
Underground DJs are noted for their ability to infuse established genres with new and unique sounds that challenge conventions.
We’ve selected these awe-inspiring DJs to reflect their musical influence and commanding presence when performing live sets.
Without further ado, here’s our list covering the ten best underground DJs in 2023:
10. Nicolas Jaar
Chilean-born music producer and DJ Nicolas Jaar began his professional career in 2007, performing at Marcy’s parties in New York.
He soon became a pillar of the underground music scene in the city, mixing hip-hop-influenced house music.
During this time, Jaar began producing music geared towards clubs, followed by his debut album, Space Is The Only Noise, in 2011.
The huge critical acclaim from his debut catapulted Jaar into the limelight and paved the way for regular gigs at the world’s most prestigious venues.
Fabric in London, Bahrain in Berlin, and other popular clubs became regular locations where clubbers could hear Jaar perform.
As his music production began demonstrating a talent for complex arrangements and production techniques, his sets followed suit.
Nicolas Jaar would go on to play some of the best DJ sets of all time, including Radio 1’s Essential Mix Of The Year in 2012.
He continues producing, and DJing cutting-edge electronic music that merges techno beats with world music sounds to great effect.
Matt Cutler, who goes by the professional name Lone, is a DJ and producer known for a broad range of genres.
Initially working in hip-hop production, he’s since gone on to produce and DJ house, techno, jungle, and breakbeats.
Noted for his rave-tinged production style, Lone has released original music on labels including Magicwire, Werk Disc, and R&S.
Based in Nottingham, United Kingdom, he has DJed extensively in his home country and at well-known international venues.
These include sell-out performances in Milan, Brussels, and Amsterdam at events featuring DJs, including Isabelle Beauchamp and Kettama.
Influenced by the iconic electronica duo Boards of Canada and Madlib, his recent releases have been geared toward the dancefloor.
In addition to his many singles, EPs, and albums, Lone released a highly regarded DJ mix on the Studio K7 DJ Kicks series.
Lone’s continuing flexibility and ability to blend iconic dance music styles make him one of the hottest DJs working today.
8. Carl Craig
American underground DJ and established music producer Carl Craig is one of the founding fathers of Detriot techno.
He’s played with some of the world’s most famous DJs at many big-name clubs in America and worldwide.
Beginning his career in the late 1980s, he began releasing techno on independent labels under aliases such as Psyche, BFC, and Paperclip People.
In 1991, Craig established Planet E Communications, collaborating with Detroit techno icons Kevin Saunderson and Moodymann.
Over the following years, Carl Craig established himself as a preeminent techno DJ and producer of notable skill.
His music often blends genres such as jazz, soul, and house with techno to create a sound unique to Craig.
Landmark records such as More Songs About Food And Revolutionary Art redefined Detroit’s techno scene and influenced many underground DJs.
Known for his many collaborations, he’s worked with Richie Hawtin, Luciano, Juan Atkins, and many more prominent producers.
You can hear Carl Craig playing techno at the best nightclubs in the world, such as DC10 and Space, as well as in his hometown Detroit.
7. Floating Points
Floating Points, whose real name is Sam Shepherd, is an underground DJ, musician, and music producer based in the United Kingdom.
While some underground DJs focus on house and techno and their various subgenres, Floating Points takes a more eclectic approach.
His music explores classical and ambient sounds that he combines with electronic music production to a unique effect.
Indeed, some core influences of Floating Points include classical music composers such as Debussy and Messiaen.
As a DJ, he’s performed at major international music festivals where his sets are focused on more upbeat music to dance to.
However, he’s not afraid to work with more experimental musicians, for instance, through his 16-piece ensemble, the Floating Points Ensemble.
This has earned him critical acclaim, with the Floating Points Ensemble winning Best BBC Radio 1 Maida Vale Session in 2015.
His DJ sets include headlining for Resident Advisor’s 2019 Printworks event and a special DJ Mag event at Claire in Amsterdam.
A prolific producer, Floating Points avoids being stuck in a rut and continues evolving, playing records from all genres in his sets.
6. Peggy Gou
Berlin-based, Korean-born DJ Peggy Gou is another example of a great underground DJs who have a background in classical music.
After studying piano at an early age, Gou moved to London, picking up a residency at the Soho nightclub The Book Club.
In the ensuing years, she cemented her reputation as a skilled DJ who had mastered the essential DJ tips and tricks of the art form.
She transitioned from a prominent DJ in the London underground club scene to international recognition in 2017.
This marked her first tour of North America and debut DJ set at the Boiler Room event in New York City to critical acclaim.
Since then, Peggy Gou has enjoyed one of the most packed touring schedules of an international DJ, with over 100 gigs annually.
In her live sets at festivals such as Coachella and Glastonbury, she’s performed alongside some of the biggest underground DJs currently active.
She’s also built a hugely successful brand around her DJ image, significantly increasing her net worth through marketing collaborations.
With upcoming releases on the Ninja Tunes label and her own label, Phonica, Gou is among the most wanted DJs in the world.
5. Four Tet
English musician and DJ Keiran Hebden, known by his stage name Four Tet, is among the most prolific underground artists working today.
Following his membership in the post-rock band Fridge, he became a critically acclaimed solo artist in the early 2000s.
His album Rounds, released in 2003, paved the way for many high-profile DJ gigs in some of the most prestigious venues.
Drawing on influences including jazz, soul, and hip-hop, the addition of folk music led to Four Tet’s production becoming dubbed “folktronica.”
Collaborations with bands like Radiohead further catapulted his rise to prominence in the underground electronic music scene.
This included many remixes for established artists, including Bonobo, The xx, Battles, and Kings of Convenience over the following years.
A prolific DJ, Four Tet has made numerous appearances at Boiler Room events and other major clubs and venues worldwide.
His eclectic taste, such as mixing Pearl Jam with Beyonce, makes him a draw for people who want to hear diverse music.
Four Tet has had numerous residencies in clubs and on radio stations, in addition to many live streams to large audiences.
4. Ricardo Villalobos
Chilean-born, German-based DJ and producer Ricardo Villalobos has been at the forefront of house and techno since the 1990s.
Known for his minimalist and experimental approach to the genre, he’s a key figure in the minimal techno and microhouse field.
He first became interested in music after he heard Depeche Mode as a teenager, drawing on the electronic style as he developed his sound.
After a failed attempt to launch his own label early in his career, Villalobos found success with established techno labels in Germany.
Playhouse, Perlon, and Frisbee Tracks have all put out his material, and by 2006 he was DJing in front of hundreds of thousands of people.
Known for playing DJ sets that last several hours, Villalobos has become a fixture at many underground events worldwide.
As a producer, his output is also impressive, with dozens of remixes, singles, albums, and mix compilations to his name.
Noted for performing with DJ controllers and turntables, aspiring DJs often watch his sets to learn how to DJ with vinyl like a professional.
This respect for traditional DJing extends to his taste in music, with Villalobos often playing classic records he first heard in the 1990s.
His ethic of hard work and thorough crate digging has made him a highly respected DJ of underground music.
Resident Advisor has awarded Villalobos first place in their Top 100 DJs of the Year list on no less than three occasions.
3. Green Velvet
Green Velvet, whose real name is Curtis Alan Jones, is one of the most notable pioneers of house music working today.
Born in Chicago and raised during its thriving house and techno scene, he became a prominent player during the 1990s.
At the beginning of the decade, he releases many club classic singles using the moniker Cajmere before rebranding as Green Velvet.
After learning how to DJ house music, Green Velvet began performing at major Chicago and New York nightclubs.
He also played extensively in clubs and festivals worldwide, known for his bright green hair and jacking house music style.
As a producer, Green Velvet has enjoyed many dance music chart successes, with his first notable hit coming in 1992.
His 2001 release, “La La Land,” became a club anthem and one of the most popular house tracks of the year.
Throughout his career, Green Velvet has collaborated with some of the biggest names in house and techno, both in the studio and on stage.
These include Gene Farris, Claude VonStroke, and Derrick Carter, another prominent player in the Chicago scene.
He continues to release dancefloor-friendly singles and EPs that are widely played by many of the best underground DJs worldwide.
2. Charlotte de Witte
Belgian DJ and record producer Charlotte de Witte began DJing techno and electro in Ghent in 2010 before moving on to production.
Known for her dark and minimalist techno that infuses elements of rave and trance, she’s since become one of the hottest DJs on the planet.
After winning the Studio Brussel DJ contest in 2011, Charlotte de Witte landed a spot at the Tomorrowland festival.
This paved the way for regular DJ gigs in Europe and worldwide, with a shift towards straight techno in the German style.
Widely regarded by critics as one of the best European DJs working today, de Witte has performed at many high-profile events.
She has appeared on Boiler Room sets, performed at Printworks, and headlined at international dance music festivals.
In addition to several released DJ mixes, de Witte has produced many EPs and singles since the early 2010s.
After marrying Italian DJ Enrico Sangiuliano in 2021, they released a remix of “The Age of Love,” which sold over 500,000 copies on Beatport.
1. Flying Lotus
If there’s an underground DJ who most closely resembles a modern-day musical polymath, it’s Los Angeles-based artist Flying Lotus.
Born Steven Bingley-Ellison, Flying Lotus began his musical journey through close involvement with many of jazz’s pioneers.
Related to the legendary John Coltrane and the grandson of Marilyn McLeod, his musical upbringing paved the way for his career.
His experimental electronica landed him a deal with Warp Records in the mid-2000s and was followed by the establishment of his label Brainfeeder.
Through this label, Flying Lotus released many of his most notable releases, which he performed at shows around the world.
With his DJ sets blurring the between mixing, live performance, and live visuals, he became highly sought after by prestigious event organizers.
Known for merging old-school house and techno with contemporary electronica, his sets are appreciated for their originality and vitality.
He’s also released many studio singles and albums as a solo artist, working with leading artists and producers.
This includes collaborations with top-tier artists, including Thom Yorke, Aphex Twin, and Machinedrum.
So there you have it, the best underground DJs to follow in 2023, from long-established techno pioneers to newcomers making their mark on the industry.
These impressive DJs have performed at many of the world’s best clubs and festivals and produced iconic tracks for the dancefloor.
As their careers progress, we can anticipate more innovations and a growing fanbase from dance music lovers.
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