The first line-up for STEP Music has been announced and to say we are excited is an understatement. 

This year, ON42 at Dubai's Media One Hotel will open its doors for STEP Music 2018. As one of the city's most alternative nightlife venues, with an edgy and industrial interior, ON42 will provide the coolest backdrop for our line-up of underground and upcoming artists this year.

Let's take a look at 9 artists you can't miss at this year's festival:

1. Shébani (Singer/Songwriter)

There are hidden sides to each person; thoughts we submerge, emotions we contain, words we decide not to pick. In a world where control is perceived as the be-all end-all of everything, it is sometimes the parts concealed that measure our strength. 

Stemming from Dubai, Shébani serves to address the elements that, we as humans, refuse to expose. To make music that embodies the hidden aspect of each of our own worlds.

2. Freek (Rapper)

Freek was born in the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi, and is of Somali origins. Known to be one of the biggest Arabic hip-hop artist and rapper in the country, his controversial music speaks about the struggle that comes with life itself. 

He started his career by getting featured on other artist’s music. He then took his achievements by releasing his first single "Aslan 3adi". With this achievement, he created a motivational movement in the country for other artists to set forward and create their own music. Freek has performed on some of the biggest stages around the UAE and released music videos to all his singles.

3. Menon (Rapper)

Born and raised in Dubai, Gerard Anthony Menon found an outlet of expression through rap and hip-hop music. With a Sri Lankan father and mother from the Philippines, Menon uses his ethnicity as fuel for a subject and lyrical content. 

Living his whole life in a melting pot of different cultures, opinions, and mindsets, Menon brings forward the struggles of adapting and growing above moving foundations. With influences ranging anywhere from hip-hop, rap, R'n'B, alternative, and trap music, Menon's sonic signature lies between balancing contemporary flows with authentic content. 

Combining influences and imagination, his upcoming full-length release "Epiphany of a Misfit" promises to stand as a statement of what modern hip-hop from this region truly is. Whether its discussing issues such as the search for identity, purpose in an ever-changing world, or the complications of modern day relationships, his main objective is to give the listeners the same outlet he once found himself.

4. DJ Karrouhat (Songwriter/Composer)

Basil Alhadi is a songwriter, composer, and lead in Karrouhat - Arabic Reggae. Since its inception in 2008, the Karrouhat project has been considered as one of the architects towards the alternative music scene in the region, with a goal of establishing love, good friendships, and a good vibe in order to create a successful alternative scene. 

In addition to the support provided to a variety of musicians and art projects in the region, Karrouhat has also performed live music and DJ sets in various cities.

5. Majeed (Rapper)

Majeed is a renowned Saudi hip-hop artist, songwriter, and part of the Dubai based HRMNY collective. He walks a fine line between conscious and commercial music. 

You’ll never know what type of record you’ll get from him as he switches between melody-driven love records to braggadocios as well as self-aware rap records. The rapper has confirmed that his anticipated EP is set to be released in 2018.

6. So Much Heart (Singer/Songwriter)

So Much Heart is a Dubai-based art music project. The genre of the music is Indie – Pop Punk – Emo and is characterized by expressive and particularly literal lyrics. 

Lyrically, the songs include both Arabic and English verses. The art side of the project is often in the form of short films that accompany the songs. 

7. Aman (Singer/Songwriter)

Aman Sheriff is a 19-year-old singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer, who was born and brought up in Dubai. With his unique voice, guitar skills, loop pedal, and sample pad, AMAN quickly received everyone's attention. 

From performing at Open Mic nights to opening up for worldwide selling artists and touring Los Angeles, he never fails to capture the energy in the room. With full-page magazine spreads AMAN has made a name for himself, being one of the most talked about new artists in the Middle East. 

His debut EP "Piece Of My Mind" hit #2 on the iTunes Pop Charts. Apple Music called it "Infectious" and featured AMAN as their 'Favourite New Artist'.

8. DJ AY (Producer/Songwriter)

He is a music producer, songwriter, DJ, and the founder of an independent record label named "HRMNY". A’Y is regionally known for consistently pushing the music culture forward and having a good eye for talent. His work ranges from discovering and developing artists such as 2016 X Factor winner Hamaza Hawsawi to producing music for international names such as Pusha T and TLC. 

His music has landed on world acclaimed radio shows on Apple Music such as "Beats 1 by Ebro". His last few records scorched on worldwide viral charts in Germany, Netherlands, France, USA, and Canada. 

In early 2017 the HRMNY began creating a pop-up party named WVY (Wavy). WVY is a party concept that is aimed to attract the regions tastemakers, art kids, and alternative crowds that don’t fall under the "mainstream" umbrella.

9. AJ (Singer)

AJ is a singer and songwriter based in the UAE. With different influences in music ranging from pop, reggae, and funk to soul and R'n'B, his style of music can be described as diverse.

"Performing live is something very important to me, as I get to deliver my voice and share my stage presence with the audience," says the talented artist, who is currently working on his first single that's expected to be released this month.

STEP Conference 2018

Between March 28-29, more than 6000 techies will gather in Dubai for the latest in entrepreneurship, digital, fintech, and future tech. 

Over the two days of the festival, STEP Music will feature a line-up of the best local and regional hip-hop and alternative music artists at the coolest nightlife spot.

Don't miss this year's STEP Conference, the most experiential tech festival in 2018. Get your tickets here.