Each year, the designation of Breakout Artist is typically reserved for a singular individual who rode a meteoric ascent across the collective zeitgeist’s radar that year, and captured a level of ubiquity they hadn’t previously achieved—the artist whose year was defined by their level-up, so to speak. In 2022, there was no shortage of artists to consider in this category, but for the first time in recent memory, two names continued to come up, both inextricably interwoven, and yet both individually up next. Being almost impossible to mention one without the other, this year, both ISOxo and Knock2 claim Dancing Astronaut‘s Breakout crown(s). A steadfast case could be made for either producer, but when considering either’s breakout candidacy, the two selectors’ lockstep frequency this year made the most compelling case for a shared designation this year.
ISOxo and Knock2 have been sonically joined at the hip, going back to 2019 when the duo released their collaborative single “Radial” on RL Grime‘s Sable Valley imprint. The two quickly followed up with the launch of a back-to-back mix series ISOKNOCK 1: THE RAID, and from there, they were off to the races. Being nominated as Dancing Astronaut Artists to Watch in 2021, that nod would immediately pay dividends in the form of two stellar debut EPs, ISOxo with Nightrealm and Knock2 with the 2HEARTs EP.
In the wake of their dueling EPs, the two seemed determined to continue to outdo themselves on the release radar in 2022. ISOxo kickstarted his campaign with “REDloop“—a searing ID that appeared in RL Grime’s “Halloween X” set at the Hollywood Palladium. Then came a heavy trap edit of Boombox Cartel, Kaaris, and Mr. Carmack‘s “Chargé.” And both tracks perfectly exemplify his unique production ability to seamlessly fuse together high-octane trap with gritty house-driven elements. One of our most-sought IDs of 2022, “Angels Landing” with FrostTop laced the summer together for ISOxo before closing out this year with a sharp outing on NIGHTMODE titled “inhuman” and a G Jones collaboration on “Say What.”
Meanwhile, this year Knock2 honed a balance of both his signature bass-house flair and a mean penchant for trap stylings on cuts like “PARANOiD,” “gettin’ hott” on NIGHTMODE and “JADE” on Sable Valley, garnering support from RL Grime on his “Halloween XI: Dead Space” set in October. Additionally, Knock2 shared a surprise “dlux” edition of 2HEARTs that included a bonus cut “my luv” and a remix of “murdah” by Asdek.
But Knock2’s pièce de résistance came in July with the release of the VIP mix of his hit original “dashstar*”—an undeniable, certified festival anthem. Most impressively is that from DJ Snake and Afrojack to Wooli, Blanke, Tchami and Malaa—with Martin Garrix, Audien, The Chainsmokers, and Kill The Noise in between—some of the most revered tastemakers in the industry have supported Knock2’s work. At just 23, such a wide ranging seal of approval is quite the feat of excellence. And to have music capable of being played out by some of the greats in genres spanning from progressive house to dubstep is a testament to the universal appeal of what Knock2 is cooking up. The cherry on top came with a debut on the Billboard charts with “dashstar*.”
Both artists made waves in the live setting as well. In his festival debut, ISOxo notably had a double serving sets at HARD Summer and hosted a stage takeover of his own: ISOxo Presents: NIGHTREALM. It featured a carefully curated lineup alongside Dancing Astronaut Artists to Watch Aleko, FrostTop, and Villa along with established veterans like Flosstradamus, JAWNS, and Mr. Carmack.
Knock2 also made his festival debut at EDC Las Vegas as part of NIGHTMODE’s label takeover this year. Holding a prime slot next to Kx5‘s debut performance, Excision, and A-Trak, Knock2 still managed to pack out the Rynobus into the walkways. Then came the Brownies & Lemonade-backed ROOM202 debut headline show in Los Angeles, which kicked off a run of headlining shows across the year and eventually an adrenaline-pumping homecoming show in San Diego.
Individual accomplishments aside, what ISOxo and Knock2 managed to achieve together makes their joint case untouchably ironclad.
This year fans got not one but two ISOKNOCK mixes. The debut live iteration—and third installment in the series—of ISOKNOCK came as the surprise closer to ISOxo’s HARD Summer takeover, and they did not disappoint. A packed-out Corona Electric Beach Stage looked on as the two tore the NOS Event Center down with their uncanny stage presence and a collaborative batch of previously unheard remixes.
ISOKNOCK reappeared as support for RL Grime’s “Halloween XI: Dead Space” show at the Kia Forum. It’s unusual to be able to dominate clubs and ignite stadiums with the same music selection, and yet ISOxo and Knock2 make it look effortlessly easy. What’s more—on that October night, before Grime’s hallowed altar, the pair’s catalog got quite a bit bigger. Without warning, the duo dropped a collaborative remix album niteharts on streamers roughly 15 minutes before they took the stage that evening. The uniquely conceptual Sable Valley-backed LP finds the two individual artists putting their own touch on the entirety of the others’ five-track EP, for a complimentary fusion of sounds that spotlights ISOxo and Knock2 obvious chemistry.
It’s tough to pinpoint just one thing that makes ISOxo and Knock2 stand out from so many of their peers this year. At the root of the pair’s individual and joint success is a genuine friendship that started as a bond between likeminded people working towards the same goal. No time for rivalries. That type of wholehearted camaraderie also seems to extend to the rest of the San Diego Waterboys—Aleko, FrostTop and RemK—an uplifting group of friends that can’t help but make you smile on their way up through the ranks. It’s no accident that every single member has now earned a nod as a Dancing Astronaut Artist to Watch.
The cultural significance of what ISOxo and Knock2 have accomplished within dance music cannot be understated either. Their music has become truly unescapable in the scene. Knock2’s “dashstar*” serves as a prime example, but the same can be said about so many tracks from the pair’s collective discography. Tracks like ISOxo’s “murdah” remix have been rinsed by ILLENIUM, NGHTMRE, Flosstradamus, Trivecta, and Last Heroes to name a few, while “Beam” has become a staple in Madeon’s Good Faith DJ sets and “gettin’ hott” gets support by the likes of Alison Wonderland, Zeds Dead, Moore Kismet, Afrojack and others. The list of high-profile producers supporting ISOxo and Knock2’s music goes on in perpetuity.
And that’s to say nothing about Knock2 and ISOxo’s live shows. The high-octane music matched with feverishly charged crowd energy is one thing, but the passion and stage presence these two producers encapsulate is really something else. Be it ISOxo’s costume changes, the calls to action on the mic, or the numerous special guests you can expect to pop up at their shows, the energy is set to 11 from core to perimeter, locked in for the entirety of the experience.
The best part though—things aren’t about to slow down in 2023. ISOxo recently announced his debut album KIDSGONEMAD! with a theatric curtain drop after back-to-back sold-out nights at The Fonda in Los Angeles. He’s also set to play Electric Forest and Ultra for the first time in the coming months. Both are sitting on a bevy of unreleased cuts including ISOxo’s bout with the trap king himself RL Grime and Knock2’s collaboration with fellow low-end royalty, NGHTMRE, which is also underway. From relative unknowns to two of the hottest commodities in dance music in just a couple of years, 2022 proved that there truly is no limit on the potential for what these two San Diego boys are capable of.
Without further ado, congratulations to Dancing Astronaut‘s Breakout Artists of 2022: ISOxo and Knock2.
Featured image: Tylor Vi