Throughout my musical journey of cultivating Spotify playlists and searching for new artists and genres that engage me, I have realized — as I think many of us have — that there is often a significant lack of Black artists and musicians in our playlists. Because of structural racism within the music industry, it can be difficult to find Black voices in mainstream music. So, I’ve decided to compile some of my favorite Black artists from a collection of different genres for your listening pleasure.
For a more modern take on traditional soul music, Leon Bridges is the man of the hour. His album "Coming Home" (2015) features the hit “River,” as well as my personal favorites “Flowers” and the tender, loving song about Bridge’s mother, “Lisa Sawyer.”
Dutch R&B artist Nicole Bus stirred the waters with her 2019 album "KAIROS." Her powerful, gospel-trained voice fills the tracks with large swells and crescendos, as in the hit “You,” while other songs like “Love it” and “Rain” are slower, softer examples of Bus’ versatility.
For me, as far as alternative rock is concerned, fellow Maryland-native Gallant manages to seamlessly fuse the genre with his unique falsetto and alternative R&B. I was first introduced to his music while working as a Starbucks barista (yes, the Starbucks curated playlists are truly amazing), and I haven't gotten bored of it since. The relaxed beat of songs like “Percogesic” and “Weight in Gold” from his album "Ology" (2016) pairs perfectly with his soft voice. His most recent album "Sweet Insomnia" (2019), however, features my favorite of his songs: “Sweet Insomnia (feat. 6LACK)” and “Céline.”
Drawing from more indie-folk influences and combining them with neo-soul style, Lianne La Havas is a talented songwriter and musician. Her 2015 album "Blood" features the song “Green & Gold,” in which La Havas recounts the challenges of accepting her beauty as a young Black child. Her voice is equal parts haunting, soothing and capable of unfathomable emotion. The song “Good Goodbye”from the same album never ceases to make me cry with its affectionate opening and building orchestration.
I came across the rock band The New Respects purely by accident. I went to a small concert for one of my favorite bands, Ripe, in D.C. last January; The New Respects were the opening act. I was blown away by their astounding stage presence and amazing songs. Their album "Before the Sun Goes Down" (2018) is a perfect mix of R&B-style melodies like in “Come As You Are” and “Trouble,” that also incorporates grittier rock songs like “Trigger” and “Freedom.” Throughout the whole concert, I was constantly turning to my friends and asking how it was possible that we didn’t know about such a good band.
That’s the trial when it comes to music. Some musicians become famous, and others don’t, but I do believe it is extremely important that we give them all a chance to be heard, especially when they have been disadvantaged by racism and societal prejudices.
So, until next week, happy listening!