For Omar Higgins
“We were a hundred different kinds of people, doing every little thing you could think of, and some things you’d never think about at all.
“The variety in our lives was something else.” — Walter Dean Myers
“I just wish it was OK for Black people, in general, to step outside the box and it not be like, “Yo, get back in the motherfucking box real quick, nigga! What the fuck are you doing?” Like niggas can’t do anything? Niggas have to do one thing or nothing. It’s like we can’t do many things at once. There’s no room or margin of error with niggas to step outside the box.” – JPEGMAFIA
“The whole idea is for young African American kids to feel comfortable doing whatever it is they want musically.” — Omar Higgins
““Society cages souls that dare to be free and stand as themselves,…I want to reflect the constant battle-like run between encasement of social norms and cultural institutions, and the fight to break out of that. We end up deciding to fight and break out of the matrix.” – Abdu Ali
Every year I have the same takeaway, that it was a great year for music. There’s so much great stuff out there if you choose to seek it out. This list came about because of a stray thought. I was already starting to sketch out what some of my favorite albums of the year were. I realized that, if I wanted to, I could have a top 10 list featuring only black artists, and it would be a legit list filled with good music. As the day went on, the idea grew.
The large body of music made by black creatives in 2019 covers any and every genre you can think of and ventures into uncharted territory hinting at directions that may lead to the future. From old blues heads to youngbloods carrying on the tradition; from walls of noise to dreamy bedroom pop; from the controlled chaos of free jazz to the smooth sounds of R&B. Black expression is alive, bold, and doing well.
I can’t (and won’t) guarantee that you’ll love everything here. But there’s some great music and talent on display and I think you can find something you like.
A couple of brief notes. Due to the project’s size, it will be broken up into 5 parts with approximately 25 songs per day. I compiled information about each artist into a set template for each one. Website, social media, and further song/album info is linked in each section. If I couldn’t find such info, or if it didn’t appear to be available, there is no embedded link. In most cases, I linked to the songs on Youtube. If there was an official video, it was embedded into the post, if there was no video, I embedded the link into the text. I have a Spotify playlist and will make it available when this project is complete.
Bio: “Kendall Tucker, aka 14KT, 1/7 of Michigan’s mighty hip-hop group Athletic Mic League, released his debut solo LP “The Golden Hour [Soundtrack]” in 2008 after a rich history with AML. Despite being an instrumental album, The Golden Hour appeared on many year-end “top albums” lists. Okayplayer said “this is the sort of striking project that can singlehandedly create an artists following.” And so it did.”
Name: The 1865
Selected Song and Album: “Buckshot” from Don’t Tread on We! (Bandcamp|
Bio: “The 1865 describe themselves as “Bad Brains meets Foo Fighters in a black woman’s hair salon for a cup of tea.” Formed in 2017 by musician/filmmaker Sacha Jenkins (The White Mandingos, The Wilding Incident), The 1865 came to life when joined by famed session musician Pro-skateboarder Chuck Treece on drums and the Queen of Shoegaze Carolyn “Honeychild” Coleman (Apollo Heights, Badawi) on lead vocals/baritone guitar duties. The band later added Afro-Brazilian bassist Flora Lucini (Maafa), and drummer Jason “Biz” Lucas (Dragonz of Zynth) to the mix. The result is The 1865, a band whose lyrics are just as impactful as their undeniable sound and what Jenkins says “was a great way to create contemporary music that spoke to the past, but also spoke to the same things that continue to happen over and over again in our country.”
Name: A B01
Selected Song: “Chapter 2 – Copper Nebulas (
Bio: “A B01 is a collection of Dark Love songs. It’s about finding support in places you least expect it. Sometimes you need to be uprooted from your current state. It’s about rebirth, the circle of life, the phoenix rising from the ashes. It’s about love and emotions, dealing with depression, and things I can’t say in conversation or express through other outlets. It’s about self-care, mental health, and personal growth. BLXPLTN is more outrospective, whereas A B01 is more introspective.”
Name: Abdu Ali
Selected Song and Album: “Chastity” from Fiyah!! (Bandcamp|
Bio: Abdu Ali is a Baltimore born avant-garde electronic musician whose work is an idiosyncratic blend of punk, jazz, Baltimore club music, and rap. Their work is a yielding poetic uprise that often interrogate ideas of identity as well as narrate and promote liberation from oppressive ideologies.
Unapologetically black and queer, Abdu Ali’s work is bold, raw, and most importantly life-affirming.
Selected Song and Album: “Pose” from Death Becomes Her (Bandcamp|
Bio: “Performance Artist, Producer.
Citizen of NON, a community of artists of Africa and of the African diaspora whose citizens reside in villages, towns, and cities across the globe. NON cuts across genre and geography to unite politically and sonically forward-thinking musicians in an ongoing exploration of Pan-African identity in the twenty-first century.”
Name: Ari Lennox
Selected Song and Album: “Chicago Boy” from Shea Butter Baby (
Bio: “Ari Lennox, is an American singer and songwriter from Washington, D.C. She is the first woman to be signed to J. Cole’s record label, Dreamville Records.”
Name: avery r young
Bio: “Interdisciplinary artist avery r. young is a 3Arts Award winning teaching artist, composer and producer with work that spans the genres of music, performance, visual arts and literature. Examining and celebrating Black American history and culture, his work also focuses in the areas of social justice, equity, queer identity, misogyny, and body consciousness.“
Bio: BACKXWASH is a trans rapper(they/them/she/her) from Zambia whose music provides an eccentric and aggressive social commentary. Topics include blackness and queerness, as they strive to bring an intersectional perspective. Inspired by Missy Elliot and Redman, backxwash is known for their complex lyricism on weird instrumentals.
Selected Song and Album: “Agua” from O Futuro Não Demora (
Bio: “BaianaSystem is a Brazilian group that mixes rock, Bahian guitar riffs and drums, with Jamaican soundsystem culture and powerful, political lyrics.” [source]
Selected Song: “Chill” (
Selected Song and Album: “I’ll Miss You” from I’ll Miss You (
Bio: Bathe is a Surf R&B project based around singer-songwriter Devin Hobdy and guitarist-producer Corey Smith-West. The pair, who first met as college freshmen, collaborated on an off for nearly 5 years before combining their solo efforts in search of a truly unique sound.
Selected Song and Album: “Isivunguvungu (feat. Saul Williams)” from The Healing (Bandcamp|
Bio: BCUC is a band from Soweto, South Africa. We draw inspiration from Indigenous music that is not exposed in the mainstream. We sing ritual songs, shebeen songs and church songs infused with raps and a rock and roll attitude. We always aim for a timeless, honest and traditional/ ritualistic sound. The music should always resonate with the spirituality, the history and the future of the people.
Name: Bells Atlas
Bio: Bells Atlas’ latest offering the mystic digs further into their soulful buoyancy to explore both sound and storytelling. The record can be seen as sci-fi fantasy of two first-generation Nigerian American women coming to terms with a mental health diagnosis, and at the same time, a very universal exploration of how we make sense of reality.
Name: Black Pumas
Selected Song and Album: “Black Moon Rising” from Black Pumas (Bandcamp|
Bio: Black Pumas are a funk and soul duo based in Austin, Texas, United States, consisting of singer Eric Burton and guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada.
Name: The Black Tones
Bio: Simply put…The Black Tones are like a mixture of Kurt Cobain and cornbread.
Consisting of founders/twin siblings Eva Walker on guitar/vocals and Cedric Walker on drums, the blues- and punk-based dynamo continuously project subversion, power and the potential for something new on stage.
Name: Blk Jks
Selected Song: “Harare” (
Bio: “Blk Jks, stylized BLK JKS (pronounced Black Jacks), are a South African rock band from Johannesburg, formed in 2000.”
Name: Bob Vylan
Selected Song: “Merch Stand” (Bandcamp|
Bio: “Prettiest punk/rap/alt thing you’ll ever meet.”
Name: Boo Boo Davis
Selected Song and Album: “Dirt Road” from Tree Man (
Bio: “James “Boo Boo” Davis is an American electric blues musician.”
Selected Song and Album: “My Baby’s Gone” from Ya Dig! (
Bio: Jamil Rashad, a/k/a Boulevards, is the embodiment of funk. Taking queues from pioneers such as James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone, Rick James, Funkadelic and Little Richard, Boulevards seamlessly delivers cheeky, party-themed jams that range from raw and risqué to soul.
From an early age, Jamil’s father, a R&B Radio DJ, exposed him to jazz, blues, funk and R&B. This pushed him to get involved in the city’s local music scene early on in his youth. In his teens, he embraced the punk and metal scene in his hometown of Raleigh, NC; genres that would later go on to influence Rashad’s songwriting by way of their tight technical precision and power. After an art school education and several stints in local bands, Jamil rediscovered and returned to his first true love: funk.
PUNK FUNK FOREVER
Name: Brittany Howard
Bio: Brittany Howard is an American musician, singer, and songwriter known for being the lead vocalist, guitarist, and main songwriter of rock bands Alabama Shakes and Thunderbitch. She released her debut studio album Jaime in 2019.
Name: Burna Boy
Selected Song and Album: “Another Story (feat. M.anifest) from African Giant (
Bio: Damini Ogulu, better known by his stage name Burna Boy, is an afro fusion singer and songwriter. Known for his smooth patois influenced delivery in a voice reminiscent of notable music legends, Burna Boy has consistently wowed fans with his original and unpredictable style and energetic performances.
Name: Charley Crockett
Selected Song and Album: “The Valley” from The Valley (
Bio: Charley Crockett is an American blues, country and Americana singer, guitarist, and songwriter.
Name: Cheikh Tidiane Seck
Bio: Cheick Tidiane Seck is a Malian musician, arranger and composer. He has written for and played with world-famous African and jazz bands as well as musicians.
Name: christelle bofale
Selected Song and Album: “Origami Dreams” from Swim Team (Bandcamp|
Bio: Austin, Texas-based songwriter Christelle Bofale will be the first to tell you the importance of family roots and mental health, considering how much those things aided her own self-discovery. Being the first American born in her family, the rich heritage of the Congo is deeply rooted in her upbringing and relationship with sounds.From singing and dancing with her mother as a child, to praying to Congolese music with her grandmother, to her father, a soukous guitar player and musical director for the Congregation at his church, Bofale’s journey as a musician has been defined in tiny intervals throughout the course of her life. As a songwriter, she infuses hints of the Congo into various aspects of her music, bridging the musical influences of the diaspora with juxtaposed elements of indie rock, soul and jazz respectively.
Name: Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
Bio: Christian Scott, also known as Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah is a two-time Edison Award winning and Grammy Award nominated trumpeter, composer and producer. He is the nephew of jazz innovator and legendary sax man, Donald Harrison, Jr. Christian is the progenitor of “Stretch Music,” a jazz rooted, genre blind musical form that attempts to “stretch” jazz’s rhythmic, melodic and harmonic conventions to encompass as many other musical forms, languages and cultures as possible.
Name: Christone Kingfish Ingram
Selected Song and Album: “Outside of This Town” from Kingfish (
Bio: Christone “Kingfish” Ingram is an American blues guitarist and singer from Clarksdale, Mississippi, United States, who became a well known performer as a teenager.
Name: The Comet is Coming
Selected Song and Album: “Blood of the Past” from Trust In The Life Force Of The Deep Mystery (
Bio: The Comet Is Coming is a London-based band who incorporate elements of jazz, electronica, funk and psychedelic rock.