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.
Name: Da Kid Emm
Selected Song: “Back Woods” (
Bio: Rapper from Carroll County Maryland
Name: Daisy Godfrey
Bio: Daisy Godfrey is a natural and compelling singer from Nottingham, UK. Classic soul is a clear influence – her tender vocals have been compared to Sade and Corinne Bailey-Rae.
Name: Damon Locks and the Black Monument Ensemble
More Info: Website|Facebook|Twitter|Instagram
Selected Song and Album: “Statement Of Intent/Black Monument Theme” from Where Future Unfolds (Bandcamp|
Bio: Where Future Unfolds is a new work spirited by Chicago-based sound & visual artist Damon Locks. Starting as a solo sound collage piece (where Locks pulled samples from Civil Rights era speeches and recordings to create an improvisational pallet for performance on his drum machine), over 4 years the project has blossomed into his 15-piece Black Monument Ensemble – featuring musicians (including Angel Bat Dawid on clarinets and Dana Hall on drums), singers (alumni of the Chicago Children’s Choir), and dancers (members of Chicago youth dance company Move Me Soul).
Name: Danny Denial
Selected Song: “White tears fake queers” (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: Danny Denial is an ex-filmmaker and ex-human being now making negative pop music in Seattle, WA, and he’ll soon be playing a show nowhere near you!
Name: Debby Friday
Selected Song and Album: “Fatal” from Death Drive (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: DEBBY FRIDAY is an experimentalist.
She does many things at once.
Born in Nigeria, raised in Montreal, and now based in Vancouver, DEBBY FRIDAY’s work spans the spectrum of the audio-visual, resisting categorizations of genre and artistic discipline. She is at once sound theorist and musician, performer and poet, video artist, film director, writer and PUNK GOD.
Name: Denzel Curry
Selected Song: “Bulls on Parade” (
Bio: “Denzel Rae Don Curry is an American rapper, singer and songwriter.”
Name: Devon Gilfillian
Selected Song: “Get Out and Get It” (
Bio: There is deep soul in the music of Devon Gilfillian—but for the talented Nashville-based singer-songwriter and bandleader, that descriptor goes way beyond a mere genre classification.
Name: Dexter Story
Bio: East Africa-inspired music on Soundway Records by multi-instrumentalist, producer, composer, arranger and ethnomusicologist Dexter Story.
Name: Dominique Fils-Aimé
Bio: “Dominique Fils-Aimé is a Polaris Music prize-nominated singer-songwriter from Montreal who draws inspiration from soul icons of the 40’s and 60’s such as Billie Holiday, Etta James, and Nina Simone. While her musical roots are grounded in early soul and jazz, her sound transcends contemporary urban soundscapes.”
Name: Durand Jones and the Indications
Selected Song and Album: “Morning in America” from American Love Call (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: “Durand Jones & the Indications aren’t looking backwards. Helmed by foil vocalists in Durand Jones and drummer Aaron Frazer, the Indications conjure the dynamism of Jackie Wilson, Curtis Mayfield, AND the Impressions. This young band of twenty-somethings are students of soul, including guitarist Blake Rhein, who moonlights doing research for The Numero Group. Even with that background, and an aesthetic steeped in the golden, strings-infused dreaminess of early ‘70s soul, the Indications are planted firmly in the present, with the urgency of this moment in time.”
Name: Eric Gales
Selected Song and Album: “Whatcha Gon’ Do” from The Bookends (
Bio: “Eric Gales grew up in a musical family with four brothers, two of them who learned to play the guitar upside down and left handed in the same fashion that Eric does. As both an African-American left-handed guitarist of extraordinary ability and an expressive vocalist, it is natural for people to compare Eric to Hendrix. But Eric has developed a unique hybrid blues/rock sound that also draws upon influences as diverse as Albert King and Frank Gambale. A unique amalgam of styles, Eric Gales stands head and shoulders among other guitarists in his genre.”
Name: Erica Falls (feat. Galactic)
Selected Song: “Touch Get Cut” (
Bio: Erica Falls a native of New Orleans truly embodies the essence of New Orleans heart and soul through her musical sound. She was exposed to a variety of music in her home at an early age and the sounds of music crossed many different eras and genres.
Name: Fever 333
Selected Song and Album: “Burn It” from Strength in Numb333rs (
Bio: “Fever 333 is an American rock band formed in Inglewood, California. The three-piece band consists of former Letlive vocalist Jason Aalon Butler, former the Chariot guitarist Stephen Harrison and Night Verses drummer Aric Improta.”
Name: FKA Twigs
Selected Song and Album: “Cellophane” from Magdalene (
Bio: “FKA twigs is an English singer and songwriter. Her work has been described as “genre-bending”, drawing on various genres including electronic music, trip hop, R&B, and avant-garde.”
Name: Flying Lotus
Selected Song and Album: “Fire is Coming” from Flamagra (
Bio: Flying Lotus is an American record producer, musician, DJ, filmmaker, and rapper from Los Angeles, California
Name: Gary Clark Jr.
Selected Song and Album: “This Land” from This Land (
Bio: “Gary Clark Jr. is an American musician from Austin, Texas. He is best known for his fusion of blues, rock and soul music with elements of hip hop.”
Name: Georgia Anne Muldrow/G&D
Selected Song and Album: “Where I’m From” from Black Love & War (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: Singer, songwriter, producer Georgia Anne Muldrow & rapper, poet and producer Dudley Perkins a.k.a. Declaime unite under the alias of G&D. Besides handling production, the two are co-owners of their independent label SomeOthaShip Connect. For the past seven years, the couple has worked to perfect their craft as solo artists and as a team. Influential in building the LA underground rap scene, Perkins has worked with artists like The Lootpack, Madlib, Oh No, The Alkaholiks, Flying Lotus and Hudson Mohawke while Muldrow has worked with the likes of Erykah Badu, Robert Glasper, Mos Def, Bilal, Wajeed, Sa-Ra and many other independent acts. Noted for her unorthodox, indefinable, sample-free original production, Georgia has built a repertoire as one of today’s leading producers. G&D use their music to uplift and raise the vibration of consciousness.
Name: Greg Ward
Bio: “Considered one of the most versatile saxophonists of his generation, Greg Ward launches his new group Rogue Parade with the release of his latest album, ‘Stomping Off From Greenwood,’ featuring a quintet of Chicago’s finest creative musicians.”
Bio: Greighwolfe is an untainted independent artist with an edgy blues infused sound reminiscent of 80’s vampire flick ‘The Lost Boys’. His raspy soulful voice and unique style of storytelling is sustained by his raw passion and love for his craft.
Name: Haviah Mighty
Selected Song and Album: “In Women Colour” from 13th Floor (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: Proving time and time again that lyrical ability isn’t a gender or age restricted art, 23 year old Toronto-born Haviah Mighty is recklessly edging her way into music as a new face in Hip Hop and R&B.
Name: The Heavy
Selected Song and Album: “Better As One” from Sons (
Bio: The Heavy are Britain’s most incendiary party-starters and reliably impossible to pigeonhole funksoulhiphoprandbrockdance gang. Their infectious brand of rock-soul infused hip-hop combined with the intense raw power from their live shows have led to a host of high profile features through the years.
Selected Song and Album: “Joyful Mind” from Thread of Gold (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: Hejira formed in 2010 setting up their studio ‘The House of Dreams’ in South-East London. In 2013 they released debut album ‘Prayer Before Birth’ on Matthew Herbert’s Accidental Records to critical acclaim. Their second album ‘Thread of Gold’ is out now
Name: Hello Yello
Bio: “Made up of Dylan (22, vocals and guitar), his younger brother Jaden (20, bass) and their friend Martin (20, drums), Hello Yello are making music that artfully bridges punk, grunge, emo and hip-hop.”
Selected Song and Album: “Shadowrun” from Cyber Warfare (
Bio: Ho99o9 is an American hip hop/hardcore punk group
Selected Song and Album: “Out of the Darkness” from Bloom From Doom (
Bio: Born in Chicago to a multi-ethnic musical family, HXLT was raised listening to Led Zeppelin, Smokey Robinson, 2Pac, The Clash, and countless other artists from various genres. He developed a love for art, culture and fashion at a young age which paved the way for his future ventures in music and design. HXLT is one of the few serious renaissance men in music. He’s a fighter, a formidable rapper, a director and a great entertainer. HXLT’s sound is a mix of melodic minimal chords, strings and guitars paired with hard and gritty beats. Heavily influenced by punk rock, gangster rap and everything in between, HXLT’s music is a collection of different tastes neatly
blended to express his mixed background and innovative spirit.
Name: Ibibio Sound Machine
Bio: “Fronted by London-born Nigerian singer Eno Williams, Ibibio Sound Machine is a clash of African and electronic elements inspired in equal measure by the golden era of West African funk, disco, and modern post-punk and electro. Evocative Nigerian poetic imagery set against an edgy Afro-Electro soundscape gives the band a unique space within the wave of modern Afrocentric sounds sweeping the globe.”
Name: Ifriqiyya Electrique
Selected Song and Album: “Mashee Kooka” from Laylet El Booree (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: Ifriqiyya Electrique was formed in the Djerid Desert in southern Tunisia, home to the Banga ritual of Sidi Marzûq. The Banga is a key annual event in the lives of the black communities of the oasis towns of southern Tunisia, descendants of the Hausa slaves transported from sub-Saharan Africa.
Name: The Illustrious Blacks
Bio: The Illustrious Blacks (Manchildblack x Monstah Black) are NeoAfroFuturisticPsychedelicSurrealisticHippys on a mission to save the world one beat at a time!
Name: Imani Coppola
Selected Song and Album: “Lying to My Therapist” (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: Imani Coppola is a singer/musician who fuses pop, rock, hip-hop, rap, punk and r&b into her own unique life affirming music. She is also a songwriter in group Little Jackie, and owner of Plush Moon Productions and Plush Moon Songs.