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.
Selected Song and Album: “Do Not Disturb” from Love and Compromise (
Bio: Mahalia is a British singer, songwriter and actress.
More Info: Website|
Bio: Mapumba blends traditional melodies and lyrics with original inspirations that deliver a rich sound with a modern touch.
Best described as Tracy Chapman meets Africa, Mapumba’s versatility takes listeners on a journey from folk music through reggae, Afro-pop and more in between. His live performasnces are a kaleidoscope of experiences that linger long after the concerts end.
Name: Mary Lane
Selected Song and Album: “Blues Give Me a Feeling” from Travelin’ Woman (
Bio: “The iconic Buddy Guy says, “Mary Lane is the last of the blues singers who came up from the South to Chicago. She is the real deal!” Adds Grammy-winner Bobby Rush, “Mary Lane is way overdue for what she planned to do. She is making a statement for all the blues women. At 83 years old, she still has the guts to get out there and sing the blues.”
Name: Michael Kiwanuka
Selected Song and Album: “Hero” from Kiwanuka (
Bio: Michael Kiwanuka is a British singer-songwriter
Name: Moor Mother
Bio: Low fi/dark rap/chill step/ blk girl blues/witch rap/coffee shop riot gurl songs/southern girl dittys/black ghost songs
Name: Mourning [A] BLKstar
Bio: Formed in 2015 by RA Washington, M[A]B looks to forage new pathways toward heart music by melding soul, blues, electronics, avant-poetics w/ futurist beats.
Name: The Muslims
Bio: Black/Brown & Queer (AF) Muslim punk band.
Name: Nathalie Joachim
Bio: Nathalie Joachim is a Brooklyn born Haitian-American flutist, composer, and vocalist known for creating “a unique blend of classical music, hip-hop, electronic programming and soulful vocals…” (The Wall Street Journal) Joachim comfortably navigates everything from classical to indie-rock, all while being a committed advocate for social change and cultural awareness.
Bio: Nérija are a collective of London based musicians playing exciting and original music
Name: Nickle and Rose
Bio: Nickel&Rose have influences that span the spectrum of American music. Carl’s background brings elements of West African music and Blues while Johanna brings her experience playing Bluegrass, Folk and Jazz. With a shared appreciation for traditional music and a desire to break rules, the two have created a unique sound that embodies Americana’s past and future.
Name: Nicole Bus
Selected Song and Album: “Friend Indeed” from Kairos (
Bio: Dutch born Nicole Bus is an empathetic writer, powerhouse vocalist, talented multi-instrumentalist, and impassioned performer.
Name: nilufer yanya
Selected Song and Album: “Heavyweight Champion of the Year” from Miss Universe Clear (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: London based singer/songwriter.
Name: Nova Twins
Selected Song: “Vortex” (
Bio: DescriptionNova Twins are an English duo from south east London / Essex, formed of bassist Georgia South and vocalist/guitarist Amy Love.
Bio: Toronto-based producer OBUXUM believes creativity is an essential part of life — a quality that all human beings possess but don’t always get a chance to access. “I feel like every single person is born creative, but not many people have the opportunity to explore their different creative niches and then turn that into art,” she says. “For me, art means everything.”
Name: Our Native Daughters
Bio: “Songs of Our Native Daughters shines new light on African-American women’s stories of struggle, resistance, and hope. Pulling from and inspired by 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century sources, including slave narratives and early minstrelsy, kindred banjo players Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell reinterpret and create new works from old ones. With unflinching, razor-sharp honesty, they confront sanitized views about America’s history of slavery, racism, and misogyny from a powerful, black female perspective. These songs call on the persistent spirits of the daughters, mothers, and grandmothers who have fought for justice – in large, public ways – only now being recognized, and in countless domestic ways that will most likely never be acknowledged.”
Name: Pardison Fontaine
Selected Song and Album: “Madden Flow” from Under8ed (
Bio: Pardison Fontaine, is an American rapper and songwriter originally from Newburgh NY.
Name: Princess Nokia
Selected Song: “Sugar Honey Iced Tea” (
Bio: Princess Nokia, is an American and a strong supporter of intersectional feminism.
Name: Raashan Ahmad
Selected Song and Album: “I Got Life” from The Sun (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: Raashan Ahmad is an MC with a thriving career as a solo artist & front man for the live hip-hop group Crown City Rockers. He has garnered critical acclaim from worldwide press. Raashan’s albums The Push & For What You’ve Lost garnered worldwide attention and earned him the admiration of fans as he has toured feverishly throughout North America, Europe, Japan, Australia, and Brazil.
Name: Ranky Tanky
Selected Song and Album: “Freedom” from Good Time (
Bio: This Grammy nominated, Charleston, SC-based quintet, performs timeless music born from the Gullah culture of the southeastern Sea Islands.
Name: Raphael Saadiq
Selected Song and Album: “Sinner’s Prayer” from Jimmy Lee (
Bio: DescriptionRaphael Saadiq is an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer.
Selected Song and Album: “Hatshepsut” from Eve (
Bio: Rapsody, is an American rapper from Snow Hill, North Carolina.
Name: Rhiannon Giddens
Selected Song and Album: “I’m On My Way” from There is No Other (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: Rhiannon Giddens is an American musician. She is a founding member of the country, blues and old-time music band Carolina Chocolate Drops, where she is the lead singer, fiddle player, and banjo player.
Name: Rico Nasty
Selected Song and Album: “Song” from Anger Management (
Bio: Rico Nasty is an American rapper, songwriter and record producer Prince George’s County Maryland.
Name: Robert Glasper
Selected Song and Album: “Endangered Black Woman” from Fuck Yo Feelings (
Bio: Robert Glasper is an American pianist and record producer. He has been nominated for seven Grammy Awards, has won three Grammys and an Emmy Award.
Name: Robert Randolph & The Family Band
Selected Song and Album: “Baptise Me” from Brighter Days (
Bio: Many musicians claim that they “grew up in the church,” but for Robert Randolph that is literally the case. The renowned pedal steel guitarist, vocalist and songwriter led such a cloistered childhood and adolescence that he heard no secular music while growing up. If it wasn’t being played inside of the House of God Church in Orange, New Jersey—quite often by Robert and members of his own family, who upheld a long but little known gospel music tradition called sacred steel—Randolph simply didn’t know it existed.