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: Sampa the Great
Selected Song and Album: “Final Form” from The Return (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: Sampa the Great is a Zambian-Australian singer-songwriter, and rapper. Expressing herself through music, poetry and visual art, Sampa captures listeners with thought provoking words, while encouraging people to enjoy the simplicity of creativity.
Bio: SassyBlack is a space aged singer, songwriter & producer. This Goddess of “electronic psychedelic soul” & “hologram funk” explores the concepts of sound through deep compositions. With roots in classical & jazz.
Bio: Satchy is a Pasadena-based songwriter, singer, and guitarist.
With his top inspirations being D’Angelo, Frank Ocean, and King Krule the 21 year old college student Satchy makes guitar oriented indie R&B love songs that soothe the soul. Backed up with his band of jazz musicians, Satchy puts smooth guitar chords and sprinkles of jazz saxophone over J Dilla rhythms to create his moody, sensual soundscapes.
Selected Song: “Dirty Little Lie” (Bandcamp|
Bio: “The Toronto vocalist and songwriter leads a dynamic band combining blistering hard rock with gritty blues. The empowering messages embedded in her music, and her soul-shaking live show, have quickly built SATE’s reputation as an artist impossible to ignore. SATE’s music is the natural result of the live experience, and the culmination of a lifetime spent fully immersed in music of all forms and shades. As the daughter of Canadian blues and jazz pioneer Salome Bey, SATE learned at the feet of countless music legends that passed through Toronto during her childhood. She soon found her own voice by adding the sounds and attitudes of punk, and hard rock that shaped her own identity, setting her upon her journey. That journey is in fact only just beginning.“
Name: Saul Williams
Selected Song and Album: “I Own the Night (Sufi Vision)” from Encrypted & Vunerable (
Bio: Saul Williams has been breaking ground since his debut album, Amethyst Rock Star, was released in 2001 and executive produced by Rick Rubin. After gaining global fame for his poetry and writings at the turn of the century, Williams has performed in over 30 countries and read in over 300 universities, with invitations that have spanned from the White House, the Sydney Opera House, Lincoln Center, The Louvre, The Getty Center, Queen Elizabeth Hall, to countless, villages, townships, community centers, and prisons across the world. The Newburgh, New York native gained a BA from Morehouse and an MFA from Tisch, and has gone on to record with Nine Inch Nails and Allen Ginsburg, as well as countless film and television appearances. Most recently, Williams’ released his latest music works entitled, Encrypted & Vulnerable (July 2019), which acts as the score to his forth-coming directorial debut musical, Neptune Frost.
Name: Scuru Fitchadu
Selected Song and Album: “Oji Txuba ta txobe Molotova” from Un kuza runhu (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: Scúru Fitchádu is a punk aesthetic solo project from portuguese artist Sette Sujidade. It combines aggressive basslines, heavy beats and traditional funana from Capeverde islands.
Name: Seba Kaapstad
Selected Song and Album: “Africa” from Thina (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: Seba Kaapstad is a multi-national neo-soul quartet comprised of a South African, a Swazi, and two Germans. They summon the most powerful manifestation of creativity: music that represents an idea. Their Mello Music debut album, Thina, takes its name from the Zulu word for “us.”
Name: The Sensational Barnes Brothers
Bio: “Music is in the bloodline of the Barnes family: Chris Barnes and his brother Courtney are following in the footsteps of their father, the gospel singer Calvin “Duke” Barnes (who passed away on April 5), and their mother, Deborah, who once worked as a backing vocalist for Ray Charles. At one point, the couple and their four children performed as a group called Joy. Today, a group of relatives still records and performs under the name The Barnes Family.”
Selected Song and Album: “Gotta Get to Know Ya” from Power (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: We, the Seratones, are four musicians highly skilled in the art of rocking your socks off, bringing the house down, and blowing your mind. Our goal is to make your musical experience replenish your faith in the power of Rock & Roll. Cheers to all our fans and friends for believing in the power of music!
Name: Shafiq Husayn
Bio: Shafiq Husayn carries the hip‐hop torch by importing and exporting sounds and genres into an otherworldly whole but always rooting back to a beats‐and‐rhymes basis.
From Fela‐Kuti style horns, Brazilian drums, to cod‐operative crooning, Shafiq’s music is a world sampler.
Name: Siguidiya Percussion
Selected Song and Album: “Donsofoli” from Arounaka Djembekan (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: Siguidiya Percussion was organized as a dance group, created in orchestral form by Karim Coulibaly and Chaka Kone in 1992. The word “Siguidiya” means good cohabitation. It is this good cohabitation that has made Bamako into a big and welcoming city.
The group became one of the first participants and winners of the trophy at the International Festival of Percussion of Mali.
Selected Song and Album: “Everybody” from Depayse (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: Sinkane is a Sudanese-American musician who blends krautrock, prog rock, electronica, free jazz and funk rock with Sudanese pop.
Bio: “The band’s vocalist Alex Smith told us all about it: “We’ve played this song live for awhile, “10s Across the Borg” combines sci-fi imagery with the queer afro-punk energy of the vogue/house movement. Lyrically I’m trying to bridge the gaps between the diverse scenes that influenced me and that oversaw the whole record– Sun Ra’s arkestra, living in Philly for 15 years, being involved tangentially with voguing and ballroom scene, afrofuturism. It’s important to recognize other aspects of the cultures that I’m a part of while making punk rock music, it can be frustratingly white, homogenous culture that is super rigid, so I need to break that up when I am a part of creating heavy music by offering my own take on it. I never understood why heavy music has to follow certain paths, be palatable to only certain scenes and communities and sound a very certain way. If literally anyone can pick up a guitar and throw it around a basement, why does that have to mean that there is only one way to communicate that– through these shitty, gate-kept, ultra-white, super conservative avenues where Black people, queer people, have very little social capital?
The song is also an homage to how amazingly queer, Black and Brown Philly’s LGBT nightlife scene used to be. I remember going downtown and being surrounded by queer Black people absolutely taking over. Now the whole “gayborhood” is way less gay and decidedly less hood and it’s boring. The same people own all the restaurants and clubs down there and there is consistent anti-Black racism and the straights have taken over. So I wrote a song that tries to encapsulate the frustration, joy and nostalgia of those kinds of moments– when queer POC just take over shit and reclaim and refashion.” (Source [for photo also])
Name: Son Little
Selected Song and Album: “Song” from invisible (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: About the forthcoming album aloha, “Equal parts vintage and modern, the collection blends classic soul, old-school R&B, and adventurous indie sensibilities into a timeless swirl fueled by gritty instrumental virtuosity and raw, raspy vocals. It’s an ambitious work of vision and reflection, to be sure, but more than that, it’s an ecstatic testament to the freedom that comes from torching the map and trusting the currents of life to carry you where you belong.”
Name: Soul Glo
Bio: Afro-punk band out of Philadelphia
Name: Southern Avenue
Selected Song and Album: “Keep On” from Keep On (
Bio: Southern Avenue combines the talents of a prodigiously talented set of young musicians who bring their individual backgrounds to the table to create music that carries the Southern soul legacy into the 21st century.
Bio: Conceived in the Mushroom Hour Half Hour lab, SPAZA is a band with no permanent personnel, with each lineup assembled for the express purpose of recording once-off improvised or workshopped material. For this, the initial salvo, SPAZA was put together from a group of musicians with individual and collective links to Johannesburg’s jazz, afro funk and experimental electro scenes.
In the context of this completely improvised album, the term “spaza” not only refers to the gallery in Troyeville, Johannesburg where this project was recorded live (and in one take) in the autumn of 2015, but to South Africa’s thousands of informal neighbourhood stores.
Name: Steve Lacy
Selected Song and Album: “Lay Me Down” from Apollo XXI (
Bio: Steve Lacy, is an American musician, singer-songwriter, and record producer.
Name: Sudan Archives
Selected Song and Album: “Glorious” from Athena (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: Violinist/vocalist who writes, plays, and produces her own music. She is self-taught on the violin, inspired by Sudanese fiddlers, R&B, West African rhythms, and experimental electronic music.