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: Tall Black Guy
Bio: From humble origins in Detroit, raised on a healthy diet of Motown, Jazz and early Hip Hop…Tall Black Guy has become a standard bearer for the current hip hop beats scene. Through a steady stream of productions filled with incredibly clever sample flips and deft production chops, he has won fans across the world, including Gilles Peterson, Lefto, Jazzy Jeff, Questlove and countless others.
Name: Tanika Charles
Bio: Since emerging on the international scene in 2017 with her debut Soul Run, Tanika Charles has revealed herself to be one of the best kept secrets in soul music. Both on stage and off, Toronto-based Charles presents an immutable charm, at times endearingly abrasive and honest in her vulnerabilities.
Name: Tank and the Bangas
Selected Song and Album: “Spaceships” from Green Balloon (
Bio: Soul, R&B, Hip Hop and Spoken Word combined over a live band, Coming to you from New Orleans!
Bio: “We are teamonade!!! We are a band inspired by the classic taste of a good ol half & half beverage. featuring: Osi on guitar, Ryan on drums, and TJ on bass!”
Name: Tierra Whack
Selected Song: “Unemployed” (
Bio: Tierra Whack is an American rapper, singer, and songwriter. Her debut studio album, Whack World received widespread critical acclaim. Her 2017 single, “Mumbo Jumbo”, had an accompanying music video that garnered a Best Music Video nomination for the 2019 Grammy Awards.
Name: Toro y Moi
Bio: “Toro y Moi, is an American singer, songwriter, record producer and graphic designer. His music has taken on many forms since he began recording, but he is often identified with the rise of the chillwave movement. His stage name is a multilingual expression consisting of the Spanish words toro and y (meaning “bull” and “and”, respectively) and the French word moi (meaning “me”).
Name: Troi Irons
Selected Song: “Lost Angels” (
Bio: I play several instruments and produce my own music, direct my videos… I want to tell my truth the way I see it – or not at all. We’ll see if this works.
Name: Trouble in the Streets
Selected Song and Album: “Chasing Whatever” from Rule Breaker (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: Trouble in The Streets is an eclectic experience that breaks the fourth wall and invites audiences to create their own story.
Name: The Union Black
Selected Song and Album: “Stand Out Of Our Light” from End of Empires (Bandcamp|
[bandcamp width=100% height=42 album=2681429132 size=small bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 track=4052704272]
Bio: The Navajo Project is based in the alternative party capital of Europe, Berlin, and continues Anté’s life-long obsession with duality and symbiosis, and is conceived as two-bands-in-one, related as Yin is to Yang : “The Union Black” (yin) is the foundational act – an experimental and mostly instrumental incarnation and initially takes priority, while the other (simply nicknamed “Navajo”) uses additional lyrics and vocals to offer a (slightly) more traditional song-based perspective. Both have the same line-up and are based essentially on the same source material.
Bio: That’s the recurring sentiment Lætitia Tamko carried with her through the writing and recording of her second album under the Vagabon moniker. Her first, 2017’s Infinite Worlds, was an indie breakthrough that put her on the map, prompting Tamko to tour around the world and quit her job in electrical/computer engineering to pursue a career in music full-time. Tamko’s self-titled Nonesuch Records debut finds her in a state of creative expansion, leaning fully into some of the experimental instincts she flirted with on the previous album. This time around, she’s throwing genre to the wind. Vagabon is a vibrant culmination of influences, emotional landscapes, and moods; a colorful and masterful statement by an artist and producer stepping into her own.
Name: We Are Band Nerds
Selected Song and Album: “Kill Us All” from Clarity (
Bio: Deftones meets Outkast”, weaving the former’s melodic approach to hard rock with the latter’s eclectic style of hip hop to create a unique tapestry of sound, allowing their music to appeal to a variety of individuals with a range of life experiences. Their lyrics tackle the real-life perspective of middle-class minorities, discussing relationships, racism, and poverty; they also provide a motivational and relatable commentary.
Name: Wild Black
Selected Song: “Moon Star Lover” (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: A first generation Ethiopian Canadian, born and raised in Saskatoon, SK, Wild Black recently relocated to Toronto to expand creatively and explore new life experiences and opportunities.
Name: Wilma Vritra
Selected Song and Album: “SoTargets & Digits” from Burd (Bandcamp|Youtube)
Bio: Wilma Vritra is London based artist Wilma Archer (Domino)
and LA based rapper Pyramid Vritra (Odd Future).
Name: Wizard Apprentice
Bio: WIZARD APPRENTICE (pronouns: she and/or they) is a music producer, live performer, and video artist. As a highly sensitive introvert, her multimedia projects are strategies for managing an overwhelming world. Their music is a combination of lyrical precision, minimalistic composition, and technically-amateurish charm. They create media that takes advantage of accessible, user-friendly technology; allowing them to skip time consuming learning curves and get straight to focusing on inventing personalized yet highly relatable language for deeply subtle and internal experiences. She’s not a gear-head, rather, a digital folk artist who vividly and simplistically expresses her inner world using resourcefulness and honesty. Her video work incorporates green screen graphics, digital puppetry, and minimalistic compositing to produce imagery that’s cerebral, campy, and hypnotic. She combines song and video to create multimedia live performances that explore intimate emotional themes ranging from the challenges/triumphs of being an empath to overstimulation in the Internet Age.
Selected Song and Album: “Walk Through Fire” from Walk Through Fire (
Bio: “Yola is an English musician, singer and songwriter from Bristol, England.”
Name: Yugen Blakrok
Selected Song and Album: “Gorgon Madonna” from Anima Mysterium (Bandcamp|
Bio: “A sorceress who casts hexes with words and sound waves, Yugen Blakrok emerges from the smoke filled dungeons of rap… Growing up in the Eastern Cape and influenced by the political/militant and spiritual aspects of Hip-Hop, her music is firmly rooted in the mind-set of the 90’s, a deep lyrical and audio odyssey into the world around us, both seen and unseen.”
Selected Song and Album: “Intermitência” from Ziminino (Bandcamp|Youtube)
https://youtu.be/WJQ3aXRFo4cBio: “On a sunny Rio de Janeiro afternoon, in one of the city’s hillside Favela communities, Ricô Santana, Rafa Dias and Boima Tucker sat trading Youtube clips of grime MCs in the UK, footwork dancers in Chicago and trap producers in Atlanta, building a friendship that would develop naturally into a creative collaboration. From the vantage point of that hillside, consuming the output of various international black music scenes, the group realized that they shared a desire to use music to celebrate Africa’s contribution to world culture. So they embarked on a journey to create an album, with lyrics in French, English and Portuguese, and with references to a diversity of black rhythmic genres in order to help bridge the gaps that normally separate people of African descent around the world.”