What’s a better way to kick off summer than by creating the most iconic summer playlist? Since 1979, the entire month of June has been dedicated to the celebration of Black musical artists and their creations. The month-long celebration is known as Black Music Month. Black performers have helped to invent and redefine musical genres of all kinds, including R&B, pop, rock, and even some of the biggest songs in K-pop.
In recognition of the contributions that Black musicians make on a daily basis in the music industry, it’s only right to highlight some of the young artists who are on the rise and are poised to be breakthrough stars in the next few years. Read on to learn about eight emerging Gen Z Black artists and their journey to embrace their authentic sounds. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about how addictive their music is.
Tamia Monique Carter, better known as Flo Milli, is an American rapper who is creating a fresh sound in the hip-hop genre while also showcasing the talent to come from the next generation of rappers. Flo Milli rose to prominence in 2019 after her singles “Beef FloMix” and “In the Party” became viral TikTok sounds. Her stardom was cemented when she was named to XXL’s 2021 Freshman Class, a hip-hop magazine ranking that showcases a select group of rappers each year based on commercial success and relevance.
She has continued to generate hits and reach career milestones despite being only 23 years old. H*, why is you here?, her debut album, was released in 2020, and she made her Coachella debut in 2023. If you want to hear some of her songs, I recommend “19” and “May I” from H*, why is you here?
While many people recognize Coco Jones as Hilary Banks in Peacocks’ Bel-Air, she was also a defining part of many Gen Z’s childhoods, including mine, as she made her acting debut on Disney Channel. Later, she starred in a leading role of her own in 2012, in the Disney Channel original movie, Let it Shine, at the age of 14. Jones contributed to the movie’s soundtrack and even issued her own EP, Made of, shortly after the film’s release.
Jones continues to climb in popularity in the music industry today, as she released an EP, What I Didn’t Tell You, in November 2022. “ICU,” a track from the album, rose to prominence and spent three weeks at No. 1 on the mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart. On June 25, she received her first BET award for Best New Artist.
Looking for a new Y2K-themed song? Look no further, because Flo has arrived. The trio is a London-based girl group that is creating their own R&B style while drawing inspiration from the music they grew up listening to. Members Jorja Douglas, Stella Quaresma, and Renée Downer rose to stardom after their single “Cardboard Box” amassed over 36 million streams on Spotify and became a popular sound on TikTok. After the release of their EP The Lead in September 2022, the girls even departed on their first North American tour this past April.
Flo has no intention of slowing down, having already collaborated with notable musicians such as the one-and-only Missy Elliot, who featured on their March hit “Fly Girl.” “Fly Girl” is shaping up to be another hit for the trio, with roughly 19 million Spotify streams.
Chloe x Halle
Chloe and Halle Bailey are hardly new names in the entertainment business — the sisters have been involved in performing since they were children, even co-starring in Let It Shine in 2012 with Coco Jones. Before Halle starred as Ariel in The Little Mermaid and Chloe went solo while her sister was filming, they were a musical pair named Chloe x Halle. While acting in the Freeform sitcom Grown-ish, the girls contributed their vocals to the show’s intro song “Grown.”
The song appeared on their debut album, The Kids Are Alright, released in 2018. The album plays with different genres, including elements of contemporary R&B and pop while also touching on rock in tracks like “Baby Bird” and jazz/hip-hop components in “Hi Lo.”
The release of the song “Do It” from their 2020 album Ungodly Hour helped the duo achieve even greater recognition. “Do It” debuted at No. 83 on the Billboard Hot 100, while Ungodly Hour was ranked second on the Top R&B Albums list.
Don’t let Bren Joy slip under your music radar! Joy delves into the R&B soundscape by fusing influences from gospel, hip-hop, and jazz. Bren Joy gained notoriety after appearing on the soundtrack for the Netflix series Arcane alongside Gizzle and Denzel Curry.
According to his Spotify page, Joy also launched his debut album Twenties in 2019, which reflects the new era of youth and the events that may be encountered at the beginning of your twenties. In 2021, he released a deluxe version of the album, with Pink Sweat$ featuring on a new song from the album, “Insecure.” If you decide to check him out, “Fiji Fine” is a must-listen!
Umi began her musical ventures in high school, posting songs on Soundcloud and making music videos with her friends. Umi’s delicate and melodious lofi-beat and alternative R&B style won her fans. With its nostalgic and melancholic feel, her song “Remember Me” became an instant hit on TikTok in 2019. Umi withdrew from college after “Remember Me” became popular in order to focus solely on her music career.
Umi’s music continues to reflect her musical versatility as well as her identity as half-African American and half-Japanese. She even released a song primarily in Japanese called “Sukidakara,” which translates to “Because I Love You” in English. Umi released her debut album Forest in the City in 2022, which depicts themes of manifestation, healing, and Umi personally finding her place in the midst of it all.
Kiana Ledé is an actress and songwriter. When she isn’t appearing in Scream franchise films and television shows, she is a talented R&B singer. According to her Spotify artist profile, Ledé traveled to Los Angeles on her own and was signed to Republic Records. In 2018, she released her debut EP, Selfless, which included the instant hit “Ex.” The song proved relatable to viewers since it shows the vulnerability and emotions that arise from a breakup. On Spotify, the song has received over 150 million streams.
In 2020, Ledé released her debut album, Kiki, which featured musicians like Ari Lennox, Lucky Daye, and 6LACK. In 2021, she even collaborated with Kehlani on the sultry single “Ur Best Friend.” Grudges, Ledé’s second album, was released on June 16 and features more notable singers such as Ella Mai and Khalid. If you’re interested, I highly recommend listening to “Labels” (with Moneybagg Yo and Bia).
Lakeyah, who is only 22 years old, is making waves in the female hip-hop industry. Lakeyah has always been a fan of rap since she was a teenager, and after graduating from high school, she relocated to Atlanta to pursue her career goals. During her time there, she was signed to Quality Control after getting spotted for remixing a City Girls track for a challenge. She and Flo Mili were both named to XXL’s freshman class rank.
In 2020, she released her debut album Time’s Up, which included the song “Female Goat,” which featured The City Girls. Lakeyah has garnered notable singles in 2022’s “Mind Yo Business,” a track featuring Latto with over 15 million Spotify streams, and “Too Much” with over 10 million streams from her 2021 album In Due Time.