Seven Black Musicians You Should Add to Your Library Immediately

Nothing brings me quite as much joy as finding new music. I spend a truly ridiculous amount of my life scouring blogs, Spotify, and anything else that I can get my hands on in order to find the latest and the greatest artists, as well as the ones that the mainstream might miss. 

In honor of Black History Month, I’ve compiled a list of seven of the best musicians that you might have never heard of, but are worth trying out.

1. Joy Oladokun

Joy Oladokun was ten years old when she saw a video of Tracy Chapman perform, and she describes the moment as life-changing. Black musicians can be lumped into narrow categories just by nature of being a Black musician, and upon witnessing Chapman’s genre-shirking performance, Oladokun decided to follow her lead in rejecting preconceived stereotypes. "Seeing a black woman playing folk music and owning it brought something to life in me,” Oladokun has an innate gift for lyricism, that, combined with her skill on guitar makes for an incredible listen. It's worth mentioning that following her social media is just as good of an idea as following her music, because not only is she crazy talented, she’s also crazy relatable

Songs to Listen to First: "Younger Days" (Live From Her Backyard), "Sober" and "Sunday".

Best Lyrics: And I would swallow my pride 'cause I know what I gave / Why should I poison myself to try and fix your mistakes?

2. Angel Haze

When Angel Haze’s EP  "New York" came on the scene in 2012, critics knew that Haze was something special. A heady mixture of brashness and vulnerability, Haze offers excellent ‘screw you’ momentum in one breath and deeply introspective lyricism in the next. After “New York”, Haze followed their success with the release of two albums, “Dirty Gold” in 2013, and "Back to the Woods" in 2015. 

Songs to Listen to First: "The Wolves", "Battle Cry (ft. Sia)" and "Babe Ruthless".

Best Lyrics: Heavyweight flow, if they can't lift you then they can't drop you

Related: 7 Female Musicians You Should Be Listening To

3. Nesmith.

Jason Nesmith, better known by his stage name, Nesmith., is a recent George Mason University alum and indie R&B artist based in Washington D.C. Nesmith was a member of the Richmond group “The Local Pyramid” in 2015, before deciding to pursue a solo venture in 2018. Nesmith debuted his first single, "Reach", in August of this past year, before releasing "What!?" in November 2019. Nesmith has downright fun with his beats before gifting you with a soulful voice and playful lyrics, all of which will surely be on display with the rest of the projects Nesmith has planned for 2020. 

Songs to Listen to First: "Reach", "Mad" and "What!?"

Best Lyrics: What could I do / Pursue someone new / In hopes that I find the one who’ll love me forever

4. Seinabo Sey

Seinabo Sey, with a voice that oscillates between powerhouse to chillingly delicate, has been releasing music since 2013 but stands as one of my favorite discoveries of 2020. Frankly, I’m stunned that I hadn’t heard her music until now. Sey is a Swedish-Gambian vocalist who achieved international acclaim with the release of her debut single, "Younger" in 2013. 2015’s “Pretend” was another critical success, with the release of her 2018 album, “I’m a Dream” only cementing her status as a talented singer-songwriter by continuing to tackle sensitive topics with grace.  

Songs to Listen to First: "Remember (ft. Jacob Banks), "Hard Time" and "Shores".

Best Lyrics: Show me a God that I can believe in / Show me some stars / Beneath this, beneath this ceiling

5. Jacob Banks

Storytime: Jacob Banks was the first concert I ever went to see live. It was February of last year, and I bought the ticket on a whim, drove to the 9:30 Club in D.C., and promptly forgot about all about the online exam I was assigned that was due at midnight (whoops). Here’s the thing though-- I regret nothing. (Okay, maybe I regret the exam a little bit). Banks has an instantly recognizable voice--a rich baritone that is just as stunning live as it is recorded. Born in Nigeria, but raised in Birmingham, England, Banks combines Afro-centric beats, vulnerable lyrics, and again, that voice, for a listening experience that helped streamline his global acclaim. Banks released three widely successful EPs, “The Monologue”, “The Paradox,” and “The Boy Who Cried Freedom”, followed by a debut full-length album "The Village" in 2018. 

Songs to Listen to First: "Slow Up", "Diddy Bop (ft. Louis The Child)" and "Monster (ft. Avelino)"

Best Lyrics: What I've learnt from the ocean / How to dance and rejoice in the motion / Let the sun have its moment /The moon will come

Related: 8 Songs I'm Listening To On Repeat Right Now

6. Mahalia

If you have at any point rode in my car, listened to a playlist I’ve made, or been in my presence for longer than ten minutes, you’ve either listened to Mahalia, or heard me speak about Mahalia (probably at length, #yikes). Also raised in Birmingham, England, but raised in Leicestershire, Mahalia Burkmar picked up the guitar as a child, attracting label attention by the age of thirteen, and released her first collection of music in 2012. By 2019, Burkmar released "Love and Compromise" after the success of several singles and two EPs, “Seasons” between 2016 and 2018. 

Songs to Listen to First: "No Pressure", "Square 1" and "Do Not Disturb".

Best Lyrics: Can’t go wrong with the right team, no pressure

7. Myles Cameron

Okay. If you only listen to one artist on this list, make it this one. The lyricism, the vibe, the voice. It stands as a fact that Myles Cameron is easily the coolest person I’ve never met. A self-described "suburban blackboy", Cameron took a gap year from Yale University in 2018 to work on his music professionally. Cameron finds inspiration for his song lyrics from the works of Black authors such as the Pulitzer Prize winner, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou, and acclaimed novelist and winner of the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts, Zora Neal Hurston. Myles Cameron’s debut EP, "Lonely Suburban Blackboy" was released in May 2019, and recently released his latest single "Counting Sheep" in January 2020. 

Songs to Listen to First: "Caged Bird", "Yellow" and "Picket Fences"

Best Lyrics: I feel the most black against those picket fences

Narrowing down this list to seven artists was kind of insanely difficult, so I’m including a list of artists that are just as excellent as the seven listed above for you check out:

Parson James

Syd

The Internet

Jamila Woods

Oshun

Umi

Amber Mark

Michael Kiwanuka

Tierra Whack

Cautious Clay

Ari Lennox

Sampha

And here’s a playlist with all of the artists listed in the article!

Happy listening!