Not too long ago, I tried to come to an understanding of the lack of black artists in the alternative music community
. In doing this I came to the realization that as I sifted through dozens of artists in an effort to prove my case, that black alternative artists do in fact exist, and a majority of the artists I had found were female. As a black female, it needn't be said that I am 200% here for supporting rising black female musicians–black girl magic, right? My concern comes not from the presence of black women of color, because as I said, I think we could all collectively benefit from a spike in their numbers as well; but, there is something to be said about how alternative black male artists are even harder to come by than women are.
Change comes with time, and obviously people are taking experimental paths with music all the time, bending, twisting, and conforming what is expected of them into something entirely its own. Just look at the last Childish Gambino album
–if someone told you way back in 2013 that "Awaken, My Love!"
would have sounded the way that it does, you wouldn't have believed them. The thing about these progressive moves in music is that you can't predict them–they often come along and are presented through a new artist who you normally wouldn't have bothered to listen to; but, somehow they snuck onto the charts and began taking over. Looking at the charts as of now, there are very few black male artists revolutionizing the industry in this way and laying the groundwork for those to come.
Some upcoming black male artists don't have to be uncovered and dusted off for the simple fact that people already know who they are, for the most part. There are others, who you could bring up in conversation paired with a song title and lyrics, the works, and the person you're talking to would still have no idea who they are. What I want is for us to reach a point where the ‘some' above changes to most–because we can't just sit here while all of this black boy joy at work goes to waste. I won't stand for it. Don't worry, I'm not going to make you sift through all of the artists that I had to to come up with this list–I'll leave you here with 10 black male artists of various alternative genres, from rap to R&B to pop, to get you started. The rest is up to you.
I figured I would start with someone somewhat familiar to everyone, or so I hope. If you haven't listened to his debut American Teen
album yet, you've already missed out on months of vibing to it and it'd be in your best interest to catch up with the rest of us. Also, a quick public service announcement that if someone doesn't get Khalid in the studio with SZA soon, I'm going to lose my entire mind. Give the people what they deserve.
The buzz around Aminé began less than 2 years ago and has been growing steadily ever since. His raps create a feel good, chilled out atmosphere that you don't come by often. He already has over 5 million monthly listeners and more than 250 millions streams on Spotify–and he doesn't even have an album out yet. Truly a king in the making.
Last year, Berhana released a self-titled EP featuring six tracks, including his most popular song "Grey Luh." His vocals are soulful and melodic, and yet they still manage to carry undertones of classic hip hop. A recent tweet
regarding his new project is getting everyone super excited, and rightfully so. He's definitely proving to be an artist to watch.
It's been a month since SATURATION
, BROCKHAMPTON's debut album, was released and I'm still not over it. With 14 tracks, not including the skits created for the album, BROCKHAMPTON has managed to create a project where each song makes you think that it would be by an entirely different artist. Some songs weigh on the heavy side with loud basses and drums, like in "HEAT," and then others like "SWIM" and "WASTE" slow things down.
is easily one of the best albums to come out of the disastrous year of 2016. Gallant uses his music to channel older eras of R&B, but the production and powerful soul tone of his voice makes his project something entirely next level. His lyrics are sure to get you in your feelings, but, listen, it's fine. We'll all be in our feelings together.
6. The Pheels
This is definitely one act on this list that I really
had to dig to find, but when I pressed play on "Don't Play Yourself" it was all so worth it. Curtis Fields and Phil Jones are the masters behind The Pheels, bringing electronic vibes to their increasingly eclectic sound. Their 2016 EP likeWise,
is worth checking out–and even more so the tracks they released earlier this year, "Greasy" and "The Realness."
I'm convinced that there isn't a thing this man can't do. He raps, he sings, he's a songwriter–and all of these talents come together to create music that somehow falls under the categories of alternative folk, electronic, and what almost sounds like dream pop. His 2015 album All We Need
was absolutely spectacular and has everyone awaiting his official return to the music scene.
Ricardo Valentine, performing under the stage name 6LACK, turned heads last year with his debut album FREE 6LACK.
The album laid the foundation of how people would perceive Valentine as an artist, and needless to say he left a fairly great impression. Earlier this year he made sure to keep his momentum going by releasing a collaboration with Jhene Aiko that reminded everyone of why they love his music so very much.
9. J HUS
J HUS has been on absolute fire this year–releasing his official debut album Common Sense,
featuring his track "Did You See?" which is quickly becoming a summer anthem. The rapper is said to create his unique sound by utilizing a montage of his knowledge of electronic, rap, and reggae. J HUS is definitely the artist to have on a party playlist when you're ready to have a good night that you may or may not remember the next morning.
Alternative R&B project dvsn was created when producer Nineteen85 came together with vocalist Daniel Daley. Bringing their talents together has resulted in a musical outlet that has a little bit of everything going on with it, making it near impossible to know what to expect. Some tracks lean on the slower side, others on a more upbeat side–and some walk a thin line between the two. The somewhat unnecessary length of some of their tracks is completely enjoyable, and that has to say something about their talent. Who is going to sit here and listen to two seven minute tracks that they don't even enjoy?