February marks Black History Month, a time to celebrate and honor influential figures in the Black community who have made pivotal changes in the world and who are continuing to make waves. Today, countless Black artists are innovating within the world of music and creating amazing rhythms. Although the mainstream music industry still has a ways to go when it comes to acknowledging all of the major contributions that the Black community has made, award shows like the Soul Train Awards and BET Awards have helped give artists the recognition they deserve. Narrowing down a list of rising Black artists is a challenging task, but this list is an attempt at doing so.
Grammy-winning, Soul Train-awarded musician H.E.R. hails from Vallejo, California and follows in the footsteps of soul artists like Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu. H.E.R. ‘s angelic yet powerful vocals complement her excellent sense of musicality, and she blends contemporary R&B with neo soul, raw acoustics and vulnerably beautiful lyrics on her second studio album I Used to Know Her.
Kehlani should be everyone’s beloved musical crush. As a queer, mixed Black artist, her style is unique and fresh, and guess what? She’s from Oakland! Originally beginning her music career in the group PopLyfe, Kehlani started releasing solo mixtapes with Cloud 19 in 2014. Her vocals are subtle and laid-back but also offer a wonderful vibrato and range. She specializes in R&B with hip-hop and pop inflections, singing about themes of love and sensuality. Some of her notable songs include “Distraction” and “RPG,” which features rapper 6LACK.
This California-born artist has continued to impress listeners with every project he does. Omär’s music is alternative R&B featuring traditional African rhythms, gospel choir crooning and innovative beats. His Moments Spent Loving You is a masterpiece of an album, and “Blind Man” is the ultimate love song.
Hailing from Inglewood, California, Sir Darryl Farris, professionally known as SiR, is a passionate vocalist with a drifting, dreamy voice. His songs are often introspective and emotional, such as in “John Redcorn” and “That’s Why I Love You.” His delightfully catchy song “Hair Down” is a victorious anthem of progress and opportunity.
Afro-Latina vocalist QUIN, sometimes stylized as Quiñ, is a free spirit undefined by conventional boundaries. Dubbing her genre fantasy soul, she carries the energy of a luminescent queen in all of her work and mixes the psychedelic with the soulful. Her collaboration with 6LACK, “Mushroom Chocolate,” encapsulates the giddiness of young summer love, and her album Galactica transports the listener to an entirely new universe of sound.
The dynamic duo of Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot have been moving up in the music industry at an incredible speed. With their southern vibes and radiant energy, Venus and Dot have created a distinct name for themselves while expressing messages of self-love in the Black community as well as political and social justice.
With his sensational saxophone skills and smooth, sophisticated voice, Masego is the jazz legend of our era. Blending R&B, trap and jazz together in an eccentric combination, Masego is known for his jazzy electronic hit with FKJ called “Tadow.” He has many other stand-out releases, such as “Queen Tings,” which celebrates the beauty of Black women.
As the mind behind Shea Butter Baby and the first woman signed to Dreamville Records, Ari Lennox has been truly revolutionary in spreading the message of Black beauty and self-love. Her debut album is spell-binding and impossible not to play over and over again. Her airy yet smoky voice harkens back to the classic soul of Minnie Riperton and Lauryn Hill.