Black History Month 2012: 10 New Black Artists — Emeli Sande + More
The evolution of black music is at the forefront of everything we listen to today. Soul, R&B, jazz, hip-hop and even country music has flourished throughout the years due to the innovative feats of African American artists. Even as far back as slavery in the early 1860s, recordings of the first negro spirituals were found, and later evolved into what is now known as gospel, R&B and soul music. Legendary figures like Etta James, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Teddy Pendergrass and even Michael Jackson have built the foundation for the rhythm and blues circulating the internet and radio airwaves today.
Hip-hop was born in the Bronx in the ’70s, and subsequently raised in neighborhoods around the nation. The genre has since spanned the globe and branched out into a full-fledged culture, which now includes elements of deejaying, breakdancing and graffiti writing. Its origins can be traced back to the call-and-response style of African music, but icons like poet Gill Scott-Heron are credited with laying down a blueprint that innovators like Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel and Kurtis Blow would follow. LL Cool J, Run DMC, The Sugarhill Gang and notable female MCs like Salt ‘N’ Pepa, Roxanne Shante and MC Lyte also paved the way for some of today’s budding talents.
In celebration of Black History Month in February, The BoomBox highlights a select group of artists moving up the music totem pole. Each of these 10 newcomers have talent directly influenced by the history of African American music. For that, we salute them.
This New York songstress is on the come-up, yet you wouldn’t know it judging by some of the features she’s snagged. Yobi’s soulful pipes have been paired with the lyrical stylings of French Montana, Styles P and Maino — the latter of which birthed the heartfelt track, ‘Painful War.’ With nearly 75,000 Twitter followers and over 110,000 views of her YouTube videos, Yobi expresses the perils of relationships over eclectic beats, while living comfortably between the worlds of hip-hop and R&B.
Los Angeles-born and bred producer-turned-MC Kid Ink is the next big thing to come out of the Left Coast. The 24-year-old is a certified Internet sensation, clocking over 25 million views on YouTube, more than 120,000 followers on Twitter and nearly 230,000 fans on Facebook. With a few mixtapes out, like 2011’s ‘Daydreamer,’ and collaborations with hip-hop’s new school including Meek Mill, 2 Chainz and Nipsey Hussle, superstardom is right around the corner.
There’s a new school of female rappers who are turning heads for being both outspoken and talented, and Audra the Rapper fits that bill. Just like her Twitter page states, this Washington D.C. native is most definitely “reminiscent of the ’90s.” As the first lady of Rick Ross’ Maybach Music imprint, Audra is known to go up against her male counterparts with a ferocious flow. She may be young, but there’s nothing about her skillset that’s adolescent.
It’s been a long time since an artist has been able to combine jazz, R&B and hip-hop influences so seamlessly, which is why we love Diggs Duke. With a voice similar to John Legend, Duke masterfully adds a level of personality and artistic creativity to topics that would otherwise be unoriginal. For now, he’s offering two EP’s –’Gravity’ and ‘Black Gold’ — for less than $5.00 but the quality of the music is priceless.
With over a million views of her ‘All Your Love’ single — a remake of Bob Marley’s ‘Turn Your Lights Down Low’ — songstress K’La is what R&B has been missing. The tattooed Def Jam signee hails from Gary, Ind., and has been gaining notoriety thanks to her ‘Coldest Winter Ever’ mixtape. The honesty in her music has garnered comparisons to a young Mary J. Blige and she’s been known to spit a rap verse or too. Talk about a total package.
Representing Houston, Kirko Bangz is one of the most popular young MCs on the ‘net. He can harmonize and rap, so it’s no surprise that the Drake comparisons are starting to roll in. His single, ‘Drank In My Cup,’ strengthened his star power and after dropping his most recent mixtape, ‘The Progression 2: A Young Texas Playa,’ Bangz is not only perfecting his craft but well on his way to etching out his own niche in the hip-hop arena.
Born in New York and raised in Delaware, Mike Jaggerr’s industry buzz has been steadily on the rise. The 22-year-old dropped his ‘The Eleventh Hour’ mixtape last year, and the hip-hop world took notice. A current resident of the thoroughest borough — aka Brooklyn — Jaggerr is one wordsmith who stands out for the personal accounts ingrained in his lyrics. Plus, he’s a pretty adept producer as well, crafting the beats supporting his rhymes. This year is sure to bring the unsigned MC a label deal as he rides the wave of his new track, the Audra the Rapper-supported ‘Sweet Waters.’
Like any good singer-songwriter eyeing the big leagues, Bei Maejor got his start working behind the scenes. He’s penned and produced music for the likes of Monica, Drake and Frank Ocean, among others, but it’s his budding solo career that’s grabbed our attention. With a style all his own, the Grammy nominee has dropped a few mixtapes, like the ‘Upside Down’ project, and recently a single called ‘Trouble’ with a remix featuring Wale, Trey Songz, Nelly and T-Pain. Now he’s prepping the release of his debut LP tentatively titled ‘Making Up,’ due out sometime this year.
From her vibrant fashion sense to her explicit wordplay, Azealia Banks turns heads. The Harlem native has been putting in work on the underground scene for years and by 2011, her notoriety skyrocketed. While it doesn’t hurt that she’s publicly dissed Nicki Minaj and White Girl mob rapper Kreayshawn and been touted as the “future of music” by Kanye West, the fact that her music is equal parts clever, unique and unapologetic only sweetens the deal.
Scotland isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of R&B, so here’s hoping Emeli Sande will change your mind. The Scottish singer is both a vocalist and a musician whose voice is reminiscent of music’s Motown era. Her debut album, ‘Our Version of Events,’ will see a release date next week in the U.K. and in spring for the U.S., with the lead single, ‘Heaven,’ already having chart success overseas. Whether she’s belting out ballads like ‘Hope’ or tapping her toes to ‘Next to Me,’ there’s a good chance that Sande will give Adele a run for her money.