Black People live and breathe Black History Month, every month. It’s just a fact.
Yes, every February comes extra cause for honoring Black excellence, all through American history. But at 48hills, we’re celebrating Black artists who tell all kinds of cultural stories, 365 days a year, by way of song. There is a bevy of astounding creators we’ve championed who opt for the power of music as a way to illustrate how methods, rhythm, and frequency can move us. Enjoy—and support these artists now, and well after February 28th. The love is appreciated and felt year-round.
The self-described “Black Feminist Sistah Punk band” Big Joanie announced themselves with a heavy reverb, crunch-riding rework of the 2018 Solange hit “Cranes In The Sky.”
According to the bands’ website, they formed in the heart of London’s DIY punk scene in 2013 and act as a creative space in which its members (singer-guitarist Stephanie Phillips, drummer Chardine Taylor-Stone, and bassist Estella Adeyeri) can be completely themselves as Black women.
Oakland beatmaker and rapper Stanley Ipkuss patchworks jazz snippets, soul samples, and twitchy keyboard blips into an aggressive-yet-quiet-storm melange that he spits bars over about his own struggles, self-improvement, and better mental help. His most recent release Among Other Things, which was mentioned in Okayplayer twice this year, is a dense get-down that puts the spotlight on ingenuity and hustle.
Assisted by Ipkuss’ cast of vocalists and emcees Jada Imani, Lucy Camp, Stoney Creation, and Charis Amber, Among Other Things stands out from the pack. This is required listening for open-minded hip-hop aficionados in 2022.
Bess is Pursuit Grooves a.k.a. Vanese Smith’s predominantly-instrumental 2019 tribute to Bess Coleman, the first Black American female pilot, a maverick to this day. The first time I heard it, I was taken aback. Smith had found a way to put the sensation of flight into her music. On the track “Cloud Pusher,” machine-like clicking and synths get wrapped up in the mechanical narrative, giving sight to the sky before us—and clear vision of all the sacrifice it takes to get up there. It’s a beautiful struggle captured in song.
Grooves, a Toronto-based experimental artist, is featured in Laurent Fintoni’s book Bedrooms Beats and B-sides. Producing and releasing since 2010, this electronic music vet has made ambient, experimental, and metallic-like funky arrangements sound precise. Bess, though, aligns the past with the oncoming.
A self-taught multi-instrumentalist, Eric Porter has been recognized and championed by Gilles Peterson and Georgia Anne Muldrow. His work as Afrikan Sciences refuses to draw separations between genres: He’s always tying threads between all the pertinent musical traditions that inform his tracks. Porter recontextualizes house, techno, and breakbeat with fluid arrangements, resulting in an uncanny and unique sound. He uses minor chord dissonance, oblique disruptions, and tempo rigidity to communicate the feel of our hectic world.
In the field of electronic music, where algorithmic regurgitation has become the norm, Afrikan Sciences remains genuine.
Moniquea, the California-raised, Indiana-born vocalist, sculpted her on-stage reputation in a pre-Uber Los Angeles. At 15, she performed at The Rose Bowl—who else can claim that? Moniquea makes songs filled with upper register, plain-spoken sensibility. Her neck-popping joints are worthy of a spot on the soundtrack for Insecure, Issa Rae’s runaway HBO hit chronicling the daily travails of young Black Los Angelenos.
Since linking up with MoFunk Records in 2014, Moniquea’s tracks have popped like they’re from a terrestrial radio fever-dream broadcast circa 1986. It’s that yesterday-tomorrow wave of Black music that you can glide to.