10 Local Black Musicians You Should Know
Summer is best enjoyed listening to music, and we want to make sure Boston’s incredible Black musicians are in your playlists. Whether you’re working, reading, or enjoying the warm weather about town, these 10 artists and their tunes are sure to bring joy and creativity into your daily life.
Singer-songwriter Grace Givertz has a style that melds the sounds of whimsical folk guitar with a passionate, powerful voice that can uplift spirits and break hearts in the same phrase. Her album, “Year of the Horse,” is ten tracks of poetic lyrics and heart-swelling melodies that will carry you through the tumultuous Massachusetts seasons. These days, Givertz plays livestreams on a variety of platforms, most recently with Passim — follow her on Instagram to hear where she’ll be next!
Drawing from rap icons such as Lil’ Kim and Missy Elliott, Brandie Blaze has a sound and flow that is instant, undiluted hype. Blaze, who works frequently with other Boston hip-hop greats like DJ Why Sham, Oompa and Red Shaydez, told WGBH in 2019, “All of my music comes from true experiences, whether that’s conversations I’ve had, things that have happened in my life, or what I’ve seen my friends go through.” Most recently heard on HipStory’s latest livestream, Blaze spreads motivation and power through her message of “trap feminism,” which is particularly evident in her song, “Model.” We can’t wait for the release of her next visual album, which will explore themes of life as a queer Black woman.
If you still have been sleeping on Cliff Notez, we won’t judge, but lucky for us all, the hip-hop and multimedia artist has a new album coming up with the support of a Live Arts Boston Grant from The Boston Foundation. His previous albums, “Why the Wild Things Are” and “When the Sidewalk Ends” explore themes of mental health and race, and how important it is to recognize and nurture all of the complicated, and sometimes conflicting, parts of oneself. His lyrics are witty, nuanced and matched with captivating beats that bear witness to systemic inequalities in our society.
Drummer and three-time Grammy winner Terri Lyne Carrington works through themes of social and political justice in her music, which blends jazz, R&B, indie rock, improvisation, and hip-hop. In her album “Waiting Game” with the band Social Science, listeners will hear musical meditations through songs that incorporate lyrics, spoken word poetry, and pure instrumentals. Check out her website for interviews and live recordings of her countless achievements, and you’ll be grooving for the rest of the day.
Rapper, poet, and musician Oompa gained critical acclaim for her 2016 album “November 3rd,” and followed up in 2019 with “Cleo,” which WBUR described as “ferocious, expressive, technical” balanced with “natural tenderness with language.” Her language lingers with you long after listening and allows for deep contemplation and feelings of triumph to exist in the same track. Her next project, also funded by a Live Arts Boston Grant, will be an album on the topic of the antidote & the necessity of black joy.
Violist Ashleigh Gordon is the co-founder and Artistic/Executive Director of Castle of our Skins, the concert and educational series that celebrates Black Artistry through music in Boston. Gordon effortlessly balances her individual artistry with artivism through community building with her company. Check out her work next in Dances and Delights: A Digital Concert produced in partnership with Boston Landmarks Orchestra on July 29th.
Self-described as the “Queer B.I.G.,” Grammy-nominated Billy Dean Thomas creates electrifying beats that accompany messages of intersectional feminism, social justice, and artistic sustainability. Their 2018 album “Rocky Barboa” combines an electronic style with deep bass and passionate lyrics that capture the idea of “being the most visible in the room, but the most invisible,” as they told WBUR. In their follow-up EP, “2 The World,” Thomas builds upon their artistic identity as they rap about coming into one’s own and appreciating one’s own self-worth.
As a queer & trans musician and second-generation Malawian-American, Anjimile’s work deals with the racism, homophobia, and xenophobia they experienced growing up in the suburbs of Texas, and what it’s been like for them to grow into the person they are today. Recently featured in Above The Basement‘s #TogetherAtHome Sessions, Anjimile’s indie/folk stylings are soothing, reflective, and embued with personal depth. Check out a 2019 set filmed at WGBH’s Fraser Performance Studio for a glimpse at their beautiful soul.
Anthony R. Green is a composer, performer, and social justice artist who works across multiple mediums including piano, visual pieces, and performance art. His work is deeply rooted in themes of equality and freedom, and his pieces have tackled issues including immigration, civil rights, the historical links between slavery and current racial injustice in the US, and more. Another co-founder of Castle of our Skins, Green is a vital member of Boston’s classical music scene and beyond.