Black Pumas – ‘Black Pumas’
Recommended by Andreas Peters. A nomination for Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards does not necessarily equal great musical quality, but in the case of the Black Pumas, it was well deserved when they were preselected for the award in early 2020 (admitted that Billie Eilish was a hard to beat opponent this year). Just the year prior, the duo around guitarist Adrian Quesada and singer Eric Burton released the project’s self-titled debut that assembles psychedelic soul-funk songs, spirited with a brimming energy that I find to be more than electrifying. It may then be more than a coincidence that the band’s name evokes that one of the Black Panther Party, an African-American activist group formed in the 1960s, for this is also the period, which the duo musically references to. The tender, and at times lamenting voice of Burton is naturally drawing all attention towards its broad dramatic vigour, but it is only that strong because of the rich sonic tapestry of edgy drum patterns, string sections, funky piano interludes, fuzzy guitars or featured brass instruments. Most importantly, the record is putting forward a strong sense of hope and community beyond any borders inflicted by humankind. And I think that is a message that could not be emphasised enough these days.
Black Belt Eagle Scout – ‘At The Party With My Brown Friends’
Recommended by Norman Fleischer. Let’s face it, Indigenous people only play a minor role in modern pop, especially in the independent music scene. Well, and if you further specify that themes like queer indigenous identities probably hasn’t been on the musical landscape so far before Katherine Paul decided to give this community a voice as Black Belt Eagle Scout. The music video for Run It To Ya which you are about to watch shows a world you might have not seen before and that makes it even more important. Born and raised in an Indian reservation, Paul weaves her experiences and confrontations of being a minority into her music, resulting in haunting, honest and beautiful dreamy indie rock gems. The fittingly titled At The Party With My Brown Friends was one of my favourite musical discoveries of the past year, an album that is loaded with determination and grace while also allowing the songwriter to show her fragile side as well. It’s a political record simply due to its existence and context, not for its content. The suffering and wrong treatment of indigenous people in the United States is deeply rooted within their history. Well, the whole nation was based on the great tragedy of Native Americans and I surely hope there will come a time when the US will face this historic failure as well.
Vagabon – ‘Vagabon’
Recommended by Miriam Wallbaum. When I decided to take part in this recommendation article to support the Black community, I looked through my Spotify profile and realized that 90% of the shown artists are White people. This fact made me think lot about my musical preferences as a White and privileged person. I never intentionally decided to listen to music by White people, this kind of just happened naturally in my situation. And that’s exactly the problem here: the festivals I attend, the music magazines/blogs I read and the algorithm, which suggests me new music are full of Western White people who have the privilege to be featured on those platforms. And because of this, the consumer only gets few music by Persons of Colour. But there are so many great Black artists who really deserve to be heard in this world. One of them is the Cameroon/US American songwriter and producer Vagabon who taught herself everything in regard to music, as she never had professional lessons but rather studied software-development. Her self-titled album from last year shows that she is a skilled songwriter who knows how to make unique and complex records. Vagabon is a mixture of catchy pop beats, quiet electronic pieces, some experimental synths, singer-songwriter elements and, of course, Vagabon’s great and soothing voice. And maybe, after reading our recommendations, you realize – like me – that we need to change something about the way we consume music.
Sampa The Great – ‘The Return’
Recommended by Anna Stich. On this record, Sampa Tembo aka Sampa The Great explores her personal meaning of family and home and comes to the conclusion that ‘Home is my home is myself’ which ultimately is the safest interpretation for every human. If you can reside in yourself and in your own experience, you will have an easier time going through the everyday. The Return has become one of my favourite records for running. Each time I jog, I choose a new release which I have been meaning to listen to for a while – last year in late September it was Sampa The Great’s record. One important thing to know is, I have a love/hate relationship with running. I’m aware how important it is to structure my thoughts but that does not mean it’s easy to convince myself of this and the choice of music is an important drive. If it’s a boring album, I’ll walk more than run or turn around after a short distance. But The Return makes me want to do the opposite: I forget the time and be almost surprised when the 80min are over and my mind has magically balanced the tensions of the day. What I’m saying is, this record is a great equilibrium of subtle and not-so-subtle observations on life, has bangers such as Final Form and Energy, explores different musical realms and what it means to feel at home with a demanding authority. It’s for everyone, not only for runners.
Spellling – ‘Mazy Fly’
Recommended by Louisa Zimmer. With the albums released via Brooklyn label Sacred Bones, you can always be sure that every artist on the album roster is worth listening to. Spellling is one of the newer artists on the label, in the past she has been associated with much-loved artists such as Boy Harsher or Amen Dunes. The second album of the Bay Area-based artist connects soul to noise and darkness to light. The production of Mazy Fly is very synth-heavy, the music is however inspired by several genres such as electro, pop, R&B and even trip hop. Especially in Dirty Desert Dreams you can hear out Chystia Cabral’s preference for playful and hypnotic lo-fi instrumentations. Within Mazy Fly she presents a weird and bewitched sound that enchants you from the very beginning of the album. In 2017, her debut album Pantheon of Me even reached Number 4 of Bandcamp’s records of the year. Consider this as the opportunity time to get the follow-up, then.
JPEGMAFIA – ‘All My Heroes Are Cornballs’
Recommended by Norman Fleischer. I first got introduced to Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks aka JPEGMAFIA when I attended Barcelona’s Primavera Club event in late 2018. Peggy’s show happened late at night in a packed venue and he took the whole audience in a storm. I didn’t know what to expect here but then he came on stage and unleashed a performance that was as outrageous as it was fascinating. He was loud, he was punk he threw himself into the audience and that first impression surely left a mark on me. There’s something really fascinating about the sound of JPEGMAFIA. Of course, there’s this reckless rap style in the tradition of Death Grips but the whole production of his music is really fascinating. A lot is happening in these lo-fi beats, he samples interesting tunes in it (just take the weird guitar solo in Beta Male Strategies as a prime example here). The sound is disturbingly beautiful, it breaks with the listener’s expectations and familiar structures of what a hip hop tune should sound and feel like. Peggy isn’t interested in pleasing the audience; he likes to challenge it and creates a futuristic yet quite anarchic antidote to what you would expect from a rap album. All My Heroes Are Cornballs is an epic little trip into unknown territory.
Jamila Woods – ‘LEGACY! LEGACY!’
Recommended by Liv Toerkell. On her record LEGACY! LEGACY! Jamila Woods honors Black musical and political influentially people. From Zora Neale Hurston, Nikki Giovanni, Muddy Waters, to Jean-Michel Basquiat, these are all artists that influenced and shaped the understanding of music and art. The Chicago-native released poetry before getting into songwriting and her passion for spoken word reflects into the lyrical power of the songs. ‘My weaponry is my energy’, she sings on ZORA. With LEGACY! LEGACY! Jamila Woods does not only elaborate her talent for writing poignant lyrics and her knack for RnB influenced Hip Hop beats, but she also draws attention to the faces behind today’s music. Each of the songs is an ode to a different artist and invite us on a journey to further explore the legacy Jamila Woods reinterprets in 2019. The project came about when the artist first wrote about the inspirational figure Nikki Giovanni and then Muddy Waters, following the pattern, she then brainstormed other artist she wanted to write songs based on. LEGACY! LEGACY! is exactly what the title says it is. It is a representation of the legacy of Black and PoC artists and culture in the 21st century, amplifying the voices that have gone unheard for too long. And hey, while you are at it, check out the work of the referenced people!
Noname – ‘Room 25’
Recommended by Anna Stich. Noname already announced in January that she will be releasing her new record in 2020 and its name Factory Baby in May but so far there is no fixed release date, which is not surprising for the Chicago rapper. Since all of her fans have to be a bit more patient, why not go back to the artist’s most recent work Room 25 and enjoy the kind of hip hop that is loud by being quiet, like someone whispering beautiful truths in your ear? Noname’s lyricism makes the world brighter even with a worldwide pandemic in our backs and the open confrontation with the racist and imperialist nature of state institutions ahead of us:
“No name for people to call small or colonise optimism
No name for inmate registries that they put me in prison
I sewed the answers in linen, phantom under the thread”
Room 25 is a coming-of-age story and it is about time that the 21st century is coming of age and confronts the cruel mistakes it is making and the hurt it is causing.
Black Milk – ‘Fever’
Recommended by Liv Toerkell. I first fell in love with Black Milk’s instrumental records. The instrumental take on 2014’s If There’s A Hell Below and The Rebellion Session featuring Nat Tuner are incredible fusions of Hip Hop, RnB, and Soul much in the Acid Jazz and Trip Hop tradition of the 80s and 90s. Black Milk is the moniker of Detroit-based Rapper and Producer, aka Curtis Cross. Fever is his sixth solo record and in more than a decade in the industry, the artist has refined his production style. Drawing on the rap traditions of the greats, Could It Be could just as well be a 90s gem. But Black Milk incorporates elements from soul and jazz into the tracks, as well as, hip hop beats. Like the percussion of Laugh Now Cry Later on which the rapper speaks his mind about the recurring issue of police brutality against Black people ‘From raps to movies, to black is beauty / Cop didn’t feel the same, felt he had to shoot me‘ – lines as urgent as ever. Musically True Lies moves even in funk and rock territory with electric guitar riffs and a steady groove for the musician to rap over. The interlude eVE borders on synth-laden electronica and the flute of DiVE is as beautiful as the electric guitar melody. This is a record that marries different aspects of Black music and culture with a refined voice by industry-savvy rapper Black Milk. Bandcamp also sells the 2019 EP DiVE, which was runner up for my pick and apparently the artist is cooking up new material to be released soon!
NEOMADiC – ‘The NEOMADiC Tape’
Recommended by Anna Stich. I saw NEOMADiC in 2018 supporting Pharoahe Monch at the Sugar Club and since then I keep coming back to their chilled-out and hazy mixtape, released 2017. The duo, DYRAMiD and noGood, rely on ‘90s New York influences, high on life-philosophies, and Irish slang. Since Ireland is my second home and her musical scene has a strong impact on my own listening experience, I take every opportunity to push the support for Irish artists. The Irish hip-hop scene is often overshadowed by the UK’s Grime scene, or even more telling, Irish artists and actors being mis-identified as British, with only a few internationally recognised musicians such as Rejjie Snow or Rubberbandits. So, how about diving deep into the young scene from the island and giving The NEOMADiC Tape a download – I’m sure they will spend it on producing more beautiful stuff!
As always you are invited to support any artists you like today (and beyond). Need more information on the concept of this special day on Bandcamp? You’ll find it right here.