Since its inception decades ago, the backbone of dance music has been formed by a strong community of black creators. They have led the charge for change, from creating inclusive underground club scenes to promoting initiatives that call for diversity in the industry at large.
More so, today’s soundscape is constantly changing and black artists have proven to be a driving force for innovation and propelling momentum. To showcase some of their voices, we’ve compiled a list of 15 trailblazing artists who have made their mark over the past few years. These pioneers had a profound impact on their contemporaries, and their sonic influence is certain to materialize within the future wave of talent in the industry.
After officially launching their solo project early last year, UK powerhouse Aluna made waves with his debut album, Renaissancein August 2020. Cohesively integrating pop-house, dancehall and funk, the multi-genre venture also included collaborations with Kingdom of Jada, Mr. Carmack and KAYTRANADA. His ensuing remix album featured a carefully curated lineup featuring emerging artists of color, including UNIQU3, lady bee, yazzus and The Martinez brothers.
BLVK JVCK made his official foray into solo music in 2017, having already racked up countless production credits on tracks from DJ Khalid, Rick Ross, justin bieber and lil wayne as a member of The runnerswho won a Grammy for his work on Rihannafrom 2010 Strong LP. Today, BLVK JVCK’s sound is characterized by explosive dubstep, interpolating innovative sound design with heavy, punchy bass.
2020 has also seen the Miami-born artist use his platform for social action, conceptualizing a captivating DJ set titled “If Malcom X Were a DJ”. BLVK JVCK was recently listed as a member of EDM.com’s Class of 2021, dedicated to recognizing electronic dance music artists with game-changing potential.
Canal Tres made its first appearance just a few years ago, marked by its shimmering 2018 remix of Aaron Child‘ “Tangerine.” Since then he has grown exponentially as a producer, singer and songwriter. The California native’s debut album, 2020s I can not go out, proved the maturation of a sound incorporating club bass with silky smooth percussion and sultry vocals. 2021 has already seen three new singles with the likes of Kitō, VanJess and Dan D’Lionfurther proving Channel Tres’ status as a bona fide workhorse.
Originally from New York, this prodigal producer has been releasing music since 2014, when he was just 15 years old. GEOTHEORY is now known for its atmospheric blends of ambient biomusic, warm synths and percussion-driven arrangements. 2020 saw the release of several new projects, including the sober and futuristic THE PANTHEISTwith its “VUDU LUV” jam center, and THEORETICAL TRAVELS: CHAPTER Vwhich is comprised of 25 attitude-infused tracks.
With his solo releases supported by Fool’s Gold and Kannibalen RecordsFrench-Canadian producer Top rankedThe sound oscillates between future bass, trap and hip-hop. High Klassified was also a founding member of the Montreal creative collective Alaizwho mattered The Celestials—a project of KAYTRANADA and Lou Phelps— in its ranks.
He has since exploded into the R&B and rap communities, working as a producer on tracks from The weekend, Future and Mick Jenkins, among others. Still, to release their own album, High Klassified engaged fans with a diverse discography of singles and EPs.
Deeply rooted in the electronic scenes of Chicago and New York, Dijon honey was destined to be a DJ. Today, with her multi-genre sound and fearless sense of self, she has become a cultural icon.
innovative DJ sets for Mixmag and Boiler room have accumulated hundreds of thousands of views. Meanwhile, gigs are rotating for Fashion Week shows from Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and others eventually landed Honey Dijon her own clothing line with Like boys in 2019. To top it off, she is an outspoken activist for the transgender and black communities, working to bring dance music back to the original, inclusive roots she grew up with.
In 2018, Jayda G was simultaneously building his musical career and completing his master’s thesis on environmental toxicology. Since then, the Canadian prodigy has been welcomed with open arms into the dance music community. This year alone, her track “Both Of Us” was nominated for Best Dance Recording at the Grammy Awards alongside a plethora of heavyweight names, cementing her status as the first vintage-inspired house producer driven by a rhythm box.
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A longtime staple of electronic and hip-hop music, KAYTRANADAThe mainstream recognition of 2019 finally came with the Grammy Awards BOUBA. But don’t let his additional nomination for “Best New Artist” fool you. Since her breakout in the early 2010s, the Haitian-Canadian luminary has played a preeminent role in fusing dance and R&B, setting the standard for producers dipping their toes into both genres. Today, the growing list of artists he has helped in the studio includes luck the rapper, The Internet, Kali Uchis, Mick Jenkinsand Anderson Paak.
Born in Zambia and based in the UK, Excitementthe latest EP from Disconnect, is a dreamy display of future avant-garde bass and lo-fi. Using hypnotic synth arrangements and a catchy percussive syncopation, the six-track disc works as a continuation of 2019 Purity. Considered in retrospect as Laxcity’s big breakthrough, this debut EP garnered what would become the enduring support of ALT: Visiona label and management group that claims Wolfgang Gartner, Medasin, K?D and drezo on his list.
At only 24 years old, Mason Maynard has already found its club-ready tech house sound backed by green velvet and Eli Brown, with whom he worked on several singles and a collaborative EP, respectively. The British artist is also a recent signer with Reservation NGEplacing his name alongside legendary dance music artists Jamie Jones, Alan Fitzpatrick and Eli & Fur. Notable Latest Releases Include March 2020’s “Jack Work” Look at me EP and “Remedy” with Ursula Ruckerpublished the following month.
With their debut album on the horizon, 16 Moore Kismet became one of the hottest names in electronic music. Explosive, emotionally driven sound embodies this California native’s unique perspective, drawing inspiration from his experiences as a black and transgender individual. Industry funders include flourishing music, night mode, Bassrush and never say diefollowing a steady stream of EPs and singles since Kismet broke into the industry in 2018. They are also members of EDM.com’s Class of 2021.
SAY MY NAME
This Los Angeles native is widely known as the godfather of hard trap, which synthesizes hardstyle and trap music under one umbrella. “Knockout” and “Break” with B-sides, SAY MY NAMEThe 2020 flagship releases exemplify his patented one-T style with their relentless bass and crushing drums. Although SAYMYNAME has yet to release more than three tracks at once, collaborations with CALUMNY, afrojack and Riot Ten helped keep its name and distinct sound in heavy rotation.
Since the launch of its V!BEZ EP series in 2018, TroyBoi has become one of the most beloved and popular trap and bass artists on the scene today. A master manipulator of synths and moods, the Brit’s music pushed boundaries and turned heads with its playful bounce, sexy attitude and clever sampling. Meanwhile, collaborators and producing partners understand Skrillex, snake hips and Ty Dolla$ignamong a litany of others, showcasing his versatility and outstanding artistry.
2018 Dawn seen TSHA out the door with his weapons blazing. This volcanic debut was built on a slightly oscillating vibe and organic sound design, cultivating a devoted fan base dedicated to his innate talent for sonic layering. His most recent EP, 2020 flowerswas critically acclaimed and supported by ninja melodythe house label of Bonobos, BRONSON, Peggy Gou and thundercat. With four new titles, “Demba” with Threesome Da Kali stands out for its creative use of the Malian band’s unique voice and instrumentation.
Xan Griffin been making music since he was nine years old, he’s only 21 now. The work has paid off hugely, marked by official remixes for Seven Lions, Minnesota and Knox Hamilton and culminating with his 14-track debut, 2018 Zodiac concept album. An ever-evolving sound alternating between future and melodic bass, lyric-driven dance-pop and hip-hop has kept things interesting ever since. 2021 has already brought four new singles from Xan Griffin, following a declaration of releasing one song every two weeks for the entire year.