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(Credit: Arlo Parks)

Music

Five essential emerging Black artists

In the modern world, we are blessed with a wide variety of music to celebrate. Our music has diversified into such a vast array of genres over the past few decades, during a time when the technology used for sound production has become increasingly advanced. One of the beauties of the diversification of music is that it can be used for so many different purposes and evoke such a wide range of feelings to match anyone’s taste.

Of all the different popular music styles in the modern-day, hip-hop appears to make some of the strongest political statements. The poetic and word-dense style often allows artists to communicate their thoughts and experiences regarding some of the most significant issues in society.

Other styles of music can often instead focus on more positive energy and make us want to get up and dance. Whatever music you enjoy listening to, I feel that no styles are more important than others. Music is about evoking the thoughts and feelings you want to express; it’s one of the tools that make us who we are.

Over the years, music has been so deeply influenced by important Black artists, with genre-pioneering titans like Miles Davis and James Brown and instrumental prodigies like Jimi Hendrix. In the modern-day, we celebrate a rich history of musical creativity while adapting and pushing the boundaries of musical tradition. 

So today, we celebrate the diverse climate of modern music with our pick for five of the most exciting and innovative emerging Black artists.

Five essential emerging Black artists:

Arlo Parks

London singer-songwriter Arlo Parks set out to make a career out of her musical passion in 2018 when she began by uploading demos to ‘BBC Music Introducing’ to exhibit her songwriting. She soon grabbed the attention of radio presenters across the country. After hearing some of Parks’ demos, Ali Raymond of Beatnik Records offered to manage Parks’ career. 

Parks rose to national prominence with her first single, ‘Cola’, in late 2018 and soon announced her debut EP, Super Sad Generation. In May 2019, she played her first-ever gig at The Great Escape festival in Brighton, followed by a performance at Glastonbury Festival in June. Her unique slant on indie-rock has seen her embark on an unstoppable rise over the past two years, and she even scraped up the coveted BRIT Award for ‘Best New Artist’ last year.

Watch the video for her fantastic new single ‘Softly’ below.

Yola

Yolanda Claire Quartey, known simply as Yola, is a Bristol-born sensation. Her parents had often discouraged her passion for following a career in music while growing up, as they identified it as an unrealistic path. However, in 2013 she decided to launch into a musical career following her mother’s death — realising the fragility of life and the importance of one’s passions. With her first EP, Orphan Suffering, in 2016, she saw her first glimmers of success; but it was the release of her debut album, Walk Through Fire, that truly put her under the spotlight as a rising talent. 

Her catchy and sentimental blend of country, soul and R&B, met with her arresting vocals, made her one of the highlights of the 2019 Newport Folk Festival in the States. The following year, she was nominated for four awards at the 2020 Grammys, including the Best New Artist award. In 2021, Yola returned with her second album, Stand for Myself, which showed her music develop into an increasingly refined sound with more pop tendencies. This year, she is on tour in support of the new album and is certainly one to watch out for in the future.

Nao

British R&B and soul singer Nao has presented herself as a standout star with her unique and, quite frankly, mind-blowing vocals. Her 2016 debut album For All We Know saw her hit the top 10 on the Billboard R&B chart. Nao’s second album, Saturn, released in 2018, saw her do what any brave and respectable artist does as she looked to reinvent her sound.

The music in Saturn shows her on a new level of maturity as a creative artist and a singer. “Up until For All We Know, I’d just been a singer in many different formats but not as an artist,” Nao said in a Harper’s Bazaar interview, “Saturn, I guess, is the healing that came out of everything.”

Nao shows no signs of stopping with the release of her third album, And Then Life Was Beautiful, last year, which was widely met with critical acclaim. Listen to the R&B wonderment of ‘Antidote’ from her latest album below.

Grove 

Bristol up-and-comer Grove is a true innovator who mixes a plethora of electronic styles, including dancehall, jungle, drum ’n’ bass, hyper-pop and techno. The music perfectly communicates their experience as a homosexual Black person in the modern world. Grove takes influence from their surroundings and injects it into the creative power of the music, most notably from the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol in 2020 amid the Black Lives Matter protests.

Listen to Grove’s track ‘Sticky’ below, a song “written about my first experience going to Pxssy Palace, a party in London run by queer and black femme people for queer and black femme people. Something that was fundamentally perspective and life-changing.”

Kam-Bu

Several exciting new acts are emerging from London’s popular UK rap scene, but none seem so innovative and intriguing as Kam-Bu. He rose to prominence last year following the release of his debut EP Black On Black, which included a collaboration with recording artist and producer Leon Vynehall. 

The Nottingham-born, South London raised rapper shows an erudite understanding of some of Britain’s most pressing societal issues. His provocative lyrics demand attention as one of London’s most important young voices during these uneasy times. I certainly look forward to hearing more from this promising young artist.

Listen to Kam-Bu’s song ‘Are You On?’ below.