2020 was an unprecedented year for music. With no music festivals or tours, rising and seasoned music artists had to rely on social media and other digital platforms to stand out to the masses in an already crowded industry. But it was music from these breakout artists that brought us together and served as a haven and the soundtrack to our year while the world was literally falling apart. They not only made it through all 2020 had to bring, but they also gave us moments that helped us get through it too. There's no doubt these 8 black artists will continue to flourish in 2021, and we can't wait to watch.
Many came to know Giveon when his collaboration with Drake for Chicago Freestyle debuted at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 last year. But he's made a name for himself thanks to his vulnerable and candid lyrics and musical style. His single "Like I Want You" was certified Gold just a couple of weeks shy of the new year and landed Giveon his first one million streams. His debut album Take Time has earned him a Grammy nod for Best R&B Album. Giveon, who's been compared to the likes of Frank Sinatra and Barry White, told Elle magazine:
"I want to be one of those artists who are openly honest and vulnerable. Being a savage person comes easy to some, but deep down I'm just not that type of dude. I'm out here mourning and heartbroken like the rest of us."
2. Jazmine Sullivan
Jazmine Sullivan played no games when she returned from her nearly five-year hiatus with her mega-successful EP Heaux Tales. Even though we're happy she taught us the powerful lesson of taking a break to figure things out for ourselves, she's only proven that her time away made us miss her even more. If she was a fave in her Bust Your Windows days, she's taken her level of controversy up a notch as she unapologetically shared her experiences in the viral EP. Now that she's back, one can only imagine what else she has up her sleeve for 2021.
3. Tiana Major9
The East London native captured the ears of millions after her single "Collide" with EarthGang was featured on the Queen & Slim soundtrack. Now, the accompanying video also has more than five million views. She's a member of the Motown Records family and her sound bridges several types of music from jazz and reggae to soul. Her stage name is a subtle salute to her favorite genre and love for jazz.
She said during an interview with Flaunt:
"Jazz music is the heart and soul of my music. It's the base of my music, literally... It's always been around. When I started songwriting, it became more obvious that I loved jazz. It was one of my biggest influences because you can hear it in my melodies. When I decided to become an artist, I wanted a name that related to jazz so I added the Major9."
4. Arin Ray
Those who have been watching Arin Ray can only hope that he'll release his highly-anticipated album this year. After being featured on Kehlani's "Changes" and touring with Ari Lennox in Europe (and we can't forget his stint on The X-Factor in 2012), many are waiting for a full-length project from Arin Ray in 2021. Fortunately, he teased the possibility of a new project on Instagram dropping this year, so it could come sooner than later.
5. Brittney Spencer
We stan a black queen holding it down in country music. The songstress hails from Baltimore but spent many of her pre-COVID days hitting the pavement and playing in Nashville clubs. She's caught the attention of labels and booking agents but is in no rush to take that step. Her latest song "Sorry Don't Work No More" has nearly half a million streams so far.
She opened up about her journey and told Billboard:
"Being Black, a woman, and not a size 2 has certainly presented additional obstacles on my musical journey here in Nashville… artists like me keep showing up with whatever amount of hope we've got that day, choosing to find a ray of sun in what sometimes looks like a sky full of gray. I recognize my journey is not just about my personal success -- there's a much bigger purpose."
"[I hope] that the industry will one day realize that inclusion and diversity of thought, representation, and sonic approach only heightens creativity and encourages innovative ideas that could make lasting impact for the entire country music community."
6. Chloe x Halle
Chloe x Halle have been around for years, but there was something about 2020 that marked a new beginning for them. Their newest album Ungodly Hour easily served as a coming-of-age project that presented Chloe Bailey, 22, and Halle Bailey, 20, like we've never seen them before; and it worked. They're no longer the little girls singing covers with guitars on YouTube. They've come into their own individually and as a duo, and we can't help but watch to see what waves they make in 2021.
7. D Smoke
He hasn't slowed down since taking home the crown on Netflix's Rhythm & Flow. While D Smoke released his debut EP, Inglewood High, in 2019, and sophomore studio album Black Habits in early February 2020 (his first, Producer of the Year, was released in 2006), it looks like he's just getting started. The Inglewood native, who is also brother to Top Dawg Entertainment artist SiR, is getting the recognition he's long deserved.
ENNY became the long-distance bestie for many in 2020, and we're OK with her pushing the gas on that this year. The South London lyricist celebrated all things black girl magic with her song "Peng Black Girls" (featuring Amia Brave), putting her on the map and making her beloved by many. She told British Vogue of the breakout single, which has 5.7 million views:
"It kind of just poured out in a subconscious way. Making music is therapeutic for me so it was just me getting stuff out."
Who are a few artists you have your eye on this year?
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Featured image GIF via Chloe x Halle "who knew"