In an industry that works to define black female artists as a monolith, the diversity and charisma of these artists is something to be admired. They write necessary stories and influence the music industry in a way few others can replicate. These 10 black female artists are essential additions to your Spotify or Apple Music playlist.
1. Bree Runway
A fresh and innovative force in the pop music industry, London-based singer and rapper Bree Runway is a superstar in the making. Uncompromising and unapologetic, Runway has brought her unique sound to the forefront.
As a dark-skinned black woman, Runway has had her fair share of experiences with colorism. She has credited those experiences with shaping her artistry. Her music is a testament to unapologetic black womanhood, tackling issues such as misogynoir, colorism, and body image with defiant confidence and boldness. Above all, Runway stays true to her uniqueness and individuality. She credits her authenticity as the key to her success.
Runway could best be described as a genre-bending artist. More often than not, her experimental approach to music hits the mark. Taking homage from artists such as Lady Gaga, Lil Kim, Whitney Houston, Grace Jones, and David Bowie, Runway creates an electrifying new blend of pop, trap, rap, rock, and R&B music. With her unparalleled visuals and incomparable fashion to accompany her music, Runway has solidified herself as the next musical sensation.
Essential Listening: “2000and4Eva”
2. Chloe x Halle
Not very many people can say that they’ve caught the attention of Beyonce! This multitalented sister duo is so immensely talented that they were able to garner Beyonce’s mentorship as well as a management deal under her label Parkwood Entertainment. The Atlanta-based R&B duo Chloe x Halle has risen up the ranks to become two of the most dynamic talents in music right now. After starting their music careers at young ages, the duo has released several projects, starred in several acting roles, and have even been nominated 4 Grammys at the respective ages of 20 and 22. Their hypnotic, siren-like voices, incredible production skills, and instrumental prowess make their music incredibly harmonious and nuanced. Their latest album Ungodly Hour, which garnered them 4 Grammy nominations, is only the latest illustration of their talents.
Essential Listening: “The Kids Are Alright” and “Ungodly Hour”
At only 21 years old, Tierra Umi Wilson, known professionally as UMI, is a new, raw talent in the R&B scene. The Seattle-born, Los Angeles-based singer and songwriter is half-black and half-Japanese. She uses her culture as the foundation of her artistry, putting emphasis on fluidity and self-confidence within her music. A voice for black, queer women, UMI’s music tackles issues such as race, class, and sexual orientation with tact and nuance. UMI takes influence from artists such as Frank Ocean and SZA to mold her own unique fusion of R&B, soul, and alternative music. Her voice is enchanting, her music is healing, and her lyricism is unmatched. This combination makes her music heartachingly intense and poignantly soulful.
Essential Listening: “Introspection”
4. Jasmine Sullivan
Jasmine Sullivan is a prominent R&B musician known for her raspy voice, vocal agility, and 1980s influenced sound. After taking a hiatus from the music industry, Sullivan has made her highly anticipated return to R&B music. Sullivan, a talented songwriter, incorporates her own personal experiences with life and relationships into her music. Her personality and lyricism have garnered her widespread critical acclaim across the music industry.
Essential Listening: “Heaux Tales”
Essential Listening: “Nothing Without You”, “Love From NGC 7318”, “Continuum”, “Mama Saturn”
Almost painfully underrated, Tinashe is one of the best musical acts out right now. A master of alternative, R&B, and hip-hop, Tinashe’s style of music has been referenced and replicated by many other artists. However, none can do it as well as she can. Her music takes inspiration from legends like Janet Jackson and Aaliyah. Tinashe has had some great projects in the past that have been generally ignored or looked over by the general public. However, her latest album Songs For You is nothing short of a masterpiece. This album makes it hard for people to ignore her talents any longer.
Essential Listening: “Songs For You”
7. Ama Lou
At just 22-years-old, London-native Ama Lou has solidified herself as a talented and proficient singer and songwriter. Lou was involved with music from the young age of 10. With the support of her parents, Lou was able to hone her musical skills to become one of the most promising upcoming artists. After releasing her EP “DDD”, Lou received impressive recognition from artists such as Drake and Jorja Smith. Lou’s relaxed and straightforward attitude is refreshing, which makes her music lovely and intimate to experience. Her candid and honest method of portraying herself strips back the overly-grandiose assumptions of life. This allows her music to reach into your soul and touch more sensitive parts of you that you may keep hidden.
Essential Listening: “DDD”
8. FKA Twigs
UK-born artist Tahliah Debrett Barnett, known by her stage name FKA Twigs, is an artist like none have ever seen before. FKA Twigs takes avant-garde to another level. Her music is almost impossible to describe and it doesn’t fit into any defined genre. When attempting to describe her artistry, the words otherworldly, transcendent, and luminous come to mind. FKA Twigs is a visionary. She combines the styles of progressive R&B, alternative, and electronic music to create an ethereal listening experience. Rather than following standards set in music, FKA Twigs has launched her own sound. Did I mention that she also learned sword-fighting and pole-dancing for her exceptional music videos? One can safely say that no one does what FKA Twigs does.
Essential Listening: “LP1” and “Magdalene”
At just 20-years-old, Willow Smith, known professionally as Willow, has shown herself to be a promising young artist. Although she is more immediately recognized as the daughter of actors Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, she is creating her own path towards fame in her music. Willow’s smash hit “Whip My Hair” was the anthem of any young girl in 2010. However, since then she has taken control of the type of music she wishes to create. Her music fits more into alternative R&B and revolves around themes of love, harmony, and consciousness.
Essential Listening: “WILLOW” and “ARDIPITHECUS”
10. Dizzy Fae
Another young artist carving her spot in this new wave of young artists is 20-year-old Dizzy Fae. A voice for queer women, Dizzy Fae has already received praise from artists like Lizzo and Kehlani. Specializing in experimentation and positive inconsistency, Fae dabbles the most in alternative R&B but moves through genres and evolves her sound with stunning ease. Her soulful lyricism is a testament to her authenticity and vulnerability.
Essential Listening: “Free Form Mixtape”