Listen close and celebrate these 10 Black musicians

Aarik Danielsen
Columbia Daily Tribune

American music history is Black music history. 

Since 1979, each June is marked as African American Music Appreciation Month, a dedicated occasion to pause and appreciate what should be self-evident the rest of the year. 

As we step fully into June, it's worth listening up to just a few of the great young Black artists making music today. Each of these creators is well-regarded within their field, but might not be household names quite yet. Check out their work and listen close for the connections to Black music across time and place.

Ambrose Akinmusire

Ambrose Akinmusire

From: Oakland

Style: Jazz

What he does: A master trumpeter, Akinmusire paints with color, shadow and light, creating multifaceted compositions that challenge the bounds of jazz, which is to say, honors the form. Akinmusire sits near the head of the class of jazz artists poised to move the sound forward through the early part of the 21st century. 

Latest release: 2020's "On the Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment" features remarkable interplay with bassist Harish Raghavan, drummer Justin Brown and pianist Sam Harris. 

Lakecia Benjamin

Lakecia Benjamin

From: New York City

Style: Jazz

What she does: The saxophonist creates with an assured voice, one that resonates whether alone in the spotlight or burnishing the work of artists such as Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys and The Roots. Benjamin was named rising star on alto sax in the renowned 2020 Downbeat Critics Poll.  

Latest release: 2020's "Pursuance" takes a glorious pass through the work of John and Alice Coltrane, that catalog — and Benjamin's bold musicianship — pulling like a magnet at notable guests such as Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gary Bartz, Regina Carter and Keyon Harrold. 

Franklin James Fisher

From: Atlanta

Style: Rock

What he does: As the leader of art-rock outfit Algiers, Fisher cuts a prophetic figure. He wraps his flexible, compelling vocals around declarative, inquisitive lyrics about the effects of class and power on our ability to love and live with each other. 

Latest release: 2020's "There Is No Year" features Fisher "testifying with an activist's conviction and a soul man's heart," AllMusic's Thom Jurek notes. "His urgency offers keen, righteous, social and cultural critique rather than indictment and judgment."

Guyton

Mickey Guyton

From: Arlington, Texas

Style: Country

What she does: The Grammy-nominated artist melds country and modern pop, as is in fashion. Guyton distinguishes herself with a powerhouse voice and thoughtful lyrical approach. In a genre where women and people of color are often underrepresented, the success of her single "Black Like Me" — and gig co-hosting the Academy of Country Music Awards with Keith Urban — is quite refreshing. Guyton will appear this September at the Roots N Blues festival in Stephens Lake Park. 

Latest release: A self-titled EP came out in March. 

Phil Augusta Jackson

From: Los Angeles by way of Philadelphia

Style: Hip-hop

What he does: In addition to writing for shows like "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and "Key and Peele," Jackson creates dynamic hip-hop that leans into modern musical trends while drawing on a more timeless vocabulary. 

Latest release: Jackson has released a few singles in 2021, including "Right Now" with Lamar Woods, but his 2020 effort "The Redondo Tape" was among the best EPs of last year. 

Lo Village

Lo Village

From: Maryland

Style: Soul, hip-hop

What they do: This power trio sounds like a 21st-century version of the Fugees, MCs Kane and Charles Tyler engaging in a give-and-take with vocalist Ama. The group unites threads from various related genres, and lyrically calls on forebears like James Baldwin to understand the current moment. 

Latest release: Though it's only 5 songs, clocking in around 15 minutes, the group's "Lost in America" EP is among the strongest musical statements of 2021. 

Terrace Martin

From: Los Angeles

Style: Jazz, hip-hop

What he does: A production wizard and gifted instrumentalist, Martin has worked on recordings by the likes of Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and Kamasi Washington. When he works under his own name, Martin bends jazz and hip-hop together, laying gorgeous saxophone and keyboard melodies over buttery grooves. 

Latest release: In 2020, Martin teamed up with Washington, Robert Glasper and 9th Wonder to create the rich EP "Dinner Party." 

Georgia Anne Muldrow

From: Los Angeles

Styles: R&B, funk, hip-hop

What she does: A singer and multi-instrumentalist, Muldrow slips between genres, crafting fully-realized compositions that — even when instrumental — follow a narrative arc. Muldrow is at her best when making space-age funk, which she does under her own name. She also records as Jyoti, where she leans more toward the jazz end of the spectrum. 

Latest release: The excellent "VWETO III" dropped earlier this year.

Pink Sweat$

From: Philadelphia

Style: Soul

What he does: David Bowden upholds Philadelphia's storied soul-music tradition with a buoyant, gospel-infused approach. Bowden's expressive, dynamic voice offers testaments to love, heartbreak and resilience against bluesy guitar, organ swells and choral backing. 

Latest release: Bowden's first full-length, "Pink Planet," came out earlier this year and features one of 2021's best songs, "Pink City." 

Josiah Wise aka Serpentwithfeet

Serpentwithfeet

From: Brooklyn by way of Baltimore

Style: Alternative R&B 

What he does: The project of Josiah Wise "unites R&B, gospel, classical, and electronic music into passionate songs that express the fullness of his life as a gay Black man," AllMusic notes. There is, then, both a mystical reverence and a truly embodied sensibility to Wise's gossamer soul music. 

Latest release: The mysterious, wonderfully moody "Deacon" hit the atmosphere this spring. 

Aarik Danielsen is the features and culture editor for the Tribune. Contact him at adanielsen@columbiatribune.com or by calling 573-815-1731.