From jazz to indie to R&B, here is a list of 10 Black British women you should add to your playlist
Arlo Parks is a 20-year-old singer and poet from London who has written and produced some cool alternative indie-pop tracks over the last few years including Eugene and Black Dog Arlo’s music is tranquil, authentic, and comforting. It's her meaningful and empathetic lyrics that have made me become a fan.
Black Dog is powerful and delicately expressed, as it surrounds the topic of mental health. The song came out during the peak of the pandemic and received a lot of praise. Arlo described it as a track "to make people who are struggling feel less isolated."
As an up and coming artist, Arlo has received a series of accolades; she had a socially distant performance outside the Glastonbury Pyramid Stage, made BBC1 Radio's Brit List and even appeared on the cover of the popular music magazine, NME. With her album release coming up later this month, I predict big things for the singer!
I first heard of Celeste when she was announced as the BBC’s Sound of 2020 winner. But it was her performance of the melancholy ballad, Strange at the Brit Awards that caught my attention. Celeste brought grace and passion on the stage; her powerful, raspy vocals reminding me of the late Amy Winehouse.
The song Strange tells a tale about the loss of friendship and broken relationships – it is beautiful, compelling and showcases Celeste’s meaningful lyricism. It is refreshing to discover artists who can evoke such emotion in their writing. The British-Jamaican singer was the voice behind the John Lewis Christmas advert and announced her debut album will be out next month. Celeste recently revealed that she will be playing three live shows this summer – her soulful sound is certainly one to listen out for!
Bree Runway, the singer, rapper, and songwriter from East London isn’t bound to a genre and I love this about her. Hearing a fusion of pop, rock and R&B in her tracks makes her stand out, alongside her fun, creative music videos. It was no surprise to discover her inspirations included Prince and Missy Elliot- musical legends and pioneers of eccentricity! Bree has collaborated with the legend herself, Missy Elliot, who featured on the singer's latest mixtape, 200ANDEVA.
Everything about the mixtape was unique and it provided a versatile repertoire of catchy tracks. Little Nokia became an instant favourite on my playlist; the distorted guitar riffs and noughties nostalgia I heard throughout the song won me over. It’s certainly one of those albums you have got to blast out loud. I am hoping we get more bad b*tch anthems from Bree Runway.
Raised in Camden, Nubya Garcia is a talented saxophonist and the reason I took a personal interest in learning more about jazz. Browsing through Bandcamp, I was drawn to Nubya Garcia's album artwork; bold, bright colours of red, orange, and yellow, with a silhouette of a girl wearing a head wrap. The album titled Nubya's 5Ive was the jazz artists debut project and gave me an intriguing insight into the London jazz scene. I was captured as the smooth, melodic saxophone solo introduced the album and continued throughout.
Last summer, Nubya released a full-length album named Source, which received rave reviews from highly acclaimed music platforms like Pitchfork. The musician described the album as telling a story about her heritage and an exploration into the stories of her parents. Nubya’s style merges conventional jazz with hints of soul and hip-hop – providing a contemporary feel. It is fascinating to hear and makes a great addition to those who want relaxing, soulful tunes on their playlists.
When I first listened to Mercy Cartel, I enjoyed the diversity, hearing her delve between different genres such as electronic, neo-soul and pop. The last couple of years has seen Mercy release singles and her first EP, D.Y.E, which is heavily R&B inspired. In 2020, Mercy released two singles – Sleep and Falling. Falling is my kind of tune; the catchy beat is a fun blend of pop, R&B and Afrobeats, paired with her warm vocals as she sings about a socially distant romance. The Bristol-based singer-songwriter has said she takes inspiration from Nigerian music, which has impacted the creations. I found her refreshing to listen to and look forward to hearing more from her this year.
Based in North London, Lex Amor is a hip-hop rapper, DJ and producer who has made an impression for her poetic lyricism. Lex Amor released her first mixtape, Government Tropicana, which her fans have described as mesmerising and soul-soothing. Throughout the project, she consolidates her lessons in life, recognising her identity and purpose.
Lex has described the project as being ‘very homegrown’, with most of the songs being recorded in her bedroom. With melodic beats, a unique flow and heartfelt lyrics, the songs draw upon her life growing in London.
Last year saw her performing for COLOURS studio; I enjoyed her jazz-inspired freestyle, Clocks as well as the smooth rendition of Odogwu. Lex Amor has goals to continue finding innovative ways to articulate her experiences – I hope we get to hear more this year!
Yazmin Lacey is an R&B and soul singer, based in Nottingham. Yazmin’s voice is incredibly beautiful; her tone is comforting and reminiscent of old-time jazz vocalists. The Morning Matters EP was released last spring and is a work of art. All tracks radiate positivity and Yazmin explained the EP was dedicated to ‘everyone doing work on themselves and trying to live better.’ With the current circumstances, listening to her music has been uplifting; there is a peaceful presence about her. I cannot help but smile whenever I play Morning Sunrise.
In addition to releasing her album, Yazmin performed on the music platform, COLOURS, singing a live version of Own Your Own. She also worked on Blue Note’s Reimagined album, covering a classic jazz song by Dodo Green. Her soothing, crisp vocals suited this cover perfectly and I am so excited to hear more from her.
Enny is an emerging rapper who has gained praise following her hit song Peng Black Girls featuring Amia Brave. This uplifting song celebrates the black community and our culture, whilst acknowledging our differences. The upbeat, soulful production accompanied by Amia Brave’s smooth vocals goes perfectly with the rapper’s flow. I admired Enny’s witty wordplay and the sentiment of the song, especially the West African representation in the music video! Following the release of her singles (For South, He’s Not That Into You), it’s apparent that Enny is an artist to keep our eyes on – I’m keen to see what she does next.
Dolapo is a British-Nigerian singer-songwriter from North London. She has been a songwriter and vocalist for numerous UK rappers such as Young T & Bugsey and MoStack, before making her solo debut in 2018. Dolapo attributes her musical style to Gospel and has taken inspiration from 90s R&B stars like Aaliyah and Lauryn Hill. Her EP, A Short Love Story caught my attention and was an introduction to Dolapo's style. As I listened to her stunning vocals and the smooth instrumentals, I felt nostalgic - it reminded me of old school R&B.
The singer recently collaborated with Ms Banks and Oxlade on her newest song, Interest, which she described as 'one for the ladies’. As Dolapo continues to make her mark on the UK music scene, I believe we will be hearing more from her in 2021.
I have followed Shaé Universe’s journey from when she would upload covers on Twitter. I remember being drawn to her effortless vocals and seeing her gain praise from artists like Ella Mai and Nao. Following this, Shaé continued to deliver multiple singles and collaborations. The Nigerian-British singer-songwriter has a unique style; the single You Lose was a glance into ‘R&Drill’ as she merged her R&B sound with a drill beat. Her latest single, Royalty featuring rapper, Kojey Radical, is also a drill-infused track, with R&B harmonies and Spanish guitar in the background. Shaé described the song as "an anthem for all kings and queens to empower themselves with."
For the BET Soul Train Awards, Shaé was a part of an amazing UK Soul Cypher. Alongside other UK artists, Shaé presented her beautiful and impressive riffs on a cover of D'Angelo's Lady, adding her distinctive flair. Shaé Universe’s musical versatility has got me hooked on what she has in store for us.