Music is a transformative medium transcending languages, cultures, and time. It’s a unique force in human life, stimulating people to dance, march to war, and face spiritual awakening. Music is the perfect vehicle through which we can celebrate black excellence and empowerment. So, even though Black History Month recently ended, here’s a list of black female artists who served as my February soundtrack. Give these albums a listen and celebrate all year round.
Little Simz – GREY Area
The third full-length release from 25 year old British rapper Simbi Ajikawo feels like a coming-of-age work. It flows effortlessly through its swings and grooves, and exudes confidence without sacrificing vulnerability or expression. Now that she’s properly found her voice, there’s no telling where she’ll go.
Aida Victoria – Silences
This may be an indie-rock record on the surface, but you won’t find anyone running with the spirit of the blues quite like Aida. It’s introspective and gritty with a southern gothic atmosphere that blends perfectly with her whimsical storytelling.
Ari Lennox – Shea Butter Baby
With her debut album. Ari proves herself the neo soul prodigy worthy of carrying the baton. She navigates the struggles and desires of relationships with an authentic innocence that feels relatable, but displays more than enough sass to make her captivating.
Jamilla Woods – LEGACY! LEGACY!
The singer/songwriter, poet, teacher, and community organizer dedicates this album to the heroes who shaped her identity. Each track is named after cultural icons like Zora Neal Hurston, Frida Kahlo, Eartha Kitt, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. She sings from their perspective and in doing so, shows how they’ve influenced her path. It’s both a journey of self-discovery and self-empowerment.
Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams
Arlo has a chill lo-fi sound that might bring you connections to Frank Ocean or Surfjan Stevens. The emotional lyricism makes the album feel melancholic, but she’s a consistently warm and empathetic voice that guides you through the mess and depression, promising you relief on the other side.
Celeste – Not Your Muse
Celeste is one hell of a singer. It’s evident from the second track “Strange” where her voice can feel powerful in one moment then fragile in the next. She breaks up her somber tone with upbeat funk tracks and neo soul. The title track “Not Your Muse” begins as a whisper and builds to a crescendoing proclamation of her truest self.
Rapsody – Eve
Rapsody crafts this anthem of black female empowerment with recognizable samplings seamlessly mixed in with her hard-hitting verses. While Jamila Woods’ album honored the forebears who inspired her own personal journey, Rapsody channels her heroes in tribute to black women everywhere. She swaggers throughout the album demanding their presence and acknowledgement of their impact be felt.
Sampa The Great – The Return
Zambian-born Sampa Tembo debuts with a grand, genre-bending undertaking, rich with introspection and a celebration of her cultural and musical heritage. She weaves together hip-hop, jazz, soul, and southern African rhythms, to create dazzling stylistic blends. The album breathes in and out, expanding out to bold tracks like “Final Form” and then pulling back into itself with more personal tracks like “Don’t Give Up”.