This Black History Month, while it’s important to honor the stories of heroes and trailblazers, it is also important to discover rising Black queer talents. These artists are carving out worlds of their own by simply being their authentic selves and expressing their own definitions of queer Black joy.
Though alike, these nine musicians are vastly different in their craft; they individually bring various colors to paint on one ridiculously immense canvas. The responsibility of carrying the torch is not an easy task; representing both LGBTQ and Black communities comes with a unique set of experiences that can only be understood by those who occupy both worlds. From Kehlani-approved Drebae to violinist Tona Brown (who has performed for President Barack Obama), here are nine transcendent Black queer artists worth your attention.
Bewitching, to say the least: Zé is a vortex of unconventional artistry. His meticulous approach to music, from the sorting of his rhymes to the shadows placed upon certain words, will transport you to a musical domain of its own. On his latest EP, Fruit, the North Carolina based emcee delivers bars that could compete with greats like Kendrick Lamar and Lauryn Hill. And with lyrics like, “Your religion’s tryna’ damn me off to hell, and racist’s tryna’ drag me off to jail,” his unapologetic queerness is refreshing in such a hetero-dominated genre.
Check out: ”Icecold Lover,” “Good Guy,” “Melanin”
This Philadelphia native received a standing ovation as he auditioned for Fox’s The Four to Coldplay’s “Magic” and Brandy’s “Sittin’ In My Room.” He admits that winning wasn’t his goal for appearing on the music show competition — he knew his visibility as a queer, black man would impact young viewers: “I went on [The Four] for the little kids who looked like me, and who are gay, and who have never seen someone make it as far as I did.” With much truth to that sentiment, Vincint has released a cluster of prodigious singles like “Marrow” and “Mine” since his television debut.
Check out: “Marrow,” “Mine”
Hip-hop artist, media maven and an all-around electrifying personality, DeAndre Clark, who performs under the name Drebae, is a whirlwind of talent. In October of 2018, the Bay Area rapper released his debut EP Baby Boy which housed the explosive Megan Thee Stallion collab, “No Pressure.” The track became an instant favourite amongst his online supporters and his broad range captured the attention of Kehlani, who invited him to perform alongside her during her 2018 set at San Francisco Pride.
Check out: ”No Pressure,” “Elegant,” “Medusa”
Shea Diamond’s story is begging for an Oscar-winning retelling. This native of Little Rock, Arkansas found herself behind bars after attempting to rob a convenience store in order to pay for her medical transition. Whilst incarcerated in a men’s correctional facility, Shea penned her empowering trans anthem “I Am Her,” a soulful standout from her debut EP Seen It All. Diamond dexterously synthesizes melodies of dissimilar gradient to weave her introspective stories together.
Check out: “Seen It All,” “American Pie,” “Good Pressure”
This Atlanta-based hip-hop artist is proof that sowing into your children’s dreams — especially the dreams of Black queer children — can spawn a chain of unforeseeable magic. Shane, who is managed by her mother, Hope Shrumpet, migrated to Atlanta in pursuit of Kodie’s career. The rapper co-steered Lil Yachty’s 2017 “Teenage Tour” alongside their Sailing Team compatriots months before embarking on her first solo tour. Now, with three immaculate projects to her name and a deal with Epic Records, Shane is poised to shatter a plethora of glass ceilings.
Check out: “High Speeds,” “Sad, “End Like That”
Durand Bernarr, the “stepson of Erykah Badu” as he cheekily refers to himself, is journeying an artistic passageway of his own. The pianist and viral sensation created a sub-world by simply sharing mashups on YouTube and Instagram. After the release of his EP 8, a compilation of Erykah Badu’s records, Durand became a reoccurring background vocalist for the mother of neo-soul herself.
Check out: “Collide,” “Search Party.”
The Detroit-based writer and singer is a master of the pen and the microphone. Her debut solo record “Flowerbomb” serves as an anthem for women who love women. Sienna is a member of Detroit’s Assemble Sound, an artist development hub for musicians including Sam Austin and Flint Eastwood. As a proud queer artist, Liggins prides herself in assisting the creative music scene of Detroit as it is being reignited and remolded.
Check out: “Flowerbomb,” “Naked,” “Me Again”
Violinist and classically trained vocalist Tona Brown is an artist of few firsts. In June of 2014, Tona Brown became the first known transgender person of color to render a performance within the walls of the historic Carnegie Hall. Tona utilized the opportunity give tribute to Black musicians and composers by performing “Dream Variations” and other tunes from her debut album “This is Who I Am.” This wasn’t Tona’s most momentous ceiling-shattering moment as a Black woman of trans experience: Years prior, in 2011, Tona became the first African-American transgender violinist to perform for a seated president of the United States, Barack Obama, where she gave a rendition of the national anthem at the LGBT Leadership Conference and Gala Fundraiser.
Check out: “Deep River,” “I,Too” and “Dream Variations.”
“I am just thankful to live in a time where being yourself is kind of dope. It makes me feel free and balanced,” Garrick tells Billboard. The Dallas-based singer-songwriter and frontman of the collective OG Garden is creatively driven by the galvanizing force of club culture and the ballroom scene. As he gears up to shift his creative engine further, Troy Garrick is making the move to Atlanta, where he’ll establish a creative hub amongst LGBTQ artists of color there in the city. Garricks’ ability to extract inspiration from various directions, like the overt presence of primordial R&B and Pop, is apparent on the earworm intro track “Okay” of his EP Shift, and a mass of his vibrantly unalike songs like “All U Got,” and “Torn Up.
Check out: “Real Luv,” “Awaken Lightly” and “Okay.”
Listen to songs from the above artists on the below Spotify playlist.