10 Rising Black Dance Artists You Should Know
February is Black History Month. What began nearly 100 years ago as a week-long celebration of Black excellence is now a month to honor and educate about important Black figures in our history.
Black people have made monumental contributions and accomplishments in all aspects of American culture, but the mark on music is significant. Much of modern music has its roots in Black culture. Dance music, especially house and techno, originated within Black, Hispanic, and gay communities. Black culture brought these genres to the forefront while giving marginalized people an outlet to express themselves without judgment. It was a channel for Black people to protest their oppression and be vocal about the injustices that occur to their community.
More recently, the Black Lives Matter movement turned people's attention back to the roots of dance culture and propelled artists of color into the spotlight. With a deep understanding of the origins of dance music, they take pride in their history and heritage. And they hold a powerful desire to share and uplift their community and amplify their voices. Few things are more beautiful than Black people and Black WOMEN, beginning to get the recognition they deserve.
In a white, male-dominated arena, Taylor Character, aka HoneyLuv, knows how to stand out. She's worn many hats throughout her life; b-baller, US Navy sailor, and now DJ/producer. She's only been behind the decks a few years, but she's more than holding her own. She's played online for major festies like Desert Hearts and House Nation Music and is even on the bill for this year's Lighting in a Bottle. She even landed her radio show, House of Honey, on iLL Donuts Radio. HoneyLuv had a helluva 2021, and 2022 ain't looking too shabby either.
Nia Archives is a multi-hyphenate: singer, songwriter, producer, DJ, visual artist, and creator of HIJINXX, her visual archive. Archives is all about jungle music, a sound she grew up with, one that's naturally in her blood. She dubs her musical take on jungle as future classic, showcasing her modern take on the choppy drums and distorted bass sounds prevalent throughout the '90s. Archives creates a beautiful fusion that pays homage to her past while propelling her music into the future.
This list wouldn't be complete without mentioning Pink Pantheress, an English singer, songwriter, and record producer who gained fame on TikTok. Using it as a sounding board, Pink Pantheress posted snippets of songs she created in her dorm room late at night to see which ones would gain traction. The elusive artist is a genuine product of current times and mysterious. She prefers to keep her privacy while creating music full of 90s nostalgia, sampling songs from before she was born to create familiar yet unique tracks.
A Hundred Drums
A Hundred Drums, aka Gabrielle Watson, has been in the music game since 2006. In recent years she's brought her slice of the underground to the mainstream. Last year saw A Hundred Drums using her experiences with racism as a base for an EP on Zed's Dead's Deadbeats label. Enough is Enough chronicled the struggles of being black in America. She even went so far as to create a mini-documentary companion piece that documented her own experiences of mistreatment and injustices.
Glasgow-based artist TAAHLIAH is more than just a DJ and producer. She first made a name for herself in Berlin and Glasgow's underground queer club scenes, fusing electronica and hyper pop. Her autobiographic song "Brave" has become a celebratory anthem for the LGBTQIA+ community. A pioneer, TAAHLIAH is the first black trans artist to be nominated and win Best Newcomer and Best Electronic Act at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards. She uses her music to explore who she is and what it means to be a black trans woman while empowering and uniting others.
Black Cadmium is a Netherlands duo comprised of Joginda Macnack and Mike Richards. These two DJs, producers, and radio hosts are part of the new wave of techno artists bringing the Detroit sound out of Europe to Rotterdam and beyond. They've got a stripped-down, playful style that's laced with hints of acid and electro while still keeping things grimy. Black Cadmium are vinyl lovers through and through and are bringing back the lost art of crate digging. Their ability to find dancefloor bangers is unlike any other, and they love to share that inspiration that only comes from finding those rare gems.
Onipa is the collaborative Afro-futurist project of KO G, Tom Excell, Finn Booth, and Wonky Logic. The newly formed quartet first hit the music scene in 2017, showcasing their Ghana to London musical fusion. In 2021 they appeared in Disclosure's DJ Kicks installment, giving them massive exposure. They also released Tapes of Utopia and played their first festival run, including a slot at We Out Here. Onipa's got big things planned for 2022, starting a tour where they'll bring their deep Afro grooves and uplifting storytelling to dancefloors across the UK.
Otik is a Bristol-born, London-based DJ and producer walking the fine line between techno and UK bass music. 2021 was a big year for Ashley Thomas, who you know as Otik, what with having bass-laden releases on Club Qu and Martyn's label 3024, plus being a regular on Rinse France, to name a few. He made appearances at the Boiler Room Festival and on podcasts, all of which allowed him to showcase what he does best: manipulating techno, jungle, ambient, and bass music to create a sound all his own. In October, Otik participated in the Black Artist Database (BAD) event celebrating black culture, which brought attention to his hard work in music. BAD strives to help aspiring black artists by providing free production masterclasses to prospective black talent. That collective event, coupled with the fast-moving Black Lives Matter movement, brought Otik and artists like him the recognition he so deserves. So if you ever get a chance to catch an Otik show, be prepared to take a musical journey as he throws in ambient, techno, and breakbeat sounds, plus, of course, all of the bass.
In 2018, Kyle Kinch became the first artist signed to Gorgon City's Realm imprint. Gorgon City recognized the potential in this up-and-coming house DJ who straddles the line between house and techno by sprinkling in a bit of disco and jazz to create his unique funky beats. Last year, he played festies like EDC Orlando, Audiotistic, and Electric Zoo while throwing down an Insomniac Radio mix. His star is just beginning to shine, so keep an eye out for Kyle Kinch in 2022.
Last but certainly not least is Stolen Velour, a producer and DJ hailing from London. Founder of the UK imprint Treehouse, and the party series of the same name, Stolen Velour is an expert at combining techno, out-of-this-world club, and pop anthems to create a sound all his own. His intoxicating, provocative style and his ability to fuse dancefloor bangers with high energy hyper pop are what make Stolen Velour one to watch.