The Bl@ck List: A Growing List of Black Musicians, Artists, Writers, And Then Some
written by Alicia Lynn
This is an interesting time to be alive, isn’t it? I think we can all agree on that much. Keen as I am to get on with discussing the inspiring artists I’m about to present to you (and I will), I can’t figure a way around establishing that specific truth between us first. Common ground, you know?
The current events shaping the state of the nation against the global backdrop of pandemia; like the ongoing battles for the safety of Trans lives in the overall effort for the inclusivity of the LGBTQ community alongside the re-re-reignition of a centuries-old war for racial acceptance and equality that wages to new-yet-familiar heights in the wake of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmud Arbery (with a list of growing names locatable via BabyNames.com – and all during an election year where the indigenous population of this country is left severely ignored, vulnerable, and succumbing to Covid-19 at disproportionately alarming numbers) just at 2020’s halfway point has us all treading in uncharted waters from the unabated melting of polar ice caps without a floatie.
It can be more than a little overwhelming, but here we all are. Maybe you’re among many who have been in shock that we ended up here. I get where it can get confusing. The generation who raised us seemed to have equality, peace, and love at the forefront of the protests of their day. Our parents (and grandparents for some of us) were in the streets chanting “we shall overcome,” and we believed they overcame! Didn’t they?! Maybe only sort of. Perhaps the year of 2020 is an opportunity to see more clearly that a series of victories in battle did not win a war.
We have a lot to answer for. There is an ever-growing mountain of work to be done for all of us. In order to keep progressing as a people towards actual equality, hope and inspiration are required. What better way than music to take up the task of keeping us motivated to keep up the fight? I mean, life (especially in the darkest places) is always better with a soundtrack, amiright?
History would show through war, protests, and the efforts of the previous civil rights movements, a prominent legacy of Black music. The soul of Sam Cooke backs up Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech to gritty black and white news images of police hosing down unarmed protesters. Ferocious riffs from Hendrix cement establishing shots for Vietnam in war movies. We all “Remember the Titans” locker scene when the experimentally diverse team of high school football players came together singing along to Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrel.
Black music matters, and June is Black Music Month (thank you former President Carter). On Juneteenth, I closed the first round of artist submissions to debut on The Bl@ck List for First Angel Media. As this list grows, my wish is to diversify representation. Not everyone featured will be a musician, but everyone will be a Black artist. Ultimately, you’re going to end up with more than a soundtrack to help you survive our current state of revolution during a global pandemic while polar ice caps continue to melt. There will be comedians, comic book authors, fantasy artists, designers, models, dancers, instructors, mixologists, podcasters, and so much more. The full breadth of the Black community is so richly talented and weird and wonderful, and I can’t wait to keep showing us off (because representation really does matter).
But first, music…
Daddy Longlegs Homegrown Revival (DLHR)
Genre: World Beat/Afro-punk/Acid Jazz
DLHR Band Members:
Davidione Pearl – Lead Vocals, Sax, Auxillary Percussion
Lovest Watson – Bass
Mike McNamara – Guitar, Vocals
Gregg Garlock – Drums
Neil Chastain – Drums, Percussion, Vocals *
Pulsing guitar and drums introduce DLHR’s “Opioid” with a sense of urgency that flips to fuse with an upbeat funk-driven bassline as Pearl’s vocals ease in to tell the story. Pleading for understanding from the desperate isolation of one’s internal battle against addiction (whether substance-based as the song title would suggest or, perhaps, human-based as one may struggle in a toxic relationship), a theme we can all connect to is strung out. Be it in a sea of friends and familiars or in a private space, everyone knows the pain of living unseen amidst a hurricane and the devastation that can result. That desperation can be heard in the Carl Andersonian belting vocality of Davidione Pearl who manages to maintain a layer of grit commonly found in our favorite Punk founding fathers.
Speaking from experience, the full scope of Daddy Longlegs Homegrown Revival is definitely one to catch live. I had the pleasure of playing with them in Ohio (from whence the band hails) in the summer of 2018 at Starwood Festival while I was out on tour with Phat Man Dee and Liz Berlin’s Social Justice Disco. DLHR is known to bring performance artists with them to create fantastically unique experiences each time they hit the stage and did not fail to deliver!
INEZ (photo credit: Nicolette Kalafatis)
Track: I.D.N.Y (feat Simone Davis & Clara Kent)
An anthem for independence flows with thoughtful soul from the Steeltown Queen, INEZ. Featuring Simone Davis and Clara Kent, INEZ has created that song you’ve been looking for. This is that song you get ready to go out dancing to; that song you listen to with your crew. This song is that song you want to hear with the window all the way down, volume up; in the summer driving through Downtown while the sun sinks and the air cools, looking good, car-dancing, laughing, and singing out to random pedestrians unabashedly “I Don’t Need Ya.” A playful beat gets listeners ready to walk on out the door feeling strong; feeling cool and in love with yourself. Lyrics holding a litany of keynote identifiers for everyone who has ever found their strength in giving their all to the wrong one before moving on; this track reminds you they will miss you, but you don’t need them. You do need to hear this whole album, though. Check out Voicemails and Conversations from INEZ available on Bandcamp!
The Young Blood: Windafire
Track: “Olokun’s Song”
“Olokun” breaks down in translation to mean “Owner of Oceans.” Personified by qualities of a regal nature such as foresight, wisdom, and patience, this orisha spirit honored in Santeria and Voodoo traces back to the Yoruba religion of West Africa. What Windafire accomplishes in this fusion of soulful R&B tethered to poetic spoken word and served over emotionally haunting piano is a refreshed connection to a history hushed upon reaching our Western shores. Like the ocean, this melody offers as much as it takes from the listener in the acknowledgement of missing pieces to the identity of Black America. But there is a hopefulness in the youthful theatricality of Windafire’s voice speaking to unions, love, and harmony. One is left with a lingering sentiment like one could get standing alone on a beach after a storm, staring out at all the potential of a level horizon far off beyond the salty crests of waves coming in to crash at your feet.