Since its inception decades ago, the backbone of dance music has been constituted by a strong community of Black creatives. They've led the charge for change, from creating inclusive underground club scenes to fostering initiatives that call for diversity in the industry at large.
Even more, today's landscape of sounds is constantly changing, and Black artists have proved to be a driving force of innovation and propulsive momentum. To highlight some of their voices, we've compiled a list of 15 trailblazing artists who have hit their strides in the last several years. These pioneers have had a profound impact on their contemporaries, and their sonic influence is certain to materialize within the industry's future wave of talent.
After officially launching her solo project early last year, British powerhouse Aluna made waves with her debut album, Renaissance, in August 2020. Cohesively integrating pop-house, dancehall and funk, the multi-genre undertaking also included collaborations with Jada Kingdom, Mr. Carmack and KAYTRANADA. Its ensuing remix album featured a carefully curated lineup highlighting rising artists of color, including UNIIQU3, Lady Bee, Yazzus and The Martinez Brothers.
BLVK JVCK made his official foray into solo music in 2017, having already racked up countless production credits on tracks by DJ Khaled, Rick Ross, Justin Bieber and Lil Wayne as a member of The Runners, who garnered a Grammy nod for their work on Rihanna's 2010 Loud LP. Today, BLVK JVCK's sound is characterized by explosive dubstep, interpolating innovative sound design with heavy, speaker-busting bass.
2020 also saw the Miami-born artist use his platform for social action, conceptualizing a riveting DJ set titled "If Malcom X Was A DJ." BLVK JVCK was recently listed as a member of EDM.com's Class of 2021, devoted to recognizing electronic dance music artists with game-changing potential.
Channel Tres made his first appearance just several years ago, marked by his shimmering 2018 remix of Aaron Childs' "Tangerine." Since then he's grown exponentially as a producer, singer and songwriter. The California native's debut album, 2020's i can't go outside, proved the maturation of a sound integrating club bass with silky smooth percussion and sultry vocals. 2021 has already seen three new singles with the likes of Kito, VanJess and Dan D'Lion, further proving Channel Tres' status as a bona fide workhorse.
Hailing from New York City, this prodigal producer has been releasing music since as early as 2014, when he was just 15 years old. GEOTHEORY is now known for his atmospheric blends of ambient biomusic, warm synths and percussion-driven arrangements. 2020 saw the release of several new projects, including the understated and futuristic THE PANTHEIST, with its centerpiece jam "VUDU LUV," and THEORY VOYAGES: CHAPTER V, which is comprised of 25 attitude-infused tracks.
With his solo releases backed by Fool's Gold and Kannibalen Records, French-Canadian producer High Klassified's sound bounces between future bass, trap and hip-hop. High Klassified was also a seminal member of Montreal-based creative collective Alaiz, which counted The Celestics—a project by KAYTRANADA and Lou Phelps—in its ranks.
Since then he's exploded in the R&B and rap communities, working as a producer on tracks by The Weeknd, Future and Mick Jenkins, among others. Yet to release an album of his own, High Klassified has held fans over with a diverse discography of singles and EPs.
Holding deep roots in the electronic scenes of Chicago and New York City, Honey Dijon was destined to be a DJ. Now, with her cross-genre sound and fearless sense of self, she has grown to be a cultural icon.
Innovative DJ sets for Mixmag and Boiler Room have racked up hundreds of thousands of views. Meanwhile, gigs spinning for the Fashion Week shows of Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and others eventually landed Honey Dijon her own clothing line with COMME des GARÇONS in 2019. To top it all off, she is an outspoken activist for the transgender and Black communities, working to return dance music to the original, inclusive roots she grew up with.
In 2018, Jayda G was simultaneously building her musical career and completing her master's thesis on environmental toxicology. Since then, the Canadian prodigy has been welcomed into the dance music community with open arms. Just this year, her track "Both Of Us" was nominated for Best Dance Recording at the Grammy Awards alongside a plethora of heavyweight names, affirming her status as a premier producer of drum machine-driven, vintage-inspired house.
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A longtime staple in both electronic and hip-hop music, KAYTRANADA's mainstream recognition finally came with Grammy nods for 2019's BUBBA. But don't let his additional nomination for "Best New Artist" fool you. Ever since his breakout in the early 2010s, the Haitian-Canadian luminary played a preeminent role in merging dance and R&B, setting the standard for producers dipping their toes into both genres. Today, the growing list of artists he's assisted in the studio includes Chance the Rapper, The Internet, Kali Uchis, Mick Jenkins, and Anderson .Paak.
Born in Zambia and based in the UK, Laxcity's most recent EP, Disconnect, is a dreamy display of avant-garde future bass and lo-fi. Using hypnotic synth arrangements and ear-catching percussion syncopation, the six-track record operates as a continuation of 2019's Purity. Retrospectively seen as Laxcity's big break, this first EP picked up what would become enduring support from ALT:Vision, a label and management group that boasts Wolfgang Gartner, Medasin, K?D and Drezo on its roster.
At only 24, Mason Maynard has already found his club-ready tech house sound supported by Green Velvet and Eli Brown, with whom he's worked with on several singles and a collaborative EP, respectively. The British artist is also a recent signee with NGE Booking, placing his name alongside the likes of fabled dance music artists Jamie Jones, Alan Fitzpatrick and Eli & Fur. Recent standout releases include "Jack Work" from March 2020's Lookin' At Me EP and "Remedy" with Ursula Rucker, released the following month.
With their debut album on the horizon, 16-year-old Moore Kismet has become one of the hottest names in electronic music. An emotion-driven, explosive sound epitomizes this California native's unique perspective, which draws from their experiences as a Black, transgender individual. Industry backers include Thrive Music, Night Mode, Bassrush and Never Say Die, keeping up with a steady stream of EPs and singles since Kismet's break into the industry in 2018. They are also a member of EDM.com's Class of 2021.
This Los Angeles native is widely known as the godfather of hard trap, which synthesizes hardstyle and trap music under one blistering umbrella. "Knockout" and "Break" with B-Sides, SAYMYNAME's centerpiece releases of 2020, exemplify his patented style to a T with their unrelenting bass and crushing drums. While SAYMYNAME has yet to release more than three tracks at a time, collaborations with SLANDER, Afrojack and Riot Ten have helped keep his name and distinct sound in heavy rotation.
Since the launch of his V!BEZ EP series in 2018, TroyBoi has grown to become one of the most highly regarded and popular trap and bass artists in the scene today. A master manipulator of synths and moods, the Brit's music has pushed boundaries and turned heads with its playful bounce, sexy attitude and clever sampling. Meanwhile, collaborators and producer partners include Skrillex, Snakehips and Ty Dolla $ign, among a litany of others, showcasing his versatility and out-of-the-box artistry.
2018's Dawn saw TSHA come out of the gate with her guns blazing. This volcanic debut was built on gently oscillating ambiance and organic sound design, sparking a devoted fanbase dedicated to her innate knack for sonic layering. Her most recent EP, 2020's Flowers, was released to critical acclaim and supported by Ninja Tune, the label home of Bonobo, BRONSON, Peggy Gou and Thundercat. Featuring four new tracks, "Demba" with Trio Da Kali stands out for its creative use of the Malian group's unique vocals and instrumentation.
Xan Griffin has been making music since he was nine years old, now only 21. The work has paid off tremendously, marked by official remixes for Seven Lions, Minnesota and Knox Hamilton and culminating in his 14-track debut, 2018's Zodiac concept album. A constantly evolving sound alternating between future and melodic bass, lyric-driven dance-pop, and hip-hop has kept things interesting since then. 2021 has already brought four new singles from Xan Griffin, following up on a declaration to release a song every two weeks for the entire year.