In this week’s instalment of What’s Going On, I’ve highlighted 5 songs that I’ve discovered this week from Black artists that might not currently be on your radar. With a wide variety of styles, none of these artists sounds like each other. Some rap, some sing, but they are all making great work during a time when it’s more important than ever to amplify the voices of Black creatives.
snny – Influenced by artists ranging from Kid Cudi and Future Islands to Bob Dylan, snny is all about telling stories in his music. Born in the Ivory Coast before making his way to the US at 5 years old, snny explores sounds from his home and touches on his explorations in the US. In what could best be described as a sad bop, snny’s latest single ‘Somewhere in Brooklyn’ is about the ending of a summer fling and reminiscing wistfully on the fun that was had but over pounding drums. snny has made the perfect song for lounging on your patio on summer nights.
Listen to ‘Somewhere in Brooklyn’ from snny’s 2020 EP Otito.
1010 Benja SL – Benjamin Lyman, best known as 1010 Benja SL, is something of an enigma. There isn’t a ton of information online about Lyman aside from a handful of interviews but critics & fans alike are loving his alternative R&B sound. Having grown up in an extremely religious environment, Lyman was drawn to mainstream secular acts like the Mars Volta, Red Hot Chili Peppers and OutKast. His new single ‘Woodrow’ draws heavily from jazz, even featuring a scatting breakdown. In his own words, the song was inspired by “Tracy Morgan, Vic Fontaine and true events in The City That Never Sleeps.”
Listen to 1010 Benja SL’s 2020 single ‘Woodrow’.
Celeste – American-born British singer Celeste is the next big thing. If you don’t believe me, GQ, NME, the Brit Awards and The Guardian have all tipped her as a 2020 Breakthrough artist to watch. Celeste’s soulful voice has drawn comparisons to Macy Gray & Amy Winehouse. Her newest single ‘I Can See The Change’, sees Celeste working with FINNEAS – Billie Eilish’s brother and the producer behind Billie’s hits. The ballad about working hard for hope & change is sure to further Celeste’s reputation as a rising star.
Listen to Celeste’s 2020 single ‘I Can See The Change’.
Serena Isioma – As Serena Isioma says on her song ‘Sensitive’, “I’d never sell out for a check, you stupid motherfucka.” The 19-year-old Chicago artist is making it very clear that she’s all about staying true to herself and her art. Effortlessly moving between spitting and singing on her debut EP Sensitive, you can hear the raw potential on every track. The EP blurs the lines of pop, vibey hip hop & indie rock and is a great encapsulation of how today’s youth is quickly doing away with limiting genre-specific barriers. Playful, cocky and upbeat, It’s hard not to be in a good mood after listening to Serena’s EP.
Listen to ‘Sensitive’ from Serena Isioma’s 2020 EP Sensitive.
Elijah Blake – You might not know the name Elijah Blake but you have definitely heard songs he’s written. Blake has been flexing his songwriting muscle for others since 2012, having written songs for R&B luminaries Usher, Rihanna and Keyshia Cole. Not just a writer, Blake is also an artist in his own right. On his new single, Blake croons “Wanna share my mental but it’s not that simple. Cause they’re gonna judge me even if they love me.” The introspective song sees Blake wrestling with mental health over a great beat & warm synths and makes for an interesting listen.
Listen to Elijah Blake’s 2020 single ‘Bad Liar’