For generations, music has imbued Black people with the power to lift spirits, comfort souls, and move feet in unison with pride and purpose. And the sounds created from that effort have given voice and strength to the collective human spirit, creating a common language that has shaped America’s musical score as Black music.
It has fueled a myriad of genres and proven to be as resilient as the people who birthed the stylings of jazz, bebop, rock and roll, country, R&B, and hip hop. Three of those faithful sounds — house, techno, and dance — as it has been come to be known in this land ‘tis of thee were also created by Black people, yet their influence has been widely ignored by popular culture and pirated by other forces who believe that Avicii, Skrillex, or deadmau5 are the faces of the scene.
Problematic as it may be to have to shout how house, dance, and techno music are not the sole domain of straight, white men, the music created by Black DJs like Black Coffee, Vince Lawrence, Gene Farris, and DJ Lady D has pioneered a movement that can be considered a continual revolution in music as we know it. With that said, if you love modern EDM, then go and thank a Black house, techno, and dance deejay for its influence on the genre you know and love today.
As BET.com continues to honor Black Music Appreciation Month, here is a list of five Black DJs and producers that you need to follow and listen to.
A personal favorite of this writer, Muziwakhe McVictor Mazibuko, better known as Muzi, a.k.a. Zulu Skywalker, is one of the most captivating DJs in the world. Raised in Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal, his breakout moment came when his second album, Afrovision, placed him ahead of critically-acclaimed artists such as Diplo and Damon Albarn, as an innovative and imaginative force of sonic supremacy.
For his cutting edge sound, Muzi combines Afrobeat, hip hop, electronic music, Maskandi, Kwaito, Amapiano, and other genres to be a superhero and powerful influence in the new scene of South African post-apartheid millennials who are influencing how culture impacts the rest of the world. His 2019 album, ZENO, which has one of my most played tracks — “A Day in Paris” — is both nostalgic and futuristic as it was produced using his old equipment, but filtered through his keen sense of self.
If you’re into moving your body and wanting it to be hit by beautiful soundwaves, Muzi is the captain you need for this “Bantu Space Odyssey.”
A true diasporadical, JADALAREIGN is a rebel with a cause and one that true music lovers should get behind. As a New Yorker based in Brooklyn, she has always had her pulse on the next wave of artists and sounds from the worlds of hip hop, R&B, house, and dance.
But it is her work with SKILLSHARE and the development of her music-based educational series that prioritized women, queer, and non-binary people of color through workshops and discussions that cemented her as a singular star in the intersectional music space.
His presence is inescapable on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, as Austin Millz’s genre-blending art has blurred the lines between hip hop, R&B, and dance music. A Harlem native, Millz is imbued with culture in his DNA, and it shows in how the young star is able to seamlessly contort sounds and mix in deeply textured flavors of soul and dance floor euphoria, making Austin Millz a feel-good experience through and through.
While he gets millions of views for his IG-reshared remixes, his versions of songs such as “UNBOUND” with MICHELLE, “Bad Behavior” with Remi Wolf, and “Gold” with Aluna make him a must-hear experience no matter how you ingest music. Applauded for his unique presentation of beats, rhymes, and life, and an oasis of positive energy — Austin Millz answers the question of where dance movie is heading: into the future with a bright and expressionist vibration that is infectious to all music lovers.
In this writer’s book, there is only one Channel Tres, and thank the Lord that he is here. A star-in-the-making from Compton, California, the man born Sheldon Young has already collected a who’s who of feature appearances alongside Terrace Martin (“Tapped” feat. Celeste), VanJess (“Recap” feat. Kito), and Tyler, the Creator (“Earfquake” Remix).
Tres fell in love with music and production at an early age and knew what he wanted to do, which has been great for audiophiles who feel his playing has taken them on a journey outside the box. Classic joints like “Sexy Black Timberlake,” “Jet Black,” and “Controller” set the tone for anyone who wants to know more about Tres’ music, but to really get your blood moving be sure to play “fuego,” “Brilliant N***a,” and “Acid in My Blood” for a rousing good time.
The Illustrious Blacks
Monstah Black and Manchildblack are two kingly beings that not-so-quietly rule over the Planet Brooklyn. These two were already well-known performers and DJs in their respective spaces, but when they came together to become a gender-bending, genre-blending force known as The Illustrious Blacks, it all went into another stratosphere.
I had the pleasure of spotlighting the real-life married couple when I was at Okayplayer for this series I created called Lunchtime DJs, where they became one of #thatsite’s most-watched videos at the time. Inspired by Prince, Grace Jones, and George Clinton, The Illustrious Blacks merge their ethereal vocals with intergalactic theatrics and incorporate earthy musical messages to keep us humanoids thoroughly entranced. Songs like “Black Like Jesus,” “Love is Love is Love,” my personal fave, Technegrocolor pulsate pure positive for all inhabits of Earth.
Kevin L. Clark is a screenwriter and entertainment director for BET Digital, who covers the intersection of music, film, pop culture, and social justice. Follow him on @KevitoClark.