It’s that time of the year again: Black History Month. And although we at Shifter like to celebrate marginalized voices year-round, now is a better time than any to highlight some individuals who are doing the shit. From pop to R&B, here are six Black queer artists at the top of our playlists.
1. Dreamer Isioma
Dreamer Isioma (they/he) is an up-and-coming artist you don’t want to miss. Their debut album, Goodnight Dreamer, has 13 tracks and drops on February 23. His latest release is a song titled “Bad Ting,” and the music video is like something we’ve never seen before. It’s colorful and ethereal but also dark. You’ll have to give it a watch for yourself to see what we mean.
Dreamer describes the album as “a sonification of human evolution.” Their music is an amalgamation of pop and R&B/soul, and it sounds, well, dreamy.
2. James Baley
James Baley (he/him) is a queer Black man best known for his vulnerable lyrics and soulful music. Based in Toronto, this Juno-nominated artist creates R&B songs that you can dance to. One of his latest singles, “On My Mind - Pride Edit,” is perfect for vibing to whether you’re at a party or in your car. His album, A Story, blossomed out of a journey of self-discovery.
James didn’t always want to label himself as an artist. He says, “Knowing that I was gay, I’m like, ‘I don’t want to be gay and be a gospel artist.' Cause that just feels so wrong. And I don’t wanna feel wrong in my body, with those labels attached to me. I feel like nowadays it’s not so much an issue, ‘cause I know that music really does bring me joy.”
3. Jamila Woods
Jamila Woods (she/her) is a queer Chicago-based singer, songwriter and poet. Jamila is a voice for Black feminism and identity in her community, and she's been making music and writing since 2012. She helps organize Louder Than a Bomb, the world’s largest youth poetry slam festival.
Jamila’s lyrics are as powerful as her pen, and her soft, melodic voice contrasts her lyricism beautifully. Her most recent release is a collab with Peter CottonTale titled “WYD (You Got Me)." The song is going to appear in the upcoming indie movie SUMMERTIME. With its easy rhyme and summer vibes, the song is a love letter to the neighborhood they grew up in.
Kelechi (he/him) is the queer Black popstar of your dreams. You may recognize his voice from his debut single "Forever Tonight" or his face from the reality-competition show The X Factor. After parting ways with his former group CTZEN, Kelechi has been busy creating catchy indie-pop tunes and staying true to himself. We've had his single "dance in the mirror" on repeat, and we know you will too. It’s all about using music as a way to find yourself again after a breakup.
Kelechi opened up about the inspiration behind the song on Instagram. “I’m very happy to share my take on what those feelings FEEL like... and better yet, the BREAKTHROUGH at the end of a long winding road to recovery, self-love, and acceptance.” “dance in the mirror” isn’t a breakup song but a breakthrough song.
Qhairo (he/him) is a contemporary R&B artist from East London. His debut EP 60FOOTNOIR takes a look into his experience growing up as a queer Black man. It’s angsty, honest and personal. Yet, it’s something that many can listen to and relate to. Qhairo cites queer Black creatives like Frank Ocean and Tyler the Creator as his influences, in addition to reggae and golden-era hip hop music.
“I’ve always enjoyed creation through sound,” he revealed in an interview, “but for me, it’s a lot more about being a physical representation of something I didn’t see when I was younger. To be a Black man, a queer man, a Caribbean man, an African man, in the middle of the music industry in London, singing — it wasn’t something I always saw.”
VINCINT (he/him) is a queer Black man with angelic pipes. If you’re a fan of pop, then you’ll be a fan of him. His song, “Be Me,” is a self-love anthem that was featured on season five of the Netflix original show Queer Eye.
“I can make music to make you cry and make you dance, “ he explains. “But most importantly, to make you feel something.”
Listen to VINCINT on Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube, and make sure to follow him on Instagram and Twitter. VINCINT is touring this year, so you can see him perform on stage in May at a venue near you.
What else can we say? Black queer artists are killing the game like no other. If you’re interested, give our Black History Month playlist a listen.
Also, don't forget to read our article from last year, which promotes talented Black female artists.