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Black Female Artists You Should Be Listening To

Graphic by Victor Martinez-Rivera

To celebrate Black History Month, Shifter is highlighting Black creatives of the past and present who deserve recognition for their talent. The music industry wouldn’t be the same without Black women in particular. Performers like Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald and Whitney Houston are remembered as some of the greatest musicians of all time.

Every voice tells a story, and in the midst of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, there’s no better time to listen. From pop to R&B, here are six up-and-coming Black female artists we’re going to have on repeat.

1. Diamond White | @diamondkwhite

Where to listen: Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube

Diamond White is no stranger to the spotlight. In 2012, she placed fifth as a contestant on the American version of The X Factor. Her covers on YouTube, alongside musicians Alex Aiono and Kurt Hugo Schneider, have earned millions of views. White’s first album is titled “Tomorrow” and is worth listening to today. The track progression chronicles a fading love story.

“The beginning, you’re happy and so infatuated with a person. Then you travel to questioning the relationship and then being on your own,” White said of the project’s tracklist.

Released by an indie label, “Tomorrow” is a figurative and literal journey of independence.

2. Diana Gordon | @dianagordon

Where to listen: Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube

Previously known as Wynter Gordon, Diana has been singing and writing since 2004. For her, songwriting was an “escape from poverty.” Gordon has collaborated with artists such as Mary J. Blige, Flo Rida and Beyoncé in the past. In fact, she received writing and producing credit for three songs on Beyoncé‘s sixth album “Lemonade.” In 2016, she ditched her stage name in an effort to be more authentic to herself. This new era is further emphasized by a shift to pop and R&B music.

Her recent discography consists of two EPs, 2018’s “Pure” and 2020’s “Wasted Youth” and several singles. Gordon’s voice is mesmerizing in her songs “Once A Friend” and “Wasted Youth.” One play is all it takes to know that Diana Gordon is criminally underrated.

3. KAMARA | @hausofkamara

Where to listen: Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube

KAMARA is a twenty-something Norwegian pop artist who is virtually undiscovered. She’s been working on her debut EP for two years, and it’s anticipated to be released soon. So far, KAMARA has dropped four singles: “Don’t Call My Name,” “Sideways,” “20 Something” and “Carry You Home.”

Her latest release, “Carry You Home,” was featured on Apple Music’s Sounds of Norway playlist. She’s even been nominated for Breakthrough Artist of the Year by Musikkforleggerprisen. KAMARA has the potential to become a star, and she’s already shining bright.

4. KENNIE | @kenniejd

Where to listen: Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube

KENNIE is the stage name of Kendall, best known as Kennie J.D. on YouTube. In her popular series “Bad Movies & a Beat,” she discusses toxic romantic tropes and minority representation in film while doing her makeup.

KENNIE has released two EPs: “Knotty Pine” and “Black Neon.” Her sound combines elements of pop, hip-hop and electronic music. Her latest single “Northern Lights” deserves to be a R&B hit in its own right. It transports listeners to an ethereal place — when you’re staring into someone else’s eyes and don’t want the moment to end. KENNIE’s experimentation with music has proven that she is talented in more ways than one.

5. Rayana Jay | @rayanajay

Where to listen: Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube

Rayana Jay identifies as an artist and muse. She’s dropped three EPs and various singles since her debut in the late 2010s; the most notable of which include the power anthem “Undefeated” and the love song “It’s You.” Jay is a proud Black woman and her music bridges the gap between R&B contemporaries and old-school musicians. Although the neo-soul singer-songwriter amassed 8 million views and 2 million listeners on Spotify, her name isn’t well-known yet.

6. Tayla Parx | @taylaparx

Where to listen: Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube

Tayla Parx is a pop singer-songwriter you may have heard of. She’s credited as the co-writer for hits such as Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” and BTS’s “Mic Drop.” Her own albums, 2019’s “We Need to Talk” and 2020’s “Coping Mechanisms” embrace who she is and deliver unfiltered realness.

Parx is bisexual and recently proposed to her girlfriend, choreographer Shirlene Quigley. She recognizes the importance of artists who came before her: “To see young Black women coming up and being able to have it a little bit easier than the last one. That's what it's all about.” Parx is paving the way for others, and no one is getting in her way.

Whether an artist is new to the industry or has been making music for years, Black women are in a different league. Diamond White, Diana Gordon, KAMARA, KENNIE, Rayana Jay and Tayla Parx are knocking it out of the park. Black female artists are not only breaking barriers but records on the charts.

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