Nearly three years after the global pandemic led to independent artists going virtual to monetize their music, Bandcamp Fridays are still going strong. For Black artists, the community-based move on the music discovery platform — which finds 100 percent of sales going directly to artists once a month — is appreciated, allowing them to focus on other aspects of marketing their catalogs, from visuals to touring.
Furthering their impact in music, Black artists on Bandcamp are proudly representing their culture across a kaleidoscopic range of genres. So to kick off Black History Month — and in anticipation of the next Bandcamp Friday on February 3rd — AltPress is rounding up a handful of Black artists from a variety of genres, from punk to hip-hop, whose music is a must-listen and very much worth supporting. (And for even more recommendations and ways to support Black artists this month and always, be sure to check out Black Artist Database, a community-based platform that launched in 2020 in response to racial injustices, police brutality, and music business inequities that similarly provides access to consumer-to-artist support.)
After spending 10 years as a punk-rock trio, British group Big Joanie comes to the States this year for their first-ever North American tour. Members Stephanie Phillips, Chardine Taylor-Stone and Estella Adeyeri, Big Joanie – also founders of UK punk festival Decolonise Fest – rage with leonine spunk. Infusing ‘90s riot grrrl with feminist, post-punk sensibilities, the group has been a Bandcamp favorite, recently garnering acclaim for their long-awaited sophomore album Back Home.
Memphis-bred rapper-producer Cities Aviv has been a frontman of the lo-fi and underground rap movement over the last decade, connecting with avid listeners through complex bars and deep ‘70s soul and jazz samples. Now residing in Queens, New York, Aviv, legal name Gavin Mays, released dual projects MAN PLAYS THE HORN and Working Title For The Album Secret Waters in 2022, where he lyrically grapples with the social media age, inauthentic rappers and other topics that he conjures through his stream-of-consciousness flow.
Nonbinary bedroom pop-oriented singer-songwriter Dreamer Isioma traverses through outer worlds in their explorative discography. A product of the early aughts, the Chicago-based artist imbues themselves in lush and ambient soundscapes, their artistry rapt with dreamy vocals and spirited charm. Prior to dropping alternative-rock-tinged single “Fuck Tha World,” Isioma released sophomore album Goodnight Dreamer in 2022, giving context to the 20-something’s wanderlust imagination.
Minnesota artist and Sex Education actor Dua Saleh pushes the boundaries of pop music with their bona fide valor. Last year, the nonbinary Sudanese-American re-released their 2021 EP CROSSOVER, featuring three additional tracks that meld futurism, electro-pop, and experimental ambition. On Bandcamp and other music platforms, the artist has become highly-praised for their dance floor appeal, leading a movement of contemporary Black artists in pop.
Virginia rhymesayer Fly Anakin bares his soul even more with each passing musical project. The 28-year-old boasts a full Bandcamp catalog as a masterclass in soul-centric hip-hop, including efforts with fellow rapper Pink Siifu and Mutant Academy co-members ohbliv, TUAMIE, and Koncept Jack$on. Last March, Anakin delivered his critically-acclaimed autobiographical debut studio album Frank, preceding his suggestive forthcoming LP Skinemaxxx (Side A), which arrives in April.
Cincinnati-raised rapper, vocalist, and producer GrandAce is a manifestation of internet culture. Keeping fans and Bandcamp subscribers (cleverly called “the Grandcouncil”) updated through candid vlogs and occasional merch, the artist, legal name Jody Jones II, releases a constant stream of music, including last year’s planetary oasis EP Orbit City. Over the last eight years, GrandAce has been a testament to artist progression through his resounding delight in creating music.
Veteran lyricist and producer Jean Grae evokes truth in her pen. Wife of fellow emcee and producer Quelle Chris, the artist formerly known as What? What? has been a hip-hop mainstay since the ‘90s, both in her origins of Brooklyn and the independent music scene. To conclude 2022, Grae released spoken word album You F**king Got This Sh!t: Affirmations For The Modern Persons, her soothing tone imparting humorous anecdotes on self-worth, patriarchal oppression and setting boundaries.
Brooklyn wordsmith MIKE sells back-to-back albums like hotcakes. The 24-year-old rapper born Michael Bonema has evolved in pensive bars since his teenage years of releasing early projects MAY GOD BLESS YOUR HUSTLE and BY THE WATER. Now a spearhead for the free annual Broolyn music festival Young World, the hip-hop savant dropped his latest album Beware of the Monkey in December, reintroducing dancehall legend Sister Nancy (“Stop Worry!”) and his DIY creativity.
Quick-witted in her lyricism, Chicago-raised emcee Psalm One, aka Hologram Kizzie, brings the heat. Legal name Cristalle Bowen, the rapper (also one-half of BIG $ILKY with partner Angel Davanport) had two triumphs last year — releasing memoir Her Word Is Bond followed by LP Bigg Perrm. An independent artist who’s openly navigated music industry woes, Psalm One remains an essential in Midwest hip-hop.
Since 2019, clandestine recording sessions with producer Inflo have assembled R&B, funk, and neo-soul collective Sault. While the members are unknown, the band has been celebrated for lyrically tackling racial tensions, political unrest, spirituality, and holism. Last year, a set of six EPs arrived from the UK group; AIIR, 10, 11, UNTITLED (God), Earth, and Today & Tomorrow.
Nashville-born blues, folk, and punk musician Sunny War is a modern troubadour. The singer-songwriter and guitarist’s rich timbre is a tribute to Black music revolutionaries, notably Nina Simone, who Sunny pays homage to on “Like Nina,” off her 2021 album Simple Syrup. Prepping forthcoming album Anarchist Gospel for March, which has been described as a “powerful statement of survival,” Sunny also hits the road for a nationwide tour beginning this month.