10 Rising Black Artists You Should Know
Feb 9, 2022
Ana Monroy Yglesias
8 min read
When we talk about dance music, it is essential to honor its Black forefathers in Detroit, Chicago, and New York. It is also vitally important to celebrate and uplift the next generation of Black talent keeping dance music alive and moving it forward. While there are more artists than we can count on both hands, Gray Area has chosen 10 rising Black dance artists you should be watching and grooving to.
You probably already know and love London-based DJ/producer TSHA. In 2021, she released her vibey, sunny OnlyL EP, was named BBC Radio 1's "Future Artist," and made her Essential Mix debut. TSHA's productions are versatile, warm, and inviting, drawing on house and R&B and adorned with gorgeous layers of sound (her eye-catching album art is an excellent visual compliment).
The self-taught producer signed with legendary UK label Ninja Tune in 2020, who released her last two EPs. TSHA self-released her debut EP, Dawn, in 2018, which she followed up with the Moonlight EP on Counter Records.
DJ Holographic is the new generation of Detroit-bred artists keeping the city's rich legacy of experimental and cutting-edge techno and house alive and thriving, along with its funk, soul, and R&B roots. She dropped her debut EP, Parallel Shifting, three banging tracks with Alex Wilcox, in 2020 on her Hitchhiker imprint. Last year, Detroit forefather Carl Craig tapped her to deliver the Detroit Love Vol. 5 mix album on Planet E, to which she brought a groovy blend of house, R&B, and techno to, along with her powerful original track "Faith in My Cup."
DJ Holographic has found fans around the globe with her funky, joyful, and energetic DJ sets, which she's brought to Movement, Smart Bar, Panorama Bar, Output, and many more legendary dance spaces.
Detroit-born, Atlanta-based DJ, producer, and music journalist Ash Lauryn has made it her mission to support and uplift Black artists in dance music. Seeing a lack of representation for younger Black producers in electronic music, she launched her Underground & Black blog, which she's evolved into a full-on platform including an annual Movement party, a monthly NTS Radio show, a podcast, and more.
Lauryn's sound is rooted in the rhythms and creativity of her hometown and her deep love for house music. She dropped her debut EP, Expressions, with Stefan Ringer in 2020 on Ringer's DIY Atlanta dance label, FWM Entertainment. She followed that with 2021's Truth EP, also on FWM.
Cleveland-born, Los Angeles-based DJ/producer HoneyLuv knows how to get the party going. Starting as an R&B and hip-hop (one of the hardest genres to mix) DJ in LA and across the US, she revisited her love of house music and began to make waves in the dance community with her banging house, tech house, and techno sets. She also had a past life as an NCAA basketball player and a sailor in the Navy.
As a producer, she put out her powerhouse debut single "F R E E" in 2021, which sounds like an artist's statement of sorts: "Free the people, free us all, free your mind, just let go." She followed it with a string of remixes, collabs, and another banging solo track, "PAIN."
Life on Planets
Baltimore-bred Life on Planets is the lively, soulful house project of singer, guitarist, DJ/producer, and astrology lover Phill Celeste. His music is a sweet blend of house, funk, R&B, and soul, bolstered by his rich voice, specially crafted to make you move and feel. His joyful music is made not just to get the dance floor going off but also to help revelers envision a brighter future, with lyrics that celebrate love, friendship, hope, and other-worldly dimensions.
He's been putting out groovy tunes as Life on Planets since 2014, always adding more vibes to his prolific catalog. In 2020, he dropped the Only You EP on Soul Clap Records, led by a captivating cover of Steve Monite's Afro-disco classic of the same name. His latest release, "Nomad Lyfe," is a pure groover driven by a thick, funky bassline.
Inglewood-bred singer, producer and DJ Brandon Lucas brings his gospel and R&B roots (he grew up in the church and was once in an R&B group) with captivating house beats. In 2020, he gave a taste with his inspiring debut single, "Got That Hope," featuring words from none other than Dr. Cornell West. (He first connected with Dr. West in 2008 to help him build an online presence). Along with the single, he launched his Purple Label Sound imprint, for which his vision is to uplift fellow rising house music producers of color. He's since dropped a handful of vibey, energetic house tracks, all bolstered with his warm, deep vocals. The most recent bop is "Trippin (Vocal Mix)," featuring Life on Planets.
AMÉMÉ is a self-taught DJ/producer from Benin living in Berlin and Brooklyn. His music and DJ sets incorporate African rhythms with house, which is really the genre's foundation. He runs One Tribe, a global music, party, and fashion brand centered on creating community and good vibes.
The powerhouse West African artist has DJed at hotspots worldwide, including his home cities, Ibiza, Miami, Paris, and Black Rock City, and will be making his Coachella debut this year. He dropped his debut single, "Talk To Me," in 2020 and has delivered a solid, always-lively string of originals, remixes, and collabs, including his Gaou EP in 2021 and "PATCHIDO" with Don Bello Ni in 2020. Of the latter, he explains, "the main vocal of the song comes from my culture. It's a traditional chant that people sing everywhere."
In addition to having one of the best names in dance music, Montreal's Jason Voltaire, a.k.a. Martyn Bootyspoon, brings a playful sense of humor and up-front sexuality to industrial techno beats. He credits his sense of humor to his hometown: "There's a lot of slapstick and tacky things that happen in Montreal," and ghettotech producers DJ Assault and DJ Funk as early inspirations.
He served up his first dose of dance floor sexiness with the Silk Eternity EP in 2018, dropping an EP and more singles every year. His most recent are the self-released acid housey Incognito Tabs i EP and the bright, upbeat house jam "As Clear As Day" on LuckyMe.
NEZ has already made a name for himself in hip-hop as half of the production duo Nez & Rio, whose credits include regular collaborator ScHoolboy Q's 2014 hit "Man of the Year" and A$AP Rocky's "Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2." In 2020, Nez stepped out on his own as a solo artist, dropping the swagalicious bop "Wild Youngster" featuring ScHoolboy Q. He made his live performance and festival debut with an energetic set at Lollapalooza 2021. He then unleashed a series of bouncing DJ sets across the country, including opening for Seth Troxler at Circoloco's LA party.
As a solo artist, Nez sings, raps, and produces his infectious beats, tapping collaborators from hip-hop and house to bring all that vivacious energy to dance music. In 2021, NEZ dropped the Midnight Music EP, featuring Felix Da Housecat on "Lift Off" and Flo Milli and 8AE on "To The Money."
Panama-born, Seattle-based Tony H makes bouncing tech house, melodic house and techno gems released on Desert Hearts, Dirtybird, Observatory Music, Space Yacht, and more. He founded his own Late Night Munchies imprint in 2015, adding the techno-focused arm Munchies After Dark more recently, and is the label manager for LA's Space Yacht. He also hosts The Drive-Thru mix series on SoundCloud, highlighting other rising dance acts. He balances all this with a busy DJ schedule, sharing his energy regularly at shows in his home city, San Francisco, Chicago, and other dance locales.
He's an effortless multi-tasker, and his complimentary sonic dexterity is evident across his productions, which date back to 2014. His most recent single, "Shoulder Pop," for Late Night Munchies, is a driving eight-minute tech house burner. His groovy three-track 2021 Desert Hearts EP, She Moves The World, proves his diversity in sound. Featuring the disco-tinged title track, tech house heater "Get Physical" with swaggy lyrics from Icausetreble, and '90s house nodding "Little Pieces" elevated by Ingrid Hakanson's captivating vocals.