Ten Indie Musicians of Color That You Should Know
While ‘Indie’ is an abbreviation of the word ‘Independent,’ i.e., independent from more mainstream, commercial records, the genre has evolved into something much more meaningful. It is independent not only musically, but culturally.
Indie music is the anthem of anti-establishment movements, especially those led by the youth. It romanticizes and glamorizes rejecting the complicit authority of status quo. It is non-conformist, unapologetic, and often highly political.
Thus it is unsurprising that indie music is, ironically, more popular than ever. Young, passionate Americans are demanding racial justice, pro-LGBTQ+ legislation, and economic equality while experiencing one of the most polarizing political climates in American history. And the indie genre, while largely adored by this group of insurgents, doesn’t reflect its racial diversity.
Black and Hispanic musicians are often forced into a genre box — whether that force comes from record labels, listeners, or both, when artists of color branch out from the traditional bounds of ‘urban’ music, their innovation tends to not be recognized. BROCKHAMPTON and FKA Twigs, for example, illustrate strong characteristics of indie rock and indie pop with R&B influences, but are usually labeled as R&B or ‘alternative rap’ musicians. When similar genre-bending is attempted by white musicians, however, they recieve praise and credit for trailblazing in the music industry.
And while Black artists such as Willow Smith and Kevin Abstract, who had a preexisting foundation of fame, have been able to gain serious traction in the indie environment, there are obviously still hundreds of alternative artists of color who deserve recognition — here are ten of them.
1.) Blood Orange
Dev Hynes, recognized professionally as Blood Orange, is an English born musician who illustrates Black depression, anxieties, and existence through a juxtaposition of velvety vocals and salient lyrics.
Get hooked on: Charcoal Baby
2.) Orion Sun
Tiffany Majette is Orion Sun, a bright, jazzy multi-instrumentalist from Philadelphia who fills her songs with hazy, witchy melodies and unabashed lyrics that turn your focus to the universal yet unique experience of being human.
Get hooked on: Water (Antidote, Pt. 2)
3.) Toro y Moi
Chaz Bundick, who performs under the name Toro y Moi, was one of the first artists to be recognized as ‘chillwave.’ His upbeat, funky music is inspired by synth-y eighties new wave, the discordant sounds of seventies soul, and dreamy, psychedelic sixties rock.
Get hooked on: Lilly
Jamee Lockard, Layla Ku, Sofia D’Angelo, Julian Kaufman, Charlie Kilgore, and Emma Lee make up MICHELLE: a bouncy, groovy band of twenty-somethings from New York City. Composed of queer and/or POC members, diverse perspectives come together seamlessly to produce a unique sound undefined by genre.
Get hooked on: STUCK ON U
Amain Berhane, who performs with the stage name Berhana, is a singer, songwriter, and producer who casually infuses classically R&B tracks with punchy flecks of pop-punk and traces of euphonic, nostalgic neo-soul.
Get hooked on: Health Food
Elliott Douglas is an artist from Buffalo, NY whose dreamy vocals, introspective lyrics, and enchanting instrumentals come together in a sort of sonic metamorphosis, taking you on a purgatively emotional journey of self-reflection.
Get hooked on: Drugs
Chris Lloyd, known for his paradoxical stage name Choker, produces unapologetically free-form, unconventional music. His obscure and interpretive style blends avant-garde R&B with modern folk in a uniquely satisfying cocktail of ear-filling bliss.
Get hooked on: Lucky
8.) The Red Pears
Henry Vargas, Jose Corona, and Patrick Jaurez comprise The Red Pears, a tightly knit band from El Monte, California that cooly integrates bluesy, punk rock signatures evocative of Beck and Cage the Elephant with more modern strains of emotional garage pop.
Get hooked on: Mellow
9.) Arlo Parks
Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho, known as Arlo Parks, is a poet and singer from London known for her softly relatable, revealing, tenderly teenage lyrics.
Get hooked on: Black Dog
10.) Victor Internet
Victor Cervantes makes music for those who like feeling like they’re floating a few inches above an unmade bed staring at a spinning ceiling fan. His self-reflective and confessional lyrics pair beautifully with reserved, mellow instrumentals and a reliably comforting beat.
Get hooked on: Attention