Meet the Talented Black Musical Artists Taking Over 2021
These artists are taking over this year in music and PEOPLE is here to shine a light on them
Rico Nasty follows "no rules" as she continues to define her own success.
With her recent debut album Nightmare Vacation, this "queen of punk rap" is keeping fans interested with her ever changing sound. From inciting mosh pits with songs like "Rage" and "Smack a Bitch" to inventing sweeter tracks like from her pop tinged Sugar Trap era, Rico has it all.
"I have no genre," Rico Nasty tells PEOPLE. "I have no expectations for whoever listens to me, I just hope they listen with open ears. Have fun!"
As a proud mother and performer, she is working as hard as ever to not only give her fans the best music, but to also be a voice for those who are often left out.
"Yes, I am going as hard as all of these dudes are," Rico said in a press release this year. "Yes, I am loud. If you're female, get some confidence from what I'm doing. I'm the representation of a lot of girls who don't get love."
Rico also shares that as a Black female rapper, it requires a certain toughness to do her job. In an industry that has been heavily male dominated, she's not letting anyone stop her from being her authentic self.
"To me it means that I have people looking up to me," says Rico on being a Black woman in rap, "But also people looking down on me. Either way I feel strong because it takes strength to do what I do."
Watch her music video for "IPHONE," off her debut album Nightmare Vacation.
Getting sick of the same old music? This next artist has the "Antidote."
Nao, British R&B and soul singer, is a standout star most noted for her unique and enchanting high pitched vocals as seen on her hit single "Bad Blood." Her debut 2016 album, For All We Know, charted in the top 10 on Billboard’s R&B Chart as it solidified her "wonky funk sound."
The previous music teacher's sophomore album, Saturn, showcases new sounds for the artist and is centered around stepping into a new life cycle. From the break up ballad of "Another Lifetime" to the explorative single "Make It Out Alive," Nao is mastering her artistry.
"Up until For All We Know, I'd just been a singer in many different formats but not as an artist," Nao said in a Harper's Bazaar interview, "Saturn, I guess, is the healing that came out of everything."
The East Londoner released a new single with artist Adekunle Gold earlier this year — watch the video to "Antidote."
This Jamiacan-American artist is no stranger to Studying Abroad.
Masego, singer and multi-instrumentalist, has performed around the world in "every continent but Antartica."
Lady Lady, his 2018 debut, set this "TrapHouseJazz" artist up for success with songs like "Queen Tings" and his hit single "Tadow," which has been used in over two million video creates on TikTok and has surpassed half a billion streams.
The 27-year-old puts a smooth, jazzy spin on R&B, hip hop and dance music in his latest EP, Studying Abroad, with songs like "Silver Tongue Devil" and "Passport." His unique sound and talent has certainly put him on the map.
The Virginia-raised artist shares with PEOPLE that he's using 2021 to create the "best songs" he's "ever written," beginning with his new single "Mystery Lady" featuring artist Don Toliver.
While this emerging star has gotten to work with other like-minded artists like Dreamville and KAYTRANADA, Masego shares that working with other Black creatives enhances his own art.
"I glean from the energy in the room," Masego tells PEOPLE. "And the room has had some specialists in soul, rhythm and blues, gospel, etc. I love when a person's background spills over into their art."
Listen to his latest track "Mystery Lady."
This new artist is already taking "Control" of pop music!
Zoe Wees, an 18-year-old Germany-based artist, is garnering attention with her breakout hit "Control" which led her to be named as a YouTube "On the Rise" artist, "One To Watch 2021" by Amazon and an iHeartRadio "Pop on the Verge" artist.
Her latest single, "Girls Like Us," is a vulnerable pop anthem that pushed for togetherness and solidarity to girls around the world who are experience the pressures of forced beauty standards in society
"Pop music is my way of dealing with my past," Wees tells PEOPLE. "As a Black woman, I want to show strength and motivate young people to become a voice for others. I'm aware of being a role model for others but for me I'm just Zoe who fights with her inner demons every day and grows with them."
The song-writer shares that she has drawn inspiration from artists like Alec Benjamin and Jessie J, but her main influence is herself and her story.
"I tell my stories in my songs and other singers tell their stories with their voices," says Wees. "I'm only interested in the deep stories of other artists. Broken hearts, hard strokes of fate, grief and loneliness are topics that make me feel connected to other artists."
Check out her U.S television debut on The Late Late Show with James Corden.
This next artist is gonna be "Good For You."
Blood Orange, also known as Devonté Hynes, is a musician like no other and a man of many talents.
The New York-based singer-songwriter has mixed what seems to be all genres with influences of jazz, funk, soul, R&B, hip-hop and classical music.
The producer got his break with the attention received by his sophomore album, Cupid Deluxe, in 2013 which was ranked by Pitchfork among the top 100 albums of the 2010s.
His 2018 album Negro Swan gave listeners hit tracks ranging from the slow, melancholic sounds of "Charcoal Baby" to the melodic rap beats on "Chewing Gum" which features artist A$AP Rocky and Project Pat.
Hynes wrote on Spotify that Negro Swan is an "exploration into many types of black depression, an honest look at the corners of black existence and the ongoing anxieties of queer/people of color."
On his more recent 2019 mixtape, Angel's Pulse, Blood Orange gives his fans blissful sounds like on his song "Dark & Handsome" and depicts himself with the likeness of Marie Antionette as he plays the cello in the music video for the song "Benzo."
Listen to his latest release with Tame Impala, "Borderline- Blood Orange Remix."
This DJ has The Best of Both Worlds.
Honey Dijon is using both music and fashion to express herself fully and to be an advocate for happiness.
"I am a proponent of joy and I celebrate life creatively through music, fashion, and art," Dijon tells PEOPLE. "My music is a celebration of all of my musical heroes from Grace Jones to Quincy Jones, Green Velvet to Danny Tenaglia, Steely Dan and The B52s."
The Chicago-raised artist said she's taken musical inspiration from her roots on the South Side, the birthplace of house music.
"I learned everything I know about music from growing up on the South Side of Chicago and listening to my parents R&B record collection to the Black, queer underground dance community that birthed house music," says Dijon.
With her hit songs like "Why" featuring Nomi Ruiz and her "Honey Dijon Realness Remix" of Lady Gaga's “Free Woman”, the DJ wants to continue to share with the world the "rich contributions" that Black trans women and "gay, queer and non binary folk" give to our culture.
"We have literally influenced vernacular, style of dress, and musical movements," says Dijon. "We are a part of the universe that adds beauty and culture to humanity."
Honey Dijon plans on dropping her second album Black Girl Magic later this year.
After his iconic hook on Grammy-nominated 2016 song "Crew," with artists GoldLink and ShyGlizzy, Brent Faiyaz continues to make his mark in R&B.
On his most recent album F— the World, the DMV native showcases his dreamy vocals on songs like "Been Away" and "Clouded." While fans know him best for his mastery of masking devious lyrics with his angelic voice, he also has used his talents to touch on topics like ending gang culture with his song "Skyline."
While Fayiaz is gaining popularity, the producer says he isn't here to please anyone but himself.
"If I feel like making something, if I feel like saying something on the track, that's what I am going to do — regardless of reaction," Faiyaz told Rolling Stone. "It"s only by coincidence that people have been receiving it well."
This Brooklyn-based artist is rapping for more than just herself.
Ms. Boogie is an upcoming rapper that says she's creating a space within hip-hop for trans women.
"Being a trans woman I have no home or shelter in hip-hop," Ms. Boogie tells PEOPLE. "I have been building a home with my bare hands for other folks like me because we do exist and if we're not celebrated by the stream, then we have to celebrate ourselves."
"Making music is an emotional outlet for me," says Ms. Boogie. "People just so happened to relate to my emotions and now I'm a star to my supporters. A ghetto superstar to be exact."
Checkout her recent video for "Fem Queen."
The song writer took a hiatus from the band to release her standalone album, Jaime, in 2019. With songs like "Short and Sweet" and her hit "Stay High," Howard continues to feel like a breath of fresh air to the world of rock.
While Alabama Shakes received notable recognition in 2015 for their second album Sound & Color, with six Grammy nominations including album of the year, in 2017 Howard left the band.
"I was sitting there, silent, thinking to myself, What am I gonna do? What do I want?" Howard said in an interview with The New Yorker. "I'd rather make a few mistakes and still be myself than be rich and bored."
At the end of 2020, Howard released Jaime (The Remixes) which features artists like Bon Iver and EARTHGANG as they help her reimagine three songs on her previous 2019 album.
She's the brain behind some of the biggest hits!
Nija is a 23-year-old Grammy Award winning songwriter who is responsible for helping make hits like "Rain on Me" by Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga, "I Do" by Cardi B and SZA and she's also gotten to work with JAY-Z and Beyonce with songs "Heard About Us" and "Lovehappy."
While Nija has gotten to work with some big names, this young LA-based artist is now ready to make a name for herself.
"I feel like me creating my own music was always bound to happen," Nija tells PEOPLE. "I've written for so many of my favorite artists and there's still a part of my creativity that the world hasn't been able to see yet. Also as a writer, I'm telling other people's stories, so I'm more of a vessel and I feel it's my time to share my story."
Nija's versatile songwriting style has gotten the attention of many as she has been placed on BET's "Future 40 2020" list She was also named in Rolling Stone's "Future 25" in October 2020.
"I want listeners to know that the music is definitely worth the wait," says Nija. "It's a breath of fresh air because it's not like what's out right now. The music's so relatable and there's something for everyone. That's the main thing for me as an artist as well, is being able to be an artist that people can relate to."
Be on the lookout for her debut this year!
This Alabama rapper's music will always leave you feeling "Like That Bitch."
With her cocky lyrics and witty play on words, Flo Milli's penmanship and confident rap voice has capulated her from Mobile into the spotlight. The rapper's big breakthrough came from her song "Beef FloMix," and once the internet heard the lyrics "I like cash and hair to my ass," the rest was history.
"Beef FloMix" went viral on TikTok, has been played over 69 million times on Spotify and got the songwriter into the rooms was destined to be in.
"One day I was at college, and the next day I was in New York at label meetings," she told Rolling Stone in an interview. "It was a tough transition, but I grew into it very fast. I just had to change my mindset."
The young rapper's debut full length mixtape, Ho, why is you here ?, continues to show off her big personality with songs like "Not Friendly."
Her most recent single, "Roaring 20s," is out now.
This artist says he's bringing a "different flavor" to the country music scene.
Willie Jones, an emerging country singer, shares that being a Black artist within the country genre has allowed him to give Black country fans a voice to relate to.
"I toured with Willie Nelson and Dwight Yoakam before COVID, and their fans didn't look like me at all. But guess what? They felt what I was doing," Jones tells PEOPLE. "They showed love. Country music is about storytelling. That's what I fell in love with, and that’s what I'm doing. It's just that my stories sound a little different, but people are vibing with it."
In his most recent single, "American Dream," Jones also using his music to speak up on racial inequality in America. He told PEOPLE in January that the song was his "patriotic protest anthem" and is "a song of hope."
The previous X-Factor contestant shares that there isn't a set method to his music creation process, he is drawn to what feels most authentic to who he is as an artist.
"I can only make music that makes me feel good," says Jones. "There's no secret formula to my sauce. Hold up, maybe there is: it's 100 percent, natural, certified organic, Louisiana drippin’ Willie Jones."
Watch to his video for "American Dream."
This pop-R&B star is providing Comfort & Joy to listeners.
Tinashe is remaking herself after leaving her old music label, RCA Records, after disputes and lack of support of her past albums Nightride and Joyride.
After cutting ties with RCA and independently releasing her 2019 album, Songs For You, Tinashe is finding success as a newly freed artist.
"I really want this project to represent a shift in where I was going as an artist," she said in an interview with The Face about Songs For You. "I feel like this is me really coming into my own, and I want to see it to continue to move in this direction and the momentum of the love that I'm receiving from my fans."
The singer made her solo debut with her 2014 album Aquarius, finding early success with hits like "2 On." A few years before, Tinashe was a member of a teen pop group, The Stunners, which included singer Hayley Kiyoko.
While the songwriter recently gifted fans with a holiday album, Comfort & Joy, at the end of 2020, you can also listen to her latest single "Glitch" with artist Buddy.
Amythyst Kiah is reinventing her music and herself!
The Tennessee-native folk artist recently released a new rendition of Grammy-nominated song "Black Myself," which she originally recorded in 2019 as part of the group Our Native Daughters.
The songwriter shares that reimagining the single in 2021 is a way for her to continue the conversation around racism in America.
"Right now, there is an unprecedented and sustained interest in mainstream media in regards to systemic oppression and race relations in our country," Kiah tells PEOPLE. "It was important to me to include 'Black Myself' on my solo record because I want to push this conversation forward as much as I can."
Other songs Kiah has with Our Native Daughters, which has all women of color band members, are hits like "I Knew I Could Fly," written by Leyla McCalla and Allison Russell.
Kiah says that being a proud Black, queer woman in folk music has allowed her to heal and be her true self.
"I was in the closet for years out of fear of rejection, because why add another layer to my struggle," says Kiah. "But, in fact, I was only standing in my own way, and now that I'm able to live my truth without fear and to see the open support of so many artists and fans, I'm no longer afraid of negativity or backlash."
Kiah plans to release her new album later this year — listen to her latest single "Black Myself."
This country singer is building Bridges and uniting listeners with her music.
Mickey Guyton, Texas-born songwriter, is nominated in this year's Grammy Awards for her single "Black Like Me" for best country solo performance.
The "Caught Up in Your Storm" singer told PEOPLE in 2020 that creating the single was a part of the process of finding her voice as an artist as well as speaking on her own experience of being Black in America amidst a time of racial violence in the country.
"As long as I can spark conversation, that's really all that matters," Guyton said. "All of this music was created from love. And that's what my message is. It's spreading truth and love."
Listen to her latest single, "Boys," with singer Dean Brody.