Words by Monica Namug
There is a new wave of Black British women who are carving out new creative platforms that centre the Black women experience. From Black Girl Fest, to Gal-dem, and Sweet-Thang zine (edited by Sussex student Zoe Thompson), Black British women are fed up of being tokenised and of not being given a seat at the table. They instead are creating their own tables.
And just as there are these new creative platforms, there is also Black female musical ingenuity that I think deserves some recognition in the UK. For Black History Month I asked a friend to help create a playlist that showcased Black British female musicians for a special #blackgirlmagic podcast that I hosted, and she had trouble finding musicians. In fact, ALL the musicians she found to add to the playlist were Black-American women. I realised then that there seems to be a huge lack of knowledge about the unambiguous Black British female talent!
So with that in mind, I have compiled a list of my Top 5 unambiguous Black British female musicians that you really should be listening to:
Self-described on Spotify as a “D.I.Y princess”, combines “soaring vocals with glitter, hair-dye and wig-making”. This fashion-loving singer mixes 80’s glam with R&B flavours.
This experimental writer and rapper has had several acollades to her name, including making the 2016 Forbes 30 under 30 list. Her music is cool, weird, sharp and intelligent and for rap lovers, she is a must have on your playlist. The track “Good For What” is a great way into her music.
With a gorgeous voice that will melt any bad day away, NAO’s music is often dreamy and beautiful. She describes her music as “wonky funk” as it mixes electronic beats, funk and R&B.
This British singer-songwriter won the BBC’s Sound of 2017 and since then has gone on to make songs like ‘My Hood’ with Stormzy. Her music is soulful with R&B tracks that instantly transport you into her hood, and her poetic world.
“Nads” as she often refers to herself, is a Croydon-born grime and hip-hop musician. One of few women to have been able to climb the male-dominated grime world, her music is unapologetic and fun with fresh rhymes and banging beats.
The UK seems to only be able to elevate unambiguous Black men for example, Stormzy or Dave, but their Black female counterparts are often left at the side; unless of course they embody the biracial or ambiguous aesthetic of Mabel, Jorja Smith or Steflon Don. I find that I am left with the question; do unambiguous Black British women need to create their own musical platforms to ensure that they are elevated in the British music scene?
Photo by EDDIE LEE/HYPEBEAST