From Tina Turner to Notorious BIG, Nina Simone to Beyonce, the team has spoken. It’s African-American Music Appreciation Month. Which gives us at DesignScene a great excuse to share stories of working with legendary African-American performers. And bang the drum for our favourite African-American artists. In celebration, we’ve put a Spotify playlist together, across genres and the decades, but it barely scratches the surface of the contribution made by African-American musicians to global culture. We hope there’s someone in here you already know and love. And, maybe, someone you know less about we can turn you on to. Enjoy!
Kelis – Acapella / Good Stuff (Andy’s pick)
Near impossible to just choose one artist, let alone 2 of their songs. Kelis was the soundtrack to my teenage years and my 20s. Her debut album was experimentative, soul-charged, funky and futuristic and still stands the test of time 20 years on.
Janelle Monáe – Tightrope / Many Moons (Annie’s pick)
The adolescent me was first enthralled by the image of her dancing and rocking a pomp and tux in “Tightrope.” Since her afrocyborg persona debuted in “Many Moons,” I couldn’t get enough of her music. I love the way that she crafts thought provoking and empowering messages through combinations of classical, pop, R&B, rap, electronic elements with her soulful voice.
Notorious BIG – The What / Juicy (Ashley’s pick)
This is a really tough task to choose one as I have hugely varied musical taste and there are some incredible artists out there that probably are more culturally powerful in the hip hop space but the Ready to Die album is in my opinion one of the best produced of all time. No gimmicks, just vivid storytelling to describe his view of the past, present and with a peep into the future. All done in a relatable way that is coupled with a lyrical flow that to this day can not be bested.
Tina Turner – River Deep, Mountain High / (Simply) the best (Eloise’s pick)
Such an icon! Her incredible voice always moved me and she’s also super inspiring as a performer, whether by herself or as part if Ike & Tina. I grew up listening to her tunes and I often still turn to them as an easy motivation solution. She forever changed the story for African-American female performers and paved the road for many more!
Leon Bridges – Beyond / Motorbike (Emma’s pick)
As soon as I hear his songs play, especially Beyond which holds a special place in my heart, it puts a smile on my face. The mix of soul and R&B with his songwriting talent is always top of my playlists.
Whitney Houston – Greatest Love of All / Exhale (Jean’s pick)
One of the best-selling recording artists of all time, it’s hard to pick a favourite song love them all they are so emotional and moving, such a powerful voice
N.W.A. – Express Yourself (Jon’s pick)
Easily the most influential groups in the history of hip hop music. The album was produced in 6 week and went double Platinum by 1992, adding to it in my opinion that it’s the best era of music that was known as the golden age of Hip hop. It’s hard to come across modern days artists that don’t have a nod back to hip hop within their music.
Tobe Nwigwe – Hëât Rōok / I’m Dope (Jose’s pick)
Not only is Tobe Nwigwe a great artist to listen to, with his authentic beats and smooth voice, but his songs are almost like spoken word poetry. His lyrics are poignant and revolutionary – you don’t have to look far for commentary on current events of our times, whether he meant to be political or not.
Duke Ellington – Satin Doll / Caravan (Liv’s pick)
When I was a small child, my dad used to sing me Duke Ellington classics instead of lullabies at bedtime. Being introduced to arguably the greatest jazz musician of all time at such a young age made a profound impact on my musical tastes, and I’ve been playing, singing, and listening to Duke for nearly 30 years.
Beyoncé – Lemonade Album (Mia’s pick)
April 2016 the Queen herself surprised the world with a full album AND accompanying music videos for each song, Lemonade. Who does that?!? Well I thought that was the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen. Each song was pure gold as Beyoncé does and the visuals were topical, beautiful and like nothing I’ve seen before. The album also featured collabs with some of my other favorite artist including, Jack White. This album has a song for every mood and is my go to when I don’t know what to put on. Long Live Queen Bey
Nina Simone – Feeling Good / I put a spell on you (Michelle’s pick)
What an amazing woman! I was blown away by her voice when I was young and exploring different types of music and still love her music to this day. Her emotional & moving way of telling the story through her Poignant lyrics and rich gravely tone can transport and touch you deeply.
Gil Scott-Heron – PIeces of a Man / Lady Day & John Coltrane (Neil’s pick)
Poet. Prophet. Revolutionary. I started listening to Gil in my mid-teens. He set off hand grenades in my head. A genius who could not only articulate the problem but also write poignant, real life stories about it. AND set them to unforgettable melodies. Hard to narrow him down to two songs but these are polar opposite, his saddest and happiest tracks. Gil’s work gets more relevant with every passing decade; as it turns out the Revolution WILL be Televised – LIVE.
Earth, Wind and Fire – Let’s Groove / Devotion (Victoria’s pick)
One of the greatest bands ever. Changed the sound of Black pop and R&B. One of my personal favorites ever. Many great memories attached to their songs. Wonderful to see live! “September” is a Virgo anthem! The cover/brand art was always awesome