10 African-American Artists You Should Know


Yesterday The Root published its second annual list of 100 leaders in the African American community between the ages of 25 and 45. The website believes these to be individuals who are “impactful, creative, iconoclastic, innovative, committed to community.” While the list includes many politicians and life-long volunteers, as well as better-known artists such as Wyclef Jean and Nick Cannon, we’ve chosen to look at 10 artists who made the list and who, in The Root’s words, are not yet “household brands.” Click through for a look, and tell us who you think will be breaking through in the near future.

Beverly Bond

Beverly Bond is a New York-based DJ and founder of BLACK GIRLS ROCK!, a nonprofit committed to the development of African-American girls and young women. The organization just held its annual awards show this past Saturday; it will air on BET November 7th at 8pm.

Carolina Chocolate Drops

Dom Flemons, Justin Robinson, and Rhiannon Giddens are a talented trio who make up what The Root calls “traditional black string” band Carolina Chocolate Drops. Based in Durham, NC, the talented threesome uses banjos, kazoos, jugs, harmonicas, fiddles and beat-boxing to bring a traditional mix of Southern flavor. Check out their MySpace and tell us what you think.

Jay Electronica

A true product of today’s music industry, hip hop newcomer Jay Electronica has millions of fans without having put out an album yet. Instead, his success has come from singles like “Eternal Sunshine” and “Exhibit C,” in which Electronica talks about the trials of homelessness. Listen to it on his MySpace page.

Jeffrey Page

Page is a dancer and choreographer based in New York City who has done a bit of everything. He’s the resident choreographer for So You Think You Can Dance on FOX. He choreographed Beyonce’s 2007 world tour. Nowadays you can catch him performing in FELA!, the Tony Award-winning Broadway show. The Root informs us that he’s got a project based on James Brown in the works. Here’s a clip from FELA!

Rissi Palmer

Admittedly, there aren’t many black females in the country music scene. When Rissi Palmer’s sing “Country Girl” appeared on country music charts in 2007, it was the first time an African-American woman had been listed since 1987. Palmer has quite the pedigree, having been born in Pennsylvania and brought up in Missouri by parents from Georgia. Here’s her video for “Country Girl.”

Daniel Bernard Roumain

Heralded by Esquire as “the new face of classical music,” Daniel Bernard Roumain’s whole appearance bucks any stereotypes you might associate with “classical violinist.” The dreadlocked, body-pierced Haitian-American has done everything, from collaborations with Lady Gaga to scoring ESPN documentaries. Roumain, who sometimes goes by his initials DBR, also works with schools through the Boston Pops. Here’s a short video and interview with the composer (more videos are on his website).

Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding just qualifies within The Root’s age range at 25 years old, but she’s as promising a performer as any of the list. Spalding is both a jazz bassist and vocalist and a bit prodigy, earning a GED at 16 and going on to become the youngest faculty member ever at the famous Berklee School of Music just four years later. Here’s her performance of Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” at the White House.

Kara E. Walker

Walker is a contemporary painter and installation artist who’s famous in the the art world for her silhouettes, which usually depict crude scenes of murder or violence, illuminating the tragedy of race relations in the US. In 1997 she won a MacArthur genius grant for her work. She’s currently a professor in the Master of Fine Arts program at Columbia University. Here’s a quick look at her work with silhouettes from PBS.

Kehinde Wiley

Wiley is a 33-year-old painter, and a fixture on the New York art scene. His work portrays black men — sometimes unknown models, other times celebrities like Biggie Smalls and LL Cool J — usually in angelic poses in front of painted wallpaper-like prints. He’s also worked with PUMA on apparel. Take a look at his official site for more info.

Brian Courtney Wilson

Gospel singer Brian Courtney Wilson used to be a pharmaceutical company salesperson. Thankfully he found gospel music and went on to celebrate the #2 spot on the gospel charts with 2009’s “Just Love.” Give him a listen over at his MySpace page.