11 Releases from Black Artists We Recommend You Support on Bandcamp Day
Records spanning hip-hop, industrial, hardcore punk, and everything in between.
Tomorrow marks the third consecutive month Bandcamp has vowed to forego their cut of sales on the first Friday of the month in order to support independent artists whose primary source of income is no longer viable under the pandemic-induced lockdown. The June chapter of this initiative has already seen a shift in concern from out-of-work musicians to the hurting Black community as they push for positive change to ensure the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the countless other Black lives that were pointlessly ended by police violence see the justice they deserve.
While plenty of artists and labels have made it known that they’re forwarding their proceeds of sales tomorrow to anti-racist causes and bail funds for protestors, and there are a few juicy spreadsheets going around promoting Black artists, we wanted to single out a handful of releases worthy of your time and money. Focusing on albums that may not be on your radar rather than high-profile records (there’s a freakin’ brand new Armand Hammer LP dropping tomorrow), here are eleven releases spanning disparate genres (or, more commonly, eschewing them) to be aware of.
Also note that if your wishlist is already full, Bandcamp will be celebrating Juneteenth by forwarding their proceeds to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. We’ll forgive you if you wait ’til then to purchase these.
B L A C K I E comes from the JPEGMAFIA school of terrorizing audiences by distorting conventional hip-hop beyond comfort levels with the discernible influence of harsh noise. Like Peggy, Michael LaCour writes and produces all his music himself—unlike JPEG, LaCour absolutely shreds on sax. REMAINS is full of bizarre and overwhelmingly dark sounds coming to a climax with a particularly skin-crawly, free-jazz saxophone solo on “Position Targeted.”
Chimurenga Renaissance is the project of Baba Maraire, formerly backing Ishamel Butler in Shabazz Palaces, as a pretty self-explanatory mission to inject indigenous African rhythms into American hip-hop. By extension, Girlz with Gunz was an album he recorded in 2016 as an homage to Grace Maseva, who fought in the Rhodesian Bush War, which ended white rule in Zimbabwe. Girlz is considerably more gleeful than anything Shabazz has put out, not so much mourning the death of Maseva (who survived the war, but died of AIDS) as it is celebrating the type of woman she was.
You may know ELUCID as one half of rap duo Armand Hammer, or as the guy whose voice frequently haunts his bandmate billy woods’ solo albums. But his own solo record Save Yourself is every bit as innovative and intimidating as woods’ output, working with their mutual collaborator Willie Green on production, and featuring two guest verses from his AH peer. Fifty consecutive minutes of lucid peaceful protest.
Debbie’s debut EP for Deathbomb Arc sounds like…something you’d expect to find digging through the noisy annals of the SoCal experimental label. Where openers “TEAR THE VEIL” and “FATAL” present the five-song track list as something rooted in conventional electronic pop music, “TREASON” is four minutes of ambient seething, “GOOD AND EVIL” marries distorted guitar with a warped jungle beat, and “NEIGHT FICTIVE” is an apocalyptic spiritual swallowed up by riots. For more from Debby, check out this playlist she put together for us last year.
Since TV on the Radio trailed off a while back, Kyp Malone’s name has popped up a few times, first as a member of Ice Balloons, and just this week it was announced he’d be releasing music with Oh Sees’ John Dwyer as Bent Arcana. But before TVotR Kyp was involved with the noise-rock group Iran, whose third album Dissolver saw them step away from the indistinguishable fuzz of its predecessors toward something resembling pop. That ambiance still comes across in most of the songs’ unbridled guitarwork—not to mention the glitchy interlude “Digital Clock and Phone”—but the record mostly recalls some of the darker tones of Return to Cookie Mountain, as well as the more playful elements of their pre-Kyp debut.
As someone who never listens to songs on repeat, I couldn’t even tell you how many times I stopped listening to something to return to “Jump.i” when I first heard it. As suspected, all of Grey follows suit, delivering lighter-than-air cloud-rap beats along with Kweku’s paradoxically impassioned passive vocals. As its title suggests, these nine tracks feel particularly overcast, yet Grey always manages to be uplifting. Here’s an interview he did with us back when this EP dropped.
Devin is the debut solo album from ex-Speedy Ortiz guitarist Devin McKnight, whose departure from the band permitted him space to discuss the alienating feeling of being a Black body in a predominantly white scene. In doing so he invokes the spirits of jazz (“Oodie Oop (Jazz)”) and hip-hop (“Style”), though Devin is dominated by powerful grunge guitar and the imposing bass lines that mark most Exploding in Sound releases. It echoes many of the post-hardcore–inspired EiS acts that came before him, while proving to be among the most unique releases the label’s put out since Speedy’s Sports EP.
Mr. Lif has been releasing albums about the constant source of stress police impose on Black communities for two decades now (not to mention dunking all over Bush and expressing skepticism about Obama), coming up with El-P’s Def Jux and branching off in a number of directions, notably including the recently revived Perceptionists. He kicks off 2016’s Don’t Look Down with two verbose narratives detailing being chased by the cops that are nearly impossible to keep up with, the distant sounds of sirens briefly blaring in the background of “The Abyss.” In addition to being his first album in seven years, DLD featured notable reunions with Del the Funky Homosapien, producer Edan, and the other members of The Perceptionists, as well as a remix from Dan the Automator.
Know America is the second of three LPs Lamont “Bim” Thomas put out in 2015 as Obnox, the one-man garage punk band formed by the Puffy Areolas/Bassholes/This Moment in Black History drummer. The album opens with “Signal Takeover,” in which Thomas commandeers the radio station 420 AM WEDE to broadcast eleven high-energy punk songs to blow out your speakers, reaching their peak on the blistering “Situation Comedy.”
“You stay silent because talking about it would be tiresome,” Rob Watson growls on “White Silence,” the final track of Pure Disgust’s self-titled album, released a few months after Trump took office in 2016. Unfortunately, in the more-relevant-than-ever era of 2020, this track, and the album more broadly, has become more relevant than ever, re-introducing Pure Disgust as the wake-up call some black-square allies need to hear.
Mazy Fly was more inspired by Octavia Butler, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Close Encounters than it was any direct musical influence, somehow channelling these space-y fictions into electronic pop songs that coherently reflect their creator’s fascination with the night sky. Their creator, SPELLLING—or Tia Cabral, a teacher in East Oakland—works these influences into her lyrics as much as the synthy orchestrations she sings them over. Quite possibly the most optimistic record Sacred Bones has put out. Read more on her non-music inspirations here.