10 Under-the-Radar Artists to Listen to Now
Leikeli47, Mereba, and Mickey Guyton headline our list of musicians who deserve your attention
This story is a part of the ZORA Music Canon, a celebration of Black women musical artists.
The ZORA Music Canon, our list of the 100 greatest albums by African American women, celebrates iconic music and the artists behind it. We don’t stop there. To put us on to Black women on the rise in music — artists who might otherwise be overlooked, under the radar, or slept on — we enlisted the guidance of panelists from the ZORA Music Canon — MC Lyte, Naima Cochrane, Olivia Dope, Jordannah Elizabeth, and Naomi Andre. We also added a few of our own. Here are the selections.
With Triangles, the R&B singer from Miami takes us back to the ’90s. I love the guitar and cadences. Her vocals sit heavy on the groove at times, bopping in and out the pockets, reminiscent of an MC. Extremely refreshing. —MC Lyte
Listen to: Duran’s EP Triangles.
Leikeli47 was donning face masks well before the pandemic to make sure we focused on her crazy rhyming skills, melodic tone, and empowering lyrics. It’s easy to get distracted by beauty standards, twerking, and other quick gimmicks that are social-media-based, but her focus is on fun, danceable music and the inspiring culture that Black women created. —Olivia Dope
Listen to: Leikeli47’s album Acrylic.
Angel Bat Dawid
She made every best of jazz list in 2019 with The Oracle, propelling her into 2020 as one of the most celebrated emerging artists in jazz. This Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer is a musical visionary who taps into her mystical gifts and connection to her spirit guides and ancestors. The Oracle is one of the most creative jazz albums to emerge in years. —Jordannah Elizabeth
Listen to: Dawid’s album The Oracle.
The Ethiopian American singer, songwriter, and rapper was an itinerant kid, moving from Philly to Greensboro to Atlanta. She collected experiences and vibes from each of those stops, learned the guitar, and honed an intoxicating voice that envelops listeners on her euphonious 2019 album The Jungle Is the Only Way Out. Combining R&B and folk, Mereba also pens soul-stirring poetry, which appears on the album. —Christina M. Tapper, ZORA deputy editor
Listen to: Mereba’s album The Jungle Is the Only Way Out.
Maimouna Youssef is an independent singer, songwriter, and emcee who evokes neo-soul’s heyday. The artist and activist has gained exposure over the last two years performing alongside artists like Common and The Roots. Last year she brought the Black Girls Rock audience to their feet with her powerful tribute to Black lives that have been cut down extrajudicially. She recently released a collaboration with producer Salaam Remi, who has worked with Lauryn Hill. —Naima Cochrane
Watch: the music video for Mumu Fresh’s “EmOGs.”
The daughter of Ernie and niece of Ronald of the Isley Brothers, Alex has R&B soul firmly in her DNA. She makes a name for herself with her sweet, soothing voice, easy-listening EP releases, and viral Instagram posts of her vocally arranging classic songs. —OD
Listen to: Isley’s EP Dreams in Analog.
One of the hardest-working independent femme artists of the 2010s, SassyBlack began her career in the Black femme duo THEESatisfaction, where she opened for Sleater-Kinney and many other influential bands, before going solo in 2016. Since then, SassyBlack’s music has been featured in Lena Waithe’s BET TV show, Twenties. She also acted in Martin Scorsese’s HBO series, Vinyl. —JE
Listen to: SassyBlack’s album iBeBae.
The country-pop singer from Texas grabs your attention with “Black Like Me.” Guyton, who co-wrote the song, delivers an intimate first-person reflection about racial inequality. A 2016 American Country Music Awards New Female Vocalist nominee, Guyton has been outspoken about racism, sexism, and her experiences in country music. She also wrote the ballad “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” where she sings about the false promises of equity, merit, and safety. With poignant and powerful lyrics, Guyton is a guiding light who offers unvarnished truths. — CMT
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Listen to: Guyton’s single “Black Like Me.”
The composer and musician focuses on music that highlights Black experience, frequently connecting her African American and Nigerian upbringing. She is known for her opera Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom and Black Bottom — an orchestral vocal work commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She is on the rise with the versatility of her writing and the popularity she is receiving. —Naomi Andre
Listen to: the four arias featured in Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom.
The frontwoman of the all-female tribute band Judas Priestess, Vox is inspiringly defiant and unflinching. The songwriter and composer finds her glory in alternative metal and urban goth, igniting rebellion against anything that attempts to box us in and limit our gifts. Inspired by funk pioneer Betty Davis, Vox urges us to cherish authenticity and defy stereotypes. —CMT
Listen to: Vox’s album The Villainess.
Follow ZORA on Spotify for playlists our editors curated just for you, with songs from game-changing artists.