We’re back for our latest Black History Month blog! This time we’re rolling it back to the ‘90s to take a look at some of the leading lights in black music.

Beyoncé

Part of what distinguishes Beyoncé as a once in a generation artist is her versatility and strengths in a number of fields. She is a fabulous singer, of course, but she is an impressive performer and dancer as well. She has also captured the imagination of many through her acting roles in ‘Dream Girls’ and the ‘Lion King’ to name a few.

Perhaps the pinnacle of her performing career was her 2018 headline set at Coachella. She was alleged to rehearse for a whopping 11 hours a day in the lead up to the event, and it was this preparation that was the subject of the Grammy award winning documentary, ‘Homecoming’ which is available to stream on Netflix.

Last year Beyoncé accepted an award for her humanitarian services at the recent BET Awards, joining an illustrious line of recipients: Muhammad Ali, Rev. Al Sharpton and Quincy Jones, who you can read more about in our music production blog series, have all won the award previously.

Not one to shout about her own significant philanthropy, she has more recently used her sizeable platform and audience to call out systemic racism in the US and encourage people to vote in the upcoming presidential elections, as demonstrated by her acceptance speech at the BET Awards.

"You're proving to our ancestors that their struggles were not in vain."

"I'm encouraging you to continue to take action, continue to change and dismantle a racist and unequal system."

"We have to vote like our life depends on it, because it does."

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The night saw performances from Alicia Keys, Roddy Ricch, and a stirring rendition of Nina Simone’s ‘Young, Gifted and Black’ by Jennifer Hudson.

Smash hits like ‘Irreplaceable’ propelled Beyoncé further to pop superstardom, and in 2008 she released her seminal album ‘I Am…Sasha Fierce’, simultaneously unleashing her alter-ego, Sasha Fierce, on the world. The album was met with varied critical response but spawned a number of monster hits, including the album’s lead single, ‘If I Were A Boy’; an upbeat US Number One, ‘Single Ladies’; and ‘Halo’, which became her most streamed song of all time on Spotify and features on our grade 6 Vocals syllabus.

Kanye West

Love him or loathe him, there’s no doubting Kanye West’s credentials as a producer. Hugely successful as a performer and writer in his own right, his production credits include the likes of Drake, John Legend, and Mary J. Blige, while he also worked with Alicia Keys and Ludacris in the early '00s. In his own music he has more recently opted for a more stripped back approach, but this does not mean he has lost the meticulous, studious edge that made Kanye, Kanye.

Erykah Badu

The Queen of neo-soul, the ‘90s saw Erykah Badu assert herself as one of the most influential artists of the decade. After opening for D’Angelo in 1994 and being spotted by a record label exec, she shot to fame in 1997 thanks to her fantastic debut album ‘Baduizm’.

’Baduizm’ earned Erykah commercial and critical success, placing her at the forefront of the neosoul movement alongside peers D’Angelo and Maxwell.

Did you know that Erykah adopted the name “Badu” as it was her favourite sound in jazz scat, while it also denotes the 10th child amongst the Akan people in Ghana. Additionally, originally called Erica, she changed her name to Erykah, renouncing her original name a “slave name”.

Badu has stayed at the cutting edge of music for years now, collaborating with some of the most exciting musical talent in the world along the way. Her list of creative partners is truly a who’s who of musicians: Flying Lotus, Janelle Monae, Tyler the Creator, Robert Glasper and many more have all flocked to Badu to feature her on their tracks.

We're delighted to feature 'Window Seat', Badu's 2010 single, on our 2021 Rockschool Vocals syllabus. The song's got a super catchy melody that's bound to sit in your head for days and a fresh arrangement to really bring Badu's music to life.

Stay tuned for more blogs this Black History Month, celebrating the artists that we all know and love. Their contributions to music are incredible! In the meantime, check out our existing instalments that feature black artists from the 1970s and the 1940s!

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