Underrated: Black Musicians

Underrated Black musicians to diversify your playlist and music range



Black artists use creativity to convey emotion and story telling through their music

JUSTIN WASHINGTON, Evergreen research editor

Music is one of the many ways we connect as people; it spans abstract thoughts and ideas that sometimes cannot be communicated through casual speech.

Music spans through different cultures and is important for celebrations like Black History Month – a month meant to recognize Black individuals and reflect on how impactful Black culture and values are. Music discusses difficult topics and easily conveys different emotions. It allows for a new story to be told. 

While many Black artists have made huge names in the industry, there are many hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

Diamond White

Diamond White recently made an incredible feat. She is the voice actress for Moon Girl, Marvel’s first young Black woman superhero, according to her tweet

She has also appeared in several films, including Tyler Perry’s “Madea” series, which garnered national fame. Despite her accomplishments, White’s music career does not get the recognition it deserves. 

Most of my favorites come from her “Summerland” album, released August 2021. Songs like “Digitally Yours” and “The Kissing Song” fuse a dream-like groove with an amazing voice. 

Each song that White releases is a burst of creativity with lyrics encompassing true meaning. She also shows her amazing personality during interviews and on her social media posts. She clearly puts a lot of effort and passion into her songs. I hope a larger audience follows her as she continues her music career.

Justin Garner

Justin Garner has been making music for several years, and he is an expert at his craft. With a collection of both energetic and soothing songs, listening to his discography was truly an enjoyable ride.

If I were passively listening to him on the radio, I would assume his songs have been on the top charts at least once or twice. Unfortunately, his traction does not match that expectation. He averages around 18,000 listeners on Spotify, and none of his top songs have cracked a million listens.

His most recent single, “Cool”, has less than 3,000 listens.

I find it upsetting his music is not more popular. If nothing else, his voice and impressive vocal range capture an essence that many mainstream artists lack.

One example is “Gloria,” an emotional song accompanied by a piano instrumental. Garner’s voice seamlessly transitions from low to high notes in a way that truly packs a punch in the somber theme of the piece. 

A good portion of his songs lean toward the calming side of things, fit for a rainy day or study playlists. However, his 2014 album “The Collection”, is perfect for upbeat party songs. The best ones from that album are “Lights Go Down” and “Cherry Bomb.”

Whether or not Garner becomes a super huge name in the industry, his music deserves support for the passion and soul it brings.

Jae Stephens

On the topic of artists with amazing vocal ranges, Jae Stephens is another singer who hits high and low notes flawlessly. She does this best in her song “2019,” which is an impactful feminist anthem.

Some of Stephen’s songs have really good traction, but those are are all collaborations with more prominent artists. Her solo songs do not get nearly as much attention.

One song that truly stands out from the crowd is “Someone Else.” Despite its groovy instrumental, the meaning of the song is pretty sad. Despite enjoying her partner, the overarching message of the song is to let them go off and be happy with someone else.

I listen to many love songs, and I can confidently say the theme of letting someone go and being happy with a different person is not very common. So I appreciate the uniqueness “Someone Else” brings.

Stephens is still relatively new to the industry, so there is a good chance her following might improve in the future. 

Matt Palmer

Fortunately, a lot of queer artists are making names for themselves in the industry. It demonstrates how far we have come in the fight for a progressive society.

However, a few queer artists are left behind in the rise. Matt Palmer is sadly one of them.

Despite putting out fresh pop hits since 2009, Palmer averages less than 15,000 listeners on Spotify.

He did not start out being open about his sexuality in his music. It was not until his 2018 album “Get Lost” — complete with hits like “The Worst” and “The Boy Who Hates Everything” — that his music largely started to focus on male love interests openly.

Most of his recent stuff focuses on relationships and how difficult they can be. The truth is, love is difficult no matter what gender identity you are attracted to. Palmer is not afraid to show that in his music, which I respect. 

Despite his songs about heartbreak, Palmer’s Instagram shows he is in a relationship — and as far as the pictures go — a happy one at that.

Even though I find myself liking his newer stuff more, Palmer has a lot of songs from his earlier days that are worth a listen, like “Hold Onto My Hand” and “Teardrops.”

Rayana Jay

Labeled as a soul/R&B singer, Rayana Jay has a sound that mixes the past and the future in an almost retro-futuristic way, making her music both intriguing and calming.

One example is her song “it’s you,” where the combination of her voice and the smooth melody behind it indescribably resonate with my soul.

I do not often find myself feeling this way toward many artists. Jay has a unique sound that deserves to be appreciated, and it is to some extent. She has almost 350,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, which is decent, but I would say Jay still does not have enough traction. 

“Nothin’ to Talk About” and “Cupcake” find a way to mesh good lyrics with dreamy melodies. Her discography is perfect for passive listening.