As the pioneers of civilization, Black people have an innate tendency to create, innovate, master, and dominate in each and every space in which we exist.
Because of this, Black history is made every day in every inkling of sport, business, art, academia; you name it, we do it well.
In music in particular, we’ve blazed many a trail, and though today’s most popular Black musicians are rappers and producers, there are guitarists, drummers, singers, bassists, trumpeteers, and others who represent forces that are pushing other genres of music forward at a rapid pace.
I’d like to take some time to share information about a few of my favorite Black musicians who are making great music in fields that aren’t as popular.
Stephen Bruner is an electric bassist from Los Angeles, California. Better known by his stage name, Thundercat, he has worked with artists such as Flying Lotus, Erykah Badu, and the band Suicidal Tendencies, while also releasing two solo LPs.
He’s also worked as a session musician. In a review for his album Apocalypse, journalist Nate Parlin says, “The idea of the instrumental virtuoso has fallen out of favor in some underground music circles…. Bass maestro Stephen Bruner’s found a few ways to avoid that fate.”
Thundercat’s groove is infectious, and his personality truly shines through in all of his music. Born into a family of musicians, he has played the bass from a young age, having recorded and distributed a somewhat popular song by the age of 15 in Germany as a member of the band No Curfew.
Unlike many solo instrumental musicians, but akin to the musicians mentioned in this article, Thundercat’s sound in unique to himself, as it has developed out of years and years of practice. He also contributes vocals to his own works and others too. Though he’s been active since the early 2000’s, he has only recently started making full length solo albums, with his latest release dating two years back. Keep your eye on him for future grooves.
Hailing from El Cerrito, California, Thomas Pridgen is a force to be reckoned with on the drums. Active in music since 1999, he is most notably recognized for his contributions to The Mars Volta’s albums, The Bedlam in Goliath and Octahedron, Pridgen has developed a style of playing that is a mix of gospel, jazz, and progressive rock. Pridgen in self-taught, and began playing the drums at a very young age with the help of his grandmother.
By the time he was 9, he won the the annual Guitar Center Drum-Off competition. At 10, he was endorsed by the drum manufacturer, Zildjian; the youngest to ever receive an endorsement in the company’s history. At 15, he’d received a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music.
Throughout his career he has earned the nickname “Perpetual Solo” for his ability to keep playing, simply put. His natural talent set him leagues ahead of drummers that were years ahead of him in age, and when that talent was combined with his obsessive practice habits, he cracked the ceiling for himself and has received much praise in his career.
Working as a session musician, one who records drum tracks for other artists in studio, while also working with multiple bands over his career, he has done a considerable amount of drumming in a very wide range of genres. Pridgen now plays in his band, The Memorials, and will probably not stop drumming until he physically is unable.
Oluwatosin Abasi is a 32 year-old Nigerian guitarist from Washington, D.C.. Abasi is currently the lead guitarist of the three-man progressive metal act Animals As Leaders, one of the most notable and innovative acts in the genre today.
Driven by a sound that is founded in heavy metal, AAL brings Jazz Fusion and classical guitar elements to a genre that can have a lot of different groups existing and sounding similar at the same time.
Tosin, a self-taught guitarist, has been playing for over 15 years to date, and has played a major role in shifting the sound and style of contemporary metal. His skill is unmatched in the field, and because he is self-taught,. A standard guitar comes with 6 strings.
The majority of your favorite guitarists, actually, the majority of the most popular guitarists in history up to this point have played a guitar that has 6 strings. Abasi plays an 8 string guitar, which has a wider range of sound, allowing him to play the guitar while simultaneously emulating bass like sounds.
Abasi has released three albums with Animals As Leaders to date, and is expected to continue cultivating new sounds in the future.