Bayou City

Beyond The Blackout: Twelve Local Artists To Add To Your Playlist

Bun B at the rally for George Floyd that he and Trae tha Truth organized.
Bun B at the rally for George Floyd that he and Trae tha Truth organized. Photo by Doogie Roux

Last week the music industry responded to the movement to bring increased awareness to and help to end racial injustice and police brutality with Blackout Tuesday.  The day was the brainchild of music executives Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas.  It was intended to be a day for the music industry to reflect, join the conversation and lift up artists of color and it quickly caught on.

Everyone from fans to industry giants were posting black squares and limiting their content to posts supporting black artists, the Black Lives Matter movement, ways to help contribute to organizations and helpful guidance for discussing and identifying racism in your daily life, regardless of your skin color or origin. 

The online event did have some issues with confusion surrounding the hashtags to be used and the overall purpose of the day.  Critics spoke out that it was not appropriate or useful to be silent but instead pointing out that this is precisely when people should be speaking.

Also, a sea of posts featuring a black squares using the tag #blacklivesmatters were drowning out important information about the protests and organizations across the nation.  Participants were asked instead to use the hashtags #blackouttuesday and #theshowmustbepaused. 

If there's one major takeaway from Blackout Tuesday it should be that Black Lives Matter is not a trend and society as a whole needs to do more to promote and support black artists by being more inclusive in coverage of new releases and concerts.

Houston has been a focal point for the protests and the mourning of George Floyd.  In the incredible march that took place in Houston, led by local rap legends Bun B and Trae Tha Truth, our city showed the nation what is possible when a large, peaceful group of people get together to request changes in legislation and respect for black lives.

Our music history is not only rich overall, but as the most diverse city in the nation. We have been home to major artists of color and continue to push out impressive talent.  Here is a list of some Houston favorites from genres across the board.

First up is Mr. Houston himself, Archie Bell.  Bell is a Houston native and gained worldwide success with his 1967 hit, "Tighten Up."  The song dominated the charts while Bell was serving in the U.S. Army and it was brought to his attention that record labels were pushing his song with a white band from Nashville featured on the record cover.  Bell returned to the United States to clarify his identity and continues to reside in Houston and perform to this day. 

Houston's blues scene is legendary, and though sadly we've lost many blues legends and venues over the years, our own Trudy Lynn continues to bring the house down with her blues vocals.  Lynn has performed worldwide and has released twelve studio albums.  This year she was nominated for the Koko Taylor (Traditional Female Blues Artist) award by the Blues Music Awards, which were held virtually this year due to COVID-19.  

Another nominee and strong blues artist who continues to carry the torch of Houston blues is Annika Chambers.  Chambers was also nominated for the Koko Taylor award this year for her 2019 release, Kiss My Sass and previously won a Blues Music Award for Soul Blues Female Artist of the year in 2019.  Though the Houstonian recently relocated to Montreal, she continues to represent our city with her immense talent and roots in Texas blues and soul.

Hometown sweethearts The Suffers are led by their fearless lead singer Kam Franklin.  Franklin not only uses her magnificent voice to please audiences around the world, but is also a vocal supporter of Black Lives Matters and is not afraid to speak up against racism in our community.  Franklin recently brought to light racist statements made by local business owners forcing people to have the kinds of discussions which lead to a better understanding of racism and decide where they will spend their hard earned cash.

It wouldn't be Houston without naming one of the biggest names in rap and one of the leaders of our historic march, Trae Tha Truth.  Trae Tha Truth was a member of Houston's historic Screwed Up Click and the first rapper to ever receive a day in his honor by mayor Bill White in 2008.  Relief Gang, an organization co-founded by the rapper, will hold a voter registration event Thursday, June 11 at the HCC Central Campus parking lot.  Last year he released Exhale and just last month released a remixed version for his single "Slidin."

Bun B is another ambassador for the city and he has made Houston proud ten times over.  As one half of the hugely influential UGK alongside the late Pimp C, Bun B had the whole country Ridin' Dirty and helped to create the Southern hip hop sounds Houston has been known for.  Earlier this year Bun B released the video to his song "In My Trunk" from his 2019 album Bun B Day featuring another Houston rapper, Maxo Kream and visually highlighting Houston car culture. 

Though he has relocated to Los Angeles, Houston's Fat Tony is never shy about his Houston roots.  His name itself is a nod to our hometown rap legends like Big Moe and Fat Pat.  The son of a Nigerian immigrant, Tony braids his lyrics and ideas often raising awareness to issues, paying tribute to Texas and always adding a touch of punk rock into his rap. 

Another Houston rapper with a punk rock vibe is Timothy Russel who goes by the name Guilla.  The local rapper released Crunchy Roll And Chill in 2018 and has since followed up with his EP, God Mode.  Throughout quarantine the artist has been busy releasing singles and commenting on his experiences with racism while playing the predominately white sport of tennis in college on his Facebook page. 

Tim Woods is Houston's hippie rapper, the self professed "Flower Child" of Houston has made a name for himself with his dreamy raps and previously held Bloomfest at the Secret Group.  Last year he was busy with his weekly series "Mulch Mondays" featuring creative videos to his songs.  

Antonio Eyez is a funky, futuristic phenomenon.  He and his wife, Liz Vaughn have been busy performing throughout the quarantine and recently put on an amazing tribute to Prince at R&R Studios.  Eyez released The Second Coming on his own label, Spacewar Music.

Local festival Madness of Main strives to bring attention to some of Houston's most diverse artists from all over the city and they hit the nail on the head when they included a performance by Katy's own DENDE. He will be releasing his new single "Dance" on June 10, inspired by his feelings on speaking out against injustice.

Houston is not a city automatically associated with jazz but we have produced some of today's biggest names in Jazz including Jason Moran and Robert GlasperMicah Edwards is an up and coming songwriter with a strong jazz influence in his songs pairing beautifully with his soulful voice and lyrics.  Last month Edwards released a beautiful and mellow new single "Timetaker" available on streaming platforms now.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.
Contact: Gladys Fuentes