Add this to your summer festival list: AFROPUNK Festival. Taking place in Brooklyn, New York, on Aug. 25 & 26, this is a time to celebrate the booming black community. Rooted in activism and self-care, AFROPUNK is going global as they take the festivities to London, Paris, and Atlanta. Over the years, AFROPUNK has become a critically acclaimed festival with features in The New York Times, TeenVogue, GQ Style and The Guardian.
As for this year’s lineup, we handpicked 10 rebellious creatives who are a testament to the unapologetically real culture that defines AFROPUNK. Also, follow our Spotify playlist for your pregame and car ride turn-up.
Based in Birmingham, England, Mahalia is an alternative R&B/soul singer-songwriter who is influenced by Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill. Mahalia started her creative journey as a preteen, writing songs and playing the guitar. In 2016, she released her debut album Diary of Me on Asylum Records UK. In the past couple of years, she has continued to release singles featuring artists like Little Simz and Buddy. Mahalia’s voice is smooth, relaxing and invites the listener in to experience her story.
Photo Credit: Angel Boyd
Let me introduce you to the psychedelic rock band, Blac Rabbit. Along the lines of California surfer/beach rock bands, these guys root themselves in groovy guitar lines and echoing melodies. Formed by twin brothers Amiri and Rahiem Taylor, the band is heavily influenced by The Beatles, Tame Impala, Stevie Wonder, Radiohead, and many more. As the Taylor’s dominate on guitar and vocals, their friends have joined them to make a four-piece live band with Patrick Jones on drums, and Josh Lugo on bass. In 2017, the band released a self-titled EP.
Lion Babe is the very depiction of its name, with huge hair and an even bigger voice. Jillian Hervey is the vocalist of Lion Babe and accompanying her is producer Lucas Goodman. This duo found each other in New York City at a college party. Taking a funky retro spin of R&B, they are continuing to fuse generations of music together. In 2016, they came out with Begin, a full-length that features Childish Gambino.
Talk about rebels – this punk rock duo is dominating the scene with their aggressive guitar lines and strong raspy voices. The Nova Twins – EP arrived on the scene in 2016, breaking away from the stereotype of black female artists singing soul and R&B. Georgia South plays the bass guitar, while Amy Love belts her voice through the speakers, bringing the Nova Twin experience to the listeners’ ears. South and Love are influenced by power houses like Missy Elliot, Betty Davis, Stevie Wonder, and Jack White.
Fantastic Negrito brings a dynamic grit to soul music. Xavier Dphrepaulezz fuses blues, rock and funk all together to tell stories of battles, tragedies and redemption. After a severe car accident, he moved back to his hometown of Oakland. After the birth of his son, he returned to his passion: performing a soulful hybrid of R&B and rock. The name Fantastic Negrito is a representation of Xavier’s rebirth in his musical career.
Born to Bahamian and Native American parents near Miami, Denzel Curry began writing poetry in elementary school, while battle rapping in a local Boys & Girls Club. The natural flow of his lyricism and the intenseness of his voice derive from his influences 2PAC and Buju Banton. His 2016 album Imperial features artists like Rick Ross and Joey Bada$$, adding to his already impressive traction in the rap community. Curry continues to gain momentum with recent singles “Percs,” “Uh huh,” and “Sumo.”
Malaysian pop vocalist and guitarist, Yuna was born in Kedah, starting her creative journey at the age of 14. While attending law school, she realized her need for a creative outlet and started performing. Gaining attention by posting her music on MySpace, she signed to the Fader Label in 2011. In 2012, she debuted at festivals like Lollapalooza, while having hit singles produced by Pharrell Williams. Her latest full-length album, Chapters, featured Usher and Jhene Aiko. Yuna’s music is soulful and heartfelt, resembling her influences Lauryn Hill, Bjork, and Aaliyah.
Smino is not new to Ones To Watch, but we will never get tired of featuring him. He is a rapper and multi-instrumentalist from St. Louis, Missouri, who later transplanted to Chicago to contribute to the rising music scene there. Most of Smino’s releases are in collaboration with the Zero Fatigue collective, a conglomerate made of Smino, producer Monte Booker, and vocalist Ravyn Lenae. After his debut album, blkswn, he released several entertaining singles like “Anita” and “New Coupe, Who Dis?” featuring Mick Jenkins. Get ready to dance when Smino takes the stage at AFROPUNK.
Jamila Woods’ voice is as pure as the summer days are long. Not just a vocalist, she participates in activism, poetry, and songwriting inspired by Toni Morrison, Erykah Badu and Kendrick Lamar. Early in her career, she signed to Chicago’s Closed Sessions label as a solo artist, releasing her debut album HEAVN. Woods has been featured on multiple Chance The Rapper tracks such as “Sunday Candy” and “Blessings.”
DUCKWRTH is another Ones To Watch featured artist that is always exciting to keep up with. His first LP was the critically-acclaimed 2016 I’M UUGLY. An XTRA UUGLY Mixtape released just a year later, fusing together rock, hip-hop, funk and soul. Introducing not just a certain masculinity but also a unique femininity to his music, DUCKWRTH is able to show his vivacious and free-spirited soul.