Author: Karl Galloway
February is Black History Month, and we’re diving into some of our favorite music by Black North Carolinians, whose colossal influence cannot be overstated; from Roberta Flack to 9th Wonder, Betty Davis to J Cole, our state is both nursery and megaphone for a wide range of Black music.
On this playlist, Etta Baker honors folk legend, John Henry, with her unique style, and Kooley High shares an ode to Raleigh, a scene that lifted Rapsody, a Snow Hill native who now holds down tracks with hip hop legend Kendrick Lamar while sharing her own powerful story.
Other featured artists made ripples from small ponds. Out of Kinston, NC, Chitlin’ Circuit regular and saxophonist Maceo Parker helped create a community within a society that largely rejected a Black person performing freely and fully embodied in their art.
A brilliant musician and student of history, Rhiannon Giddens champions the story of the banjo’s African origins, driving home the argument that American music is also African music, and reminds us of the sacrifices, humor, and genius of early enslaved Black artists, who performed painfully racist caricatures of themselves in the minstrel shows whose tunes still echo today. Rissi Palmer is driving a modern re-examination of country music, simultaneously shattering stereotypes of the genre’s heroes and challenging the structures that earned them.
Rocky Mount, Tryon, and Hamlet were early homes to Monk, Simone, and Coltrane, who left their titanic fingerprints on yet another indisputably American form, jazz.
Across communities and genres, Black artists from North Carolina have left an indelible mark on their respective genres and continue to do so, driving culture in the United States, and globally.
Enjoy this playlist featuring just a few of NC’s greats. Join us in celebrating Black Music in North Carolina this, and every month.