By Margaret Welsh and Charlie Deitch
Back in April, Bandcamp announced that, in an act of support for artists financially impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, they would be waving their cut of any sales on the First Fridays in May, June and July. That’s not chump-change: On Friday, May 1st, music fans spent $7.1 million dollars on the site. Then, earlier this week, Bandcamp announced that on Juneteenth (June 19th), they’ll be donating their entire share of profits to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Obviously, this month is a great time to put money into Pittsburgh’s communities of color, and a great way to do that is to support black artists. So we put together a lil list of some of our favorite local musicians: please consider buying their music today! This is by no means comprehensive — feel free to add anyone we missed in the comments section — but hopefully, it will provide a jumping-off point.
Regular readers of the Current know we’re big fans of rapper PK Delay. The stunningly prolific artist spent 2019 releasing a song every day for 365 days, and then in an act of true non-attachment, deleted almost all of them. On May 25, he released Life on Expert, which showcases his steady growth as an MC and as a writer.
An incredibly accomplished composer, flutist and educator, Nicole Mitchell grew out of Chicago’s avant-garde scene in the early ’90s. In addition to founding the Black Earth Ensemble, Black Earth Strings, Sonic Projections, and Ice Crystal, she was the first woman president of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and is currently the director of jazz studies at Pitt. Pre-order Earthseed, a tribute to the work of Octavia E. Butler, which Mitchell recorded in collaboration with Lisa E. Harris (the official release date is June 22). Or pick up one of Mitchell’s other exquisite Afrofuturistic explorations, including her powerful live collaboration with Philadelphia’s Moor Mother at Le Guess Who? in Utrecht.
If you haven’t checked out INEZ yet, well, where have you been? The multi-instrumentalist/producer/audio-engineer/singer-songwriter’s debut full-length, Voicemails and Conversations, garnered lots of attention when it came out last December, and rightly so. A rich, wise collection of chill neo-soul and gorgeous r&b, this record is an ear-grabber from front to back.
Shade Cobain has been kicking around in the Pittsburgh hip-hop scene for a long time. In the ’90s, he was known for his freestyle MC skills (something he learned at home, when his mom and step-dad would freestyle-battle each other), and later he became a producer. You’ll find a lot to choose from on his Bandcamp, but his most recent release, a mostly instrumental, boom-bap-heavy EP called The Kevin Benson Forecast, is a fun place to start
Andrew Muse makes soulful indie pop characterized by vulnerability and tenderness. He’s a poet and crooner with an ear for slightly unconventional song-structures, which brings to mind the delicate art-rock of artists like Xiu Xiu and Dirty Projectors.
You already know we’re all big fans of neo-soul singer-songwriter/rapper Clara Kent. And, I mean, who isn’t? But did you know she has a new mixtape, due out June 14? The 4 Winds: East is available for preorder. While you’re there, grab 2018’s Aura.
Independent hip-hop label Driving While Black, which includes Jordan Montgomery, Livefromthecity and JM the Poet, is currently donating funds from all sales to Black Lives Matter initiatives around the country. All three of these artists are worth your time and money: you can get started by checking out JM the Poet’s brand new track, “Tomorrow.”
It’s been two years since Mars Jackson released new music. He wasn’t working on new songs, but rather sent most of that time getting his mind right and dealing with personal issues that he told the Current about last month. His new single is called Look Up and that’s exactly what you should do to his new song.