Written by Raphael Helfand
June 19, 2020, marks the 155th anniversary of the day the enslaved people of Texas (the most remote Confederate state) were finally made aware of their freedom. Though Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years earlier, and many Black Americans in the south remained in de facto slavery for years afterwards, Juneteenth has become an unofficial national holiday, celebrated universally in Black communities but unknown in most white ones.
This year, as protests of the USA’s corrupt, racist police system continue unabated, white America—liberal white America, at least—has been rushing to learn more about Black culture and, for the most part, has become aware of Juneteenth. Major, public-facing corporations, always quick to pay lip service to social justice issues, are largely giving their employees the day off. It’s a nice and necessary gesture, but it’s the bare minimum.
The music industry has toed the same line. Companies such as Warner Media and Sony Music have made Juneteenth a paid holiday, and Spotify has pledged to dedicate their New Music Friday playlist to Black artists, today through the 26th. This is the right thing to do and will undoubtedly help some Black artists promote new music that normally would have been drowned out by white musicians with better PR teams. Still, it’s an empty gesture, as it doesn’t actually cost Spotify anything. Apple Music has been completely silent about the holiday. In fact, the only way Apple has acknowledged Juneteenth at all is by adding it to their Calendar app.
As usual, Bandcamp is the only streaming platform putting its money where it’s proverbial mouth is. Throughout the COVID crisis, Bandcamp has set aside two days per month to waive their already low profit share (15 percent for digital content, 10 percent for physical merch), giving the artists 100 percent of their sales. Fans have flocked to the site in record numbers on these days to give their favorite working musicians a much-needed boost. Today, Bandcamp is donating its share again, but this time to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Now more than ever, it’s essential to support the Black artists who continue to shape American culture, as they have for over a century. Below are 100+ of my favorite albums by Black musicians, composers, DJs, singers, rappers and bands currently available on Bandcamp.
In case you’d rather not rely on a 25-year-old white guy to tell you which Black art to consume, Deforrest Brown, Jr., who runs Make Techno Black Again, has a much longer and more thorough (though still not completely comprehensive) list of Black artists and labels on Bandcamp, hosted on his linktree. I referenced his list while compiling mine. [Last night, Bandcamp launched Blackbandcamp.info, a crowd-sourced, browsable list of Black artists on the site that also seems to draw extensively from Brown, Jr.’s master doc.]
I hope anyone reading this who isn’t immunocompromised or living with immunocompromised relatives will be out protesting today. But when you get home, get on Bandcamp and “open thy heart/wallet,” as the site says when you’ve listened to an album too many times for free. The event runs until 3 a.m. Happy Juneteenth, and happy listening. Black lives matter.
Mardi Gras Indians rap crew with a Bone Thugs vibe.
Atmospheric synth-based Atlanta R&B.
Beats that belong in your favorite videogame.
New Orleans rapper with an old school sensibility and an unmatched work ethic.
Otherworldly spiritual free jazz, one of the best albums this year so far.
One restructuralist king plays the music of another.
Slow, old school Atlanta hip-hop featuring some of Awful Records’ best
No-nonsense bars, glitchy beats, hits the spot.
Dean Blunt’s radiant cool.
Transcendent, operatic vocals and film score instrumentation from a true legend.
High-octane metal rap.
Armand Hammer rapper goes in on some more traditional instrumentation.
Screams alternate with sweetly sung vocals, metal guitars pop out from behind swamp soul synths.
Buzzing synths over club beats, pulling from Baltimore, Tokyo, Chicago and New Orleans.
The latest alt-neosoul record from the (predictably) angel-voiced Dev Hynes.
Grimy London breakbeats.
Spastic beats make nerdy raps sound cool.
A hit-filled best of, feat. badass bars over club beats.
Deep house instrumentals, Barry White bars
Breezy summer instrumentals under a deep rapping voice that blossoms into a beautiful falsetto at a moment’s notice.
Future trumpet jazz.
Found sound, spacey samples, conversational raps.
(Predictably) funky soul-based west coast house.
Post-bop-inspired beats, freestyle bars, free jazz saxophone and musings from a living legend.
Hard-hitting bayou hip-hop.
Best New Orleans synth pop.
(Ironically) Portland-based electrofunk.
Legendary Philly jazz-hop trio 2017 reunion show.
Chicago footwork pioneer back at work.
The origins of Portuguese batida.
More batida with chilled out synths over the top.
More Chicago footwork with a sardonic sense of humor.
Abrasive Philly club, descending from the slightly less chaotic Baltimore scene.
Droning vocals over ambient trap beats, regular at New Orleans’s Banks St. Bar.
Armand Hammer beatmaker produces, raps, gets weird.
(Predictably) spacey record from Awful Records standout.
Absolute smut per usual from the founder of Awful Records.
Minimalist, futuristic house from Philly’s King Britt
Weirdo ambient folk from Atlanta, not to be confused with Frankie Cosmos, who is also great.
Chaotic punk rockers asking politely for you to buy their album on Bandcamp, painful listening.
Addictive uptempo NYC techno, on pre-order (out 7/10).
Chicago post-punk drenched in reverb, on pre-order (out 7/17).
Free jazz with a punk ethos.
Orchestral cubana horrorcore.
Berlin techno meets Chicago house.
Dance music from Dev Hynes’s equally angel-voiced Blood Orange collaborator.
Heartbreakingly simple singer-songwriter.
A potpourri of drone, hip-hop, soul, opera, etc… truly wild.
Album of the year contender, controlled free-jazz chaos, spoken word poetry from Moor Mother.
Gregorian chori, John Carpenter synths, room tone, what could be better?
Hype-rreferential neosoul, rich production, beautiful singing.
Euro house that’s got harmonies and doesn’t suck, for once.
Everyone’s favorite silly/serious rap duo, back with a cute EP about the end of days.
A hot mess of an album from the Internet’s favorite rapper.
Faded, sample-packed neo-soul.
Club synths under heavenly R&B vocals.
The king of lo-fi backpacker beats, the guy who was replacing vowels with the letter X before it was cool, delivers again.
Fingerpicked folk from New Orleans.
London’s most lyrical emcee pulls no punches.
Creepy Berlin electronics.
Quebecois future jazz.
Industrial screamo you can dance to.
Nobel-worthy spoken word poetry, panoramic sound quilting.
Two new tracks from the Hendrix of the Sahara that, of course, rip.
Jazzy beats under slow, pensive Brooklyn bars.
Deep-voiced story rapper stays true to his tricks, spitting wisdom over blissed out beats.
Beautifully tragic tale told piecemeal by New York’s most thoughtful emcee, fractured production from Standing on the Corner. New album Weight of the World out 6/21 but not yet available for pre-order on Bandcamp.
Top-notch NYC rave music.
A moving new protest track from the usually lighthearted bass virtuoso. Also check out My Feelings Be Peeling from last year.
One of last year’s best albums from a Detroit techno deity.
Cosmic journey through Moor Mother’s mystic poetry and Meander’s disconcerting soundscapes.
Righteous grindcore from Pheonix, AZ.
Passionate soul experiments with strikingly heavy accompaniment.
Essential listening for the revolution, a beautiful document of intense suffering. See also, Reckoning, one of last year’s best albums.
Channels the energy of Mykki’s kinetic live show, melodramatic beats, vocals soaked in autotune.
The rapper fka Spank Rock is back with a much rawer, more meditative sound. Interview with Laid Off NYC out tomorrow!
Dynamic new record from the queen of Portuguese batida.
Formerly the best nerdcore hip-hop had to offer, now singing falsetto over slippery beats that range from strummed acoustic guitar to synth drones.
Hip-hop’s hyper-intellectual voice of reason, evidenced by her current beef with J. Cole.
Slow, mournful London soul
Second best live show on Planet Earth, also essential listening for the movement, better heard than described.
Scene veteran spinning story raps over slightly off-kilter old school beats.
Homegrown Brooklyn funk/soul outfit doing what they’re best at. See also, Phony Ppl backing Megan Thee Stallion for her tiny desk concert.
The Chrises unite for an understated but hard-hitting hour-long saga. See also, Quelle Chris’s much more deranged Guns record from last year.
A posthumus addition to the late great beatsmith’s prolific canon, out today!
A sleek, updated take on Chicago footwork.
Carefree soul beats underscore hopeful, delightfully nasal rapped and sung vocals, from a different era (9 months ago).
Theatrical vocals tell stories of heartbreak of equally dramatic, juicy production.
Prince meets vaporwave.
Splinter samples provide the template for profound musings, jump scares, shoutouts to Steve Reich, and a Sun Ra diss from an ex-member of the Standing on the Corner crew.
Snippets of conversation, drones, mic hiss, static, and other spliced oddities merge to form a tearjerker of an ambient record.
Surprise Juneteenth release from Speaker Music (Deforrest Brown, Jr.), protest techno
Third best live show on Planet Earth, New Orleans’s best and only no wave band, brand new album today and it absolutely shreds all the way through.
Lush, stuttering R&B, complimented by a versatile violin.
The purest of southern soul by long-standing luminary Jerry Williams, Jr. (b. 1942).
Hypnotically jittery club music from Cuba.
More Euro deep house that’s actually good! Maybe white people were the problem all along.
Mesmerising tuareg guitar music from Mali.
Uppace Detroit techno that’s impossible to sit down to.
Uplifting indie rock with a sad silver lining.
DIY D.C. hip-hop that reminds me what I used to love about Soundcloud rap.
Super-smooth jazz vocals over tight grooves.
Genre-bending, Prince-indebted future pop, album of the year contender.
Danny Brown apostle who, like his mentor, has mellowed and mature with time, but retains the spark that keeps his music exciting.
Get to know Raphael better, @raphael_helfand for all his latest stories.