2017 was the year of the independent artist, or at least it was in my world. Those artists, writers, poets, and other DIY creators who made major moves and made the world rethink things from the ground up without a big record label or agency behind them; those are the artists that made 2017 an unforgettable year.
Atlanta artist TAYLOR ALXNDR refuses to be placed in any box, and 2017 was the year they showed us exactly what that means. Community organizer, drag artist, indie singer, and designer, TAYLOR ALXNDR’s artistry can be described as electric, making 2017 like a small storm leaving us excited for more lightning to come in 2018. As a drag artist, Taylor’s name garnered great buzz in the underground southern queer scene, with regular performances in Atlanta and Durham, South Carolina, including hosting a monthly drag show at one of Atlanta’s most popular bars. Their debut single “Nightwork” and accompanying music video, which explores the darker and tiring side of drag, was featured in OUT Magazine in June, and since then they’ve released several more singles and music videos, including a three song EP “NOISE.” Along with all of this, Taylor is a community organizer and co-founder of Southern Fried Queer Pride, a queer and trans arts/advocacy organization and festival that uplifts Southern TLGBQ artists and activists.
When two Black women come together to organize free political education, you know it’s going to be lit. And that’s exactly what it was when writers, organizers, and artists Bilphena Yahwon and Nnennaya Amuchie held their For Black Girls Considering Womanism Because Feminism Is Not Enuf workshop in november. Bilphena is the owner and curator of Goldwomyn.com, a platform made to provide space to creators and thinkers of color, and is a womanist writer and social justice advocate whose work in 2017 covered race, gender, and the immigrant experience. Nnennaya is a reproductive justice attorney, prison abolitionist organizer, and writer who published her debut poetry collection Ako na Uchein March. Separately, the two women are advocates/organizers who spent 2017 putting in tons of work, but a highlight from the year is the womanism workshop where Black women/femmes came together to discuss the origins, history, geographic expressions, and artistic expressions of womanism.
9. Kevin Abstract, Brockhampton, and Hip-Hop’s Turning Point
This year we made a lot of room for creative weirdness to flourish in hip-hop, in ways that we haven’t really seen since the days of Outkast’s supreme reign. And, helping lead this charge of beautiful weirdness was hip-hop collectiveBrockhampton,led by rapper Kevin Abstract, that went from small underground buzz to full on internet sensation after the release of their first albumSaturationin June. The success and critical acclaim ofSaturation, which was followed bySaturation 2andSaturation 3shortly after, eventually lead to Brockhampton having their very own TV show on VIceland titledAmerican Boyband, which followed their adventures touring and recording music. Their music is at the forefront of a movement seeking to redefine hip-hop, approach it from new and fresh angles, and challenge normal conventions of queerphobia within hip-hop music as well.
10.When Khia Says “Next Case,” She Means NEXT CASE
There is no way I could round out this list praising independent, underground, and DIY artists without shouting out rapper and songwriter Khia, who has spent the past 15 years putting out over 8 albums as an independent artist. Khia, along with co-host TS Madison, spent the better half of 2017 being, well, messy. Her popular internet talk show “The Queen’s Court” became an internet staple, garnering over 300,000 view per episode as Khia reads celebrities and their drama to filth. What makes the show so sensational, aside from its hilarity, is that Khia has 15 years of industry experience and wisdom that she laces her shade with, and it comes across clearly in the ways she discusses people. In December, Khia placed the show on iTunes as a podcastand within 24 hours it shot up to the #1 ranking on the iTunes podcast chart. When it comes to independent artistry, Khia is an underrated big dog in the game who has spent years delivering club anthems, and now she’s making us laugh, too.