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2019: the year in afropunk music stories

December 24, 2019
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Music is lifeblood of AFROPUNK — but you already knew that — and stories about music are what gets that blood pumping. In 2019, we found those stories all over the world, and all through the timeline — ours and history’s. We travelled from the imagined bygones of New York City to the future being cooked up in rural Jamaica, from punk-rap prodigies to theater music stalwarts, from London’s babylon the one nation under a groove. Backwards and forwards and all over again, our writers — staff, as well as contributors — paved the way. Then the DJs started telling their own stories too.

Follow the links to more of these great wordsmith’s great words (for AFROPUNK and elsewhere).

The list appears in chronological order.


Wanna Thompson, ARIANA GRANDE FOUND HER NEW ERA IN A CULTURE SHE KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT – When the pop singer abandoned her mainstream persona and began utilizing Black culture, the latest in a history of white performers attracted to Blackness in order to maintain their success, Wanna Thompson had something to say. (More by Wanna Thompson for AFROPUNK)

Nathan Leigh, THE AGONY AND ECSTASY OF A QUEER BAD BRAINS FAN – “I’m not able or willing to forgive the legendary hardcore band’s homophobic past. But cancelling them is asceticism, not justice.” (More by Nathan Leigh for AFROPUNK)

Grace Shutti, STILL BABYLON: WHY A CULT 1980 UK FILM REMAINS RELEVANT – Grace Shutti describes how London’s reggae soundsystem culture and the country’s endemic racism are at the heart of the acclaimed film that was finally released in America this year. (More by Grace Shutti for AFROPUNK)

DeForrest Brown Jr, DECOLONIZING TECHNO: NOTES FROM A BROOKLYN DANCE FLOOR – Techno is Black American music. But in attending Brooklyn’s Dweller Festival, DeForrest Brown Jr. asked the question: how does one celebrate Black underground artists and audience in a gentrified genre? (More by DeForrest Brown Jr for AFROPUNK)

Awa Gueye, BLACK UTOPIA ON A NEW YORK DANCE FLOOR – In this sexy piece of fan-fiction about her hometown, AFROPUNK staff writer  Awa Gueye imagined the legendary days of the city’s nightlife — cause ya can’t gentrify the power of our imaginations. (More by Awa Gueye for AFROPUNK)

Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

Zama Mdoda, SONGS IN THE DNA OF A YOUNG DEMOCRACY – Zama Mdoda wrote how South Africa’s musical landscape is filled with Black commercial and cult hits that brought a sense of unity to its new democracy. (More by Zama Mdoda for AFROPUNK)

Tym Stevens

Michael Gonzales, BLACK UTOPIA: THE FUNKADELIC ART OF PEDRO BELL – Michael Gonzales saluted the mastermind artist behind a set of album covers that helped create a new world, a few months before Bell passed away at the age of 69. (More by Michael Gonzales for AFROPUNK)

Mel D. Cole

Ericka Blount Danois, RAPHAEL SAADIQ IS A REAL ONE – From Tony! Toni! Tone! to Solange’s ‘A Seat at the Table’ through Grammys and Oscars, to AFROPUNK Paris, Ericka Blount Danois got close to one of music’s unsung icons (More by Ericka Blount Danois for AFROPUNK)

Toure, LIZZO IS THE STAR WE NEED RIGHT NOW – According to Toure, Lizzo is not simply a pop hitmaker, but an icon for self-love and -empowerment, for plus-size beauty and feminist sex positivity. (More by Toure for AFROPUNK)

Photo by Chris Graythen / Stringer / Getty Images

Piotr Orlov, WHAT WE MEAN WHEN WE SAY, “PRINCE WAS A REVOLUTIONARY” – On the occasion of what would have been Prince Rogers Nelson’s 61st birthday, AFROPUNK senior editor Piotr Orlov fired off a mandatory salute to the genius from Minneapolis. (More by Piotr Orlov for AFROPUNK)

George Johnson, MEGAN THEE STALLION AND HER REVOLUTIONARY KNEES – Our great columnist, George Johnson, wrote about how in 2019 the Houston rapper carried the weight of an entire hot girl movement. (More by George Johnson for AFROPUNK)

Brandon Callender, YOU THINK YOU KNOW ME: A CONVERSATION WITH JPEGMAFIA – In September, Peggy, the “Black Brian Wilson” (and AFROPUNK punk-rap favorite) talked with Brandon Callender about critics, closeted racists, and the flattening of Black expression for white consumption.

Jordan Chung, CHOPPA RISING: A HISTORY OF JAMAICAN TRAP DANCEHALL – Writer/musician Jordan Chung wrote about the coming of JA’s new sound, espoused by the likes of Rygin King and Squash, the product of rural parishes, Montego Bay traps, and scammers.

Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images

Timmhotep Aku, DEAD PREZ WAS RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING – AFROPUNK music editor Timmhotep Aku wrote how, back in 2000, the hip-hop duo’s debut, Let’s Get Free, gave the world a blueprint for revolution that remains just as relevant today. (More by Timmhotep Any for AFROPUNK)

Kiratiana Freelon, THE RISE AND FALL OF BAILE FUNK DJ, RENNAN DE PENHA – Our eyes and ears in Rio, Kiratiana Freelon wrote a short history Brazil’s great young beat music, how Rennan Santos da Silva reclaimed the music of the favelas, became a superstar, and a government target. (More by Kiratiana Freelon for AFROPUNK)

Christine Chambers

Toya A. Lillard, ‘FOR COLORED GIRLS…‘ COMPOSER MARTHA REDBONE WANTS YOU TO FIND THE GOD WITHIN – The composer/musician talks with Toya Lillard about her contribution to the revival of Ntozake Shange’s legendary play at New York’s Public Theater, and doing work that would make the late poet proud.

AFROPUNK MIXTAPES – Some of our best music stories were not constructed from written, but out of the great tracks put out by all the musicians we love and cover. More monthly.

AFROPUNK DJ MIXES – Some of our best storytellers were not writers, but DJs, who contributed to the “An AFROPUNK Mix” series we launched in 2019. More weekly.