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EDM Then & Now: Celebrating Black History Month

EDM Then & Now: Celebrating Black History Month

Did you know that most genres of EDM can be traced back to Black creators? House music was created by Black men in the late 1970s in New York and most notably- Chicago. Techno was born in Detroit in the 80s and became the sound of underground resistance, civic unrest and social change. Dubstep, Garage, Drum & Bass and Jungle all have roots in the Black community in the UK.

This Black History Month, we are honoring this history by educating and celebrating with our community. If you wanna learn more, you can read our brief history of EDM’s Black roots.

The Black community’s contributions to EDM and rave culture is not just in the past. There are a multitude of incredible artists who play and produce house to bass music and everything in between.

Speaking of house music, Carl Cox is arguably one of the most influential house music DJs in the world. He started DJing at 15 right around when house music was created and is most known for playing his “Music is Revolution” residency every summer for 15 years at the world famous Space Ibiza as well as hosting a stage at Ultra music festival. Honey Dijon, a Black transgender producer, is best known for her unique blend of dance music genres. She has also been nominated for the DJ Award for Best House Artist. Jamie Jones & MK are bringing a new version of house music to a bright-eyed generation of festival goers.

These days, you can’t find a lineup without tech-house mainstay Green Velvet. His signature green mohawk and funky sounds have given him a true cult status. Carl Craig, known for his blend of classic techno sounds and groovy beats, helped found the beloved Movement Festival in Detroit. We’d be amiss not to mention Seth Troxler who bounces around between house and techno but always leaves his signature flair.

Other notable Black house & techno artists include: Felix Da Housecat, Kerri Chandler, Mason Maynard, Gene Farris, and Octave One.

Cravin’ the bass? Look no further than these incredible artists who have made their mark on drum & bass, dubstep, riddim, trap, and so many more subgenres. Hailing from the UK, Benga was one of the pioneers of dubstep. His song, “Night”, is one of the most classic tracks around. SAYMYNAME, known as the godfather of hard trap, is known for his ability to create a real connection with the crowd. 12th Planet was one of the first people to bring dubstep culture to America. Since then he has continued to make waves with his releases and collaborated with some of the biggest artists in the world. A Hundred Drums is pretty new to the scene but she already shows major promise with her deep, tribal beats. From mind-bending performers and stunning visuals, TroyBoi’s shows are never one to miss as you never know what you’re gonna get.

Other notable Black bass artists include: Moore Kismet, YehMe2, DJ Diesel, Fransis Derelle, and Ace Aura.

The invaluable contributions of Black artists to EDM doesn’t stop with music. There is also a thriving rave and festival community made up of shufflers, event producers, flow artists and style icons. We asked some of of these people the following question:

How does your Black heritage tie into your love for rave culture? And/Or - Tell us your favorite track, or set memory from a Black EDM artist or public figure you admire.

@niasmilez

"Learning about rave culture has honestly been like a second awakening of my pride as a black woman. I have always been proud of who I am and my culture but learning about EDM just reinvigorated my passion for learning and enjoying music. Knowing that our influence is so prevalent in the culture today has also given me a resounding sense of pride. Raving has brought me close with so many amazing people, especially black women, who have changed my life in ways I can’t begin to describe. From start to finish raving has served as a way to bring me closer to people who can truly understand who I am and share joy with me." ~ Nia. 

@jadieboo_22

"One of my favorite sets from a Black EDM artist would have to be SAYMYNAME’s EDC LV 2019 set. Literally had the BEST time with my group. It was unreal!!" ~ Jade.

 

@cookievalentine

"My Black heritage ties into my love for rave culture by the type of music I gravitate towards and the way I express myself throughout the rave community. I am definitely a jack of all trades when it comes to dance music but the group that is near and dear to my heart is Major Lazer. Their afro beats inspired style married with electric dance music so beautifully. I've literally traveled damn near all over the world to see them perform. Vegas, Chicago, Bahamas and Mexico. I've learned so much about Africa and my roots by way of Major Lazer and their commitment to sharing other Black voices.



I've been in the rave scene for a pretty long time. About 12 years solid now and over the years I've seen the presence of black ravers increase over time. Whether people know me from working with artists, Ground Control (Oasis Squad !) Or doing makeup, I've been able to be a constant black fixture in the community and so many different young Black ravers tell me, I was the one that made them comfortable to come into the rave scene when there weren't too many of us out here living our best life!

My favorite memory was at 2018 EDC Orlando I was front row waiting for SAYMYNAME to come on and there were a group of young black ravers next to me about to leave. I jokingly said to them … You can't leave, SAYMYNAME is about to come on. They said they didn't listen to him before but would stay for the intro. SAYMYNAME came onto stage and she screamed. "Omg he's Black, go get my brother, he wants to be a DJ… hurry up go get him" and girl I almost cried on the spot. It's about representation.

People don't understand how important representation truly is" ~ Cookie.

@partyperryy

"My Black heritage is heavily tied into my rave culture. I love expressing myself by using bright, bold colors. Different Black culture hairstyles are being more and more incorporated in rave culture. It is amazing wearing colorful braids without any judgment. As a Black woman, our voices aren't heard, but as Black raver I have the confidence to make my voice heard. I have the strength to break stereotypes and truly be myself.



My favorite Black EDM artist is 12th Planet. He is definitely one of the pioneer artists for dubstep. The first time I saw him was EDC 2015. I have been a fan ever since! It's great seeing a Black artist especially in the bass sub genre. I absolutely love every artist on his record label, Smog. I have recently discovered Aluna. She is a great electric pop artist. Aluna is also very involved with amplifying Black voices." ~ Perry

@okjaniie

“Its all about respect , respect to the music, respect to the DJs, respect to the crowd, and respect to each other. Its all music, and music never separates people!” - Carl Cox


"Growing up in the Chicagoland area I was blessed with amazing artists and legends who shaped my music tastes. House and Techno music were staples in my house and the works of Carl Cox , Lady D , Green Velvet, and Paul Johnson shaped my love for the music.


With the evolution of electronic dance music it is easy to forget the African American men and women who pioneered the industry. I am forever grateful for them providing soulful music that can never be replicated, imitated, or replaced.
The pandemic has been long and scary and with shows and festivals on the horizon, this quote by Carl Cox rings true! We have to come back respectful , safe, and better than ever" ~ Janiie

@kyrstin_nicolexo

 

@tiarabreecosplay

"I love Honey Dijon. My fav set from her was her Boiler Room set in Berlin. I wish I could've been there. The whole room just looked like it was SUCH A VIBE. I like that she incorporates herself in her music. She's a Black trans woman and often samples some amazing influential people in Black history and I love her for it.

Being Black and into the rave culture is far from the norm it seems. But so am I. I love that house music has Black founders, and that Black culture influences a lot of rave, EDM and house music today. The way a lot of DJs infuse two different genres, like rap, hip hop, and trap music into EDM or House beats just resonates so much for me since it reminds me of the way I grew up, among two different cultures " ~ Tiara.

@amirra_boo

"Both my Black heritage and raving hold an incredibly dear place in my heart. Countless Black icons are to thank for the amazing genres of EDM that we have today and they deserve way more recognition than what they are currently getting. House music is my all time favorite. And when I listen to it, especially in a crowd, dancing with other people, it makes me feel so whole in ways I couldn’t understand. Black music artists have always been open to sharing their art with everyone. And it definitely has a way of unifying people from all corners of the world. That’s exactly what EDM has done. After continuously learning more about my culture (let’s be honest, I’ll never truly stop learning about it) as well as rave culture, all of the puzzle pieces fell right into place. EDM music IS Black heritage " ~ Amirra

@nefertiti_nef

"I think my love for raving actually inspired my love for myself and my blackness more. Growing up I lived in a place where black people aren’t everyone’s favorite and because of that it was hard to love myself. It was amazing to join a community where (even if not all the time) every body type, skin color, shape size etc is celebrated and praised. I found community in the Black EDM community like never before. Just seeing another black person at an event is enough to create an instant connection because it can be rare in some places but the feeling and connection you receive in the moment? Just vibing with someone who looks like you to music you both love goes unmatched and it amazing indescribable!

My favorite set memory from a Black EDM artist is seeing SAYMYNAME twice in one day on the final day of EDC Las Vegas 2019. Not only did I rage with some beautiful new humans, sufficiently break my neck and close EDC out with some much needed bass, SAYMYNAME also inspired the fuck out of me that day! To see a black artist play a festival as big and recognizable as EDC LV not one but two separate times was not only an amazing experience but an influential moment for me as well. To see someone who looks like me doing what I dream of doing some day was truly inspirational" ~ Meerah

@basslollipopp

Merging Blackness with Raving:

"With our blackness, we aim to reclaim the space. Being a black raver means representing our people. As black ravers we want to create a safe space for our community that's also inviting to all BIPOC. By putting our brand out there we hope to encourage more people into these spaces.

Coming into the rave community, there was a strive for assimilation into the culture. Listening to certain people, acting a certain way, and wearing certain things. Not to say that these behaviors were negative or forced but there was/is a norm. As we navigate raving as black women we see that BIPOC are often excluded from the rave community. Whether from self-hating ideologies that raving is only for white people or the fact that people of color are often the minority population at the event when you look at the numbers.



Recently, IHeartRaves posted some enlightening info on the foundations of EDM and how it was started by black artists. Black culture gave birth to EDM and its time we all understand that raving simply wouldn't exist without the black community. With that in mind, I see rave culture as part of our heritage. Our blackness is ubiquitous. It's in the way we dance to wubz, the outfits we wear, and the way we do our hair. My love for raving is synonymous with my blackness." ~ Day & Mad

@gigi_thedopest 

"My favorite moment was from Decadence 2019 when DJ Diesel came off the stage and moshed with us! 😍 I got it on video so I will cherish that memory forever!" ~ Gigi 

@aubriebony

"Growing up in Chicago, while the media paints a negative picture of our lower income communities, I remember a strong sense of unity. I remember block parties where we’d come together and eat, drink, dance as a community until it was shut down for whatever systemic reason. House music was huge in our community and it always had a fast tempo and people would just get together and dance. As you grow up, music tends to change and what you listen to as a teen is typically different than what you listen to as a child. So house music faded out of my life. It wasn’t until I discovered House Music at EDC Orlando and it took me to a place of unity. A place where I remember what it’s like to feel connected to people through music. And though Black Ravers are not as prevalent as other ethnicities or races, raves have and always will give me that sense of community that I felt as a kid listening to House Music at block parties." ~ Aubri

 @ravinglegs

Black Heritage & Rave Culture

The more I learn about the history of House, Disco, and Techno, the deeper into rave culture I find myself immersed. This music feels like home; it reminds me of the music my parents played when I was a child. It taught me the importance of patience because sometimes the best beat drops don’t happen until 4 minutes into a track. Discovering an old disco track I’ve never heard before or listening to a new house tune tugs at my soul in a special way. For years I struggled with this tug due to the erasure of the Black artists who started this work. I’m thankful for artists like Green Velvet, Aluna, and Honey Dijon who constantly work to ensure legends such as Frankie Knuckles, Chip E, and Farley “Jackmaster” Funk are never forgotten and receive the credit they deserve. As I got older, I learned that House, Disco, and Techno are Black music, and that’s why they’ve always felt like home.




Favorite memory:

My favorite memory from a Black artist was seeing Idris Elba at EDC Las Vegas in 2019. I knew of Elba the actor, but hadn’t heard about his production skills. This moment taught me that you don’t have to be just one thing, you can pursue all life has to offer. Shortly after EDC, I went to my first dance audition, booked the gig, and booked several more after that. I realized I didn’t have to fit into a narrow box of the person I was “supposed” to be, I had the power to go for any of my dreams, no matter how unrealistic they once felt. Dancing on festival stages ignited a new passion for life, a new way of being, and I will be forever grateful to Elba for leading by example.



Favorite Black songs:

  • “Show Me Love” by Robin S is one of my forever favorites. This song introduced House to the mainstream. With the strong vocals and beautifully accompanied instrumentals, this track will live on forever.
  • “Ballie” by Idris Elba and Kah-Lo is such a fun track. The super confident lyric’s from the “Sexiest Man Alive” always bring a cheeky smile to my face and the beat always gets me moving.
  • One of my favorite parts of every Green Velvet show is when we all get a chance to recite the lyrics to his “Voicemail.” It’s such a relatable song as I definitely have family members who leave those types of voicemails.
  • “Body Pump” by Aluna always makes me feel good about myself. It reminds me that life can still get my heart racing, and I can still feel sexy and powerful while moving.
  • At the top of the list of songs I could listen to on repeat all day sits Kaytranada’s take on Teedra Moses’s “Be Your Girl”. This tune about having a crush always makes my heart smile.
  • Honey Dijon’s “Not About You” always reminds me of the importance of community. Plus the funky beat brings out my best two step.
  • “Black Again” by Todd Terry rejects the mainstream repackaging of House music and reclaims it for the Black queer artist who started it and those still creating House music today.

We will be releasing a genre-based playlist of Black artists each week so watch this space. 

Enjoy the Origins of House Music by Cookie Valentine, Techno Tunes & Black EDM Artists on the Rise by the iHeartRaves team and Bass Music by Nia.Jayy.



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