In this volume of my Black Experimental Music Mixtape series, I didn’t include Jimi Hendrix or Prince, because I wanted to share contemporary and/or lesser known artists like Heroes Are Gang Leaders and Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber. These artists belong to a lineage of soul, free jazz, funk, and experimental Black music that extends back to the ‘50s and 60s—and, in some instances, back to before music was even recorded.
Black Experimental Music is a form of expression that can reinvent itself without losing its basis in the African American (and Black International) artistic ethos that permeates early predecessors like Lead Belly and Lightnin Hopkins. But before we go that far back, we begin this mix with D’Angelo, an artist’s whose music will never get old. From there, Sly & the Family Stone’s “Africa Talks to You (“The Asphalt Jungle”)” explores what it means to be from an ancient time, yet living in the mean streets of present-day urban chaos. FKA twigs’ “Water Me” is a haunting, hollowed ballad, while Cassandra Wilson’s interpretation of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” is a song my mother used to play on car rides when I was a little girl. Black Spirituals finishes off this collection with a track that resembles a futuristic, minimalist Sun Ra, bringing elements of sound art and electro-acoustic noise to the forefront of current underground Black music.