This Shit Is For Us: Black Diaspora Women Rule New York City's Underground Music Scene (2023)

USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism released a study exposing the lack of diversity in the music industry. In 2017, 83.2% of artists were male and just 16.8% were female, and the year continued a six-year downward trajectory for female artists. Of the 651 farmers in the study, 98 percent of them were men. See where this is going? Breaking into popular culture can be difficult, but with the rise of platforms like TIDAL, Spotify, Bandcamp and Soundcloud, plus Instagram's easy-to-use interface and endless opportunities for interaction, indie musicians have had, over the last five years, more access and opportunities in the world of underground music.

You could argue that New York City is losing its creative class (gentrification is a big component of that argument, especially when DIY places close every two weeks), but the underground is still alive and thriving thanks to women and men. DJ. singers, dancers, event producers and their loyal fans. The same artists who are intentionally and perpetually excluded from the music industry are the ones who control the alternative side. Whether you're debuting your tracks at New York Fashion Week or performing on Sway in the Morning, meet 13 Black women from across the diaspora you need to hear right now.—Shaira Chaer

  • María "La Cotto" Quiñones, singer and dancer (Puerto Rican)

    This Shit Is For Us: Black Diaspora Women Rule New York City's Underground Music Scene (1)

    Music gives me a freedom that I don't necessarily find in other forms of art that I do, like acting or dancing. When it comes to my music, it's about my word and my world. My music defines who I am and how I feel. It's a big responsibility, because when you write and sing your own music, it's like you're talking about yourself.

    As a freelance artist, it takes a lot of work to do it yourself. I always keep in mind the message that I am sending with my music and the energy that I am willing to give, so that the type of scene that I am pursuing is in line with that. I'm not really trying to be anywhere just to be famous. There is a certain reputation that I represent as my own logo. As the date of my first solo release approaches, I'm learning a lot more about how to handle myself properly. For now, social networks and word of mouth are the ways to promote my work. —La Cotto

    To learn more about La Cotto, you can follow her onFacebook.

  • XHOSA, singer-songwriter and rapper-producer (African-American)

    This Shit Is For Us: Black Diaspora Women Rule New York City's Underground Music Scene (2)

    My sound spans many different genres, so I find myself traveling in many circles and scenes. I perform a lot in the city and that has allowed me to connect with so many artists and people within this industry. I got a lot of support because I think music listeners are looking to be encouraged by female artists these days. Hip-hop has an air of confidence and unapologetic that is radical coming from women. In many ways, creating a hip-hop track has made me a stronger person and a stronger artist, and I don't think I would have fully expressed myself if I had continued my training as a singer-songwriter.

    I would say a big moment for me was when I released my single "Let me Go" through Doom Dab. The song premiered through FADER and a week later I wrote about it in Vogue. Releasing this song in general was very important to me because it was so emotionally charged and it felt so good to be affirmed in that way after making myself vulnerable to the world. The music scene has empowered me in so many ways. He taught me to always trust my instincts. I also learned to never look outside of myself for approval and that my talents are what really lead me to the opportunities that exist for me. —XHOSA

    To know more about XHOSA, you can follow her onGoremiInstagram.

  • Suzi Analogue, producer and songwriter (African-American)

    This Shit Is For Us: Black Diaspora Women Rule New York City's Underground Music Scene (3)

    Growing up as a musician has shaped my creative process and made me realize just how connected the world is. I am a global citizen and my music and art reflect the imagination of the people I have met around the world. My journey has been exciting and one of taking risks and making things happen.

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    I listen to anything under the sun, strive to learn as much as I can, and always remain open to pushing the boundaries of sound culture. Doing so leads me to transformative moments like creating and performing the live soundtrack for CHROMAT's Spring/Summer 18 NYFW show. I appreciate the lessons I learned from being considered the underdog from the start. It made me able to shape my own world in music. —Suzi Analog

    To know more about Suzi Analogue, you can follow her onGoremiInstagram.

  • Nitty Scott, rapper (AfroPuerto Rican)

    This Shit Is For Us: Black Diaspora Women Rule New York City's Underground Music Scene (4)

    I am a barrier breaker. I open the boxes created for young women, black and brown, queer and creative, and create a space within the culture for us. I navigate seeing obstacles as opportunities and turning them into victories for the communities I represent.

    My journey as a woman in hip-hop is truly an amazing story for me. I did not enter the game ready to crush the patriarchy, with internalized misogyny running rampant and my authentic voice dying to be heard. I think I went from being a disempowered and somewhat “pleaser with the show” woman to a radical, strong and consummate woman in total control of my art. The world has seen me grow, evolve and be super transparent about the process.

    I'm not much of an "on stage" person other than spending time with my fans at shows. I get involved and make my appearances, but I'm super introverted and unsociable when it comes to my work. I also value a bit of mystery. I have to be free to wallow in my head for a while when I create. Sometimes I even call myself a Sade rap game because I don't try to be too productive either; I prefer to have my periods of intense creativity where I create something with real passion and quality, and then disappear to live life and be inspired again. I know it's the antithesis of how most artists move these days, but I'm a slow cooker bitch, not a drive-thru.

    I've had a lot of milestones over the years, but I think doing BET Cypher really put me on the map for a lot of people. I was the #1 trending topic and all. It was great for an independent baby. —nitty scott

    To learn more about Nitty Scott, you can follow her onGoremiInstagram.

  • Karen "DJ Kaykay47" Louviere, social DJ-trabajadora (afroamericana)

    This Shit Is For Us: Black Diaspora Women Rule New York City's Underground Music Scene (5)

    People look at me in horror when I say I'm a DJ. Especially the younger ones. People don't expect a woman to be behind the plate or controlling the music like in any other scene or setting. Hip-hop is such a male-dominated culture, so I have to continue to shine by being a bold, authentic, risk-taking leader.

    I grew up a few blocks from where Kool Herc lived and close to Cedar Park. I am also fortunate to have been a member of the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective, where I learned about the fundamentals of hip-hop culture and its connection to social justice. I also remember that I am still a hip-hop student! I learn something new every day. I dream of opening a hip-hop community center in the Bronx for young and old to learn DJ skills and other elements of hip-hop like b-boy/b-girling, MCing, and graffiti. By learning these skills, people will also engage in popular education on many issues of oppression and how hip-hop is a tool of resistance.

    As a social worker and empath from the Bronx, I love playing music that makes people feel good. Music that will make people dance and feel happy. Music that would make people feel free. Music that will give you goosebumps. I always like to cater to the crowd. So, before a show, I check with the person who booked me to get an idea of ​​what kind of genre and/or theme they want me to play. I create a playlist of songs based on the query and then play additional songs based on my intuition and the energy of the crowd. I see myself as a healer; GMs are healers! —DJ Kaykay47

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    To know more about DJ Kaykay47, you can follow her onGoremiInstagram.

  • Sabine Blaizin, DJ-Producer and event curator (Haitian)

    This Shit Is For Us: Black Diaspora Women Rule New York City's Underground Music Scene (6)

    I bring my entire being to the music scene: woman of African descent with Haitian roots, voodoo priestess, DJ, unapologetic in my Black Girl Magic. In an industry that is predominantly male in leading roles, it was important to me to name my business Oyasound (Oya refers to the Yoruba Nigerian warrior goddess, guardian of the ancestral realm) and not conform to the societal norms and expectations of a “female” DJ. .

    My events and bookings reflect my sensitivity and exploration of the richness and vastness of our African Diaspora music, from traditional sounds to electronic experimentation. Oyasound Productions presents artists, music and events that highlight the intersections of cultures around the African diaspora through the syncretism of traditional rhythms and electronic music.

    I speak openly about any injustice against female DJs. I also fully represent myself and work...ultimately the skills, passion and movement of the crowd is proof beyond gender binaries that no matter what your gender is, it cannot be disproved . The goal is to stay focused and have a strong spiritual foundation to fight hate and negative energy. The feminine principle is essential for any genre or musical movement to be sustained in front of or behind the scenes. Oyasound is in charge. —Sabine Blaizin

    To know more about Sabine Blaizin, you can follow her onGoremiInstagram.

  • Cipherella, musical artist (Afro-European)

    This Shit Is For Us: Black Diaspora Women Rule New York City's Underground Music Scene (7)

    I am like a thief in the night. I sit discreetly in the back, watching what is delivered. Every once in a while I pop up for attention and then dive back into my understated motif. I sail testing the waters, so to speak, to see what I can do.

    I have learned to avoid those male partners with ulterior motives, who are more interested in what my body has to offer than my mind. I've learned that sex sells, but the bars are going to make you respect them. I can't say that the trip was limited in its teachings/opportunities. In fact, I experimented with open doors because I'm a woman with a sharp tongue, and commercially it's a rarity. So I'm almost like a unicorn and people want to see unicorns.

    In the last year, I have launched only two audiovisual projects, both with numerous awards, national and international. I've also been treated to Sway in the Morning, Five Fingers of Death Freestyle on Fridays and back to the Doomsday Cypher. I was introduced to and started working with platinum/Grammy winning producers... I'm not sure if I had the highlight, but it definitely ruined my resume for 2019.

    I've learned that I walked away from popular music because it doesn't sound like I need it to heal. The underground scene shaped me into the best version of myself that I can be. The underground is more egalitarian and diverse that you have to be genuinely yourself to be recognized. Ironically, it's also safe ground that allows you to peel back those layers and get to the root of what you want to say. It helped my journey by challenging my creativity. Pushing me. Never settle. I'm always like, "What's next?" —Cipherella

    To know more about Cipherella, you can follow her onGoremiInstagram.

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  • Dion "Tygapaw" McKenzie, DJ-Artista visual (jamaicano)

    This Shit Is For Us: Black Diaspora Women Rule New York City's Underground Music Scene (8)

    The underground queer club scene has had a significant impact on my producing career and really feels like my home base. Historically, the music scene has not been the most supportive environment for women, specifically black women. It can be isolating. Throughout my career, I have worked very hard with limited resources, knowing that you will never be paid your value without representation.

    What I learned is that in order to have an impact, we need to create our own platforms to accommodate the communities we advocate for and serve. I learned to work under these restrictions early on, but it didn't stop me from serving gay black women, it just made my hustle more intense. —Tygapaw

    For more information on Tygapaw, you can follow her onGoremiInstagram.

  • DJ Bembona, DJ-Activist (Puerto Rican-Panamanian)

    This Shit Is For Us: Black Diaspora Women Rule New York City's Underground Music Scene (9)

    I will always be a work in progress and will keep learning forever. I think it's important that people are aware of that. There will always be challenges and issues in any male-dominated field, but as us women, female-identifying and non-binary people working to dismantle the patriarchal system, I will not let these challenges stop me from doing what I was born to do. do.

    I have the immense privilege of witnessing and being a part of New York's nightlife and activist communities that are laying the groundwork for the future that we want to see, and it's absolutely beautiful. In just a few years as a DJ, I've learned a lot about self-love and brotherhood. For me, especially as a woman, these are two of the most vital ingredients for thriving in whatever field you're a part of. Building, creating, growing, and supporting women, including non-binary and female-identifying people, inside and outside of your industry is everything. Knowing that I am continually working on myself, knowing that I have the full support of my sisters, is what makes the journey that much more incredible. In the words of Princess Nokia, "These little doo-doo kids, they can get up and go." The future is female, cunt!

    Many of the opportunities that I am grateful to receive have served and continue to serve as springboards for my personal and professional growth. One specific moment of escape that will be forever etched in my memory is when I opened Bomba Estéreo, on two consecutive nights at Irving Plaza. The feeling was indescribable! Just to say, as an Afro-Latino DJ, I was able to play “F Trump” (by Mighty Mark & ​​TT The Artist) to over a thousand people, mostly brown or white Latinos, with the production team from Irving, mostly whites. , it was fucking amazing. Having the audience join me as we yelled "F*CK DONALD TRUMP!" as we waved our middle fingers in the air, it was definitely one of the few moments on those nights where I knew I was put on this planet to do this. I am here to serve as a piece of the puzzle to dismantle this ugly system.

    As a born and raised New Yorker (Brooklyn, all day!), I'm so thankful to live in a city where you can really hear just about anything. I grew up listening to salsa, Motown, merengue, pop, etc. I had my years as an instrumentalist and really got into classical music and jazz. Now as a DJ, I discovered so many other genres and sounds that I fell deeply in love with (Afrobeat, dance funk, and dembow, to name a few), that all these experiences with music, and just living in New York alone, made me artist that I am You can never run out of inspiration living in New York. The music scene continued to push me to work harder, to create, to support my fellow DJs/artists in whatever field. As I always say, my biggest inspiration is the people around me: my powerful and talented friends, the amazing DJs and artists that I can proudly say, "I'm in this scene with you!" -DJ Bembona

    To know more about DJ Bembona, you can follow her onGoremiInstagram.

  • Synead Nichols, cantautora (Trinity)

    This Shit Is For Us: Black Diaspora Women Rule New York City's Underground Music Scene (10)

    I do my best to stay away from bullshit and energy suckers, keep the positive energy flowing constantly and always find ways to get inspired. To be honest, I'm surrounded by really talented people who I'm lucky enough to call friends. They often push me beyond my limits and encourage me to explore many facets of myself.

    As time went on and I spent more time advancing my various art forms, I gained more confidence and felt more assertive about my place. I feel like my most impactful moment was when I started organizing Millions March NYC. That was a great moment not only in my life, but in the lives of many other people. I am solidified. —Sinead

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    To learn more about Synead, you can follow her onGoremiInstagram.

  • Latasha Alcindor, hip-hop performance artist (Panamanian, Puerto Rican, Haitian, Jamaican)

    This Shit Is For Us: Black Diaspora Women Rule New York City's Underground Music Scene (11)

    I try to be as honest as possible with myself and my followers about my journey. I got into music really at the hand of a higher power and I never forget it, so my mission in getting into music has always been to grow and give my truest self over time. I dedicated my art to my story in the hope that it might inspire others to tell theirs. I truly believe that our stories create the history of our town, or the history of our town.

    The scene has been challenging to navigate as I have had a lot to learn as an independent artist. I started without a team, just wanting to make music and experiences. And a lot of times, as a black woman, I've had a lot of resistance in my honesty and attitude, and that made me go back to the beginning of my career out of fear. I was told that I didn't fit the mold of a female hip-hop artist doing this, and so I had to decide that she would do it my way. The scene is what I decided to do, and now I'm cultivating a world for myself and others to feel safe in being true to their cause. My cause has always been to tell the story of my world and being, and through this journey I have discovered that this work is beyond me. This is our connection to divinity, this is our magic. —LATASHA

    To know more about LATASHA, you can follow her onGoremiInstagram.

  • Jada "JADALAREIGN" Haitoff, DJ (afroamericana, branca)

    This Shit Is For Us: Black Diaspora Women Rule New York City's Underground Music Scene (12)

    I navigate the music scene while staying true to myself and my creative identity. The music scene in New York City is filled with diverse and incredibly talented musicians and artists of all stripes. After years of navigating the industry and much trial and error, I have found that being true to my creative self puts me in a league of my own and aligns me with opportunities that match my true passion and purpose. I have become an adaptable and well-rounded artist. It has taught me a lot of patience. It challenged and inspired me to create to my fullest potential, but also commanded me to stay focused on my own pursuits. It has taught me to work hard, be humble and always keep the essence of who I am in everything I do.

    I started DJing in 2015 after a 10 year hiatus from music. I grew up in a very musical family and sang and played various instruments growing up, but I gave up music in high school to focus on visual arts and design. Although it's only been three short years, the scene is constantly evolving. I think the most striking difference is the number of women in non-traditional roles in music: ie DJs, producers, rappers, independent singers, engineers, musicians, etc. And not just women, but women of color and LGBTQ women. Little by little the scene is making room for us. Don't get me wrong, music is still a male dominated industry and we haven't achieved equal representation yet, however we are taking our power back and the scene is paving the way. It's nice. I just hope we can continue on this trajectory.—JADALAREIGN

    To know more about JADALAREIGN, you can follow her onGoremiInstagram.

  • Candice Hoyes, Jamaican jazz singer-songwriter

    This Shit Is For Us: Black Diaspora Women Rule New York City's Underground Music Scene (13)

    I feel like being a leader and embracing that is key to growing as a recording artist and navigating music professionally. The women of blues and jazz have always been strong and have pushed the limits of freedom and personal expression. It's also a song you can grow on for the rest of your life. My dream is to have a long career, always playing and recording, and writing my stories in songs. I am inspired by the musicians I love and many of those artists are on the album I am currently making.

    Jazz was my first love. The music that I listened to at my grandparents' house, Billie Holiday and Sade, influenced me. The song called American Songbook, which, together with blues, forms the basis of vocal jazz. My mom loves Stevie Wonder, Prince, and thank God she passed it on to me and took me to the live shows. I'm also a hip-hop babe who studied and plays classical music, so of course I love supreme diva Leontyne Price, as well as A Tribe Called Quest. Dancehall is there too. Music is a way of traveling for me. —Candice Hoyes

    To learn more about Candice Hoyes, you can follow her onGoremiInstagram.

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