At just 20 years old, Flo Milli has cemented her status as a force to be reckoned with.INSTAGRAM/FLOMILLI

Like many other sectors, COVID-19 has devastated all creative industries, even leading to campaigns for creatives to retrain in order to secure employment. While the pandemic has led to musical artists engaging more with their fanbase via social media, the shutdown of venues, studios and promotional tours has massively affected the music industry. Considering the adversity Black women in music already have to face due to misogynoir, I can only imagine the detrimental effects a global pandemic has had on the careers of many. Thus, this shortlist of the best projects released this year by Black women aims to celebrate and applaud the efforts of those who already have to overcome so much.

Dyo – Dyologue

Favourite Track: ‘Go All the Way’ (ft. Mr Eazi)

“Dyologue is a body of work that demands respect.”

Having lent her pen to an array of chart-toppers, from the likes of Chip’s ‘Oopsy Daisy’ to Maroon 5’s ‘What Lovers Do’, it comes as no surprise that Dyo’s sophomore EP is one of the strongest releases of the year. Released at the beginning of 2020, Dyologue is a sharp departure from the artist’s dance-pop notoriety, with its six-track run seamlessly marrying Afroswing, R&B and pop. The EP not only places her Nigerian roots at the forefront of each song but also pays homage to the wider African diaspora, as made evident in the music video for ‘Go All the Way’, dedicated to renowned African photographers James Barnor, Malick Sidibé, Seydou Keïta and Samuel Fosso. For this, Dyologue is a body of work that demands respect.

Flo Milli – Ho, Why is You Here?

Favourite Track: ‘19’

Flo Milli hit the scene in 2018 with her infectious breakout single ‘Beef FloMix’ and has since cemented her status as a force to be reckoned with. In anticipation of the mixtape’s release, the young MC released a slew of singles this year, both her own and as a featured artist, placing her as one of the many Black women currently dominating rap and hip-hop. From the ethereal guzheng strings chiming in ‘19’ to sampling the infamous “yeet” vine in ‘Like That Bitch’, the mixtape is infused with Milli’s trademark buoyancy, vibrancy and charisma. Like the former track, throughout the mixtape, Flo Milli makes it a point to continually remind listeners that whilst they’re sitting around, waiting, doing nish, she’s out making moves and honestly, we love to see it.

Bree Runway – 2000AND4EVA

Favourite Track: ‘GUCCI’ (ft. Maliibu Miitch)

Runway was included on the BBC Sound of 2021 Longlist.INSTAGRAM/BREERUNWAY

If you were to combine musical icons such as Grace Jones, Freddie Mercury and Missy Elliott together, you’d get Bree Runway – an artist whose flair and flamboyance is unmatched. Like all the featured artists on the mixtape, Runway is a musician who refuses to be pigeonholed to a singular genre. While there are few new tracks to be discovered from listening to 2000AND4EVA in its entirety, this just solidifies the fact that Runway’s songs are all strong enough to stand alone as singles. From ‘80s synths on ‘Damn Daniel’ to the roaring electric guitars in ‘Little Nokia’, Runway’s genre-bending sound is not only bold and avant-garde, but ultimately refreshing.

Chloe x Halle – Ungodly Hour

Favourite Track: ‘Ungodly Hour’

From the owners of the tennis court that just kept giving over the summer, Ungodly Hour sees Chloe x Halle shed their former image of tenderness and youthful bliss found in their debut project, and adopt a more risqué, sultry dynamic. The Grammy-nominated duo’s sophomore album explores quintessential themes of young adulthood, from stories of nights out with friends on lead single ‘Do It’, to battling the sense of being overwhelmed in the album’s interlude. However, to me, the most distinct tracks are ‘Wonder What She Thinks of Me’ and ‘ROYL’, which both close the album. The graceful runs in the former track are a stark contrast from the grungier sound of the latter, but together they convey the duality of the album – dark but angelic, young but simultaneously grown.

KABBA – KABBA

Favourite Track: ‘Whatever’

“When listening to KABBA, there is an impulsive need to move”

KABBA, MNEK and Ryan Ashley prove themselves to be a dream team on KABBA’s self-titled debut EP. Formerly known as A*M*E, the singer-songwriter re-introduces herself with an assortment of high-octane songs on the project’s seven-track run. When listening to KABBA, there is a impulsive need to move, whether it is by dancing or simply swaying along to the rhythm of the song. Where R&B ballad ‘Rope’ slows down the EP to showcase KABBA’s vocal prowess, ‘Whatever’ lifts it to new heights. After the final chorus, the song climaxes with an electrifying dance-pop mix, a signature component of MNEK’s work, making it the standout track of the EP. Altogether, the exuberance of KABBA makes it a triumphant debut project.

Tiwa Savage – Celia

Favourite Track: ‘Dangerous Love’

The Queen of Afrobeats' album intertwines Yoruba and English and folds R&B into AfropopINSTAGRAM/TIWASAVAGE

Hailed as the Queen of Afrobeats, Tiwa Savage returns with her third studio album, Celia, dedicated to her mother. As always, Savage seamlessly intertwines Yoruba and English across all songs, with the innate warmth in the songstress’s voice being both hypnotic and soothing, as evidenced in her Tiny Desk performance. Akin to the bilingualism of the album, Celia features collaborations from both British and Nigerian artists. Notably, Savage and Sam Smith’s union on ‘Temptation’ is an unforeseen match but proves to be a compelling blend of vocals for the R&B-infused track. All that’s left to be said is, long live the queen.

Tora – Cavalier

Favourite Track: ‘Call Your Name’

Listed as ‘Most Likely to Save the Planet’ on online radio station No Signal’s Class of 2020 Yearbook, Tora is one of the most exciting artists to debut this year. Cavalier is a stellar five-track EP which cannot just be contained within the genre of alternative R&B, something made apparent with Tora’s first ever single, ‘Vein’. The track begins with the singer soulfully crooning over piano keys which, by the chorus, is quickly overridden by synths. The EP as a whole is experimental, oscillating between neo-soul, R&B and electronic. Overall, Tora has had a successful 2020 and is sure to accomplish more in the coming new year.

Victoria Monét – JAGUAR

Favourite Track: ‘Experience’ (with Khalid & SG Lewis)


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Mostly known for her songwriting collaborations with pop star Ariana Grande, Victoria Monét finally moves into the spotlight with her latest EP, JAGUAR. The project celebrates Black joy and love in all forms, from queer love to the act of loving oneself. Monét’s silky tone and harmonies are entrancing, perfectly complementing the orchestral components of each song, all of which elevates the sensuality of her EP. Yet Monét truly shines in ‘Experience’, a disco and electro-funk track with Khalid and SG Lewis, reminiscent of Donna Summer and, more recently, Dua Lipa (Lewis is also the co-writer and producer of ‘Hallucinate’ on Lipa’s latest album). As the third single released for JAGUAR, ‘Experience’ offers a burst of energy, flaunting Monét’s vocal agility and fierce persona, just like a jaguar.