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For Black History Month, World Cafe looks forward to 'Black Futures'

<strong>From left:</strong> Sekou, Dua Saleh, Alemeda and McKinley Dixon
Braden Lee & Christopher Behnen; Randijah Simmons; David Muessig
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Courtesy of the artists
From left: Sekou, Dua Saleh, Alemeda and McKinley Dixon

To celebrate Black History Month this year, World Cafe is turning its ear toward the future by spotlighting up-and-coming musicians blazing their own exciting path in the industry by reshaping — or flat out defying — the traditional boundaries of genre.

The team was inspired by a conversation World Cafe had in 2019 with NPR Music's Rodney Carmichaelabout opting to highlight Black Futures Month in February.

"I just think that, a lot of times, America has a harder time appreciating what Black folks are doing in the present than what we've done in the past," he told us then.

We're kicking things off with a playlist of artists you need to have on your radar — if you're not already streaming their music. The sounds here vary, living in the space between pop, hip-hop, R&B, jazz, electronic music and rock.

We had to include a cut from McKinley Dixon's Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!?. The Richmond, Va., artist joined us on the show earlier this year.

The mix also includes the latest single from singer and actor Dua Saleh. On "daylight falls," Saleh sings about finding solace during dark times over tender guitar strums that swell into a crunchy emo ballad.

There's also fresh music from the likes of John Glacier, serpentwithfeet, Alemeda and Nailah Hunter. We highly recommend Hunter's new album, Lovegaze.

We bookend the playlist with the stunning debut single from Sekou, who will hit the road on his first ever tour opening for Reneé Rapp.

On the radio, we'll be connecting the dots between past and future with weekly segments (starting next Tuesday) exploring the history of Black dance and electronic music with Culture Corner correspondent John Morrison.

"All music can be dance music, given the right circumstances," Morrison says. "What I'm really talking about is a sound and a culture that came out of Black club culture and DJ culture, specifically ... I'm talking about a continuum of music that starts with disco and stretches out to encompass house music, techno, EDM and any form of electronic dance music we hear today."

From disco to drum & bass, Morrison takes us on a wildly entertaining ride throughout five decades of dance music. Buckle up!

Copyright 2024 XPN

Miguel Perez
Miguel Perez is a radio producer for NPR's World Cafe, based out of WXPN in Philadelphia. Before that, he covered arts, music and culture for KERA in Dallas. He reported on everything from the rise of NFTs in the music industry to the enduring significance of gay and lesbian bars to the LGBTQ community in North Texas.