How Black Electronic Artists Broke Big Barriers in EDM

Discover How Black Electronic Artists Have Broken Barriers and Expectations

Electronic music is a genre that has been heavily dominated by white artists since its inception. However, over the past few decades, black electronic artists have been breaking barriers and changing the game, bringing new sounds, perspectives, and energy to the genre. From pioneers like Juan Atkins to modern-day stars like Kaytranada, black artists have been making a significant impact on electronic music and improving the overall genre.

Let’s dive into how they did it, and what the future of EDM holds for talented black artists.

Black Electronic Artists – Juan the Great

Black electronic artists like Juan Atkins are pioneers in techno

One of the most notable black electronic artists is Juan Atkins, also known as the “godfather of techno.” He was part of the first wave of electronic artists in Detroit during the 1980s, and his work laid the foundation for techno music.

Atkins, along with his collaborators Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, helped create a new sound that was different from anything else in electronic music at the time. Their music was infused with funk, soul, and jazz, creating a unique sound that would later become known as Detroit techno.

Another pioneer of black electronic music is Frankie Knuckles, who is often referred to as the “godfather of house music.” Knuckles began his career in the late 1970s, spinning disco records at a club in New York City.

He eventually moved to Chicago, where he became one of the leading figures in the emerging house music scene. Knuckles’ music was heavily influenced by disco, but he added his own touch, creating a sound that was more polished and refined than anything that had come before.

Modern Black Electronic Music

Over the years, black electronic artists have continued to make their mark on the genre, adding new sounds, perspectives, and energy. One of the most exciting artists in recent years is Kaytranada, a Haitian-Canadian producer and DJ.

Kaytranada’s music is a fusion of hip-hop, R&B, funk, and house, creating a sound that is both retro and futuristic. His debut album, “99.9%,” was released in 2016 to critical acclaim and won the Polaris Music Prize. He also won the best Dance/Electronic award for his album “BUBBA” at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards Show.

Black artists have had to overcome many barriers and stereotypes to succeed in the genre. One of the biggest challenges has been breaking out of the limited box that some people want to musically place them into. Many people assume that black artists can only make hip-hop or R&B, but black EDM artists have shown that they can excel in any genre they choose.

Black artists have also faced numerous challenges in the industry. For example, black artists have often been excluded from electronic music festivals and clubs, despite their significant contributions to the genre. In recent years, there has been a push to make the industry more inclusive and diverse, but there is still a long way to go. Luckily there are festivals like Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit, Michigan which has entire stages dedicated to black Detroit artists. 

Even without major festival representation for a majority of artists, there is no denying the sounds of some of the best black DJs of today. OGs like Carl Cox and Green Velvet are still headlining shows across the globe. Carl Cox and South African DJ, Black Coffee, are mainstays of Ibiza residencies. And of course, Kaytranada is representing for the new school along with other new electronic music artists like Chanel Tres and Honey Dijon. 

The underground is still where electronic music thrives best and you can rest assured that there are black and brown electronic music artists developing in warehouses, basements, and clubs everywhere. 

The Future of Black EDM Artists and DJs

What is the future of black EDM artists and DJs?
What is the future of black EDM artists and DJs?

Looking to the future, it is clear that black EDM artists will continue to play a significant role in the genre. As more black artists enter the industry, they will bring new sounds, perspectives, and ideas, pushing electronic music forward. Additionally, as the industry becomes more inclusive and diverse, black fans of electronic music will have more opportunities to connect with the genre and the artists who create it.

The genre will continue to fuse with hip-hop/ rap, something that has been growing in popularity since the 2010s with advent of Trap music. Originally a name for gangsta rap from the dirty south, Trap music was adopted by electronic music DJs who sought out the hip-hop feel of 808s. 

The blending of the Trap genres has taken hip-hop into new realms with artist like Travis Scott whose futuristic production style and rager persona has taken over the youth. Lil Uzi Vert’s, “Just Wanna Rock” is the latest example of this. The Philly rapper has tapped into the “Jersey Club” culture which has been thriving since the early 90s. black cities like Philly, Baltimore, and DC all have their own versions of “house music” that is unique to the region.


Electronic music has also spread across the diaspora of people of African descent across the globe. Black Coffee has been leading the way for African electronic music artists. Afrobeats has exploded recently and is one of the freshest and most exciting new sounds of today. The genre is rooted in the sounds of pioneers like Nigerian-born, Fela Kuti. Different countries and regions have their own unique flavor of Afrobeats. 

Most notably, South Africa which is the birth place of Amapiano (Zulu of Xhosa for “the pianos”). This sub-genre of house music mixes jazz and deep house with african rooted percussion and basslines like none I’ve heard before. Popular Amapiano artists like Uncle Waffles, one of the top female EDM artists working today, are already performing at Coachella (and Major League DJz has began collaborating with the likes of Diplo).

This sub-genre is still so early in its inception and already is being adopted by some of the biggest artists/ DJs. As time progresses it will be amazing to see the spread of electronic music throughout the African continent.

Mainstream Adoption

Recently mainstream (arguably the most mainstream) artists have adopted the genre to release unique projects that blur the lines of all music genres. Drake’s Honestly Nevermind continued his experimentation with Afro-Caribbean beats, and tapped into other sub-genres of house. And of course, the Queen, Beyonce, recently won the grammy award for best Dance/ Electronic music album for her album, Renaissance

This was met with some criticism from some fans of electronic music but given the roots of modern American electronic music, there is no denying that her album met the criteria. She also made sure to thank those pioneers and the communities that helped the genre of house grow to today’s popularity. 

Given how popular music festivals are and will continue to be, we can definitely expect to see more mainstream artist collaborate with electronic music artists and adopt the sound for their own use. Electronic music will continue to grow in popularity as fewer artists art instrumentalists.

For example, it costs anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for a high quality instrument. Garageband on the otherhand, which comes with hundreds of free instrument plugins, is free on most apple products! In a world where most people have a smartphone, the ability to create electronic music has never been more accessible.

Electronic music has always been rooted in a vision of the future. Synthesizers, reverb, and other electronic effects create a futuristic sound that we naturally have associated with the future, space, robots, and other sci-fi themes.

Now that we are a couple decades into the 21st Century, and live in a version of the future we used to imagine, where will our minds take us as we continue to create electronic music? Or considering the recent resurgence of 90s and early 2000s trends, perhaps our nostalgia will bring us back to the root sounds of techno and house. 

Only time will tell how this genre of music will take us.

At the end of the day, black electronic artists have broken barriers and changed the game, bringing new sounds, perspectives, and energy to the genre. From pioneers like Juan Atkins and Frankie Knuckles to modern-day stars like Kaytranada, black artists in EDM have made a significant impact on electronic music and improved the overall genre. 

While there are still challenges and obstacles to overcome, the future looks bright for black artists and fans of the genre. As the industry becomes more inclusive and diverse, we can expect to see even more exciting and innovative music from black electronic DJs and artists in the years to come.

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This article was written by Justinian and edited by Michael.

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