musician Tag

Black Is Beautiful 2022 – Gladys Bentley


Yo, welcome to this year’s offering of art highlighting BLK folks from the past and present! First up this year: Gladys Bentley!
Gladys was born in 1907 in Philly. She loved music at an early age and began showing an interest for “boys” clothes and girls early. Her parents did not like this and tried to “cure” her. She ran away to Harlem at the age of 16. She began to slowly build a career as a musician slowly and Harlem was a place that was blossoming with BLK folks from all over. She first performed at rent parties and buffet flats which are parties. Buffet flats were private home clubs w/ sex, alcohol, music, and were often welcoming of queer folks. She then graduated to speakeasies (prohibition era). One thing that made her stand out besides her chops on the piano was her deep singing voice and her complete embrace of her queerness and dressing as a “man”. She wore a top hat and tuxedos and people loved her. Her success not only brought her to big venues like the Apollo, The Savoy, or The Cotton Club; but it also gave her the oppoRtunity to tour the US. Later she would experience a huge loss of income during the depression (1930s) and ran up against a crack down against Gay or Lesbian people. Not only by Whites but by conservative BLK folks too. In fact, she later claimed to have left her queer life behind and married a guy. But was a pioneer in blues, gender fluidity, and recording! She began recording blues records on labels like Excelsior, Victor, and Okeh w/ a catalogue that ran from 1928 until 1953. I believe she opened doors for masculine identifying women, Black musicians, and queer folks of all stripes. Much respect to the legacy of Gladys Bentley! 
Sources: PBS,, Wikipedia
Peep this 2021 piece of the Transgdender Cultural District
2017 Blues Musician Memphis Minnie
Note: If you do not include Black LGBTQ folks in your Black History Month celebrations prominently, please get with the program and show love and respect for our fellow BLK family!
Some process art:

Kindred Journey 35 – Deb Never

This is Deb Never, a young musician from LA, by way of Spokane Washington. Just down the block from the Cour d’ Alene Indian reservation. Deb is fresh and I’m not really sure what music category to put her in yet. She sings, can rhyme a little bit, plays guitar, piano, and probably some other shit. She’s a Korean American church kid who started working on music in her teens. Self described as hella awkward and nervous, she’s come out of her shell to drop her first EP called House On Wheels. She lead into that with the singles “Swimming” (How I found her) and “Ugly”. She just released a new project dedicated to frontline workers for covid 19 called “Intermission” and she started releasing music on Soundcloud in 2017. She dipped to LA, started releasing music, and got signed with some friends, the cats who run “We Did It” records ( Shlomo, RL Grime). Style wise, besides the moody and whatever vibes she gives off you can tell she has a sense of humor and I urge you to check her out.

Fav Song: Swimming
Sources: Complex, Red Bull, Fader, NME

Did you catch the last one of Blue Scholars?

Kindred Journey 32 – Seti-X

I Feel like I’ve known Mandeep Sethi aka “SETI-X” forever. But let me introduce him to you. Mandeep is a super kind, conscious, down to earth, and caring. Seti started rapping as a teen and turned a love of music in hip hop and traditional music to a life. He grew up as part of the Sikh (pronounced “SIC”) community and almost always has his hair wrapped up. After attending the Asian Hip Hop Summit in LA Seti began to battle rhyme in a rich and multicultural environment that is LA. He would go on to make some dope material releasing 7 projects that ranged from full albums to EPs. He also performed as a guest artist on other peoples work and on mixtapes recording a huge catalogue of music.

Seti has a very sharp intellect and rhymes about police brutality, global imperialism, history, spirituality, respect for the sisters, and of course hip hop culture. In fact I’ve seen spit bars off the top of his head multiple times-an improvisational skill not many outside of Jazz can do. Besides making music he has toured internationally playing all across the US, UK, Canada, and India. He is a member of the Universal Zulu Nation and is an activist who makes music about political issues such as the murder of Charly Afrika by LAPD and the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh. He’s a teacher who has for years worked in public schools and juvenile justice system. He has been awarded by the California Endowment, the American India Foundation, and the Los Angeles Community Action Network. He’s been featured on MTV’s Coke Studio in India and W. Kamau Bell’s “Shades of America” on CNN.

This brother has also rocked alongside cats like Mos Def, Ras Ceylon, Deuce Eclipse, Ziggy Marley, Dilated Peoples, Bicasso and Murs of Living Legends, Tom Morello, and so many more. This cat also happens to be a dope videographer that has made two documentary films. Put him on your list and sprinkle some respect on his name. You can support his music here and follow him here.

Sources: American India Foundation,, Team Backpack, Desi Hip Hop
Fav Song: Fyah Pon Babylon

Did you see the piece I did of Yuna Zarai? Or the one of Equipto?

Kindred Journey 31 – Yuna

My wife turned me onto singer songwriter Yuna Zarai in 2012. I’d never heard of her before but immediately liked what I heard. We’ve seen Yuna perform live in San Francisco twice. Her live show is great and we met her (She’s super nice and just as pretty in person). Yuna has a soulful voice with some rock and folk sensibilities mixed in.
Based in the LA for the past decade or so Yuna is originally from Malaysia and started writing and singing her own songs at 14. She began releasing her music on Myspace in the late 2000’s and got into the indy music scene in Malaysia before making that move to the US. She has released four English albums and some records in Malay (Her native language). You can tell by how she moves that she has a good business sense and a great team behind her. She is shy but very good at documenting her work and staying connected with fans. She has a unique fashion sense and has her own clothing line called “Hatta Yuna” with designer Hatta Dolmat which includes Tudung’s (Jihab’s). She designs jewelry, and has worked with a lot of artists from the US to Malaysia such as DJ Premier, Quadron, Jhene Aiko, Little Simz, Aizat Amdan, Jaelyn Victor, Elizabeth Tan, Pharrell, Tyler The Creator, and Usher.
While folks back home and the US were hung up on her head scarf she developed a talent for straddling to worlds as a musician and a creative person. And she started a company to help manage up and coming Malay artists. Look out for her on the covers of magazines, the charts, follow her, and listen to her sound. Oh and watch her tour videos, they’re funny. And I added her to this Asian American focus of music because she’s been here for damn near 10 years and she fits in for me and my list.
Sources: Generation T Asia, Aramco World, The Apt w/ Asif & Baluch, Wikipedia
Fav Song: Best Love
Did you catch the painting I did of Amerie? or of producer Mndsgn?

Kindred Journey 30 – Mndsgn

Respect to this cat Mndsgn who makes some incredible beats and compositions. Originally a Bboy from New Jersey, he bounced around a bit before landing in LA where he fit right in with the growing scene of musicians making instrumental music. To me his music sounds funky, gritty, dream like, and warm depending on which of his projects I’m listening to. To date he has released 18 projects ranging from full length albums, to mixtapes, and EPs. Mndsgn has worked with Fatima, Danny Brown, Ivan Ave, Joyce Wrice, Asal Hazel, and more. In addition to putting out incredible music he is also a part of the crew “Klipmode” with Knxledge, Suzi Analogue, and Deron Who. He is also a part of the group “Vivians” and has his own record label releasing new artists with partner Alima. If you’re not familiar with his music, follow him and give his sound a knock.
Sources: Huff Post, The Hundreds, Stonesthrow
Fav Song: Txt (Msgs)

LIKE THIS? Did you see the one I did of Ameriie or The Invisible Skratch Piklz

Inktober 17 – Sheila-E

Born and raised in Oakland and one of the best musicians to come out of the Bay, Sheila has recorded many albums as a band leader and as a collaborator with other musicians. She has been performing since she was in elementary school and has toured the world playing music that is influenced by funk, jazz, salsa, country, and hip hop. She is a treasure to the Bay Area and is not only still playing, but is giving back by mentoring younger musicians and giving to music programs in schools. Some of the notable artists she has worked with are George Duke, Herbie Hancock, her dad Pete Escevedo, Marvin Gayem Gloria Estefan, Prince, and Beyonce. She is one of the best drummers in the world and plays multiple instruments. This is one of her playing the “timbales”.

Dig this? Check out this one of Dorothy Ashby