In honor of African American Music Appreciation Month, we here at Electric Family want to highlight some of the influential P.O.C. who have made electronic music what it is today. We talked about it in our previous blog post covering the importance of honoring both the African American and the LGBTQ+ communities, but want to expand even further on the work these artists have made.
As it should be known by now, we wouldn’t have the sounds we cherish now if it weren’t for these next artists. Whether that be from sampling to pure inspiration, the following artists defined generations of love for all things house, techno, and beyond.
Very few lists like these start without the name Frankie Knuckles leading the pack. Knuckles frequented night clubs in New York during the disco era and eventually ventured out to Chicago where it is widely accepted that his style of DJing and his selection and appeal gave house music its name at iconic clubs such as The Warehouse. It’s the reason why he’s known as the “Godfather of House Music.” In 2004, an entire stretch of a Chicago street and day were named after Knuckles to honor him. He was also inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame for his achievements back in 2005.
The Belleville Three
Composed of Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson, the three high school friends made music that was shaped by the harsh, gritty reality and industrial sound of the city they were born into. The group is credited for inventing the musical style known as Detroit Techno. The scene continued to flourish off the foundation of this group even going on to create their own The Music Institute. The three reunited for the first time back in 2010 at Awakenings, reigniting the fandom and beginning the re-education of the next generation of techno fans.
Honey Dijon has a unique sound that combines the sounds of disco, house, and techno. She made the move to New York in the late-90’s where her career flourished and also led her into the fashion world where she worked with designers such as Nicolas Ghesquière, Riccardo Tisci, and Rick Owens. The art of her DJing is key to describing the magic that is Honey Dijon. Her subtle mixing skills and the dexterous, luxurious transitions between house and techno deliver a hypnotic vibe within her sets that make you feel like you are home when you are watching her mix.
“People of color and queer people have a certain sound that’s really emotional and spiritual. I’m not saying that what other people do isn’t, but there's a certain sound and a certain technique and a certain emotion that comes from disco and early house. The music has become more monotonous. We have technology now where DJs don’t actually have to know the craft of DJing—that changed. I’m not saying things should stay the same, obviously, you need to evolve, but, sonically, music changed, and you don’t see a lot of people of color at the club anymore. You don’t see a lot of people of color dictating parties, or festivals, or record labels, or editing magazines. It’s funny how people that create the change very rarely get to experience the change. This music and this culture has been colonized by heteronormative, cis-gender, white people, and I think we’re just seeing a reflection of that heteronormativity.” – Honey Dijon, Ssense Magazine 2017
Cox comes with a lot of titles after 30 years in the industry including a veteran of acid house, a champion of techno a dance music pioneer, label owner, the king of Ibiza, the list goes on and on. Hailing from Manchester, he championed the sound out of the UK rave scene, being one of the earliest DJs to utilize three-deck mixing. He’s gone on to play for the House of Parliament, have a 16-year residency at Space Ibiza, have his own stage at Ultra Music Festival, host a global radio show racking in 17 million weekly listeners, and more. He’s truly one of the most beloved figures in the game.
“Todd the God” is another artist instrumental in the development of house music, moving it away from the early Chicago sound of 1984-86. The Grammy award-nominated DJ/Producer engulfed himself in European dance music while growing up in Brooklyn and found his big success back in 1988 overseas. He’s regarded as the king of sampling, blending classic disco, the Chicago sound, and elements of hip-hop.
Known as not only South Africa’s most influential electronic artists, but one of the world’s biggest acts, Black Coffee began making dance music back in the ‘90s but had a meteoric rise in 2003 after being chosen as one of two South African participants in the Red Bull Music Academy. He’s one of the premier DJs out there that truly understands the art DJing, not only mixing the tracks but reimagining them into his sets, creating something you’ve never heard before. A perfect example of that was with his hit “Stimela,” which proved how possible it was to rework the South African sound into club music.
We know this is just a few of the influential black artists that make up the foundation of electronic music. Share below some of your favorites to help add to our community’s much-needed education.