Black History Month has been celebrated all across the country since 1976 to recognize the achievements of African-Americans and their cultural contribution to the United States and beyond. As music fans in Colorado, The Local 303 has chosen to elevate some of our state's most inspiring and up-and-coming black artists.
Looking back at Colorado's rich history of influential African-American musicians, we have been home to 1970s jazz legend Dianne Reeves, longtime blues singer Otis Taylor, members from supergroup Earth, Wind & Fire, the "Jackie Robinson of Classical Music" Charlie Burrell, and modern jazz inspiration and cornetist Ron Miles.
The local scene continues to be vibrant with Denver hip-hop icon Trev Rich helping write the song "Elevate" for the Oscar-winning film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and he has been setting the bar high for local emcees.
Wesley Watkins, who was one of the original members of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats continues to perform funk and soul music as The Other Black and is also a member of hip-hop group Wheelchair Sports Camp.
A few years ago Spotify starlet Kayla Rae was named the "Next Queen of Denver R&B" and rock band Flobots have done so much with our community through their own music; in addition to starting up a foundation to help under-represented teens turn their life around through music.
There will be artists that you may be familiar with this month, but we hope a bit of discovery too as we spotlight black Coloradans you need to hear and see, who perform in a variety of genres from hip-hop to funk, soul fusion, and R&B.
Hometown: Aurora, Colo., via Oahu, Hawaii
Latest Release: "Restart" (Single), self-released, Nov. 1, 2019.
About: Adiel Mitchell is a singer/songwriter, dancer, and producer. After achieving success in the pop/R&B duo Two Worlds, the former YouTube star took time to focus on his own sound.
In 2018 he released his debut EP "About Last Night," a blend of New Jack swing, pop, and R&B. His follow-up "Jungle" EP in 2019 showed off his diverse musical style with a heavy dose of hip hop and rap.
In the two-year run as a solo artist, Mitchell has been nominated for Best R&B Artist in Denver’s Westword Magazine, opened for Amber Mark on her national tour, and performed in several of Colorado’s most prestigious festivals.
Mitchell prides himself on his energetic and interactive live show. With the magnetic allure of Bruno Mars and captivating charisma of Childish Gambino, Mitchell commands the room and seduces the audience with his seemingly effortless charm.
Hometown: Syracuse, New York, based in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Formed: HoTT and Jeb Burgess formed Audible in 2012
Latest Release: First Contact, self-released, April 2019.
About: Hailing from the bitterly cold surroundings of Syracuse, New York, comes an emcee whose musical conviction is dedicated both to new and old generations of underground Hip-Hop fans. Now an acclaimed artist in Colorado Springs, HoTT engages his listeners with poignant rhymes that reflect on topics that range from politics to the struggle presented toward the oppressed in America and abroad. You can catch Audible frontman HoTT at various Colorado festivals this summer. Audible has several shows in the works for 2020.
Musicians That Inspire: Adele, Amy Winehouse, Jay-Z, Bizzy Bone, Alanis Morissette, Lupe Fiasco
Band Website: Audible- www.weareaudible.net, HoTT Solo- www.foresightrecords.com, www.caporcrown.bandcamp.com, www.hott424.bandcamp.com
Get Social: Audible- Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, HoTT Solo- Instagram, Twitter, Facebook
The Grand Alliance
Genre: Future Funk/Hiphop/R&B/Soul
Latest Release: "Chakra Khan" (Single), self-released, Jan. 18, 2020.
About: The Grand Alliance is the supergroup of Denver staples Kayla Marque, Sur Ellz, and CRL CRRLL.
Hometown: Denver via Decatur, Ill.
Genre: Hip Hop
Latest Release: Change Over Dollars EP, self-released, Sept. 23, 2019.
About: Jay Triiiple is a storyteller whose confidence and attention to detail create a standout lane for the Denver-based MC. Using music as a major form of expression is the ultimate formula for dynamic hip-hop and Jay Triiiple exemplifies that inspiring energy. She raps about her life experiences with an authentic and relatable voice, all while crafting rhymes around production that speak to her true influences.
Musicians That Inspire: Jay-Z, J.Cole, Big Sean, Nipsey Hussle, Dom Kennedy, and Kanye West just to name a few influences and some of my favorites, but there are so many more. I listen to the artists that give me their vulnerability. Only truth can come from this place and that’s what I personally use music for. To not only have fun, but express my truth.
Get Social: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook
Genre: Alt Pop/Soul
Latest Release: "Chakra Khan" (Single) as The Grand Alliance, self-released, Jan. 18, 2020.
About: Kayla Marque's musical journey began at an early age, seeing her surrounded by a wide variety of musical influences in her home environment. Included were the stylings of artists such as Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Lauryn Hill, Bootsy Collins, and numerous others, whilst equally extensive was the list of musical instruments Marque had practiced with as a child; drum-sets, a karaoke machine, and a baby grand piano, an instrument she remembers less than fondly.
These early experiences with music she credits to her family, from her father, a saxophonist who would often accompany her early musical explorations, to her uncle Larry Dunn, a member of the legendary funk/soul group Earth Wind and Fire. Though surrounded by such a variety of musical influences, Marque at first did not consider herself a musician, pursuing interests in athletics and a degree in psychology.
It was during her time at Colorado State University that Marque first began to rekindle her musical inclination as her interest in her degree waned. Eventually departing the school after one year, Marque then leapt headfirst into music, composing her first song on the very same baby grand piano that was once the source of woe for her 5-year-old self.
From there she has continued forth with singular purpose, with performances beginning at open mic nights and leading her to the stages of the Westword Music Showcase, the iconic Denver Music festival, and going on to be on the cover of the magazine and receiving the award for best singer-songwriter in 2018.
Marque released her first album, 2016's Live and Die Like This, featuring her ability to perform across a multitude of musical styles with characteristic poise. Now, Marque looks to the future, aiming to double down on this ability with a two-part album "Brain Chemistry" in the works. A synthesis of the myriad styles and concepts that influence her to this day, the project is presented as both a musical and conceptual dichotomy. The Left Brain Marque will deal with "critical, practical, and darker" themes, whilst Right Brain will explore a "colorful, vibrant, and imaginative" attitude. With this creation, Marque centers her focus upon a message of empowerment for those outside of the norm, those for whom she aims to use her music as a medium for positive change.
For Kayla Marque, music is a means of expression that is better when shared, and this is a cause she is set to champion as she sets her sights on the coming years.
Hometown: Born in a star cluster in Outerspace known as the Pleiades but crash landed in Denver, so officially, Denver is home.
Genre: Space + Time
Latest Release: "Alchemy" EP, self-released, Nov. 15, 2019.
About: Kid Astronaut is a visionary, a musician and a creator. He was recently a featured artist at TedxBoulder, and his music was featured on 303 Music Volume 2, a compilation album from 303 Magazine. He’s played stages from music festivals to venues in London. He’s also from the future. One day, while touring with his band (a crew of time-travelers, scientists and musicians) their spaceship hit a portal - sending them hurtling into an alternate past dimension set back in the year 2015.
Their futuristic tech destroyed, the band decided they needed to assimilate to the past as well as blend into their new reality, keeping the truth about their time travels...and themselves a secret. Until now. Kid Astronaut's latest project is Alchemy, a three-song EP about love, spirituality and growth.
Musicians That Inspire: I love the new Halsey record - especially that song Graveyard. I was torn to pieces hearing about young kids like JUICE WRLD and XXXtentacion passing away. I hope in the future we can take better care of ourselves as artists and people and create longevity within our industry. And as for the classics, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Etta James they’re constantly on repeat in my playlists.
Old Man Saxon
Latest Release: "The Peacock Honey" self-released, Dec. 9, 2019.
About: Old Man Saxon is a rapper was most recently featured as the crowd favorite on the hit Netflix series with Cardi B, Chance the Rapper and TI, Rhythm + Flow. Saxon’s been a rapper since he was 13.
His music has been featured on HBO's "Silicon Valley, "Netflix’s hit film "Someone Great," and Madden commercials.
The music video for his hit single “The Perils” had over 100,000 YouTube hits in its first 24 hours of release (now at 3.9M, and 3.5M on Spotify). He’s performed internationally, from Hip Hop Kemp in the Czech Republic to Hiero Day in Oakland, and he’s opened for various artists including Devin the Dude, Camron, Ghostface Killah, Andre Nickatina, Curren$y and Oddisee.
Since his first headline show sold out at The Marquis in November, OMS is officially on tour, with upcoming dates in Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, Philly and more.
Musicians That Inspire: X-Raided is one of my favorite rappers. He used to record all of his music from jail, over the phone. That has always been a living example of "No excuses." There are a lot of amazing songs that inspire me, but I realized recently that I get really inspired when I hear a bad song. Especially a bad song that everybody knows and gets a lot of radio play. It just makes me feel like..."cool...so I can do this!"
Catch Them Live: Kick off shows for his national tour include Hodi's Half Note in Fort Collins (Mar. 27, 2020) and The Black Sheep in Colorado Springs (Mar. 28, 2020).
Band Website: www.imoldmansaxon.com
Get Social: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook
Genre: Gangsta Zelda Starbreaks
Latest Release: "Kujira" (Single), self-released, Jan. 2, 2020.
About: Ramakhandra is a group of four gifted dreamers. Annastezhaa, Clayto, Ness, and Nobahee met in a series of coincidences that could be called fate in 2018. Sharing songwriting duties on all songs, their individual personalities combine into a singular mighty music Megazord that draws its influences from anime, nature, video games, folklore, food, and the modern world around them. They wield this sonic lens to recontextualize the major issues bearing down upon humanity such as climate change, inequality, and social & environmental injustice. This is music from the future for the present. A gift and a warning, a mystery, and an answer. A delicious meal that is also medicine.
Ramakhandra is an enigmatic wave of dreamy, soulful intricacies. The celestial sounds of arpeggiated harp, and synth, dance masterfully with the sometimes wonky, hip hop oriented grooves of the rhythm section.
Upon listening, it's hard not to close your eyes, and allow your imagination to run rampant. You may find yourself on a spiritual journey to the far reaches of space, or the innermost parts of oneself.
Musicians That Inspire:
Annastezhaa: “Dorothy Ashby is a huge inspiration for me because she was one of the first black harpists to be recognized internationally in the 1950s -- not only as a pioneer of jazz/world harp but as a vocalist and a songwriter as well. Her music showcased the rhythmic, harmonic and creative ability of harp as a lead instrument.”
Nobahdee: “Amon Tobin touches on all my absolute favorite things. Jazz, jungle breaks, hip hop, and anime all clashed into one. “
Eric: “Artists such as J Dilla, Flying Lotus, and MNDSGN have inspired and expanded my musical approach. Their mixtures of acoustic & electronic sounds, complex rhythms, and samples push me to draw from all types of musical genres.”
Clay: “I draw influence from many types of music, from post-metal to prog rock, from neo-soul to reggae. I grew up listening to Stanley Clarke and Weather Report and other jazz fusion visionaries, along with progressive groups like Tool and Omar Rodriguez Lopez. But that's not to exclude people like D'angelo, Thundercat, and Erykah Bahdu from my list of major influences.”
Band Website: https://ramakhandra.com
Get Social: Instagram, Facebook
Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colo.
Genre: Hip Hop, Soul, Fusion
Latest Release: "Unstoppable" via The Reminders Music on Aug. 30, 2019
About: A rare and remarkable musical duo with undeniable magical chemistry, The Reminders transcend the bounds of expectation to uplift and entertain. They seamlessly blend razor sharp rhythms and raw, soulful vocals with reggae-tinged hip-hop beats to highlight their relevant and inspiring messages. The couple shares a partnership in both music and life as Samir and Aja have been married for over a decade.
The Reminders have been recognized and applauded for their work internationally through concerts, tours, music awards, TV and radio appearances. They have shared the stage with artists such as Snoop Dogg, Nas, Big Boi, and toured with Ms. Lauryn Hill.
Musicians That Inspire: Bob Marley has been a huge inspiration on us, along with a long list of musicians from Sting to Chronixx. We love Reggae, soul, funk, hip hop, folk and classic rock. So in our music you get to hear a bit of all of our influences.
Catch Them Live: Fox Theatre on Feb. 13, 2020 and Aggie Theater on Feb. 15, 2020.
Band Website: www.theremindersmusic.com
Get Social: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube
Hometown: Denver, Colo. via Brooklyn, NY
Genre: SOUL POP
Latest Release: "Love The Way You Kiss Me," self-released/CRP Exclusive.
About: Turner Jackson is a singer, rapper, and maker of entertainment. His poppy and heartfelt sound are a unique representation of metro Denver’s vibe. Jack’s music is upbeat and lively. It is designed to make the listener feel positive energy while enjoying their everyday life.
Musicians That Inspire: I try not to be inspired by other people’s music. This is because I do not make the kind of music that I listen to. Right now my favorite songs are Lil Uzi Vert’s "Futsal Shuffle," Channel Tres’ "Topdown," and Project Pablo’s "Closer." I like my music TurNT up and danceable!! I try to use music to craft my mood for the day! I like to start my day with high energy!
Catch Them Live: Lost Lake on February 27th with SF1 and Liptruce
Get Social: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook