As a dabbler of the arts and having garnered some recognition as an art critic, many assume visual art is my passion. I love all things artsy and creative but music will forever be my first love.
As the self-titled DJ of my peers, I come from the prehistoric era of the playlists before the Spotify algorithm. I had a playlist for every occasion. The 90s One-Hit Wonder and Bedroom playlists were legendary. Nevertheless, nothing makes me more proud than to introduce a person to new music. Seriously, it’s my love language.
Music is also how I was first introduced to Austin’s creative scene. As both a curator and critic of Austin’s music scene, its rap scene, in particular, I think it’s important to encourage those who are making quality music, showing growth, and being authentic in putting on for the city.
January marked Love Austin Music Month and of course, soulciti is celebrating Black History Month. Consequently, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite projects by Austin-based artists that I’ll be bringing into 2022 with me.
The ONLY rule: NO Music Shaming over here! I listen to everything. As a result, this list makes room for rap (trap, lofi, mumble, conscious), alternative, funk, and all the weird stuff in between!
If you’d like an album or project reviewed feel free to email me or reach out on socials @heir_less. And with that – let’s get into it!
BLK ODYSSY X BLK VINTAGE (2021)
I’m always afraid when a debut album is flawless. Sometimes it can be hard for an artist to live up to that debut project thereafter. However, Sam Houston and his bandmates of BLK Odyssy teased us with only a glimpse of their musical depth on the BLK Vintage Album. The album is painted with a swath of Funk elements reminiscent of Parliament, Sly & the Family Stone, and Earth Wind, and Fire. Steeped in the emergence of soul & R&B Funk (Curtis Mayfield) and Neo-Soul (Erykah Badu, D’Angelo), this genre-fluid project time travels through the black music legacy. The band also included other Austin-based artists, Eimaral Sol, Mike Melinoe, and more. From love to identity, and even police brutality, Austin was long overdue with this one. And with the recent announcement of a label deal, BLK Odyssy is sure to cook up some more heat in the near future.
- Ghost Ride
- Blk Vintage
- Big Bad Wolf/Sober
ANASTASIA HERA X THIS IS ANASTASIA (2021)
Anastasia Hera’s This is Anastasia is a no-skip album. Hera flexes her floetic muscles combined with her talented pen and vocal range. With grown and sexy bangers like “Head Together,” love ballads such as “Ceiling” and the ultimate self-love anthem, “Clarity,” the EP features tracks that set the mood for whatever vibes one might want. Last summer (2021) served as a great year for Hera with the release of her album and her single “Big Tuna” charting the Billboard Indicator for the R&B/Hip Hop Chart. She’s also recently partnered with South Carolina’s Local Choice Spirits, to launch Hera Tropical Rum, a banana, and coconut-infused rum. Her November soft launch was a big success and she’s slated to be fully up and running for distribution, this February.
nothing makes me more proud than to introduce a person to new music
BOMANI RAY BARTON X SACAJAWEA (2021)
Bomani Ray Barton has created one of Austin’s most underrated projects of the last few years in my opinion. Any project that reflects an array of genres and emotions is always top tier. From songwriting to rapping and singing, instrumentation, and composition skills, Bomani’s created a cultured melting pot of sounds with Sacajawea. His songwriting puts me in the mind of Craig David, Childish Gambino, and Masego, with production elements that remind me of Pharrell, Kanye, and even Ryan Leslie. As someone who relates to having a childhood in Austin, Sacajawea is the social commentary of a young native Austinite. It’s playful and young, it’s hippie and sophisticated. Bomani plays soulful blues and rock-like guitar solos with bridges and hooks that are reflective of some of our favorite 80s and 90s Funk and R&B artists. Whimsical whilst still covering heavy topics like police brutality and the rapid growth that disproportionately affects Austin’s Black and Brown communities, Bomani’s just getting started. I’m excited to see what he’s up to next.
- Sacajewea (I love a good ode to Mary Jane)
- Skin of my Teeth
- Inbetween Jobs
EIMARAL SOL X SOL SOLILOQUIES (2019)
While it’s the year 2022 and year three of the pandemic, Eimaral Sol’s “Sol Soliloquies” project STILL holds. A declaration of reclamation of life, self, and peace, this soulful album reminds me of Jill Scott, Lianne La Havas, Vivian Green, and India Arie’s songwriting styles at the height of their careers. The carefree, fun, playful lyrics in “Y” and “Greenthumb” remind me of Jhene Aiko’s delivery style whilst Eimaral has this ability to tap into the gravelly, raspy reflective depth of Billie Holiday’s deep bellows.
Since then, Eimaral has dropped more music and it seriously doesn’t miss. But this one has a special place for those needing direction and confidence to trust one’s self again.
KENDRA SELLS X ALL IN YOUR HEAD (2021)
Kendra Sells has a funky style that really only makes sense when one sees or hears her. As the Blu Moon lead vocalist, she stepped out on her own for her “All in Your Head” experimental project. Pop, Funk, R&B/Neo-Soul, Rock, even house can be heard in this highly eclectic, alternative project. And if this project is a little too far out for some, the Blu Moon projects don’t miss.
KYDD JONES x ONYX D’OR (2022)
Kydd Jones is a real-life unicorn. The artist consistently drops solid projects and Onyx d’Or lives up to said consistency. He produces, sings, and never fails to deliver his clever, witty bars. There’s no denying the Houston influence heard on “Harpoon” as he gives a nod to Slab culture and has some soulful r&b Travis Scott esqe vibes, only to drip that Austin indie, melting pot swagger with “Jet Seats” featuring Austin-based phenom, Quin NFN. He taps into his Ye (formerly known as Kanye) ish on “Sprinter,” and poses the question “Y’all wanna be civil or want civil war” on the Goblin track in reference to the murder of George Floyd. The Onyx d’Or project showcases Jones’ growth as he has taken his music career and ventured into fashion design (Onyx d’Or fashion line) as well as curating shows for other artists and more.
CHRISTELLE BOFALE x SWIM TEAM (2019)
Christelle’s “Swim Team” project is a mellow vibe that really showcases the Congolese singer and songwriter’s pen skills. While categorized under the “rock” genre, Bofale uses many musical influences to explore addressing mental health, loss, uncertainty, and the ebbs and flows of life. If you’re looking for a mellow vibe “U Ouchea” is the epitome of the Christelle Bofale sound.
TEETA x 24 (2021)
Teeta’s “24” album explores the ideas of energy, manifestation, growth, prosperity, and identity as a Black music artist in Austin Texas. Named after the zip code 78724 where he was born and raised, Teeta’s a Northeast Austin native who graduated from Austin’s own HBCU, Huston Tillotson University, with a degree in Psychology. His education is evident in the introspection he explores through gritty bars, cool facts and references, and catchy lyrics. reflective of Lil Wayne in his mixtape prime. He has a way of delivering depth that’s palatable and not pretentious. Subsequently, 24 is an immersive experience that reflects on the life of a Black artist expressing his perception of the world around him. From becoming a father and having successful music releases, to staying positive and hopeful in a world that’s completely foreign to a busy, traveling artist forced to adapt due to the pandemic (Waze). Don’t get me wrong, it’s a rap album through and through and in true Teeta style, he’s definitely poppin’ his ish on hard trap-wavy beats. He’s still reeling from his first ACL performance last October that was well-received by festival-goers. It’s only up for him from here!
- Wishing Well
NJUNE x I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY (2020)
Multimedia artist, Adrian Armstrong stepped away from his highly successful visual art career to show his creativity truly knows no bounds as he flexes his pen and production on the “I Hope You’re Happy” album. With heavy piano solos, saxophone rips, and intimate conversations with his friends and family about what makes them happy, NJUNE captivates you as he begs the question, “What makes you happy?” With effects that distort his voice, popular anime references, and the diversity in delivery over 9th wonder type production, NJUNE gives a lo-fi, cinematic type vibe. In a time like now, with so much stress and uncertainty, focusing on what makes us happy might be the best form of comfort, solace, and self-care.
- Cherish the Day (Sade samples never miss!)
- Back Like I Never Left
PARIS ARYANNA X COLOR ME FREE (2019)
I’ll be so glad when more of the world discovers Paris. This soulful artist’s songwriting skills coupled with her light, airy, pillowy voice, easily puts one in a trance. Her Color Me Free project is demonstrative of just that. Short, sweet, and to the point, Color Me Free, explores love, heartbreak, and coming into one’s own. “Already Gone” is the ultimate break-up song while “Color Me Free” and “It’s All Good” encourage always seeking the silver lining of life.
Plus, I love any project that still serves up a good interlude. As far as what Paris has been up to lately, she reached out with an update, This past November, I was invited to NY by Alicia Keys and her non-profit organization She Is The Music for a songwriting camp. It was unbelievable meeting one of my biggest inspirations in music! There were 15 musicians there and we worked on re-imagining a few different songs from Alicia’s new album KEYS. The entire process was so much fun and our work is going to be put into a short documentary for Mercedes-Benz, releasing this spring.
Be on the lookout for the documentary dropping soon.
CEDD BO$$ x CEDD & FRIENDS (2021)
With Austin’s Black Population being historically concentrated to the East and Northeastern crescents, it’s no surprise that some of the best rap comes out of the Eastside. But I have a special place from an artist repping 24 (real ones know), and Cedd Bo$$ doesn’t disappoint with the “Cedd & Friends” project. True fans of rap know there’s no room to be a snob about it. Since rap’s inception, there’s been a lane for conscious, trap, backpack, and all rap subgenres. Cedd & Friends is an album where Atlanta meets Houston meets Memphis meets LA and moves to Austin. Friday After Next clips, bars, and bassy beats, I imagine friends having an eventful night and heading straight to the studio to make music about the best parts of the said night.
- Lucky Charm
- No Stress
J SOULJA x FROM THE SOUL (2020)
I’m not convinced J Soulja isn’t Pimp C’s nephew, BIG Krit’s cousin, or something. I kid, but the way he channels their styles with his high-pitched croons and pimp-like arrogance as he delivers on every track is impeccable. J Soulja’s a triple threat in that he sings well, has groovy rhythmic southern-like beats, but doesn’t sacrifice the heaviness of his punchline bars reflective of an East Coast MC. From the Soul was the first in-depth album I listened to, plus it features Chalie Boy, so naturally, it’s my favorite. More than Nothin’ was released earlier this year and is just as good. When J Soulja isn’t curating his popular “The Pre Roll” and “ The Smoke Out” showcases, you can catch him as an Official SXSW 2022 artist and presenter.
- What It Is
TEDDYTHELEGACY x SEVEN (2020)
Teddy the legacy has claimed his lane in sad boy rap. And I mean that with the utmost respect. With K Camp, Kirko Bangz, and Bryson Tiller nowhere to be found and a definite void of his sound in Austin, Teddy dropped Seven in 2020 and it’s still a banger. He begins with “Belize,” a somber track that grapples with the cognitive dissonance he feels in dealing with the death of his brother, this father’s health scare, and wanting to just get away to celebrate his wins and just how far he’s come. “Way Too Real” is a boastful croon as he flexes his wordplay singing chops, followed by “Pink Flamingo,” a fun playboy anthem. “Current State of Mind 2” is one of my favorites on the project and hats off to Teddy as sequel songs are hard to live up to.