June is recognized as Black Music Month, or African-American Music Appreciation Month, in the United States. The national holiday was first introduced by President Jimmy Carter on June 7, 1979, when he hosted an event on the White House’s South Lawn with performances from influential black artists such as Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Today, this special month is still honored in black culture, with the aid of daily fun facts on influential black musicians and black music trivia on social media.
The influence of black musicians is especially prevalent in the music of today. From samples in songs to working with legends, the talent that black musicians possess is powerful, important and influential. The work they create especially influences today’s young artists. VOX ATL had the opportunity to speak to a few young musicians from the nonprofit Notes for Notes at the Whitehead Boys and Girls Club about the relevance of Black Music Month. As the month comes to a close, listen to what these teen have to say and how black music has influenced them.
VOX ATL: What black musicians have inspired you to create your own music?
Mahlon Phillips: Musicians like Sam Cooke and female artists like Beyoncé and Solange and other artists just showed me that are there other sides of music. Like, for example, Sam Cooke shows there are different genres that black people have created … and it’s just it’s really nice.
Dylan Rowen: Oteil Burbridge — he’s a really amazing musician, Howlin’ Wolf, John Coltrane, John May Hooker, Charlie Christian, the list goes on, there’s a lot of Black musicians that have really influenced my playing.
Isaiah Simmons: A black musician that has inspired me is Jimi Hendrix because he shows you… that there are many African American artists that also do rock and roll.
Zakia Santos: Ooh man… starts from Gang Star, Nas, Biggie, Wu-tang Clan, M.O.P., Erykah Badu, Faith Evans, The Game, Snoop, the list goes on and on and basically, all those guys are the pioneers of hip-hop, whatever region they’re in. They have dominated the game for so long and still do. Their place will not be remolded, took away, none of that.
VOX ATL: What does Black Music Month mean to you?
Mahlon: Showing all types of music that black and African-American people have come up with and are also into and things like that, and not just showing one generalized side of music that people might stereotype African-American people to like.
Dylan: I think it’s a month where we celebrate the core of music, I think all music came from somewhere and the heart and soul of it is within the Black music community. I think that it’s not really known, everyone, they give credit to Elvis Presley and all these different white musicians in the 50s, but really, what many people don’t know is that a lot of these songs were actually written by Black musicians who never really got their credit for it.
Isaiah: What it means to me is that African-Americans don’t just do hip-hop; they do many different genres of music.
Zakia: Black Music Month — well, this is my first time hearing of it, but it means us as a people coming together to blend in different genres or get together on these specific genres that we love to listen to and … just a culmination of all elements, all styles, and we get to see what we can bring to the table.
VOX ATL: If you could meet any black music artist, who would it be and what would you do with them?
Mahlon: I’m gonna have to say my dude Chris Brown, because, you know, why not? He seems like a fye dude, that works. We’d probably drive around town. I think his car’s pretty nice.
Dylan: Probably Oteil Burbridge or Howlin’ Wolf, and I’d just have a jam session with them. I’d play for an hour at a time with both of them.
Isaiah: If I could meet any black musician, it would be Usher because I like his style of music, and what I would do with him is go to Six Flags.
Zakia: If I could meet any black music artist, that would be Mr. DJ Premier, my favorite and the greatest producer of all time. And what I would do is make as many beats as I can with him because he is the Socrates, the Zeus. He’s just amazing, and he is my biggest inspiration in music.
VOX ATL: How do you think you as a musician can make a difference in music?
Mahlon: I feel like my music as a whole is just another side of music, like, it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do what you love, and it’s gonna have an impact on the world or just one person in some type of way.
Dylan: I think that musicians always have a story to tell and I think that if we share a story with the world, we really get a perspective on how they feel and once we get that perspective and once we get that perspective, we can really change the world and understand people better.
Isaiah: Well, what I can do is show them is that us African-Americans, we also like rock and roll, and there’s different minorities who also like rock and roll.
Zakia: I can make a difference in music because I can be one of the few or maybe one of the first to bring back real hip-hop. You know, I know that trap is what’s popular now but there’s no substance, and like Ol’ Dirty Bastard said, “Wu-tang is for the children.” Nas had a dream. Biggie had a dream. Aaliyah had a dream. All those guys had a dream for music, and I don’t know why we’re forgetting it now, but my mission and passion is to bring that back.