It isn’t a secret that today’s EDM is the product of Black influence. The very fabric of the genre itself is a combination of disco, hip hop, and dubstep forming what we now consider to be electronic-house. While white and non-Black people of color now dominate the DJ industry, it’s important to examine the foundings of the genre itself and turn our support to the Black producers who pioneered a movement in the revolution of music as we know it.
As mentioned above, modern EDM is a combination of several other genres picked apart to form something new entirely. Fragmented lyricism and highlighted rhythms are courtesy of dub, Jamaican music that flourished from the late 60s to the mid-80s. Turntablism and beat manipulation stem from hip-hop, which found its popularity in the Bronx in 1973. Lastly, we thank disco for the groove and funk, as pioneered by Black outfits such as Earth, Wind & Fire.
Unsurprisingly, Black artists do not make a huge appearance on popular lists of EDM musicians. Despite their influence on the genre we know and love today, Black DJs are often pushed aside for white producers to shine.
Below is a list of five Black DJs and producers that you need to be listening to.
The 57-year-old house and techno producer has done it all. From four studio albums and over thirteen awards for various Best DJs, to his record label Intec Digital, Cox is the multi-faceted musician we’ve been dreaming of. Beginning his career in the 1980s, Cox managed to turn himself into a premier name in the industry, especially with his very own Carl Cox & Friends arena stage, which has made appearances at big EDM festivals such as Tomorrowland and ADE.
Felix Da Housecat
If you know anything about EDM, then you’re likely familiar with American DJ Felix Da Housecat. Hailing from Chicago, Housecat released eleven studio albums over twenty years, a sizable handful of remixes, and even earned a spot on DJ Magazine’s Top 100 DJ list from 2003 to 2005. His collaboration work with Tommie Sunshine and Dave the Hustler brought his name into mainstream media, but it’s Housecat’s work that has kept him in the foreground for so long.
You may know Marc Kinchen by his stage name MK, or you may know him from his number-one spots on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Club Play chart in 1993 and 1994. Either way, the American DJ is best known for his incredible remixes and songwriting work for Pitbull, Jaden Smith, and even Beyoncé. We suggest his 2019 chart-topping single “There For You.”
While Frankie Knuckles is no longer with us, no list would be complete without him. Dubbed “The Godfather of House Music,” Frankie Knuckles pioneered a movement during his career and inspired many with his popularization of house music in the 1980s. He’s a man to aspire to, winning the 1997 Grammy award for Remixer of the Year, Non-Classical, and repeated spots of DJ Magazine’s Top 100 DJs. He’s where you must begin when digging into the world of EDM, as without him, there wouldn’t be a world to dig into.
We have removed a DJ from this list due to a recent criminal charge. Check back for an update on this article.