There is no denying that Blackness influences culture on a global scale, whether it’s through the worlds of beauty, style, and even social media. And in recent years especially, it’s become customary for Black artists—from the realms of fashion, music, and beyond—to take their most intimate and formative life experiences and turn them into socially stimulating art. This common process is how select artists have shaped themselves not just as creators, but also as bona fide international influencers.
As Black History Month comes to a close, it’s imperative to understand that Black art and excellence should be celebrated far before the start of February and way beyond its conclusion. The Black artists who are flourishing today are a current collection of talent set to inspire for years to come.
Below are the designers, musicians, and creators who should absolutely be on your radar through 2020 and beyond.
— Film —
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If anyone has helped define the aesthetic that’s surrounded the cultural reinventions of today’s most boundary-pushing artists, that credit goes to Melina Matsoukas. The Grammy Award–winning director has helped visualize iconic music videos such as Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” Solange’s “Losing You,” and—her most riveting work to date—Beyoncé’s “Formation.” And she just celebrated her feature film directorial debut with 2019’s Queen & Slim. Queen Bey honored her friend and frequent collaborator at the American Film Institute’s gala last year, crediting the director’s determination in highlighting the voices and work of creators of color as an essential component to her vision and success. “Her drive, vision, taste level, and storytelling is boldly unapologetic,” Beyoncé said, adding that Matsoukas creates visual stories that are “thought-provoking, dramatic, funny, and real.”
After an awards season that all but snubbed women directors and directors of color, paying tribute to these filmmakers feels long overdue. Dee Rees’s name is absolutely worth mentioning, considering her meaningful releases like 2011’s Pariah, a coming-of-age story about a young Black lesbian woman, and 2017’s Oscar-nominated Mudbound, a drama unfolding around two families in Mississippi after World War II. This year, she delivered The Last Thing He Wanted (now streaming on Netflix), a mystery that stars Hollywood heavyweights Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, and Willem Dafoe.