When Black Musicians Aren't Deemed 'Black Enough'

lizzo vma performance
credit: @lizzobeeating/Instagram

Last year, when Willow Smith released “Meet Me At Our Spot” under the name The Anxiety, I was elated. As a black girl who grew up listening to alternative music, it was amazing to see that such a prominent black figure liked the same music I used to blast from my headphones. In the past year, I’ve seen the song grow in popularity thanks to TikTok.

Of course, when music becomes more popular, you always end up getting some negative critiques. The critique that Willow got with her new music was one that every alternative black person hears at least ten times:

It wasn’t black enough.

What was even more discouraging was to see that the critique came from people that shared the same skin tone as Willow and me. I must admit that this, in particular, was meaningful to me because I have been told that I wasn’t black enough so many times due to the music I enjoyed. It meant the world to me and many other alternative black people that someone born into black royalty, so to speak, enjoyed the same music.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by ∴ WILLOW ∴ (@willowsmith)

Growing up black in America, you are aware of the certain stereotypes that will follow you. Some are held up by society, and some are held by your own skinfolk. So when you dare to like something different than the norm, you’re called things like “oreo” or told you’re trying to act white.

When Lizzo started becoming popular, her music was called white music, or trying to appease the “white gaze”. When Normani came out with the banger “Motivation”, many critiqued it saying that it wasn’t what a black artist should release. “Black people don’t do pop”.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Lizzo (@lizzobeeating)

Many black artists want to create music they love and have to go up against not only a label but their own community on what is black enough. When a black artist releases their music, and it’s music that resonates with them, they are indeed creating black music. It is black enough.

Blackness isn’t two-dimensional. The fact that it’s 2021 and black people still have to fight to be seen in the music that our ancestors helped create is disheartening. When a black person makes music that they believe in, that they are proud of, that is black music. It needs to be appreciated so that we can see more diversity in pop culture.

Black music comes in many shades and many sounds. All music that black people create is black enough. I encourage you to listen to alt-black artists. Some of my favorites are Baby Storme, Meet Me at the Altar, and Nova Twins. It’s time you see black artists as the complex, nuanced people that they are.


Black and Brown Women Get to be Quirky Too, Right?

Rebekah Suber
27 years old and still don't know how to write a bio. Unhealthy obsession with the Sims. If I'm not running around after my daughter, I'm either listening to a podcast or rewatching The Nanny.