Kiana Ledé, Mahalia, Abby Jasmine, and Muni Long open up about their journeys.
Whether in blues, rock, gospel, or jazz, Black female artists in the music industry have made historical impacts over the years. From pioneers like Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, and Diana Ross, to modern-day icons Missy Elliott, Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, and Rihanna, numerous women have paved the way for young Black girls aspiring to be singers or rappers one day. Like women in many other professions, however, female musicians — especially Black women — still have a different experience at their job than their male counterparts.
The lack of recognition and representation given to Black female artists is an ongoing concern. The long-neglected issue has even led one of the industry’s best talent to retire from music early. Teyana Taylor, previously signed to G.O.O.D Music/Def Jam, released The Album back in June 2020 and landed the No. 1 spot on Billboard‘s Top R&B Albums chart the following month. Despite its success, Taylor’s record did not receive a Grammy nomination under the Best R&B Album category, in which all nominees are male — a questionable move considering the Recording Academy’s pledge to improve its diversity efforts. “Y’all was better off just saying best MALE R&B ALBUM cause all I see is d*CK in this category,” the multi-hyphenate expressed her thoughts on Twitter out of frustration. By December, Taylor officially announced her retirement from music due to feeling “super underappreciated.”
At a time when diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of conversations, will music finally address its woeful lack of female representation? In honor of Black History Month, we spoke to four artists — Abby Jasmine, Kiana Ledé, Mahalia, and Muni Long — about what it’s like to be a Black woman in the music industry. From what they think the Grammys can do to create positive change, to the challenges they’ve had to overcome in terms of opportunity and recognition, read on for our conversation.
Take us back to the beginning, how did you jumpstart your career in music?
Abby Jasmine: With my parents both being musically inclined, I’ve always been around music. However, growing up, I was only allowed to listen to the gospel. Then once I found Future, it was over. I did Vine videos for fun where I would write my own content. Through that, I met Jonny Shipes and the rest is history.
Kiana Ledé: When I was 14 years old, my mom entered me in a talent competition. The prize was a record deal and I ended up winning.
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