Jasper Jams: Diversifying Your Playlist

by, Gabriella DePinho & Lauren Raziano, Editor-in-Chief & Staff Writer

Without realizing it, it’s pretty easy to fill up a playlist with predominantly white male musicians. Some genres such as R&B, rap, and hip-hop have a significantly more diverse representation than others because of the roots of the genres. But if we’re being honest, all music was inspired and influenced by the work of musicians of color, often musicians that never got the credit they deserve for their groundbreaking work.

It’s easy to listen to white, heterosexual, cisgender musicians in any genre as the market is full of them. Their music might be wonderful and worthy of acclaim, sure, but there’s no denying that musicians of color and LGBTQ+ musicians who are often equally as talented, if not more so, are not often given the same promotion, money and attention from the industry. 

With that in mind, this week’s Jasper Jams is an effort to encourage you to diversify your playlists. Below are tracks from musicians with a wide range of diverse identities, whether it’s their ethnicity, race, culture, gender, sexuality, or a combination of those things.  

Lauren’s picks  

Lions by Skip Marley

With a mix of modern Jamican beats and guitars, this song calls for unity and love during times of protesting for racial rights. “Lions” by Bob Marley’s grandson, Skip, writes about the hardships of protesting for your human rights,“if ya took all my rights away/Yeah, if ya tellin’ me how to pray/ Yeah, if ya won’t let us demonstrate,” and then he is also able to celebrate the political power that this younger generation has, “We are the movement, this generation/ You better know who we are.” 

Girls like Girls by Hayley Kiyoko

Hayley Kiyoko, also known as “Lesbian Jesus” by her fans, debeuted this song addressing LGBTQ+ themes in Feburary 2015, a few months before gay marriage was legalized in the USA. This song was so impactful that Billboard.com labeled it as a part of the list, “Songs that Defined the Decade.” This song was the first of its kind to mention the stereotypes and judgments at the time, “Girls like girls like boys do, nothing new?” While LGBTQ+ rights are becoming a more talked about political topic, this song praises accepting who you are and being able to explore your sexuality. Additionally, being half-Japanese, Kiyoko is a woman of color. 

Can’t Put It In The Hands of Fate by Stevie Wonder – feat. Rapsody, Cordae, Chika & Busta Rhymes

Stevie Wonder is still making songs in 2020, but this one has an inspirational political meaning. With the lyrics,” Bodies hittin’ the ground, and so we gotta take a kneel/ Mothers missin’, kid’s attorneys say they oughta take a deal,” Wonder specifically addresses the unproportional violence, death, and racial discrimination in the legal sphere that affects the African-American community. In a press conference for the song, Wonder said that the creation of this song was a response to “systemic racism … every young person is saying this stuff here is unacceptable. We can’t be a united people of the world and have this craziness … Change is right now – we can’t put it in the hands of fate.” 

The Garden of Love by Martha Redbone 

Martha Redbone mixes genres of folk, blues, and gospel to tell her experience of being a Native & African-American musician.With her father being African American, and her mother being Appalachia, she writes, “We are red … we are black … we are white … we’re all mixed up, but not confused, in our peaceful little world of Appalachia.” to show that we are all united , despite our race. Redbone had the chance to be featured in NPR’s podcast “All Things Considered” to talk about how she mixes her background of American Roots with social issues to inspire others. This has helped her fanbase to expand, and hopefully you will join her fanbase too.

Minstrel Man by Tona Brown

If you are looking for a mix of classical instruments or gospel vocals Tona Brown is someone you should listen to. Not only is Tona Brown a classically trained violinist and a professional vocalist, she became the first known transgender person of color to perform Carnegie Hall in 2014. Brown also sang the national anthem at the LGBT Leadership Conference and Gala Fundraiser for the former president, Barack Obama.

Gabs’ picks 

Exothermic – Faouzia 

Finding this Moroccan-Canadian singer my freshman year of college, I’ve been following her releases along for almost four years. She’s the only musician born in Morocco that I’ve got in my playlists and I think she’s worth the listen. Just 20 years old, she’s just released a track with John Legend and in embracing her roots (and flexing her fluency in 3 languages) she has a track with Kelly Clarkson where she sings in Arabic.

Crush feat. Usher – Yuna

Yuna is a Malaysian singer-songwriter that first went viral after she uploaded a track to MySpace. With nearly a twelve year career in music under her belt, she’s just been getting bigger and bigger with each release. Yuna is also a Muslim woman who wears the hijab. In 2017 she said though people expected her to “toss away” her hijab as she was now a “pop star,” she knew she could have both her dedication to her religion and her music saying, “I’m a Muslim. I don’t try to hide it. I’m also a girl who loves music. And I don’t try to hide that as well.” 

Kelly – The Aces 

The Aces is one of my favorite girl bands around. The four-piece band has two queer members — sisters Cristal and Alisa Ramierez, who are from a conservative town in Utah. Though the band avoided gendered pronouns on their first album “When My Heart Felt Volcanic,” for their 2020 release “Under My Influence” the sisters and bandmates felt brave enough to not only use those gendered pronouns but also to sing “Kelly/ what you doing? / Please stop playing with my heart.” The best part about it all? Bandmates McKenna Petty and Katie Henderson are in full support of the sisters writing lyrics that represent their true stories. 

Cliché – mxmtoon

Singer-songwriter mxmtoon, otherwise known as Maia, now only 20 self-released her first EP “Plum Blossom,” which this track comes from, in 2018. She describes herself as a “bisexual woman of color from a family of immigrants” and has Chinese, German and Scottish roots. She’s quite vulnerable in her lyrics, addressing love, friendship, experiences in therapy, and mental health. 

Bossa No Sé feat. Jean Carter – Cuco

Cuco, known off-stage as Omar Banos, is a 22-year-old Mexican-American musician born and raised in California. He began self-producing and releasing music from his bedroom in 2015, putting his tracks on Bandcamp and Soundcloud. His musical style arguably blends bossa nova — a style of samba — and indie pop and his influences range from old ballads his parents used to listen to in the house to Chicano rappers. This track comes from his first studio album, his 2019 release of “Para Mi” but Cuco hasn’t slowed down: his most recent release was September of this year.