4 Songwriters of Color

Music has been shaped by hundreds and thousands of people, whether they were Renaissance composers, the earliest rock ‘n’ roll-ers, or pioneers of electronic music. What sets apart Yves Tumor, Rico Nasty, Dev Hynes, and Yaeji, however, is that they didn’t just write songs—they are trailblazers, setting the standard for music to this day.

Sean Bowie

Sean Bowie, professionally known as Yves Tumor, produces experimental electronic music with heartfelt and raw lyrics. They started writing music to escape their dull surroundings, and are self-taught on drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards. Compared to James Ferraro and Dean Blunt, Bowie creates dark, dreamy soundscapes with haunting lyrics. Having released four albums, they have written each one of their songs. Often writing about personal relationships and spiritual themes, Bowie often juxtaposes various, seemingly unrelated genres in their music to create something that has never been done before.

Maria-Cecilia Simone Kelly

Born to a Puerto Rican mother and African American father, Maria-Cecilia Simone Kelly, professionally known as Rico Nasty, was exposed to rap at a young age. Describing herself as a “pop-punk princess,” Rico is a trailblazer in combining elements of hip hop, trap, punk rap, and rap rock. With a strong underground following, and currently emerging as a mainstream rapper, Rico Nasty has solidified her status as a singular talent.

Dev Hynes

Recording under the Blood Orange moniker, Hynes has written for artists such as Tinashe, Blondie, FKA Twigs, Haim, Florence and the Machine, Kylie Minogue, and many, many more. Not only is he a master songwriter, but also has collaborated several times with legendary composer Philip Glass, and has written scores for art pieces and movies (like Palo Alto). His own music incorporates indie rock, baroque pop, folk, contemporary R&B, jazz, and electronic music. Often drawing from his love for New York and its stories in his music, Hynes writes masterful lyrics filled with emotion.

Kathy Yaeji Lee

Known professionally as Yaeji, Kathy Yaeji Lee is a Korean-American artist based out of Brooklyn. She creates primarily electronic music, blending elements of house with hip-hop. Her soft and recognizable vocals, paired with her danceable beats and original lyrics, have made her an Internet sensation—especially on TikTok, where her single “Raingurl” went viral. She first discovered music when she moved to South Korea in the third grade—she was forced to find friends on the Internet, and they introduced her to a whole new world. Although she has yet to release a full-length studio album, Yaeji’s skillful combination of both Korean and English lyrics, as well as her artful expression of being misunderstood when living in both Atlanta and Korea, has proved that Yaeji is a star in the making.

Written by Elizabeth Soliman

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