June marks Black Music Month, but this year’s celebration of the appreciation month came during a distinct time as our country is currently fighting to end police brutality in the wake of the wrongful deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and countless others. We hope Black Music Month can be used to uplift and empower artists, as well as showcase the historical impact Black artists have had on numerous genres of music, such as dance music. We wouldn’t have the music we have today without Frankie Knuckles, also known as the “Godfather of House Music,” Larry Levan, Todd Terry, Ron Hardy, Steve “Silk” Hurley, Phuture, Marshall Jefferson, Chip E, Larry Heard, Farley “Jackmaster” Funk and many others. These artists helped pave the way for dance music, and we owe what we have today to them.
DJ and producer Kyle Kinch notes that much of his inspiration today stems from the work of Knuckles and Terry, and Kinch has even released music on Jefferson’s renowned Freakin909 label. Kinch, who is well-known for his groovy sound that’s influenced by jazz and disco, has also been featured on Gorgon City’s REALM Records, SubSoul’s Circles imprint and Rawsome Recordings. In addition, he’s performed at major events such as Coachella, elrow and Sunset Music Festival. Kinch took the time to share with Forbes what Black Music Month means to him, his favorite releases by Black artists that came out this month and more on why Black Music Month is close to his heart.
Lisa Kocay: What does Black Music Month mean to you?
Kyle Kinch: “Black Music Month is showing respect to the culture that essentially created the industry we thrive in. Nearly all popular music we listen to today can trace its roots back to early blues, which was an outlet to express Black pain. My genres specifically were created by Blacks who felt out of place in society, but found their home in house and techno. I’ve always been told that the best music is created in times of turmoil, but turmoil is embedded in Black culture. When you hear us, you feel us.”
Kocay: What are some of your favorite releases by Black artists that came out this month?
Kinch: “One of my favorites right now is Demarkus Lewis feat. Tamika Mallory – ‘So Now What.’ It’s got
a classic deep house vibe, which speaks to my soul. What really gets me about this track, though, is its spoken word vocal. It explains exactly how Black people in America are feeling right now and that we’ve had enough. I found this track during the height of the George Floyd protests. While the world was weighing heavy on me, this song lifted me up. It’s currently a free download on SoundCloud, so please go support Demarkus.”
Kocay: What are some ways Black artists have been coming together to empower one another this Month?
Kinch: “I’ve seen artists start threads sharing their favorite Black artists at the moment, giving guys the
spotlight that may have gotten overlooked. Others have offered their expertise and guidance to up and coming artists. Most importantly, I see Black artists pushing the conversation of lack of representation on bookings and festivals when it comes to Black artists. House music was started by Black artists and there are plenty of them around, but yet shows still get dominated by white or European artists. I think this conversation is long overdue, and I’m glad people are starting to listen.”
Kocay: Are there any Black artists who helped influence the music you make today? If so, can you please share who they are and how they influenced your work?
Kinch: “Frankie Knuckles is house music in its purest form, and I’ve always wanted to capture that
sound. His music could brighten your day with the first few beats—I want mine to do the same.
Todd Terry has been around since the beginning and is still constantly evolving his sound. His versatility inspires me to continue refining my sound. Green Velvet’s influence on me can be heard in my most recent track, ‘Diplomacy.’ The way he uses his voice to create authentic samples makes his music completely unique. One of my most recent inspirations is Culoe de Song. His afro-house beats are infectious, but the way he adds progressive melodic elements makes me want to dig deeper in what I can create.”
Kocay: Do you have a message you would like to share during Black Music Month?
Kinch: “I urge everyone to explore the history of their music. Only when you fully understand your past,
will you know where you’re headed in the future.”
Kocay: Is there anything else you think I should know?
Kinch: “Spread love and continue to fight for justice.”