Soundtrack to Your Summer: 6 Albums to Watch Out For

By Jamilah King May 16, 2014

Summer’s almost here, which means you can put away those winter clothes and break out the speakers. Whether you’re getting ready to kick it on your stoop or want to get amped up for a trip to the beach, here are a few artists of color with new projects coming out that could be the soundtrack to your summer. 

Big Freedia, "Just Be Free"


It’s been a wild year for the Queen of Bounce. Her* signature dance–twerking–blew up, and so did she: Her reality show earned a second season and she was a mainstay in Rolling Stone. But after years of dominating New Orleans’ hip-hop’s fringes, Freedia is finally getting ready to drop her first full-length album, "Just Be Free." Release date: June 17. 

The Roots, "…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin"

The Roots’ 11th studio album is also their second concept album in a row. The previous, "Undun," followed the short, tragic life of a 15-year-old character, Redford Stevens. This latest offering will follow a whole cast. As Black Thought told XXL recently: "It’s satire, but in that satire it’s an analysis of some of the stereotypes perpetuated not only in hip-hop, but in the community." Release date: May 19.

Little Dragon, "Nabuma Rubberband"

This Swedish electronic band admitted to two overriding influences for their fourth studio album: South African Kwaito music and Janet Jackson. It’s that type of range that’s helped build Little Dragon’s appeal to different audiences. "When you put some of Janet’s really slow stuff on you feel like you’re floating," lead singer Yukimi Nagano told Rolling Stone. "That feeling really influenced me and maybe that’s why there are quite a lot of slow jams on the record." Release date: May 13. 

 Blu, "Good to be Home"

One of the more prolific rappers in the industry, this is Blu’s love letter to Los Angeles, an album that he describes as "his most defining record ever." And if Joseph Martinez’s accompanying art is any indication, it’s a nod to the contradictions inherent in any city. Release date: May 19. 

Ben and Ellen Harper, "Childhood Home"

Folk singer Ben Harper doesn’t leave all of his mama love for the second Sunday in May. Instead, he released an entire album with his mom, Ellen Harper, as a tribute to their family’s deep roots in the genre. Harper’s maternal grandparents, Charles and Dorothy Chase, founded the Folk Music Center and Museum in Claremont, Calif., and his mother established herself as a noted folk artist who influenced her son’s early musical ambitions. Release date: May 6, 2014. 

José James, "While You Were Sleeping"

For his fifth studio album, R&B and jazz artist José James reached deep into the music that molded him — much of which might be surprising to fans. "This album is a synthesis of everything I love about music," James told his label, Blue Note, "from contemporary artists like Frank Ocean, James Blake and Junip to groundbreaking artists I grew up with like Nirvana, Radiohead and Madlib. It’s also a love letter to many late nights spent in East London clubs like Plastic People and Cargo, watching new movements unfold in electronic music. I want people to feel the joy of discovery that I experience night after night onstage, reaching for something new." Release date: June 10.

*Post has been updated since publication. When in performance mode, Freedia uses feminine prounouns.