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African-American Music Appreciation Month 2020

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

Our spotlighted posts honoring the Black artists that we have covered in our repertoire!


"Ultralight Beam" - Kanye West, Kelly Price, and Chance the Rapper

Soloists: Callie Randall '20, Anne Corigliano '23, Jalen Benjamin '23

Arrangement: Mike Guarino '23 and Nam Vu '23.

In celebration of African-American Music Appreciation Month and in our effort to more frequently appreciate Black artists, we are kicking it off with “Ultralight Beam” by Kanye West, Kelly Price, and Chance the Rapper. We are so excited to spotlight such an amazing song from Kanye West’s album, Life of Pablo. Although “Ultralight Beam” was never separately released as a single, it topped music charts and is admired by music critics for its religious message. Aspects of “Ultralight Beam,” like its powerful choral background, are reflective of gospel music, a prominent genre of music largely created and popularized by Black artists. Aside from their singing and rapping, Kanye West and Chance the Rapper further influence the music industry through production, songwriting, and philanthropic work to help provide musical opportunities for the youth of their Chicago communities.


"Can't Take My Eyes Off You" - Lauryn Hill Version

Soloist: Callie Randall '20

Our second post for African-American Music Appreciation Month spotlights the amazing Lauryn Hill and her rendition of the classic song, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” originally by Frankie Valli. Our cover of Lauryn Hill’s version has become a Phantoms’ staple that we love to perform whenever we get the chance! As part of her widely-popular and first solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, she uniquely covers the song by infusing her R&B and Hip-Hop artistry into a song from the 1960s. Lauryn Hill began her career with the Fugees, a hip-hop group, and was famed as one of the best female rap artists and awarded a grammy for The Best Rap Album. She later moved to a solo career where she released two albums and won an additional 5 grammys including Album of the Year. Lauryn Hill’s influence within the music industry is exemplified by how well-known her songs are, “Ex Factor,” “Doo Wap (That Thing),” “Everything is Everything,” and “Killing me Softly” to name a few. A wide range of artists have identified Lauryn Hill as one of their inspirations and used samples of her songs within their own including Drake, Cardi B, Beyonce, Adele, Rihanna, and many more. Through her raw talent and musical knowledge, Lauryn Hill added a new layer to the hip-hop genre.


"River" - Leon Bridges

Soloist: Mike Guarino '22

Arrangement: Mike Guarino '23

June may be over, but we thought we would continue our spotlight posts and highlight some more amazing Black artists! This week is Leon Bridges and his song, River. Our rendition of River was performed at Cherry Tree 2019 and is sung and arranged by soloist Mike Guarino ‘22. Leon Bridges is a relatively new artist who debuted his first album Coming Home in 2015, later releasing his second album Good Thing in 2018. His initial album was also nominated for the Best R&B Album at the 58th Grammys, narrowly losing to D’Angelo and the Vanguard’s Black Messiah. River, with more than 185 million streams on Spotify, tells the story of the singer’s relationship with his faith. You may recognize Leon for some of his other popular songs, “Beyond,” “Texas Song,” and “Coming Home.” Leon’s powerful vocals and meaningful lyrics have helped reframe and popularize contemporary soul music. In an interview with NPR, Leon cited some of his musical influences as Sam Cooke, Roy C., and Arthur Calendar (all talented soul singers and musicians).


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