As a fan of EDM, I am constantly reminded of the under-representation of black EDM artists, despite the fact that EDM originated from gay black men. I wanted to write about the origins of EDM and recognize the influence of black artists, which constantly goes unrecognized based uninstitutional racial bias in the world of music.
House music and dance music was first created in the gay club scenes of the 70’s and 80’s. This sound is credited to gay men, particularly gay men of color; the music was created for and by LGBTQ people of color. Frankie Knuckles, a gay black man from Chicago’s South Side, is known as the “Godfather of House Music.” EDM draws heavily upon these influences and the rise of the genre would not have been possible without the queer black musicians experimenting with dance music. EDM gained global recognition as a genre in the mid-2000s with the appearance of artists like Calvin Harris and Swedish House Mafia. The industry has only gained in popularity since then, but is still dominated by straight, white men. EDM still lacks LGBTQ and POC representation, despite its origins. On the topic, Adam Davenport, the first African-American EDM musician to chart on Billboard said this: “It’s interesting that EDM has been dominated by largely straight white DJs [and] producers from Europe, and yet the godfather of house music — to which electronic dance music is indebted — happens to be a gay Black man, also from Chicago, named Frankie Knuckles. Frankie passed away in 2014, but I’d like to think that his spirit is blessing my efforts.” Largely the history of EDM has been ignored by the artists who have risen to fame from the genre, like David Guetta, who was credited by an ABC special for bringing house music to America.
Remember this the next time you hear a top-100 EDM song, likely produced by a straight, white artist. If you love the genre, remember its true history and consider it wouldn’t have been possible without the creativity of black individuals like Frankie Knuckles. Additionally, check out and celebrate black EDM artists like Green Velvet, Flying Lotus, and Black Coffee.