Amazing black artists, writers, and musicians under 30

AfroPoP X has arrived, and the second episode features three short films including  KoJo, the amazing story of Kojo Odu Roney. This short documentary takes viewers inside the gifted 12-year-old jazz drummer’s world, sharing Kojo’s thoughts on his work, the state of jazz, and the influence of his father, saxophonist Antoine Roney. Kojo’s personality and passion captivate audiences almost as much as his astounding musical skills do, and reminds us that you’re never too young to have talent and vision. Though not everyone can boast being an acclaimed jazz prodigy by age 12, young black creatives are taking the world by storm. Check out some of these other awe-inspiring black artists, writers, and musicians below, all under 30:

1. Awol Erizku

Awol Erizku is a 29-year-old photographer born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The California-based artist is known for re-staging classic works of art using subjects of color. In one of his most famous works, titled Girl with a Bamboo Earring (2009), the artist reimagines Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring to critically examine the absence of black subjects in the history of art. Erizku is also particularly well known for photographing Beyoncé’s pregnancy announcement in 2017, which quickly became one of the most-liked pictures on Instagram.

2. Cécile McLorin Salvant

Cécile McLorin Salvant is a 28-year-old American jazz vocalist. Born in Miami, FL to a Haitian father and a French mother, Salvant began playing classical piano at age 5 and joined the Miami Choral Society by age 8. She studied classical voice and jazz in both the U.S. and France and had recorded her first album by the time she was 20 years old. One year later, she won the Thelonious Monk competition in Washington, D.C. She has since released three more albums. Her most recent one, Dreams and Daggers, was nominated Best Jazz Vocal Album of 2017 at the 60th Grammy Awards.

3. Nayyirah Waheed

Thought she is perhaps one of the more famous poets on Instagram today, little is known about the personal life of young writer Nayyirah Waheed. Since her journey with creative writing began at age 11, Waheed has self-published two books of poetry: salt. (2013), and Nejma (2016). Initially, she faced a lot of criticism, but Waheed has since gained a large and loyal following (especially on Instagram, where she posts a number of her poems). Waheed’s raw poetry cannot be separated from its arresting visual experience, characterized by short lines, lowercase letters, and a lack of punctuation. Her writing centers around themes of love, race, identity, and feminism.

4. Paul Anthony Smith

Paul Anthony Smith, a 29-year-old Jamaican-born artist, uses his painting prowess to explore autobiographical themes such as identity and the African Diaspora. In addition to oil painting, Smith works with a more unique medium called picotages, in which the artist uses ceramic tools to chip away at the surface of photographic prints – Smith uses the effect to emphasize his artistic themes. Currently based in Kansas City, Mo., Smith has showcased his work around the country and around the world.

5. Ibanda Ruhumbika

This talented tuba player has been getting attention since he was a teen in the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra. Videos of his performances have been shared on YouTube for years, and he was featured on the musical education program From the Top three times, all before attending The Juilliard School from 2008 to 2012. Now in his late 20s, Ruhumbika is known for his time spent playing with Jon Batiste and Stay Human, which became the house band for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert beginning in 2015.


These talented black artists, musicians, and writers are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to those celebrities that have become household names, young black artists continue to push the boundaries and gain recognition in every creative field. To hear the inspiring story of one child prodigy, watch and share Afropop X’s Kojo.