Quite frankly, 2020 sucked the life out of the world. We lost legends many of us never knew a world without, had to watch an entire NBA playoff without fans, and live entertainment became a health hazard. 2020 took a lot but it didn’t strip away all of the Black joy of the future and Black entertainers are at the center of our better tomorrows.
We all know most of the Black joy purveyors who made our 2020 a bit more enjoyable. LeBron James helped lead people to the polls with his More Than A Vote campaign, and also led the Los Angeles Lakers to their first NBA title since the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant ripped a part of the basketball world’s heart out in 2020. Swizz Beatz and Timbaland’s VERZUZ series had millions of people rejoicing in watching their favorite artists go song-for-song on Instagram Live in a battle that may have never occurred in the world was open. Those are all well and good, but 2020 saw new Black stars emerge.
There were unknown people who got gifts from Oprah for mashing records together in their home. There were new artists who never had a hit make music that catalyzed viral social media challenges that united us all in a shared desire to show out. There were more stars bringing Black joy in 2020 than many may have realized, so Cassius Life compiled five of the best Black stars that made 2020 more enjoyable and should blow up in 2021.
Aunjanue L. Ellis
The greatest example of Afrofuturism in 2020 was Aunjanue L. Ellis traveling through space and time, building her daughter a bionic arm, and keeping a time portal open with her bare arms as Hippolyta Freeman in the Black sci-fi HBO series Lovecraft Country. The 51-year-old acting veteran gave women over 50 a shining example of how limitless their potential is regardless of age.
John David Washington
John David Washington established him as a box-office draw in 2020 as the lead actor in the mind-bending Christopher Nolan film Tenet. It takes true talent for your father to be Denzel Washington and your work speaks louder than your last name.
Radha Blank wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the Netflix film 40-Year-Old Version, a unique look into making a career shift later in life from playwright to a rapper. The film won the U.S. Dramatic Competition Directing Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, so expect to see more of her irreverently authentic style of storytelling in the future.
Alex Newell, as sassy Mo on NBC’s musical comedy Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, outsings everyone on a show built around random song renditions explaining episode plots. You can’t hear Newell’s voice without being mesmerized and after receiving a Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his role, you’ll hear his stage-ready vocals more.
In 2020, neither Megan Thee Stallion, Drake, Lil Baby, Eminem, or any rappers outside of a handful had a bigger radio hit than 24KGoldn’s “Mood,” a 140-second straight shot of sunshine. If the 20-years-old melodic MC can turn less than three minutes of music into millions of hours of good time vibes for the millions who repeatedly played “Mood,” then he’ll surely be delivering Black joy in the coming years.