Introducing ‘Brown butter’: a playlist spotlighting dark-skinned women in R&B

Colorism is well and alive in one of Black music’s most popular genres. Everyone who listens to R&B needs to help combat it.

Colorism (n): prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.

“Being manifestly mixed race, ethnically ambiguous, or simply lighter in complexion than brown- or dark-skinned Black women will get you farther in Black music than being, quite physically, closer to black/brownness.”

This specific type of prejudice not unique to the Black community. It’s a byproduct of racism, and thus, like racism, it exists on a global scale: in all of the Americas; in the U.K. and Europe; in numerous regions of Asia and Africa. And, in all of these places, women with (what are seen as) “darker” complexions are seen as less desirable, less attractive — because the beauty standards women most commonly face, even outside of the Western world, are, of course, Eurocentric. Colorism is also a system in which those with lighter — whiter — skin are privileged, while those with darker skin face hate and systemic (and, in some regions, institutionalized) discrimination.

“For me, in the context of music, the foremost way I can be anti-colorist as a consumer is to simply listen differently…making a conscious effort to stream, hype up, share, and outwardly support brown (like, actually brown) women in R&B is necessary.”

For me, in the context of music, the foremost way I can be anti-colorist as a consumer is to simply listen differently. And I think that’s a good starting place for anyone who has realized mFost of their R&B faves just so happen to be light-skinned. Keep in mind that because colorism is systemic, evening the playing field for light- and dark-skinned female artists won’t be easy. The algorithm is already working against these women. But making a conscious effort to stream, hype up, share, and outwardly support brown (like, actually brown) women in R&B is necessary. That’s why I’ve made this playlist, Brown Butter. — it exclusively features the music of dark- and brown-skinned women working in all subgenres of R&B.

At the moment, Brown butter. is available on Spotify only — unless someone wanna pay for my Apple Music and Tidal subscriptions?

Sydney N. Sweeney is a writer, editor, and critic based in Los Angeles. Her work focuses on culture, music, identity, and pop nostalgia.