Before we get into black film composers you should know, let’s first talk scores vs soundtracks.
A score is a specific music that accompanies a scene or moment in the film. It is usually created by one or many composers and traditionally consists of instrumental music written by a composer and performed by an orchestra or group of musicians.
Think, the scene when Ricky gets shot in Boyz n the Hood.
A soundtrack on the other hand is a compilation of songs and sounds that make up the film’s music. A soundtrack is typically lyrical and curated of songs by different artists or musicians.
Think, Waiting to Exhale soundtrack.
Now that that is out the way, while the film industry is large, the field of composers isn’t as diverse. So let’s get to know all the black film composers you should know.
He has scored dozens of films including The Pawnbroker, In the Heat of the Night, The Italian Job, and The Color Purple. In 1969, Quincy Jones and his songwriting partner, Bob Russell, became the first African-Americans to be nominated for the Oscar for best original song, for the film In Cold Blood. He also was nominated for an Oscar for The Color Purple as well.
Bowers has scored video games, TV shows; like Bridgerton, and films such as Green Book, When They See Us, and The United States vs. Billie Holiday. He not only scored Green Book but also served as the hand-double for Mahershala Ali’s Dr. Don Shirley in the film. He also scored the yet-to-be-released Space Jam: A New Legacy, Respect, and King Richard.
Davis is among the most influential musicians in history and scored films such as Elevator to the Gallows, Jack Johnson, Siesta, and Dingo.
Kathryn Bostic is the first female African-American composer to be a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. She scored films such as Dear White People, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am and Clemency. She won the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) award for best music for Middle of Nowhere.
Clarke has scored over 30 films including Boyz n the Hood, The Best Man franchise, Higher Learning, What’s Love Got to Do With It, and more.
Farquhur has scored many tv series like The King of Queens, Girlfriends, Sister, Sister, Moesha, Being Mary Jane, The Game, Black Lightning, and Real Husbands of Hollywood. As a black film composer he has scored films such as Not Easily Broken, Lifted, 96 Minutes, The Perfect Match, Created Equal, and more.
Blanchard is considered to be “the most prolific jazz musician to ever compose for motion pictures.” He has scored dozens of films including but not limited to Their Eyes Were Watching God, Malcom X, Harriet, One Night in Miami, and Jungle Fever. He also is the second Black film composer to be nominated for an Academy Award twice, he ties with Quincy Jones. Blanchard’s score for BlacKkKlansman was nominated for best original score at the 2019 Oscars and he’s up for an Oscars for Da 5 Bloods.
Kali has worked a lot with director Dee Rees, composing her films Mudbound, Pariah, and The Last Thing He Wanted. She also scored the documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble, Shirley, and The Assistant.
Hancock scored the film Blow-Up and was the first black composer to win an Oscar, for the score to 1986’s Round Midnight. He also scored other films such as A Soldier’s Story, Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, Action Jackson, Colors, and Harlem Nights.
Abels has worked with Jordan Peele, scoring both his films Get Out and Us. He also scored See You Yesterday, All Day and a Night, and Bad Education.
Jones is a rising composer who has already made history as the first black woman to be nominated for an Emmy for scoring an episode of the Apply TV series Home. She has scored the series A Black Lady Sketch Show, Twenties, Cherish The Day, and Good Trouble. Her film scores include One Angry Black Man and Definition Please. She also scored documentaries Ringside and St. Louis Superman.
At 23 years old Kamboon won an Emmy for composing the HBO film Sonny Liston: The Mysterious Life and Death of a Champion. He has since scored movies such as The Tiger Woods Story, The Wash, Biker Boyz, The Cookout, and more.
The producer is heavy into all sides of the film industry including scoring multiple films like Kill Bill: Vol 1 and Kill Bill: Vol 2. He also scored Blade: Trinity, Meet the Blacks, Roxanne Roxanne and more.
The producer has composed Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, co-composed The Amazing Spiderman 2, and Hidden Figures.
Dancy has scored the film MVP and documentary What are we Waiting For?
Hayes’s score for the movie Shaft won an Oscar for Best Original Song in 1972. He also scored the film Three Tough Guys.
He has composed for multiple tv shows and also composed for the film Top Five (alongside Ludwig Goransson) and Vincent N Roxxy.
Gaye scored the film Trouble Man.
The legendary composer is also a black film composer who scored the films Anatomy of a Murder and Paris Blues.