BY Terron Austin –

As the world continues to reopen and travel plans are revving up for those summer getaways, the Unites States announced it is set to add a third gender marker – or an “X” – option to current passports for people who do not identify as male or female. Another victory for non-binary Americans as well as a step toward progress for all intersex citizens, this gender-neutral category comes at the close of Pride month celebrations in the form of a statement from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The State Department’s statement did not provide an official date for when the option will be available, but still sees America joining a growing list of countries like Canada, Germany, Australia and India offering the third gender marker for international travelers without the need for medical certification to declare a change in gender on current passports. New York, among several other U.S. states and cities, already allow Americans to opt for a third gender on identification cards and some major airlines have announced plans to follow.

Looks like Pride 2021 isn’t the only major even bringing the people of New York City and surrounding areas together this summer. Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced official plans to welcome back the arts with a massive concert to celebrate the progress, perseverance and promise of New York City’s rebirth. As part of the NYC Homecoming Week, the August 21st Central Park Homecoming Concert is set to declare there is no stopping New York City with confirmed performances from headliners Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and Jennifer Hudson plus others on the Great Lawn. “This is going to be an amazing, memorable, once-in-a-lifetime week in New York City,” the Mayor predicted. Produced by Brooklyn-bred music mogul Clive Davis in partnership with LiveNation, tickets for the star-studded three-hour concert for 60,000 in-person attendees will be free with VIP options available later this month. If you’re unsure you want to make your way to the heart of the city in this summer heat for the show, the televised performances will also be available for worldwide audiences. Keep your eyes and ears open for more on this not-to-be-missed celebration of the city’s recovery plus how you can be involved.

“Please don’t stop the music” as superstar Rihanna reminded us back in 2007 and that is exactly what the Harlem community plans to do with this month’s exciting free Harlem House Block Party on July 17th. From noon to sundown, we’ll be dancing in the streets come rain or shine to the pulsating sounds of DJ Frankie Paradise. Expect games, giveaways and good energy, but don’t forget to grab your favorite dancing partner for some soulful house, Afro beats and disco in the neighborhood. Meet at St. Nicholas Park (135th St. Nicholas Ave) with friends, find more details on Eventbrite by searching Harlem House Block Party and hopefully, we’ll see you there.

Everybody knows the summertime brings not only the best parties and gatherings, but also the best music. So why not find some fresh vibes to season your summer playlists and get into these upcoming projects sure to make this year’s festivities come alive? Here’s a list of new music you’ll definitely want to give a spin.

Amorphous – Things Take Shape
He’s the genius kid DJ/producer everyone fell in love with during the pandemic and Amorphous’ star is rising and shining brighter every single day as he prepares to release his debut project. Coming July 8th, Amorphous and his Things Take Shape EP boast an eclectic offering of R&B/soul served over a music bed of dance and house designed to push any party into overdrive. Highlights include superstar singers such as Kelly Rowland and CeCe Peniston who join forces on a revamping of Peniston’s 90s classic “Finally (Cannot Hide It)” to celebrate Pride year-round and more surprises from Grammy-winning songstress/actress Brandy and R&B/pop newcomer Kehlani. Follow Amorphous on IG – @theofficialamorphous.

Cakes Da Killa – Muvaland Vol. 2
Buckle up for powerhouse NY rapper Cakes Da Killa’s upcoming Muvaland Vol. 2, the sequel to last November’s Muvaland EP. Set to arrive on July 16th, the offering of glittery house melodies from the Brooklyn-based queer rapper is here to remind us that ballroom culture’s not just a trending topic. The project deals with the lyricist’s ideas on the final days of a pandemic, returning to nightlife, reconnecting with friends and hopefully making new ones. Packed with soon-to-be club anthems like “What’s The Word” and “Taste Test,” Muvaland Vol. 2 sees Cakes Da Killa leading a new generation of LGBTQ+ artists and going back to the basics to capture the celebration and resurgence of the 90s ballroom scene. Make your way toward all the fun and fabulosity Cakes Da Killa has in store for us via IG – @cakesdakilla.

Willow – Lately I Feel Everything
She’s grown into one of music’s most liberated and promising performers all before the age of 21. On July 16th, Willow Smith’s new album Lately I Feel Everything will highlight the journey of a young entertainer unafraid to experiment with her freedom of expression as she departs from the pop/R&B sounds of her earlier work to take a nose dive into rock, pop-punk and heavy metal. The daughter of entertainment legends Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s new music moves in a new rapid-fire creative direction with some stunning visuals to accompany songs such as “Lipstick” and “Transparent Soul” featuring Travis Barker. Prepare yourselves and get ready for Willow’s takeover by following on IG – @willowsmith.

Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever
Grammy-winning pop star Billie Eilish’s sophomore album Happier Than Ever (coming July 30th) is one of the year’s most anticipated releases. Serving as the follow-up to the singer’s highly lauded 2019 debut When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Eilish appears to be following the “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it” winning formula featuring no outside production beyond herself and her brother Finneas who confirmed the pair has continued to make the type of music they like to play live. The album will feature previous singles “Therefore I Am” and “My Future.” Pure in its intention just like the first go ‘round, we’re excited to see if Eilish beats the dreaded industry sophomore slump and still comes out on top. Stay connected via IG – @billieeilish.

Spice – Ten
You might know her from the VH1 hit series “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta,” but this summer Jamaican dancehall recording artist Spice is going to finally give us all that she’s got. Set to drop July 30th, Spice’s long-awaited debut album Ten arrives just in time for us to “dutty wine” into the sounds of the summer and island life we’ve been longing for. She’s widely recognized as the “Queen of Dancehall” and the project’s lead single “Go Down Deh” featuring globally known dancehall stars Shaggy and Sean Paul proves it is time to spice up your life with her fresh reggae fusions. Get a head start now by following her on IG – @spiceofficial.