Influential Black Musicians

Check out the work of these influential Black artists this Black History Month

Emily Haber, Arts & Culture Writer

Louis Armstrong, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson and Billie Holiday are just a few of the many inspiring Black artists that have left a lasting impact on current generations as their music still remains popular today. Today, artists of color around the world have achieved incredible feats, such as Lil Nas X’s song “Old Town Road” which reached a total of 2.9 billion streams, and rapper Kendrick Lamar, whose album “Damn” was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2018. 

There are a number of other recording artists today who continue to make wave and smash expectations. Here are a few contemporary Black singers, songwriters and performers to know.

The late Whitney Houston was one of the best-selling artists in history, selling over 200 million records. Not only was her music inspiring, but she was involved in a number of charity work. She created the Whitney Houston Foundation for Children in 1989, a nonprofit organization which helps children who are sick or homeless. During its operation, it taught children to read, worked to prevent child abuse and built playgrounds in cities. In 1991, Houston’s Star-Spangled Banner reached the Top 100. Houston donated all of the money from the single to the American Red Cross to help Gulf War troops and their families. Houston left a great impact on society with her charity work and music, and she will not be forgotten.

Pop star Lizzo is an incredible singer and flute player, but besides those two things, she is a champion of body positivity. Her music speaks for itself as she has won three Grammys and eight nominations. She also received Billboard’s Music Award for Top Selling Artist. Her songs are upbeat and many of her lyrics talk about self-love. Recently she just released a sneak peek of singing her newest song, “Special” on Instagram. The video clip was her singing it to her mom in which the song is about. This sneak peek means that there is new music on the way and fans are excited to hear it.

Rapper Lamar has received many awards for his songs. In addition to his Pulitzer, he holds 13 Grammys for his albums. He attributes his music to the people who have influenced him, including the late Tupac Shakur, he Notorious B.I.G., Jay Z, Nas and Eminem. Tracking Lamar’s influences demonstrates the evolution of hip-hop, from the very beginning to today. This year for the Super Bowl halftime show he performed alongside Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Mary J. Blige. Additionally, Lamar is dedicated to being a role model himself, donating to groups like the Red Cross and giving $50,000 to his high school’s music program. 

Rapper and former Young Money protege Drake has won four Grammys and has been nominated 47 times. In the music video for one of his biggest hits, “God’s Plan,” he donated one million dollars to community members, which was the music video’s budget. He handed out money to people throughout the video, paid for a family’s groceries and gave $50,000 for a student’s tuition. He still continues to use his money for good. In 2020, he donated $100,000 for bail money for protestors who were put in jail for protesting in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Drake still participates in charitable actions for the greater good of society while still creating music. In September he released “Certified Lover Boy,” his newest album which broke Apple Music and Spotify records for biggest opening day streams. 

African American artists and musicians are leaving their mark on society through their music and their charitable actions. They have become role models for all generations and future ones to come.