February is almost over and we here at BSPZ would like share our thoughts on who we think are the most influential black artists ever. The list is solely based on opinion.
The listed was calculated by impact, influence & overall talent. Artists like Beyonce & Alicia Keys are low because they came in at a time where music was less about music & all about competition in which they won they’re the leading females acts in R&B & have been so for the past 10 years. If this was a list based on this generation they’d be #1 & #2.
40. (Hot Boys)
The Hot Boys are first kicking off our list. The group banded in 1996 with members Lil Wayne, B.G., Juvenile, Bulletproof Turk. They’re most known for their signature twerking anthems that started way back before White America (Miley Cyrus) put a stamp on the dance craze. If it wasn’t for the Hot Boys & The Big Tymers creating the sound & it later being made popular by Ludacris, 2 Chainz & Juicy J we wouldn’t have the music we’re turning up to. So not only did they influence other artists, their music influenced an whole era. Check out one of the Hot Boys most recognizable songs by member Juvenile.
Monica first came on the scene in the 90s with her smash hit “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Those Days)”, but what put her on the map was her duet with her peer Brandy “The Boy Is Mine”. Over the past decade Monica has solidified her place in the music industry & has influenced artists such as Keyshia Cole, K. Michelle, Ciara & much more.. Check out Monica’s most recognizable song.
38. (Jill Scott)
Jill Scott is one of the most rarest artists a music listener can come by she beamed on the scene with her classic “Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1” album in 2oo0. With a real distinctive writing style & vocal acrobatics Ms. Scott has influenced artists like Beyonce, Estelle, Amy Winehouse & Chrisette Michele. Get into her classic ‘A Long Walk’
37. (Alicia Keys)
Alicia Keys stormed into the music industry with her debut “Songs In A Minor” in 2001. Ms. Keys has the best hand written catalog since Mariah Carey. She came into the industry influencing veteran artists such as Stevie Wonder, Prince & Whitney Houston & has also influenced John Legend, Christina Aguileria & Maxwell. listen to Alicia Keys most popular song.
Beyonce started out in a girl group named Destiny’s Child wanting her own success Beyonce went solo & later became the biggest artist of her generation. Releasing classic hit anthems such as “Crazy In Love”, “Irreplaceable”, “Single Ladies” & “Love On Top” Beyonce has been named major influences by her peers such as Alicia Keys, Brandy & Kanye West.. to the newer generation from Seveyn Streeter, Chris Brown, Rihanna & Ariana Grande. check out one of Mrs. Carter’s biggest hits.
Brandy was one of the first triple threat child stars to reach the success that she had. Brandy was a music artist, a cover girl, star of her own show Moesha, dancer, model & mother. Brandy hit the streets with timeless classic such has her duet with Monica “The Boy Is Mine”, “Have U Ever”, “I Wanna Be Down”, “Sittin’ Up In My Room” & much more. Brandy’s influence has reached artists like Ashanti, Maxwell, Rihanna, Ariana Grande, Alicia Keys, Dawn Richard, Estelle, Chris Brown & more… check out of her greatest hits below.
Nas is one of the greats with albums that are stlaples in Hip Hop how could henot be influential? Nas has an influence of artists such as 50 Cent, Kanye West, J.Cole, Kendrick Lamar & B.o.B. The Hip Hop legend is most known for his illustrious beef with now colleague JAY Z.
Usher is the leading male of his generation opening doors for artists like Chris Brown, Justin Beiber, Trey Songz & NeYo & gushing out hits such as “U Remind Me”, “Burn”, “Climax” & “There Goes My Baby”. Mr. Raymond has established his career with his game changing albums “8701” & “Confessions” plus he’s one of the best selling artists of all time.
32. (Erykah Badu)
Erykah Badu came from Dallas, TX with a clear inspiration from Chaka Khan she tweaked it & put her own spin on things with her unique story telling writing style. Her visionary videos, her poetry, her style are all reason why she’s on our list. Besides, who doesn’t know the classics “On & On”, “Bag Lady”, “Tyrone (Live)”& “Window Seat”. Her influences consist from a range of artists like Jill Scott, Frank Ocean, Solange & Janelle Monae Ms. Badu hasn’t put out any solo music lately but we’re looking forward to her next project.
31. (Lil Kim)
Lil Kim came up in 1996 under the guidance of the Notorious BIG. Kim is the blueprint for any female rapper after her. She knocked down the barrier of sexism in Hip Hop even though it still exist Kim was the one of the only females to do it successfully & still hold her own. Lil Kim is every female rappers #1 influence down to Tiffany Fox, Angel Haze to Trina & Nicki Minaj.
30. (Missy Elliott)
Missy Elliott is not only a female rapper but a pioneer for Hip Hop in general. With mesmerizing videos, boundary pushing music & timeless beats there is no other artist like Missy. She’s written your favorite song by your favorite artist, remixed it or produced it. Missy currently is the only female rapper with 5 Grammys & 6 certified platinum albums. Alongside best friend & fellow collaborator Elliott has smash hits like “The Rain”, “Get UR Freak On”, “Work It”, “Loose Control”, & “Gossip Folks”. check out a Missy video below..
29. (Snoop Dogg)
Snoop Dogg came into the game a gangster rapper influenced by N.W.A. & from the streets of LA he debuted with his hit album “Doggstyle” that sold nearly a million copies in its first week. Snoop has inspired a line rappers Bow Wow, Ludacris, Eminem, XZibit & The Game.
28. (JAY Z)
JAY Z may be the Tupac of this generation in terms of influence & impact. No other rapper has done what he’s done in their career like HOV. The man has 13 #1 albums, 17 Grammys, worth nearly a Billion dollars & is one of the greatest rappers of all time. HOV came out inspiring people like Nas, J. Cole, Kanye West, Meek Mill, Drake, Kendrick Lamar & Lil Wayne. On Top of that Jigga Man has 3 albums that will be embeded in Hip Hop forever “Reasonable Doubt”, “The Blueprint’ & “The Black Album”. HOV’s most recognizable song is “99 Problems”.
TLC is the worlds best selling R&B Girl Group of all time. The members consist of T-Boz, Lisa “Left Eye”& Chilli. These 3 women took social issues & addressed them in music like with the hits “Waterfalls” or “Unpretty”. They were determined to not take the cliche route & be half naked running around stage instead they wore baggy clothes, danced as hard as any boy group & had their own signature sound. TLC may have lost a member but their legacy lives on & is still referenced in acts such as Kanye West, Destiny’s Child, Rihanna, Ciara, Chirs Brown & Sevyn Streeter.
26. (R. Kelly)
You can’t mention influential artist & not include R. Kelly. Robert Kelly first came onto the scene as a gospel singer from Chicago refusing to be put into a box Kelly revamped his style of music & went into more secular genres. Kellz literally has enough hits to count up my age. With life changing songs such as “The World’s Greatest”, “I Wish” & “I Believe I Can Fly” then being able to make hits like “Feelin’ On Yo Booty”, “It Seems Like You’re Ready” & “When A Woman’s Fed Up”, Kelly has the right to be the most cockiest singer ever. The man wrote hits for artists like Michael Jackson, Celine Dione & Whitney Houston. He’s a legend & legends inspire other artists. Just look at Trey Songz, Chris Brown & Usher’s style of music all influenced by The King of R&B.
25. (Lauryn Hill)
Lauryn Hill was a breath of fresh air when she dropped her first & only solo album “The MisEducation of Lauryn Hill”, with rhymes as technical as any dude in the game Ms. Hill started a legacy. She had the ability to out sing any singer & the rhymes to embarrass any rapper. Boasting such hits like “Doo Wop (That Thing)”, “Ex Factor” & “Lost Ones” & influencing the work of Alicia Keys, Beyonce & Jazmine Sullivan Lauryn remains a big part of music today.
24. (Biggie Smalls)
New York rapper Biggie came into the industry under the management of Diddy in 94 he release his debut album “Ready To Die”. During that time he embarked a fued with West Coast rapper Tupac which ended in both MCs dying by gun shots. Biggie’s career was short lived but his legacy had such an impact that he lives at the top of the list of Best Rapper Of All Time. Basically every rapper that came after Biggie is inspired by Biggie.
Like Biggie, Tupac is also named the greatest rapper of all time. Shakur was a once in a lifetime artist. He was a thug by appearance but a poet & activist at heart. 2pac wasn’t your every day rapper boasting about money & hoes his career was filled with life changing anthems such as “Keep Ya Head Up”, “Dear Mama”, “Changes” & “Hail Mary” Very prominent music but his career short lived by death caused by a beef with Biggie.
Sade is a rare artist with once every decade releases. She takes her art seriously & even though the younger generation won’t recognize her by name or face everybody knows a Sade song. Over the years Sade has had a handful artists say they’re influenced by her like Brandy, Monica, Beyonce & Alicia Keys.
21. (Sam Cooke)
Sam Cooke best known as the King of Soul was first heard in 1957. He was best known for his songwriting & strong vocal control. If I wasn’t for Sam Cooke we wouldn’t have the greats like Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, R. Kelly, Marvin Gaye & James Brown. Cooke was alleged killed by his manager which was later called justifiable homicide because he was drunk & distressed. But the R&B legend left behind memorable songs such as “A Change Gone Come”, “Cupid”, “Chain Gang” & “Wonderful World”.
This is where our list could seem biased but the top 20 was calculated based on influence & impact. These are the artists who opened lanes and broke down barries & not just widen them.
Niggaz Wit Attitudes were the first gangster rappers to go Mainstream back in 1986. The groups explicit lyrics that many considered to be disrespectful to women, and glorifying drugs and crime got them banned from many US Radio stations. Straight Outta Compton is the album that gave many rappers the heart to start rapping like Tupac, Eminem, Snopp Dogg & Bow Wow.
19. (Anita Baker)
Anita Baker was apart of the group Chapter 8 in the 70s later in 1983 going solo with her breakout album “The Songstress”. Anita’s sultry tone & great vocal control is what made her popular in the 80s with her timeless classics “Sweet Love” & “Caught Up In The Rapture”. Today many artists cite Ms. Baker as an influence like Beyonce, Janelle Monae, JoJo & Brandy.
18. (Tina Turner)
Tina Turner got her start alongside her late ex husband Ike Turner in the 60s then later going solo in the late 70s-80s. She had numerous hits with Ike.. A Fool in Love”, “River Deep – Mountain High” & “Proud Mary. Not only did she secure classics with her ex husband Tina rebuilt her career after her divorce by touring the world. She had trouble finding her footing but the class act came back with “What’s Love Got to Do with It”. Inspiring the likes of Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Beyonce & Kelis.
17. (The Supremes)
The Supremes led by Diana Ross are the blueprint for girl groups. They were the most commercially successful of Motown’s acts and are, to date. Rivaled with The Beatles in the 60s as the most popular group The Supremes made it possible for African american groups the be the leading act for a worldwide mainstream artist. Destiny’s Child, SWV, The Jackson 5, TLC, EnVogue & Amy Winehouse has all cited The Supremes as their biggest musical influences.
16. (Boyz II Men)
Boyz II Men if they aren’t known for anything they are known for their on point harmonizing. The all boy group banded in the 80s just spending their days singing in their neighborhood. Got a reord deal in the early 90s & have been the vocal blueprint for male singer ever since. The original members Michael McCary, Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris, and Shawn Stockman produced the long living hits such as “I’ll Make Love To You”, “End of The Road” & their song of he 90s decade with Mariah Carey “One Sweet Day”. All boy bands who took music seriously called Boyz II Men their inspiration from *NSYNC, 112 & The Backstreet Boys.
15. (Mary J. Blige)
Mary J. Blige since her debut has been called Queen of R&B Soul. Mary’s music spoke to women of all different backgrounds & with that her career began to blossom into what is now an empire. In 1994 Mary’s monster single “Real Love” defined her as her own artist, versus another singer competing with Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson & Toni Braxton. Ms. Blige helped women of struggle & triumph & also helped influenced other superstars such as Keyshia Cole, Alicia Keys, Monica, K. Michelle & Ashanti.
OutKast is the most successful rap group of all time & is probably the most innovative rap act to ever touch a mic. Andre 300 & Big Boi have earned a total of 6 Grammy awards, sold over 25Million records worldwide & is the only rap group in history to take home the Grammy for Album of The Year. Their albums “Stankonia” & “Aquemini” are implanted staples in music that will forever be cited as great bodies of work. The group has influenced groups like Clipse, N.E.R.D., The Roots & Gnarles Barkley.
13. (Luther Vandross)
Luther Vandross, much like the rest of out Top 20 artists, has basically inspired every male R&B singer after him with classic love songs like “Never Too Much”, If This World Were Mine” duet with Cheryl Lynn, “The Closer I Get to You” feat. Beyoncé & the fan favorite “Take You Out ?”. Since the passing of Luther in 2005 Vandross has received praise from artists he’s touched & influenced like Trey Songz, R. Kelly, Mariah Carey, Brian McKnight, Keith Sweat & Usher.
12. (The Temptations)
Before we had Boyz II Men we had The Temptations. They were one of Motown’s greatest and grittiest vocal groups of the 60s, scoring hits like “My Girl” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” and they were soul pioneers in the early 70s. The original Temps Otis Williams, Elbridge “Al” Bryant, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, and Paul Williams are almost dead by the music & movie on VH1 continues to live on. Their music impacted Maxwell, The O’Jays & Al Green.
11. (Run DMC)
Joseph “Run” Simmons, Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels, and Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell formed a Hip Hop group in 1981. With help from The Beastie Boys and Public Enemy the group helped pioneer the new sound of music which was New School Hip Hop. Inspiring artists like LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, Eminem, Will Smith & Naughty by Nature along the way.
10. (Janet Jackson)
Janet Jackson came from music based family. Watching her older brothers take off with Jackson 5 a young Janet wanted to be an actress but soon found herself dabbling in music. Unlike her brother Michael Jackson, Janet didn’t quite get the same success until she blossomed into her own & released her 3rd album ‘Control’ which sold over 14Million copies & spawned the hits “Control,” and “Let’s Wait Awhile”, & “The Pleasure Principle”. It wasn’t until her albums “Janet” & “The Velvet Rope” when Janet became an Icon & influenced then next generation of stars such as Beyonce, Brandy, Christina Aguileria & Britney Spears. Ms. Jackson’s biggest hit to date is “That’s The Way Love Goes”.
9. (Mariah Carey)
Mariah Carey is best known for her multi octave range & being the best selling female artists of time. MC first introduced herself in 1990 with her 1st single “Vision of Love” which was also her first #1 single of 18 over a 25 year career span. She has the #1 song for 2 decades “One Sweet Day” feat. Boyz II Men & “We Belong Together”. Carey is what I would call the epitome of an artist she has produced almost everything about her career. Mariah, right along with the artists of the top 10, has influenced a whole generation of singers like Christina Aguilera, Ariana Grande, Ashanti & Kelly Clarkson with songs like “Emotions”, “Always Be My Baby”, “Hero”, “Fantasy”, “When You Believe” feat. Whitney Houston & “Honey”.
When you think of Pop, Rock & R&B Prince should be the first artist to pop into your head. He successfully mashed the 3 & made his own genre of music. Prince makes music for the sake of making music he produces and records his own music for his own music label. His most reconzble album would be “Purple Rain” which was the soundtrack to his movie “Purple Rain” at the time in 1984. Spawning hits like “Purple Rain”, “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy”. I don’t even have to mention the people because its clear as day but he’s influenced the likes of Miguel, Mariah Carey, D’ Angelo, Janet Jackson, R. Kelly, Usher, Justin Timberlake & Maxwell.
7. (Patti LaBelle)
Patti LaBelle has been in the music business over 50 years with a still intact voice. Patti got her start with Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles who later changed their name to the LaBelles in the 70s. Patti began he solo career in 1977 and crossed over to pop music with “On My Own”, “If You Asked Me To”, “Stir It Up”, and “New Attitude”. Later inspiring acts like Celine Dion, Fantasia, Luther Vandross, Mariah Carey & Donna Summer.
6. (Diana Ross)
Diana Ross was lead singer and a founding member of The Supremes. Ross embarked on a solo journey with her 1st solo album “Diana Ross” with the hits “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” which was her 1st #1. Diana Ross was a class act who had a face that could convey & be successful in music & film. Starr-ring in two major Hollywood films “Mahogany” & “The Wiz”. Ross has opened up the door for many artists like The Jackson5, Beyonce, Lil Kim, Mary J. Blige & Donna Summer.
5. (Stevie Wonder)
Stevie Wonder is a muli talented musician that got his start in the music industry by recording failed demos after failed demo. He later released the song “Sign, Sealed, Delivered, Im Yours” & it became ahit still with no album out. Wonder has 22 Grammy awards to his name & has string of hits like “Superstition”, “As”, “Ribbon In The Sky”, & “Isn’t She Lovely”. His musical influence has touched the likes of Alicia Keys, John Legend, India Arie, Jill Scott, Michael Jackson, & Erykah Badu.
4. (Aretha Franklin)
Aretha Franklin got her start in singing by singing in her father’s church. Franklin has won a total of 18 Grammy Awards and is one of the best-selling female artists of all time. Her signature runs are used by all singers. “Respect”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “Rock Steady” and “Think” are some her biggest hits. People from all over like Joss Stone, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Natalie Cole & Chaka Khan are all examples of artists that cite her as their biggest influence.
3. (Whitney Houston)
Whitney Houston made her musical debut in 1985 with “You Give Good Love” from her album “Whitney Houston” which sold 30Million worldwide. Since her start Whitney has the become the door opener for African American women witch over 200Million records sold across the globe Whitney is one of the worlds best selling artist. In 1991 Whitney was privileged to perform the “Star Spangeld Banner” at the Super Bowl. Not only was Houston a superb singer but she also found a footing in acting where she stared in “The Bodyguard”in 92. The self titled soundtrack to the movie was recorded and produced in full by Whitney. The singles “I Will Always Love You”, “I Have Nothing” & “I’m Every Woman” became huge hits & pushed the soundtrack to sell 17Million in the US, 44Million worldwide putting the album in the top 10 of best selling albums of all time by a female act. Houston won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for her duet with Mariah Carey for “When You Believe”. There is no need to cite who was influenced by Whitney Houston because everyone loved her for her voice.
2. (Michael Jackson)
Michael Jackson is the worlds best selling artist ever & holds the record for the best selling album of all time with “Thriller”. Michael got his start by looking at James Brown videos & imitating his idol. At the age of 5 Jackson teamed up with his brothers to form the group The Jackson 5 who were manage by their father Joe Jackson. The group was later discovered by Diana Ross & singed to Motown in 1964. In 1979 Jackson decided to go solo, his debut album “Off The Wall” produced the hits “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough” and “Rock with You” the album has sold 20Million worldwide. The came “Thriller” that album produced the biggest hits of Jackson’s career “Thriller”,”Billie Jean”, “Beat It”, and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin”. All videos were credited with breaking down racial barriers and with transforming the medium into an art form and promotional tool. The popularity of these videos helped to bring the then-relatively-new television channel MTV to fame. Michael Jackson is literally the most influential artist of all time.
1. (James Brown)
James Brown is one of the founding fathers of Funk. With a career spawning for over 6 decades James became what we refer him to as “The Godfather of Soul”. He began his career as a gospel singer later joining R&B group The Famous Flames, Brown served as the group’s lead singer. Brown’s success peaked in the 1960s with the live album, Live at the Apollo, and hit singles such as “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”, “I Got You” and “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”. In the early 70s Brown had already established the Funk genre. Brown’s biggest hit in the US was the 1968 hit, “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud”. James Brown is number one on our liste because he’s the artist that gave Michael Jackson the inspiration to start performing & if we didn’t have Michael then we wouldn’t have nobody.
Thanks for your time. Feel free to discuss what you liked or didn’t like about the list in the comment section, Happy Black History Month!
post by: dopeSShhh