Black History Month: 10 Influential Artists To Add To Your Playlist

  1. 1. Janelle Monáe

    Janelle Monáe is a multi-talented singer, songwriter and actress. She's been recently making waves in pop culture for her incredible 2018 release Dirty Computer, an artful concept album about womanhood, sexuality, queerness, and empowerment. She is a lively musician and entertainer, and her music is something that should not be missed out on!

  2. 2. Kendrick Lamar

    Arguably one of the best rappers of this generation, Kendrick Lamar does not hold back in his music. His most recent, DAMN., gets super political; he discusses growing up as a black kid, the government, and touches on some of the most pressing issues of our time, including gun control. Overall, all of Kendrick Lamar's albums are philosophical works of art that gets real and honest with the listener. Repeat listens may be required to understand all the messages he puts into his music, but after the first time you'll want to have the whole album on loop.

  3. 3. Prince

    Eccentric is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Prince. His bold and brazen style showcased in his music and clothing was something that wasn't really done by other artists back in the 1980s. Prince's flamboyant music and stage presence was unique and challenged the very strict gender norms and standards for masculinity, specifically black masculinity. His genre blends of funk, rock, pop, and dance created an eclectic body of work that is still loved and celebrated across generations. Despite his untimely death in 2016, his music lives on. All hail the Prince! 

  4. 4. Mariah Carey

    Aptly nicknamed the "Songbird Supreme", Mariah Carey's voice is unlike any other in the industry. Her style and rare octave range is what caught the attention of the world, and turned her into one of the best selling artists of all time. She is also credited with bringing hip-hop and R&B, traditionally considered to be "black" genres, into the mainstream. Artists like Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, Sam Smith, and Justin Bieber all have credited her as an influence. While all her albums from the nineties are iconic, take time to listen to The Emancipation of Mimi (2005) as well!

  5. 5. The Supremes

    Before there was Destiny's Child, Fifth Harmony, the Pussycat Dolls, or Little Mix.... there was the Supremes. The girl group led by Diana Ross dominated the 1960s, topping the charts and earning fan adoration around the world. They set the precedent of success for black female singers and paved the way for all of the soul/R&B artists to come. The group served as inspiration for the Broadway hit Dreamgirls, and later the 2006 film adaptation starring Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson.

  6. 6. Beyoncé

    Does she really need an introduction? The queen herself Beyoncé is a natural staple on this list. The record shattering chart-topper has been in the spotlight for over two decades now, and first broke onto the scene as a member of the iconic girl group Destiny's Child. Bey is all about feminism, female empowerment, and fighting for what is right. For Black History Month, Lemonade is the album of focus. Listen in order to get all of those themes and how it relates to the Black experience (and a plus? it will make you feel fierce!).

  7. 7. Janet Jackson

    "GIMME A BEAT!" Janet Jackson is a prominent figure in pop culture whose music and style influenced fans and musicians alike, including Aaliyah, Kesha, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears. Her albums Control and Rhythm Nation 1814, along with their accompanying videos, really raised and set the bar for pop stars and female performers. Her impact on the music industry as cemented her legacy, and like her older brother Michael, helped revolutionize pop music. 

  8. 8. TLC

    R&B Group TLC dominated the 1990s and produced numerous top ten hits, including four #1s. Members Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas all set the blueprint for female ensembles to follow, including Destiny's Child, 3LW, and Xscape. Their music touched on serious topics that a lot of young people could relate to, such as the AIDS epidemic, safe sex, and self-esteem issues. Their most iconic albums, CrazySexyCool and FanMail, are must listens and absolute bops!

  9. 9. Solange

    Younger sister of Beyoncé, Solange has long been making waves in the industry with her creative artistry. Her latest album, A Seat at the Table, received high praise from fans and critics alike in 2016. It is filled with various discussions about black womanhood and all that encompasses it - love, infidelity, anger, resilience, and more. The album's lone single, "Cranes in the sky", earned Solange her first Grammy award nomination and win. It is a must-listen! 

  10. 10. Michael Jackson

    This list wouldn't be complete without the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson. The prolific artist paved the way for most of the musicians we know and love today. He revolutionized the way we see, listen to, and consume pop music, specifically with the release of his song and video for "Thriller" (the album of the same name is the best worldwide-selling record in history). Jackson is the most iconic singer and entertainer of all time, and his contributions to the world of music and black culture will live on. 

Check out the playlist featuring all the artists: