I could go on and on compiling a list of black male music artists, rappers, and singers. Over the years, there have been countless amazing black musicians that have impacted music. Below, I’ve tried to pick a diverse selection of musicians.
While this list is by no means complete, here’s a list of some of the best black male music artists, rappers, and singers.
In the ‘90s, hip hop finally had its chance to dominate the airwaves, and Tupac Shakur was at the forefront of this movement. As one of the most successful rappers, Tupac quickly rose to prominence in the ‘90s, accumulated 11 platinum albums, and sold over 75 million records to date.
The 1990s saw a change in hip hop. Gangsta rap transformed hip hop ignited the fabled East and West Coast feud during the era. During this time, Tupac would release four albums with critical and commercial success. This success helped Shakur begin an acting career where he starred in several films, including Juice and Poetic Justice.
Unfortunately, Tupac’s gangsta rap persona would cause problems. After several run-ins with the police, shooting incidents, and a wrongful death suit in 1995, Tupac Shakur was fatally shot in Las Vegas in 1996.
Prince was one of the most dominant and influential musicians of all time. His albums combined a wide range of sounds and transformed the pop music landscape in the 1980s. A true maestro, Prince could play almost any instrument and crafted some of the decade’s most iconic music.
Starting his career with some success in the late 70s, Prince skyrocketed to stardom with two releases in the 80s, 1999 and Purple Rain. Selling over 150 million records and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Prince is one of the most successful black musicians of all time.
Prince’s musicianship is tough to match. Including his posthumous albums, he’s released 39 full-length albums, and historians estimate Prince wrote up to 1000 songs during his career.
Born Christopher Wallace, but going by the stage name the Notorious B.I.G., B.I.G is synonymous with NYC rap. Widely considered one of the greatest rappers, B.I.G. gave a new twist to gangsta rap. From dance-friendly tracks to underground hip-hop masterclasses, Notorious B.I.G. and Bad Boy Records dominated hip hop in the 90s.
1993 saw Biggie Smalls debut to critical and commercial success with his album Ready to Die. This album brought New York rappers back to the forefront when West Coast Gangsta Rap dominated the charts.
Unfortunately, the East Coast-West Coast feud would have a toll on the NYC rapper. Notorious B.I.G was murdered in a drive-by shooting in 1997. B.I.G released two posthumous records that went on to sell 28 million copies
No list of black male musicians would be complete without The King of Pop. With a career that spanned over 50 years, Michael Jackson was one of the most recognizable figures in the world. During the ‘80s, his records propelled him to worldwide superstardom that was incomparable.
As part of the Jackson Five, Michael had some success. In the ‘70s, he recorded five solo albums. But it wasn’t until 1982’s Thriller that Michael Jackson would change the world. Selling over 32 million copies by the end of 1983, Thriller is still the best-selling album of all time.
With the help of MTV and music videos, Jackson’s music was available to every TV owner. His amazing songs combined with his masterful showmanship created a pop icon like no other.
While he may be considered a controversial figure, Michael Jackson left a mark on music and pop culture that may never be matched.
Snoop Dogg rose to fame after his 1992 collaborations on Deep Cover with fellow Death Row Records rapper Dr. Dre. From there, he would release his first solo album, Doggystyle, to critical and commercial acclaim. Debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200, Doggystyle proved that rappers and hip hop were here to stay and dominate the pop music charts in the United States.
His smooth flow and lyrical skills proved Snoop had what it takes to become a leader in the hip hop community. There was no stopping Snoop and his success during the 90s and 2000s. He has since recorded 19 studio albums and has been nominated for many major music awards from The Grammys, BET, MTV, and the American Music Awards.
Snoop has since gone on to feature in many other ventures as well. From working with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) to hosting shows with Martha Stewart, the world has seen Snoop in many different roles since his first days as a young gangster rapper.
As one of the most successful musicians in history, Stevie Wonder has entertained us since the 1960s. He’s also one of the most celebrated musicians racking up 25 Grammy Awards and one of the only artists to ever win the Album of the Year three times.
Wonder is an accomplished musician and songwriter. His music during the ‘70s pioneered pop sounds and changed the musical landscape for future generations. Everyone from Kanye West to Elton John cites Stevie as one of the most influential musicians.
As one of the most prolific singer-songwriters of the day, Wonder has produced over 26 studio albums over his 60-year career. Today, Stevie Wonder is still recording and touring.
While he may be outspoken and controversial, there is no denying Kanye West’s talents. Gaining notoriety as a producer with Roc-A-Fella Records, Kanye has recorded and produced some of the most interesting and exciting pop and rap music of the past decades.
West is known for applying different musical stylings to each of his albums and production. Depending on which album you listen to, you may hear pop, house music, progressive rock, or gospel. His musical production approach to creating pop music is like no other and has changed music for years to come.
Starting in 2004 with Best New Male Artist Awards at The Billboard Music Awards, Kanye has become one of the most awarded musicians in history. With over 700 nominations, West has taken home 271 awards, including several Grammys, MTV Awards, and GQ Man of the Year awards in 2007.
Boyz II Men
Pioneering the New Jack Swing, Philly sound with Bell Biv Devoe in the early 1990s, Boyz II Men was one of the era’s most famous vocal harmony groups. The group composed of Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris, Shawn Stockman, and Michale McCary found success with their debut album, Coolehighharmony, in 1991.
No stranger to the Billboard charts, their first album featured five hit singles. Between 1991 and 1992, Boyz II Men spent 50 consecutive weeks at number one. End of the Road broke records and stayed at number one for 13 weeks.
Boyz II Men were a welcome addition to the pop music landscape and brought something new and unique to popular culture. They gave acapella and R&B artists a platform that had crossover appeal.
As NWA’s lead writer and rapper, Ice Cube was at the forefront of the gangster rap movement in the late 1980s through to the early 1990s. His hard-hitting and politically charged lyrics gave a voice to the inner cities of the U.S. This sound would shape most of the pop music landscape of the ‘90s and still influences rappers and producers today.
After a dispute with his partners in NWA, Ice Cube went on to a successful solo rap career, recording several acclaimed albums in the 90s, including AmeriKKA’s Most Wanted, Death Certificate, and The Predator.
Another rapper crossover, Ice Cube, starred in successful films in the ‘90s. Boyz n the Hood and Friday were incredibly successful and have a cult following among their fans. After finding big-screen success, Cube has been featured in many different projects, including Barbershop, XXX State of the Union, and 21 Jump Street.
Following in the footsteps of many greats like Stevie Wonder and Prince, Lenny Kravitz is a multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter. His sound is a fusion of styles, including rock, blues, funk, psychedelic, and folk music. This gives Kravitz a unique sound and style that distinguishes him from many other pop musicians.
Kravitz dominated the late 90s. He went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance; not once, but four years in a row. He had a string of chart-toppers during this time, including It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over, Let Love Rule, and American Woman.
Wu-Tang Clan is widely held as one of the most prolific and artistic rap groups of all time. Coming in at almost 6200 unique words used during their raps, The Wu-Tang Clan is tough to beat in a rap battle.
Formed in Staten Island in 1992, the original Clan comprised RZA, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God. While every member has had solo success, together, Wu-Tang revolutionized the East Cost sound and hardcore rhyming styles.
Their debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), is consistently heralded as one of the best rap albums of all time. Produced by RZA, the combination of soulful samples, chopped sounds, and slowed-down beats was brand new for the time and had a huge influence on producers and rappers for years.
Closely associated with Prince and Morris Day, The Time is a funk/soul band that helped pioneer the Minneapolis sound. The Time came to prominence as the villain to Prince in Purple Rain. Their sound is exhilarating, danceable, and always memorable.
The Time is known for its dazzling live shows, including a full band, extensive dance routines, and catchy hooks. They went on to record five studio albums and produced fan-favorites Jungle Love and The Bird.
While The Time never had substantial critical success, they are still critically acclaimed and created unique and original music. Today, Morris Day and The Time are still on tour with a rotating cast of musicians.
As one of the most outspoken artists on our list, Killer Mike has hugely influenced hip-hop culture since the 1990s. After his first featured appearance on Outkast’s Stankonia, Killer Mike has released five politically-charged, full-length albums.
In 2013, Killer Mike joined with rapper/producer El-P and formed Run the Jewels. The duo went on to gain popularity and success by releasing two free albums, Run the Jewels and Run the Jewels 2. They have since been one of the most influential underground rap duos of the decade and still tour.
Killer Mike is a highly outspoken rapper and is actively working to change the political environment in the United States. From interviewing presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to holding rallies, Killer Mike has actively used his podium to change the world.
In an era of rappers and dance music, Living Colour showed that black musicians could still rock and rock hard. Formed in 1984, Living color consists of Vernon Reid, Corey Glover, Will Calhoun, and Doug Wimbish.
Living Colour took the world by storm when their video, Cult of Personality, was a staple on MTV.The song combined punk, hard rock, and hip hop to create a brand new sound that teens of the time were not ready for. They went on to win the Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance and MTV award for Best New Artist.
Unfortunately, after their success in the 1990s, the band went on a hiatus for years. In the early 2000s, the band reunited and has since released six studio albums.
If Tupac was the poster child for West Coast rap, Outkast would be the Atlanta equivalent. Rappers Andre 3000 and Big Boi crafted a brand new and unique sound that propelled them to stardom in the 1990s.
Joining together in high school, Big Boi and Andre 3000 dropped their debut album in 1994. Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik was an instant success, and their single Player’s Ball went all the way to number on the Billboards Rap charts.
The duo combined psychedelic elements, danceability, southern flavor, and funk grooves. Their sound went on to pioneer Atlanta rap and Southern rap styles. This new style of music helped Outkast accumulate six Grammy Awards, four American Music Awards, and six BET awards between 2003 and 2008.
Usher has had a long and successful musical career as one of the most acclaimed black singers/songwriters. His unmistakable voice has significantly influenced pop music since the 1990s.
Combining pop and R&B, Usher’s music can be compared to Michael Jackson, Bobby Brown, Boyz II Men, and Stevie Wonder. His ability to flawlessly perform pop hooks in tunes gives Usher a wide appeal, and his sound can be effective in all types of music, from underground hip hop to commercial EDM.
Besides his unmistakable voice, Usher is also a high-energy and exciting stage performer. Taking inspiration from Michael Jackson, Usher’s performance is filled with dance moves and showmanship.
As a rapper, Jay-Z was one of the best. Not content with just a successful rap career, Jay-Z went on to be a multimedia mogul and is now one of the most influential musicians in hip hop history.
Jay-Z is known for his unique flow. His raps flow from slow to fast and combine styles of many other rappers of the day. Combined, his tracks were smooth and had perfect rhyme delivery.
Releasing 13 albums since 1996, Jay-Z hit it big with Vol2… Hard Knock Life. This was his first album to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 and won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album in 2013.
No stranger to the award podium, Jay-Z has collected 23 Grammy Awards, which is the most by any rapper. He also holds the record for most number-one albums by a solo artist. Other accolades include the first rappers to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the first living rapper inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Bob Marley was one of the most influential Jamaican musicians and helped introduce reggae music to the world. Bob Marley, an outspoken activist and musical maestro, left a legacy that few other musicians can match.
In 1965, Bob Marley and The Wailers successfully put out their debut album, The Wailing Wailers. Here they found international success with the single One Love. Throughout the 60s and 70s, the band recorded 13 albums and received many awards, including Band of the Year from Rolling Stone Magazine.
Posthumously, Marley had his biggest album release when his greatest hits album Legend was released. He has sold over 75 million records and is one of the best-selling musicians of all time. In 1994, Marley was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone ranks him as the 11 greatest artists of all time.
Preaching unity and peace, Bob Marley was an influential activist throughout his career. His message still reverberates throughout African communities around the world. Considered by many as a modern folk hero, Marley was honored by Jamaica and designated an Order of Merit.
As one of the pioneers of hardcore punk, Bad Brains made an unforgettable mark on modern music. Formed in 1977, the group composed of Dr. Know, Darryl Jenifer, H.R., and Earl Hudson are some of the earliest established punk bands in the United States.
Followers of the Rastafari Movement, Bad Brains combined funk, metal, hardcore, hip hop, and punk elements into their songs and albums. They released nine albums over the years and went through many different style changes.
While never a pop sensation, Bad Brains considerably impacted the underground punk scene in the U.S. Their sound and style influenced countless musicians, including The Beastie Boys, Living Colour, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Top Black Male Music Artists, Final Thoughts
I hope you enjoyed the list. It’s amazing how many black male musicians have had such an impact on pop music.
Many of the artists on this list changed the industry and revolutionized music. From hip hop to punk, black musicians have hugely impacted the sounds and songs we listen to every day.