The 90s was such a golden musical decade for black male singers. Talk of an extraordinary vocal range, hit songs, great sales, and artists’ impact on the people.
It’s an era worth revisiting for anyone who wants to relive the good old crazy days. Here is a list of the top seven black male singers of the 90s.
- R. Kelly
- Keith Sweat
- Brian McKnight
- Luther Vandross
- Tevin Campbell
- Johnny Gill
Born Keith Douglas Sweat in Harlem, New York City, in 1961, Sweat is a singer, songwriter, and producer. He’s a multi-talented artist singing different genres, including RnB, soul, urban, hip hop, and new jack swing.
Keith helped kickstart the new jack swing genre in the 90s, a mixture of pop-soul and RnB music style. As a child, he had several dreams about performing on a stage and people applauding, which soon became a reality.
At only 14, he joined a Harlem musical band called Jamilah and started performing on stage. He stayed there for a while, performing throughout New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.
Keith then left the band in 1984 and started his solo music career, performing in New York City’s nightclubs.
His first album, “Make It Last Forever,” came in 1987 after being discovered and signed by the Vintertainment Recordings. He sold over 3 million copies of this album.
However, the real success of Keith Sweat began in 1990 and went on throughout the 90s. He released yet another album, “I’ll Give All My Love to You,” in 1990, and with it, Keith reached the billboard 200 chart at No.6.
He would later leave Vintertainment Recordings for Elektra Records in 1991 and the same year released his third album, “Keep It Comin’.” This album made it to position one on the RnB Billboard chart.
Keith continued to release hit after hit and also discovered many artists, helping them produce their albums. In 1992, for instance, he discovered Silk, helping this group with their debut album, “Lose Control,” which was No.7 on the album chart.
In 1994 he released “Get Up On It” and “Keith Sweat” in 1996. These two albums were both in the top ten of the album chart billboard.
He ended the 90’s decade with yet another hit album in 1998, “Still in the Game.” This album was No.2 on both the RnB and hip hop album charts.
Kenneth Brian Edmonds alias Babyface was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1959. He’s both an RnB, pop, and soul singer, producer, and songwriter.
He joined local RnB bands to chase his musical dreams as a teenager. While in high school, he would write songs to express his emotions since he was a shy youth.
Babyface has had more than fifty pop hits in the top ten pop charts, and over two hundred RnB hits in the top ten RnB charts. That’s enough to show you how successful and famous he is.
In the 90s, Babyface released three successful albums, “For The Cool in You” in 1993, “The Day” in 1996, and “Christmas With Babyface” in 1998. He had other albums in this same decade, but they didn’t reach the success the above three gave him.
The 1993 album alone went 3x platinum, while the one released in 1996, 2x platinum. Christmas with Babyface peaked at Number 34 on RnB and hip hop albums charts and Number 101 on billboard 200.
Babyface also won several awards and nominations for being the best songwriter and producer in the 90s. Between 1996 and 1998, he received three Grammy Awards for being the best producer of the year.
Besides the albums, he also had one duet single that made it to position one on the Billboard charts in this decade alone. “Love Makes Things Happen,” released in 1990.
With all these, Babyface truly deserves to be listed as one of the best black male singers of the 90s.
Brian Kelly McKnight is a singer, songwriter, and record producer famously referred to as the 90s RnB star. He was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1969.
He started singing in the church choir as a child. At 19years, Brian signed his first recording contract with Mercury Records, releasing his debut album in 1992.
The 90s was an excellent decade for Brian and his fans. His debut album, “Brian McKnight,” featuring the ballad, ‘One Last Cry’ was fifth on the Billboard 200.
For Brian, this was just the beginning of a tremendous success that would soon follow. Still working with Mercury Records, he released two more albums, ‘I Remember You’ in 1995 and ‘Anytime’ after two years.
He then signed a different recording contract with Motown Records in 1998, where he recorded and released two albums before the end of the 90s. Bethlehem, released in 1998, was his very first album with Motown.
Come the following year, Brian released a hit album, Back At One. This album was massive, becoming No.7 on the billboard 200 and selling over 3million copies.
None of his other albums has ever reached this level to date.
This man was a hitmaker in the 90s, releasing nine of his greatest songs ever. Back at One, released in 1999, attained gold and became No.7 on the RnB chart and 2 on Billboard hot100.
Here are the other hits that gave him fame and success in the 90s.
- Love Is
- One Last Cry
- You Should Be Mine
- Hold Me
- The Way Love Goes
- Crazy Love
Born Luther Ronzoni Vandross Jr. in Manhattan, New York City, in 1951, Luther was a multi-talented singer. He would sing RnB, pop, disco, quiet storm, and soul genres.
Since he had sweet vocals, many artists hired him as a background vocalist before starting his solo music journey. However, he continued with his background singing even after going solo.
Luther started his musical career back in high school. As a solo musician, he got signed to Epic Records in 1981 and, in the same year, released his debut album, ‘Never Too Much.’
He released several other songs and albums in the 80s, which did well, and brought this fame in the 90s. In this whole decade, he released five albums, but the most successful one was ‘Power Of Love,’ released in 1991.
This album won him three different Grammy Awards. One, the best male RnB vocal performer in 1991, best male RnB vocal in 1992, best RnB song with the track ‘Love Power,’ in 1992.
In 1992, he worked with Janet Jackson on a duet hit, ‘The Best Things In Life Are Free.’ Another hit duet that hit the top 10 charts, ‘Endless Love,’ featuring Mariah Carrey, would follow soon after.
‘Never Let Me Go’ came in 1993, ‘Songs’ in 1994,’ Your Secret Love’ in 1996, and ‘I Know’ in 1998. All the above albums were products from Epic Records except for the last, which he released with Virgin Records.
In 1997, Luther won yet another Grammy Award, best male RnB vocal, for ‘Your Secret Love’ hit song. The 90s was indeed a Grammy period for Luther Vandross.
Tevin Campbell was born Tevin Jermod Campbell in 1976 in Waxahachie, Texas. He’s a singer and songwriter, working with RnB, soul, new jack swing, and pop genres.
He started his music career singing in their local church choir. Later, he became a soloist in Dallas, Texas, at Joshua Chapel.
In 1989, he met Quincy Jones, who helped him release his debut single, ‘Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me)’ in 1990. This single was a great hit, reaching No.1 in the Billboard Hot, RnB chart, and Hip hop chart.
He later worked with several producers like AI. B Sure, Prince, Narada Michael Walden, and Babyface to produce other hits. His ‘Round and Round’ solo hit, also released in 1990, was an excellent work by the Prince.
This solo single appeared in the top ten of the charts. Though Tevin lost the Grammy Award to Luther Vandross for the best male RnB vocal performer, this single got him the nomination.
Tevin’s first album, ‘TEVIN,’ came in 1991, following the success of his first two solo singles. This album also added more to his success, reaching platinum and No.5 in the RnB and Hip hop album charts.
His second successful album, ‘I’m Ready,’ came in 1993. From this album, three massive hits brought too much success to the young Tevin.
These three songs, ‘I’m Ready,’ ‘Always In My Heart,’ and ‘Can We Talk,’ appeared on the top 10 RnB charts and US hot. Tevin sold two million copies of this album, earning a double-platinum for it.
He released two other albums before the end of the 90s, but these two didn’t do well compared to the first two. To date, the album ‘I’m Ready’ is Tevin’s best album and one that raised his status in the music industry, at only 16.
Johnny Gill was born in Washington, DC, in 1966. He’s an RnB, soul, and new jack swing singer and songwriter.
Like many black male singers, he started singing in church in the ‘Wings of Faith’ gospel group. Gill didn’t go beyond high school since he wanted to focus entirely on his musical career.
His first recording came as a demo in 1982, when he was only 16years, and in 1983, he released his first album, ‘Johnny Gill.’
Fast forward to the 90s on a solo musical career, Gill released another successful album in 1990, naming it ‘Johnny Gill.’ This album consisted of three solo hits, including ‘My My My,’ No.1 on the RnB chart in 1991.
The other two are ‘Wrap My Body Tight’ and ‘Rub You The Right Way,’ all reaching position one on the RnB chart in 1990. The album attained double-platinum after he sold 2million copies.
Also, this album got him two awards from soul train. First, Best Male RnB/Urban Contemporary Album of the Year, and Best RnB/Urban Contemporary Single hit for ‘My My My’ song.
Additionally, Johnny Gill got nominated to Grammy Awards best male RnB vocal performer for the same album. For these reasons, he deserves to be among the top black singers of the 90s.
‘Provocative’ and ‘Let’s Get The Mood Right’ albums came in 1993 and 1996, respectively. However, these two only got him gold after selling over 500K copies.
He would later team up with two other artists, Keith Sweat and Gerald Levart, to form LSG, a group name from their surnames. They released quite a successful album from this group, ‘Levert.Sweat.Gill’, which would later get them multi-platinum.
R. Kelly was born Robert Sylvester Kelly in Chicago in 1967. He began singing in the local church choir from a tender age.
While in high school, his music teacher nurtured and encouraged him to pursue music as a career, seeing that he had the talent. He would later drop out of school after being diagnosed with dyslexia.
R Kelly later started singing in the streets of Chicago, forming a group with friends. His musical group once won a TV talent show, giving him enough capital to start a solo music career.
That’s how Kelly separated from the group he formed. Until 2019, he was such a successful RnB singer and songwriter, having sold over 75million records.
R Kelly’s peak began in 1990 after being signed to Jive Records. In 1992, he released his debut album, “Born into the 90’s”, which became a success.
Other hits followed soon after, and his first hit single in 1994, “Bump N’ Grind,” got to position 1 on the pop charts. “I Believe I Can Fly” came in 1996, a ballad song that was a massive hit for him and the world.
This hit song earned Kelly an award for the best RnB song and three Grammy awards in 1998. He later released an album, R. featuring a duet hit with Celine Dion, “I’m Your Angel.”
The duet hit contributed hugely to the album’s success, and in return, he sold over 8million copies in the US alone.
Overall, in the 90s alone, Kelly had more songs in the top 40 singles Billboard charts than any other singer.
Top Black Male Singers of the 90s, Final Thoughts
There you have it, some of the best black male singers of the 90s. These artists sang their hearts out in this era to leave people with lasting memories.
They had natural talents in singing, distinct vocals, and outstanding performances that wowed their audiences every time they got on stage.