Famous African American Singers Who Influenced Many Aspirants Around The World

Music is a field which has been constantly evolving since time immemorial. The rich history of American music has witnessed several significant changes over the past few centuries. Many individuals of African American descent have made waves in the recent past for their prowess in music and have earned many accolades including prestigious awards for their efforts. The most popular example would probably be the king of pop Michael Jackson, who revolutionized world music with his style. His tracks such as ‘Beat It’, ‘Thriller’, ‘Billie Jean’ and ‘Black or White’ are anthems among the youth even today. Michael, or MJ as he’s popularly known, is a recipient of 13 Grammy awards. He has also been felicitated with 26 American music Awards for his incredible talent. Many of his songs have topped the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ charts. The legendary Ray Charles is another legendary musician who has millions of followers worldwide. He was also mentioned in the list of ‘100 Greatest Artists of All Time’, published by the ‘Rolling Stones’ magazine. Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, Beyonce and Nina Simone are a few other African American singers who have made their community proud. Some of these singers also enjoy a major fan following on social media platforms as well. Scroll below to know the names of singers of African American descent who have changed world music in a great way. Some of their works have influenced many famous singers of today.
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 1 
Michael Jackson
(One of the Most Significant Cultural Figures of the 20th Century Popularly Known as the 'King of Pop')
Michael Jackson
484
Birthdate: August 29, 1958
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Gary, Indiana, United States
Died: June 25, 2009

The King of Pop and an international superstar, Michael Jackson was a musical entertainer whose work – both with Jackson 5 and solo – won accolades and hearts worldwide. Equally popular were his unique dance moves that created sensation and shaped future dance styles. Amongst the most successful entertainers of all time, Jackson was later accused of child molestation.  

 2 
Tupac Shakur
( 100 Greatest Artists of All Time by Rolling Stone)
Tupac Shakur
304
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: June 16, 1971
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Died: September 13, 1996

Tupac Amaru Shakur, popularly known as 2Pac or Makaveli, is considered as one of the greatest American rappers of all time. Talent and trouble went hand in hand in Shakur’s journey to fame; the higher Shakur rose in his iconic status, the deeper he became entangled in gang violence and an infamous rivalry, which sadly led to his untimely demise.

 3 
Whitney Houston
(Best-Selling Female R&B Artist of the 20th Century)
Whitney Houston
92
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: August 9, 1963
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, United States
Died: February 11, 2012

Amongst the best-selling recording artists of all time and an inspiration to millions of budding artists, Whitney Houston achieved stardom with her eponymous debut album. The success of her later albums consolidated her position and earned her a spot in the Guinness World Records as the most awarded female artist of all time. She struggled with drug abuse and troubled marriage and died of drowning in her hotel's bathtub. 

 4 
Ice Cube
(Rapper - Contributed Significantly to the Development of 'Gangsta Rap')
Ice Cube
98
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: June 15, 1969
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Crenshaw, California, United States

Ice Cube played an important role in contributing to gangsta rap's popularity. His lyrics for N.W.A's album Straight Outta Compton redrew boundaries and shaped West Coast rap's identity. Because of his lyrics, that explain black nationalism and black struggle, Ice Cube went on to influence a host of rappers and is considered one of the greatest rappers ever.

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 5 
Aretha Franklin
(One of the Best-Selling Music Artists in the World & 'Queen of Soul')
Aretha Franklin
152
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: March 25, 1942
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Died: August 16, 2018

Widely regarded as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin was a singer-songwriter, actress, and civil rights activist. Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Aretha was ranked number one on Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Singers of All Time list in 2010. Having sold over 75 million records, she is also one of the best-selling musicians ever.

 6 
Alicia Keys
(Singer, Actress)
Alicia Keys
89
Birthdate: January 25, 1981
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Hell's Kitchen, New York, United States

Singer-songwriter Alicia Keys has been active in the music industry since the mid-1990s. Her debut album was a super hit and earned her five Grammy Awards. She is one of the best-selling artists in the United States and has sold over 40 million albums worldwide. She is also known for her humanitarian work, philanthropy, and activism.

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 7 
Stevie Wonder
(Singer-Songwriter and Musician)
Stevie Wonder
64
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: May 13, 1950
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Saginaw, Michigan, United States

American singer and songwriter, Stevie Wonder, is one of most influential and the best-selling musicians of all time. That Girl, Gotta Have You, I Just Called to Say I Love You, Part-Time Lover and Happy Birthday are some of his chartbuster songs. He has won many awards and accolades, including 25 Grammy Awards.

 8 
John Legend
(Best Known for His Debut Album 'Get Lifted' and 'Once Again')
John Legend
93
Birthdate: December 28, 1978
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Springfield, Ohio, United States

John Legend is a singer, songwriter, actor, film producer and theatre director and his song All of Me from his fourth studio album was a Billboard Hot 100 number-one hit. He has released a host of successful albums. He has also won many awards, including an Oscar and a handful of Grammys. He is also an actor and a TV personality.

 9 
Pharrell Williams
(Lead Vocalist of the of the Hip Hop Band ‘N.E.R.D’)
Pharrell Williams
39
Birthdate: April 5, 1973
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States
Rapper-singer Pharrell Williams began his career with The Neptunes, the record-production duo he had formed with Chad Hugo. He was also part of the band N.E.R.D., as its lead vocalist. He is known for his Academy Award-nominated song Happy from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack and his 13 Grammy wins.
 10 
Queen Latifah
(Best Known as 'Queen of Rap')
Queen Latifah
80
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: March 18, 1970
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, United States

Queen Latifah is an American musician and actress whose song U.N.I.T.Y. played a major role in raising awareness about women's rights worldwide. Dubbed Queen of Jazz-Rap, Latifah has influenced several soul, R&B, and hip-hop artists like Remy Ma, Lil' Kim, Ivy Queen, Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill, and Eve among other artists. As an actress, Latifah has won several prestigious awards.

 11 
Christopher Maurice Brown
(One of the World's Best-Selling R&B and Hip-Hop Music Artists)
Christopher Maurice Brown
83
Birthdate: May 5, 1989
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Tappahannock, Virginia, United States
Height: 6'1" (185 cm)
 12 
James Brown
(Central Progenitor of Funk Music and Referred to as 'Godfather of Soul')
James Brown
52
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: May 3, 1933
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Barnwell, South Carolina, United States
Died: December 25, 2006

Referred to by honorific nicknames, such as Godfather of Soul, James Brown was a prominent figure of 20th century music. A progenitor of funk music, Brown influenced the development of many music genres. An inductee of the Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame, Brown is ranked seventh in Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list.

 13 
Lauryn Hill
(One of the Greatest Rappers Of All Time)
Lauryn Hill
42
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: May 26, 1975
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, United States

Famous rapper and singer, Lauryn Hill, is widely regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time and a pioneer in the Neo soul genre. The artist whose album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill won five Grammy Awards, is an inspiration for numerous singers and rappers. Earlier, she gained recognition as member of Fugees, an award-winning hip hop group.

 14 
DMX
(Rapper)
DMX
39
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: December 18, 1970
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Mount Vernon, New York, United States
Height: 5'11" (180 cm)
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 15 
Kid Cudi
(Rapper who Rose to Fame with His Debut Mixtape 'A Kid Named Cudi')
Kid Cudi
78
Listed In: Musicians
Birthdate: January 30, 1984
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, United States
Grammy-winning rapper Kid Cudi first came into public consciousness with his mixtape that made Kanye West sign him to his label. Kid delivered a double-platinum debut album, formed the band WZRD, and sold 16 million records in the U.S. He has also dabbled in acting and now owns a label.
 16 
Chuck Berry
(One of the Most Influential “Rock 'n' Roll” Performers in Music History)
Chuck Berry
35
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: October 18, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: March 18, 2017

Chuck Berry was an American singer-songwriter. Referred to as the Father of Rock and Roll, Berry is credited with pioneering rock and roll music. He is also credited with influencing the attitude with which the rock music lifestyle is usually associated. Also revered for his guitaring skills, Berry is often included in lists like the Greatest Artists of All Time.

 17 
Mary J. Blige
(Rapper, and Actress Known as "Queen of Hip-Hop Soul")
Mary J. Blige
67
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: January 11, 1971
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bronx, New York, United States

Mary J. Blige is a popular singer-songwriter and actress. Having sold 80 million records worldwide, she is one of the best-selling female artists of all time. Referred to as the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, Mary is credited with influencing the fusion of R&B and hip hop. She often gets featured in lists like The 100 Greatest Women in Music.

 18 
Logic
(Rapper Known for His 'Young Sinatra' Mixtape Series)
Logic
50
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: January 22, 1990
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Gaithersburg, Maryland, United States
Rapper and hip-hop artist Logic, earlier known as “Psychological,” initially gained fame with his Young Sinatra mixtapes, which helped him secure a deal with Def Jam Recordings. After delivering gold and platinum albums, he quit music and became a Twitch and YouTube star. He has written a bestselling novel, too.
 19 
Sammy Davis Jr.
(Singer, Dancer and Actor Known for His Song ‘The Candy Man’)
Sammy Davis Jr.
30
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: December 8, 1925
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Harlem, New York, United States
Died: May 16, 1990

Nicknamed “Mister Show Business,” posthumous Grammy-winner Samuel Davis Jr. was a multifaceted performer who excelled in dancing, singing, and acting. From delivering vaudeville performances as a child, Samuel graduated to creating Billboard charters and performing with Frank Sinatra as part of the Rat Pack. Sadly, he died in debt.

 20 
Lizzo
(Rapper Know for Her Hit Songs "Good as Hell" "Truth Hurts" & "Juice")
Lizzo
135
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: April 27, 1988
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States
Three-time Grammy-winning rap and hip-hop sensation Lizzo is also a queer and body-positivity icon. She began singing with groups such as The Chalice and Grrrl Prty, and graced the Billboard 200 with the album Cuz I Love You. Time’s 2019 Entertainer of the Year, Lizzo is also a talented flute-player.
 21 
Otis Redding
(Singer-songwriter)
Otis Redding
43
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: September 9, 1941
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Dawson, Georgia, United States
Died: December 10, 1967
The King of Soul Otis Redding, who had performed with the Pinetoppers, among others, is remembered for his track (Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay, released after his death in a plane crash. It became the first posthumous Billboard R&B- and Hot 100-topping record. He also won two posthumous Grammys
 22 
Common
(Rapper)
Common
40
Listed In: Activists
Birthdate: March 13, 1972
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: South Side, Chicago, Illinois, United States
Height: 6'0" (183 cm)
 23 
Janelle Monae
(Singer-songwriter)
Janelle Monae
51
Birthdate: December 1, 1985
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kansas City, Kansas, United States
Artist Janelle Monae initially sang with rapper Big Boi and is known for albums such as Dirty Computer. She has been nominated for the Grammys multiple times. Monae also appeared in films such as Hidden Figures and the Academy Award-winning drama Moonlight. She is both bisexual and pansexual.
 24 
Robert Johnson
30
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: May 8, 1911
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Hazlehurst, Mississippi, United States
Died: August 16, 1938

Singer and guitarist Robert Johnson is remembered as a Delta blues legend. Lack of proper documentation of his early life led to various legends surrounding him, such as one that claimed he had made a deal with the Devil to excel in music. He also inspired an award-winning biography. 

 25 
Nina Simone
(One of the Most Influential Musical Artists of the 20th Century)
Nina Simone
33
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: February 21, 1933
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tryon, North Carolina, United States
Died: April 21, 2003

Widely regarded as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, Nina Simone was a pioneering recording artist whose career was characterized by improvisational genius and fits of outrage. Nina continues to be an important musician and has influenced several artists like Elton John, Adele, David Bowie, Madonna, and Aretha Franklin. She was also a civil rights activist.

 26 
Method Man
(Rapper And Member Of Hip Hop Collective 'Wu-Tang Clan')
Method Man
13
Listed In: Musicians
Birthdate: March 2, 1971
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Hempstead, New York, United States

Method Man is part of the hip-hop duo Method Man & Redman and Wu-Tang Clan. His collaborative single with Mary J. Blige, I'll Be There for You, won a Grammy. He has also appeared on the show Method & Red, in HBO series such as Oz, and in several films.

 27 
Brandy Norwood
(Singer-Songwriter and Actress Know for Her Single ‘The Boy Is Mine’ and Her Role in the Sitcom 'Moesha')
Brandy Norwood
55
Birthdate: February 11, 1979
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: McComb, Mississippi, United States

The singer of chartbuster songs like The Boy Is Mine, I Wanna be Down and Sittin' Up in My Room, Brandy Norwood is known for her raspy and husky voice. Most of her songs are about love, relationships and heartache. She was involved in a car accident in 2006, leading to multiple lawsuits, which were eventually settled out of court.

 28 
Ciara
(Singer)
Ciara
40
Listed In: Fashion
Birthdate: October 25, 1985
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Austin, Texas, United States

Ciara is an American singer-songwriter whose debut single, Goodies, earned her the title Princess of Crunk&B. Her songs, Goodies and Yeah!, are credited with introducing the substyle of contemporary R&B and crunk music called crunk&B to music lovers. Also a dancer and model, Ciara has had a major impact on the American entertainment industry for the past 10 years.

 29 
Gladys Knight
(Singer-Songwriter)
Gladys Knight
25
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: May 28, 1944
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Height: 5'3" (160 cm)
 30 
Isaac Hayes
(Singer-songwriter)
Isaac Hayes
18
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: August 20, 1942
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Covington, Tennessee, United States
Died: August 10, 2008
 31 
Playboi Carti
(Rapper, Singer-Songwriter and Record Producer)
Playboi Carti
43
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: September 13, 1996
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Riverdale, Georgia, United States
Mumble rapper Playboi Carti previously performed with Ethereal, using the pseudonym "Sir Cartier." He soared to fame with the Billboard Hot 100-charting tracks Woke Up Like and Magnolia. Described by GQ as the "leader of a youth style," he is known for his signature gothic fashion and quirky personality.
 32 
Donna Summer
(Singer-Songwriter)
Donna Summer
20
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: December 31, 1948
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: May 17, 2012
Height: 5'7" (170 cm)
 33 
Mos Def
(Rapper, Actor)
Mos Def
11
Birthdate: December 11, 1973
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Height: 5'10" (178 cm)
 34 
Busta Rhymes
(Rapper)
Busta Rhymes
19
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: May 20, 1972
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: East Flatbush, New York, United States
Height: 6'1" (185 cm)
 35 
will.i.am
(American Rapper, Singer-Songwriter, Founding and Lead Member of the Musical Group ‘Black Eyed Peas’)
will.i.am
22
Listed In: Musicians
Birthdate: March 15, 1975
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Eastside Los Angeles, California, United States
Rapper and music producer William James Adams Jr., better known as “will.i.am,” is a founding member of the Black Eyed Peas. He went solo later and released tracks such as the NBA Live theme Go! The seven-time Grammy-winning artist also wrote Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign theme Yes We Can.
 36 
2 Chainz
(Rapper Best Known for His Single ‘Duffle Bag Boy’)
2 Chainz
19
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: September 12, 1977
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: College Park, Georgia, United States

2 Chainz is an American rapper, media personality, songwriter, and basketball player. One-half of the now-defunct hip hop duo Playaz Circle, 2 Chainz is credited with founding The Real University, his own independent record label. Also an entrepreneur, 2 Chainz owns Dabbing Sweaters, his own line of sweaters, and CEO Millionaires, a line of hoodies.

 37 
Solange Knowles
(Singer, Songwriter & Performance Artist)
Solange Knowles
32
Birthdate: June 24, 1986
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, United States
Solange Knowles, younger sister of pop star Beyoncé Knowles, initially performed as a back-up dancer and wrote songs for Beyoncé’s band Destiny's Child. She has delivered Grammy-winning tracks such as Cranes in the Sky and has also won an Impact Award. She also owns a hip-hop-themed children’s merchandise brand.
 38 
Joyner Luca
(Known for Remixing Popular Hip Hop Songs)
Joyner Luca
16
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: August 17, 1988
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
Joyner Lucas, previously known as “Future Joyner,” soared to fame with the tracks Lucky You and I'm Not Racist, and earned a Grammy nomination each, with them. He is also known for the popular track Ross Capicchioni and for his infamous feud with Canadian artist Tory Lanez. 
 39 
Big Boi
(Rapper)
Big Boi
23
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: February 1, 1975
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Savannah, Georgia, United States
Height: 5'6" (168 cm)
 40 
Charley Pride
(Country Singer and One of Three African-American Members of the 'Grand Ole Opr')
Charley Pride
10
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: March 18, 1934
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Sledge, Mississippi, United States
Died: December 12, 2020
Charley Pride was an American professional baseball player, guitarist, and singer. During the 1970s, Pride became the best-selling singer for RCA Records since Elvis Presley. In his illustrious career, Pride won many awards including three American Music Awards and four Grammy Awards. In 2000, Pride was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
 41 
Jill Scott
(Singer-songwriter)
Jill Scott
22
Listed In: Fashion
Birthdate: April 4, 1972
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Height: 5'6" (168 cm)
 42 
David Ruffin
(American Soul Singer and Musician)
David Ruffin
13
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: January 18, 1941
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Whynot, Mississippi, United States
Died: June 1, 1991
Height: 6'3" (190 cm)
 43 
Master P
(Rapper)
Master P
27
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: April 29, 1970
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Height: 6'4" (193 cm)
 44 
Paul Robeson
(Singer, Actor, and Black Activist.)
Paul Robeson
11
Listed In: Activists
Birthdate: April 9, 1898
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Princeton, New Jersey, United States
Died: January 23, 1976

Singer and actor, Paul Robeson, was as much known for his music and films as he was for his political activism. As a black man who had to endure great difficulties to establish himself, he was actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement and other social justice campaigns. As a performer, he was a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance.

 45 
Sly Stone
(Musician)
Sly Stone
3
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: March 15, 1943
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Denton, Texas, United States
Height: 6'2" (188 cm)
 46 
Ja Rule
(Rapper)
Ja Rule
16
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: February 29, 1976
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New York City
Rapper/hip-hop artist Ja Rule is best known for his collaborative tracks with artists such as Jennifer Lopez and Ashanti. He has delivered a platinum-selling debut album and released two Billboard-topping albums. He has launched a clothing line and a liquor brand, too, and has had multiple brushes with the law. 
 47 
Herbie Hancock
(Singer-songwriter, Bandleader, Conductor, Jazz musician, Keyboardist, Actor, Musician, Pianist, Film score composer)
Herbie Hancock
5
Listed In: Musicians
Birthdate: April 12, 1940
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago
 48 
Killer Mike
(American Rapper and Actor)
Killer Mike
27
Listed In: Activists
Birthdate: April 20, 1975
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States
 49 
Cab Calloway
(Singer)
Cab Calloway
7
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: December 25, 1907
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Rochester
Died: November 18, 1994

Jazz singer and dancer, Cab Calloway, was a famous vocalist of the swing era.  From the early 1930s to the late 1940s, he led a very popular band that included musicians like  Dizzy Gillespie, Jonah Jones, and Adolphus "Doc" Cheatham. A man of color, he became the first African-American musician to sell a million records from a single song.

 50 
D'Angelo
(Singer-songwriter)
D'Angelo
9
Listed In: Singers
Birthdate: February 11, 1974
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Richmond, Virginia, United States