Since 1976, the first of February has marked the beginning of black history month. During this month many events are scheduled around the country to honor and celebrate the history that is black culture and lineage. In many cases the pages of black history are full of struggle, persecution, and inequity. Much of this history lives on through musical expression.
In honor of Black history, we have compiled a list of 200 influential black musicians. The artists included in this list have in some way impacted history. Whether it be through the improvement of race relations, paving the way for other blacks in the music industry, or the development of new genres that have pushed music further– black musicians have been extremely important historically and culturally.
We have ordered the playlist in chronological order based on limited cursory available data between Spotify and Wikipedia. This list was subject to the limits of what was available on Spotify streaming platform and the knowledge we have. We understand that we may have missed a few artists, but we hope this will be used as a point of discovery and understanding! Happy listening.
Nail City Record Presents: Influential Black Musicians and Their Work. Part 1 of 4 (1893-1952):
This playlist explores early recorded music history starting with artist performing in the late 1800s through the 1950s. Multiple genres can be heard in this playlist such as, vaudeville, spiritual, gospel, opera, orchestral, ragtime, jazz and blues. Many of the songs and artist included in this playlist continue to serve as the roots and inspiration to musicians to this day.
Nail City Record Presents: Influential Black Musicians and Their Work. Part 2 of 4 (1952-1970):
On this playlist we explore the genres of funk, soul, R&B, Jazz, psychedelic rock, rock and roll and blues! Get on up with heavy hitters like James brown, Chuck Berry, The Four Tops, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, George Clinton, Otis Redding and many more!
Nail City Record Presents: Influential Black Musicians and Their Work. Part 3 of 4 (1970-1994):
This playlist explores disco, “afro-beat”, and the origins of Hip hop. From Chaka Khan to Nas and tons of great music in between! We hope you’re ready to dance as we explore music from the Commodores, Prince, Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash, The Sugarhill Gang, Salt-N-Pepa, TLC, and so much more!
Nail City Record Presents: Influential Black Musicians and Their Work. Part 4 of 4 (1995-Now):
Spanning from the mid 1990s / 2000s, to what’s popular today, this playlist explores some of the new “classics!” Many of the artists included on this list are leading the music industry in the number of streams, and are redefining what it means to be successful in the music industry in modern times. Join us as we explore the genres of Alternative Hip Hop, Emo, Rap, R&B, Trap, Mumble Rap, Soundcloud Rap, Reggae, Indie Rock, and Indie Pop.