My Top 5 Influential Black Artists: Exploring Their Impact and Legacy

Written by on February 23, 2024

Wrapping up black history month, I wanted to discuss some of my favorite black musicians who have influenced me today. The pioneers who have paved the way to influence this new generation of black artists or artists who have impacted their respective genres in general. As a black woman who adores music, I find joy in knowing the impression of how legendary black artists are to the music industry around the world.

1.) Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

The “King of Pop,” Michael Joseph Jackson, is an all-time musician whose legacy will live on until the end of time. Michael started music at a young age with his four brothers, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon, forming a band called “Jackson 5”. They had hits like “I Want You Back,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “ABC,” “I’ll Be There,” and many more. It was not until 1979 that Michael broke out into a solo career with his debut album “Off The Wall,” including hits like “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough,” “Rock With You,” and “Working Day and Night.”

Michael Jackson is an artist I grew up listening to and loving his music. Some of my favorite Michael Jackson songs are “Beat It,” “They Don’t Care About Us,” “Leave Me Alone,” “Dirty Diana,” “Man In The Mirror,” “Black or White,” “Rock My World,” and plenty more. The 13-time Grammy winner has left a legacy that has impacted the world and will forever be known as the “King of Pop.” Michael Jackson has made me appreciate pop music from the beginning. My parents shared their love for him with me, and I will continue to do that with my children one day.

2.) Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)

James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix was an American guitarist who highlighted black people in the Rock N Roll genre in the ’60s—known to be one of the greatest guitarists ever. Jimi was left-handed but did not use a left-handed guitar. He flipped the right-handed guitar the opposite way and played backward.

In 2019, I started to get into the Rock and Alternative genres and became immersed in the legend’s music. Songs like “Voodoo Child,” “Purple Haze,” and “Bold As Love” are his known hits that continue to have their presence. Jimi Hendrix made rock ‘n roll one of my favorite music genres and a big reason why I picked up the guitar. As a left-handed guitarist, I have respected his craft in a right-handed world. My favorite Hendrix songs would have to be “Spanish Castle Music,” “Hey Joe,” and “Castles Made of Sand.”

3.) Aaliyah (1979-2001)

“Aaliyah” Dana Haughton was an R&B icon whose career lived short after a tragic plane crash that occurred on August 25th, 2001, in the Bahamas after finishing a music video, “Rock The Boat.” The “Princess of R&B” influenced me with not only her music but the way she presented herself. Aaliyah would also style baggy clothes with a glam makeup look. She taught me that it is okay to wear whatever you want however you want.

Some of her most famous hits are “More Than A Woman,” “One In A Million,” “Try Again,” “Are You That Somebody,” and “At Your Best (You Are Love).” Aaliyah also had a few roles in Movies like Romeo Must Die and Queen of the Damned.

There is no doubt that her career has had an impact on the R&B genre and fashion in the ’90s and early 2000s. Aaliyah’s footprint remains as artists have used unreleased songs or her previous songs as samples like Chris Brown’s “Don’t Think They Know” and Drake’s “Unforgettable.”

4.) Beyoncé

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, known as “Beyoncé,” is our Houston native who has made a huge success. Starting her career in a girl group with childhood friends LaTavia Roberson, Kelly Rowland, Támar Davis, and sisters Nikki and Nina Taylor called “Girl’s Tyme” in childhood, which formed into “Destiny’s Child.” The group Destiny’s Child created hits like “Say My Name,” “Cater 2 U”, “Bills, Bills, Bills,” “Jumpin’, Jumpin’,” “Survivor,” and “Independent Women Pt. 1.”

In 2003, Beyoncé would go solo, debuting her album “Dangerously In Love,” including the massive hit “Crazy in Love” featuring rapper JAY-Z, who she would eventually marry in 2008. Beyoncé has 32 Grammys, being the most decorated Grammy winner ever.

Beyoncé continues to use her platform to inspire black girls across the world. She certainly inspired me growing up, allowing me to believe that anything is possible for a girl who looks like me.

5.) Rihanna

Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty started her career as a model and broke out singing in 2003, but did not get her recognition until 2005 with the song “Pon De Replay.” The Barbadian took over in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. Her collabs with JAY-Z and Kanye West made the hit songs: “Umbrella,” “Run This Town,” “All of the Lights,” “FourFiveSeconds,” and “Famous.”

The nine-time Grammy winner has taken a music hiatus, focusing on her family and multiple businesses; not making an album for the past eight years, she has slowly given the world a taste of her voice again. In 2022, she released the single “Lift Me Up” for the Marvel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Last year, Rihanna performed at the Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show.

I have always loved Rihanna’s voice playing through my iPod growing up. As I have grown up, I am happy to see her success extend beyond just music. It is inspiring to know that you do not have to stick to one thing, and it could become just as successful.


That wraps up with my 5 favorite influential black artists. It was hard to decipher my top five, having a pool of great people who have influenced me and many others throughout my life. My list was also picked from their influences on me outside of music. These artists’ legacies will continue to live on throughout my life and the world.

  • Nia Richardson

    Hi! I am Nia and I am a sophomore here at the University of Houston studying Media Production. I was born and raised in San Antonio. I love music, film, and sports.

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