Iconic Black Artists: From Louis Armstrong to Kendrick Lamar

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Photo Courtesy of Jared Rezak

Vanessa Su
Arts & Entertainment Editor

Music has always been a universal art that allows people of various backgrounds and lifestyles to connect and share their culture with others. The music industry today has been influenced by key African American culture and musicians, who deserve to be credited for the way they shaped various genres of music like jazz, hip-hop, and pop. 

One of the most influential jazz musicians, Louis Armstrong was famous for shaping not only jazz music in America but also for creating a path for more black musicians to start performing during the mid-1900s, which was a racially divided period of time for black entertainers. Often using his own charismatic vocals in his songs, his songs continue to be the beloved favorites of jazz-lovers in America and across the world.  

With classic songs such as “I Will Always Love You” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” pop star and icon Whitney Houston has long been one of the best-selling singers in the world. Her vocal fluidity and emotional delivery allowed her to become cited by many artists as an influence in their love for music and a strong force that drove America to fall into a craze for pop music. 

A voice for activism and social issues, Tupac Shakur, also known as 2Pac, is one of the most significant figures in the world of hip-hop and rap music. Often referenced in rappers’ lyrics, 2Pac inspired many musicians to speak up on society’s problems such as poverty and racial discrimination while crafting unique rap and advancing the hip-hop scene in America. To this day, the brave messages embedded in his lyrics continue to inspire teenagers around the world. 

Widely known for her powerful dance-filled performances and strong feminist voice, Beyonce has been a black role model and is often referenced on the Internet for her empowering music and content. Starting from her musical journey as part of group Destiny’s Child, she consistently impresses audiences globally and is an artist whose name will go down in history as an inspiration to many aspiring artists.

Since his debut album good kid, m.A.A.d city, Kendrick Lamar has become one of the most common artists heard blasted anywhere from college parties to dance studios. His trap-heavy tracks filled with poetic lines and elements of musical genres such as jazz, soul, funk are timeless favorites that led him to be the first non-classical music and non-jazz artist to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. 

Beyond those mentioned in this article, many respected, wonderful black musicians have contributed musically and stylistically to various genres of music popular in America and around the world. The universal ability of music to speak to people can be attributed to the hard work and creative genius of these musical minds, whose works are influenced by black pride and history, spreading a message of strength to the world.

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Vanessa Su is a third year Communication major and Japanese minor. She has loved editorial writing ever since high school and started working at TBL as a writer during her second year at UCSB. In her spare time, she enjoys reading Vogue articles, working out, and listening to Korean indie music.

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