12 Most Influential Black Artists Of 2016

Black History Month is drawing to an end and we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the annual observance than by honoring the black musicians nailing it in 2016.


2016 has been a big year for the Barbadian artist. Rihanna dropped a long awaited 8th studio album and for many critics ‘ANTI’ is Rihanna’s greatest album. Rihanna has just won the MTV 2016 Video Vanguard Music Award at the age of 28 making her the second youngest winner of the award. Riri is also brand ambassador for Dior and creative director of Fenty Puma which makes her a business woman whose influence stretches far beyond music.

(Photograph: Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

Kanye West

Between Twitter rants, controversial music videos and robberies held at gun point, Kanye West was seen everywhere this year. The ‘Champions’ rapper who describes himself as “the number one most impactful artist of our generation” has particularly outdone himself in 2016 with the publicized release of his seventh record ‘The Life of Pablo’.

The Weeknd

Abel Tesfaye also known as the Weeknd reached stardom following the release in 2015 of his second album ‘Beauty Behind the Madness’. The hits ‘Earned It’, ‘The Hills’ and ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ simultaneously shot third, second and first on the international R&B charts.

This year Drake’s protégé is back with his new hit single ‘Starboy’ featuring the founding fathers of ‘La French Touch’ Daft Punk.

Janelle Monáe

Even though ‘The Electric Lady’ hasn’t released any albums since her critically acclaimed record in 2013, Monáe has been very present on the music and social front. From the Black Lives Matter movement to backing Michelle Obama’s third-world educational initiative “Let Girls Learn”, Janelle is an activist as well as an artist and has been very vocal on the different social issues crippling the black community in the U.S.

(Photograph: Sachyn Mita/Brooklynvegan.com)

Chance The Rapper

Chance The Rapper is considered one of the most exciting artists of his generation. The ‘Angels’ rapper made headlines this year when he hosted his own music festival in Chicago which featured some of the industry’s biggest names: Lil Wayne, Alicia Keys, John Legend and Skrillex to name a few. Last week, Chance attended Barack Obama’s final State Dinner at the White House and tweeted his very heartfelt and now famous hashtag “#BlackBoyJoy”.


There’s no doubt that 2016 has been and still is an amazing year for Queen Bey who still sits firmly on her throne. With songs like “Freedom” or “Formation”, Beyoncé has made one of the most important political statements of her career asserting her black pride and support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Kendrick Lamar

At the 58th Grammy Awards, Kendrick received 11 nominations, including Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Rap Album. He was especially praised for his soulful and politically-charged performance which began with the singer performing “The Blacker the Berry” in shackles, surrounded by band members playing from behind prison bars. The performance has gone down in Grammy history.

Angélique Kidjo

The three time Grammy award winner from Benin is one of most influential voices of African music; last month Angélique Kidjo was invited by Barack Obama to perform during the inauguration of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Kidjo states “[We are] building bridges amongst our cultures and amongst ourselves… It’s always better to know your neighbor than not.”

(Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)


With a new album on the way called ‘Black America Again’, Common’s music speaks of the modern day black experience in America. His song “Glory” written for the movie Selma which takes place during the Civil Rights era, won the Oscar for the Best Original Song. During his acceptance speech at the Academy Awards, Common stated “We say that Selma is now because the struggle for justice is right now”.

Alicia Keys

In 2016 the singer-songwriter took a strong stance on the refugee crisis. With her ‘We Are Here Movement’ Keys has encouraged fans to sign the petition in order to “stand as one with people forced to flee conflict and disaster”. Alicia Keys is also working on a new album  which she promises will be “the most purposeful music” she has ever written.


Currently holding the record for the most number one hits on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Chart, Drake is literally slaying the hip hop and R&B scene. The 29-year-old Torontonian dropped ‘Views’ in May and has just announced a world tour. Even Barack Obama couldn’t resist his “Hotline Bling”.


When Solange’s album ‘A Seat at The Table’ dropped she described her work as  “A project on identity, empowerment, independence, grief and healing”. Praised by both fans and critics, her third release breaks every R&B rule and is set to influence many artists in the years to come.