15 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Black Singers Of The 2000s 

Written by Laura Macmillan
Last updated

The first decade of the 2000s is known for musical innovation and creativity. Black singers and musicians revolutionized both music and the recording industry in the 2000s, and their legacy will continue for generations. 

Here we take you through a list of 15 of the greatest and most famous black singers of the 2000s. These artists created a world of music that has shaped the entire industry, giving us hundreds of catchy and lyrically meaningful songs. Read on!  

Related: For more, see our post about the greatest black singers of all time.

1. Beyoncé

First on our list is Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. She is not only the most famous black singer of the 2000s, but she’s one of the most famous and iconic singers of all time.

Knowles grew up in Houston, Texas, and stood out at a young age for her incredible range and powerful voice.

She got her start in the late ’90s as part of Destiny’s Child, which became an instant success and had many number one hits. She went solo in 2003 with her first album, Dangerously In Love.

Since then, she’s released six studio albums that debuted at #1, won 20 Grammys, and starred in feature films, including Dreamgirls

2. Drake

Aubrey Graham, better known as Drake, is a Canadian rapper, singer-songwriter, and actor who has had many successful career transformations since the turn of the century.

Drake got his start as an actor on the hit teen TV show Degrassi: Next Generation, where his character is a rapper. After leaving the show in 2008, he launched his music career.

He first gained fame as part of Young Money Entertainment, where he featured in many collaborations. Drake has six certified Platinum albums and has won multiple Grammys. He has the most top 10 singles of any artist and runs a record label. 

3. Rihanna

Born Robyn Rihanna Fenti, Rihanna is a singer, actress, fashion designer, and businesswoman from Barbados. Incredibly, she has sold more albums than any other female musician apart from Madonna!

Rihanna got her start in 2005 when she signed with Def Jam and released her first album, Music of the Sun. Since then, she has had eight chart-topping albums and has won nine Grammys. 

More recently, Rihanna has concentrated on her makeup brand Fenty Beauty and her lingerie line Savage X Fenty. As of 2021, Rihanna is the wealthiest female musician, with a net worth of almost 2 billion dollars!

4. John Legend

John Roger Stephens, better known as John Legend, is a singer, songwriter, record producer, and actor with a career spanning many decades.

Legend was born into a musical family in Ohio and started making music when he joined the University of Pennsylvania’s a capella group during college. He broke into the industry by playing piano on other singers’ records, including Lauryn Hill, Jay-Z, and Alicia Keys.

He eventually signed with Kanye West’s music label and released his first album, Get Lifted, in 2004. The album was certified double Platinum and brought him his first Grammy wins.  

5. Usher

American R&B singer and record producer Usher started his career in Atlanta, Georgia. He was raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but his mother moved the family to Atlanta when she recognized his singing talents could make him a star.

He released his first studio album when he was only 16 and began rising to fame throughout the 1990s. 

Usher became even more successful in the early 2000s and solidified his career when he released his fourth studio album, Confessions, in 2004.

Since then he’s continued to release popular music and started a successful production career. He is credited with discovering other stars like Justin Bieber and Jason Derulo. 

6. Mariah Carey

Another legendary black singer popular in the first decade of the new millennium is Mariah Carey. She defined R&B and pop music in the 1990s and then revitalized her career in the 2000s.

Carey inherited her voice from her mother, who was an opera singer. She became known for her five-octave vocal range and signature use of the whistle register. 

She holds the record for the number-one singles by a female songwriter, and in 2019, Billboard voted her the “greatest female artist of all time.”

Carey has won five Grammys and the nickname Queen of Christmas for her iconic song “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” 

7. Ne-Yo

Born Shaffer Chimere Smith, Ne-Yo is a singer, songwriter, actor, and record producer. His musician mother raised him in Las Vegas, where he joined the R&B group Envy and featured on the MTV series The Cut

Smith rose to fame first as a songwriter when he penned “Let Me Love You,” sung by Mario in 2004. The song attracted the attention of Jay-Z, who signed Smith to his record label Def Jam.

Smith released his first album, In My Own Words, in 2006, which was critically acclaimed and certified Platinum.

8. Alicia Keys 

Another black singer known for her vocal range and musicality is Alicia Keys. Raised by her mother in Manhattan, she fell in love with jazz music.

She began playing the piano at a young age, practicing up to six hours a day, and at age twelve, she wrote her first song on the piano.

Keys was so talented that she was signed professionally at age fifteen. She released her first studio album, Songs In A Minor, in 2001 to critical acclaim. She won five Grammys for her first this and has since won ten more. 

9. Nicki Minaj

Born Onika Tanya Maraj-Petty, Nicki Minaj is a Trinidadian-American rapper and singer considered as one of the most influential and successful women in hip-hop. Minaj is known for her versatility, sharp lyrics, and alter egos and accents in her songs.

She first found success with the release of three mixtapes between 2007 and 2009. The Young Money label released all three mixtapes, and she also featured on songs with rappers like Drake and Lil’ Wayne.

After breaking into the industry through her features, she released her first studio album Pink Friday in 2010 to huge commercial success and critical acclaim. She followed this up with chart-topping albums in 2012 and 2014 (Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded and The Pinkprint, respectively) as well as numerous #1 singles.

10. Whitney Houston

Nicknamed the Voice, Whitney Houston is one of the most iconic singers of all time. Born in New Jersey, she grew up around music with a musical family and even had Aretha Franklin as her honorary aunt.

Houston reached her peak fame through the ’80s and ’90s. She’s on this list because despite struggling in her personal life, she returned to success in the later 2000s with her album Just Whitney, which was certified Platinum.

Her last critical success was with the album I Look To You in 2009 before her tragic death in 2012.  

Over her outstanding career, Houston sold more than 200 million albums, won eight Grammys, and is the only artist ever to have seven consecutive number-one singles.

11. Mary J. Blige 

Next up we have American singer, songwriter, rapper, and actress Mary J. Blige, who helped bring women to the forefront of hip-hop in the 1990s and 2000s. Considered as one of most influential voices in R&B, she is also known as the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.

Blige was born in the Bronx and raised in Atlanta. When she was 17, she made an impromptu recording of Anita Baker’s “Caught Up In The Rapture.” Her mother’s boyfriend showed it to a producer, launching her career.

In the early 2000s, she release Love & Life (2003), The Breakthrough (2005), and Growing Pains (2007)—all #1 in US charts. Since then, Blige has won nine Grammys from her 14 chart-topping studio albums. 

12. Kelis

American singer Kelis Rogers-Mora, known by simply her first name, helped define the early 2000s with her number-one hits.

Kelis attended New York’s LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, where she started working with music producer and singer Pharrell Williams. 

Her first two albums were critically acclaimed but not commercial successes. However, her 2003 album Tasty brought her international attention, especially for the song “Milkshake.” The song was one of the decade’s most popular, and it still appears in many movies and television shows to this day. 

13. Sean Paul

Next, we have Sean Paul, who is a Jamaican dancehall and reggae singer and rapper credited with bringing the reggae genre into mainstream hip hop charts.

Paul was born and raised in Kingston by a multicultural family of athletes. He was initially a competitive water polo player but left the game to pursue his passion for music.

He was eventually discovered by a small-time record producer while performing at an open mic night. He then went on to release his debut album, Stage One, in 2000 with VP Records and reached peak fame with his third album, The Trinity, in 2005. 

14. Ciara

Ciara Princess Wilson, otherwise known as just Ciara, is an American singer whose songs are emblematic of the 2000s music scene.

Ciara was an army brat and lived all over the United States while growing up. She started her music career as a songwriter, eventually going solo with her first album in 2003. 

The album, Goodies, was a massive success and spawned the hit singles “1, 2, Step” with Missy Elliot and “Oh” featuring Ludacris. This collaboration started Ciara’s long-term musical partnership with Missy Elliot. 

Ciara has won a Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video, 3 MTV Video Music Awards, and 7 Soul Train Music Awards, to name a few.

15. Sean Kingston

And finally, Sean Kingston is an American-Jamaican signer and rapper who defined the 2000s dance music scene.

Kingston was born in Miami, Florida, and moved with his family to Jamaica when he was six. He got his love of music from his grandfather, Lawrence Lindo, a legendary reggae producer. 

Kingston was one of the first singers discovered through YouTube by record producer Matt Tobin, leading to a record deal with Sony.

He then released the hit singles “Beautiful Girls” and “Fire Burning,” the former topping charts and reaching international success. He became more famous when he opened for Gwen Stefani and Beyoncé during their headlining tours in 2007. 

Summing Up Our List Of Famous Black Singers Of The 2000s

The years 2000-2010 was known as one of the best decades for music in generations, largely because of the contributions of the black singers on this list. 

The singers we had listed brought new beats, lyrics, and a sense of community to the industry that has endured.

Who do you think we missed off? Let us know and we’ll add them!

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Laura has over 12 years experience teaching both classical and jazz saxophone and clarinet. She now resides in California where she works as a session and live performer.