Top-40 radio in the 2010s was a blend of pop, hip-hop, and R&B, and many of these voices of the decade came from black vocalists. Men and women alike gave their talent to the airwaves in different genres to create the sounds we know and love.
What’s more, this decade is so recent that many of these artists still have thriving careers today, releasing new music all the time.
In this post, we will take a look at 15 of the greatest and most famous black singers of the 2010s. Chances are, you’ll see some of your favorite artists, but hopefully, discover someone new to add to your playlist! Let’s dive in.
A household name that represents global success, the career of Beyonce Knowles reached its peak in the 2010s decade. Her melodic acrobatics and powerful vocals are unmistakable, matched only by her onstage showmanship that sells out arenas worldwide.
Knowles’ album I Am… Sasha Fierce dropped right at the turn of the decade, introducing an explosive persona that would dominate the next few years of pop music.
She went on to sweep the Grammys, have her first child, appear on the covers of several major magazines, perform at the Superbowl halftime show, and then give us Lemonade.
This juggernaut of entertainment was on fire in the 2010s and based on her recent career efforts, shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.
2. Kanye West
Hip-hop and rap personality Kanye – also known as “Ye, “Yeezy,” or “Yeezus” – had already made his indelible mark on the music industry by the year 2010 with albums like The College Dropout and Graduation.
But his success continued to expand in the following decade, with seven more albums and a thriving fashion line.
West’s over-the-top live shows and innovative brand of conscious rapping propelled him to stardom, and it seems to be sustained even today.
He is an influential figure to many newer rappers, offering a perspective on social culture and religion in his lyrics that elevates rap from the “thug” style of former decades.
Speaking of musicians turned fashion icons, Rihanna isn’t one to overlook!
Born Robyn Rihanna Fenty, the singer from Barbados, took the music world by storm and has since ventured into fashion and cosmetics to become the wealthiest female musician in the world today.
Fenty kicked off the decade of the 2010s with her Loud album, featuring hits like “Only Girl (In the World)” and “S&M.”
Her bold voice and performance style is a perfect choice for huge stadium shows, and she continues to tour even with her other business ventures.
4. John Legend
The silky-smooth voice and piano skills of this talented performer make him the first African-American to be an EGOT winner (Emmy, Grammy, Tony, and Oscar).
Born John Stephens in Ohio, he grew up in a musical family and became a successful session player before striking out on his own as a solo artist.
Though Legend’s first wave of fame was in the 2000s, following his first two albums, he continued into the following decade as a highly sought-after performer.
His collaboration with The Roots in 2010 won them three Grammys, and in 2013, his single “All of Me” became a commercial hit and one of his most well-known songs.
Besides music, he also ventured into TV, with a role in Jesus Christ Superstar Live and a judge position on the competition reality show The Voice. Today, he continues to write, perform and produce music, and offer philanthropic efforts to impoverished communities.
5. Kendrick Lamar
Though he’s still at the height of fame, rapper Kendrick Lamar began his career in the 2010s with several studio albums that garnered much acclaim from the industry and fans alike.
His unique style means he reaches across subcategories of rap and hip-hop, sometimes categorized as “progressive rap” and sometimes “West Coast hip-hop” or even with a jazz influence.
His 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly stretched the genre even further with elements of funk, soul, and spoken word. In 2017, he won a Pulitzer Prize For Music with Damn.
He has won awards from the Grammys, American Music Awards, Billboard, and many other honors for his groundbreaking and unprecedented music, which he continues to produce now.
6. Nicki Minaj
The “Queen of Rap,” born Onika Tanya Maraj, has the credentials to back up her nickname.
With a Brit Award, four Billboard Music Awards, five MTV Video Music Awards, eight American Music Awards, ten Grammy nominations, twelve BET awards, and three Guinness World Records, Minaj has smashed records in her industry again and again.
Minaj moved to Queens, New York, at five years old when she moved with her family from Trinidad and Tobago. Her difficult childhood pushed her to create art to cope with her struggles.
The rap queen’s first exposure to the music industry was as a backup singer to rap artists in New York City, then soon after, Lil Wayne took notice of her.
Her first album, Pink Friday, dropped in 2010 and shot to the top of the Billboard charts. 2012 saw the release of Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. The following year, Minaj had forty-four appearances on the Billboard Hot 100. Her 2014 album Pinkprint continued to stake her claim as a female rapper who defied boundaries.
7. Pharrell Williams
While most artists begin as performers and then shift into record producing and other ventures, Williams did them simultaneously.
His involvement with The Neptunes in the 1990s and then N.E.R.D. in the 2000s led gradually to a solo career in the following decade.
His most recognizable tune, “Happy,” was featured on the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack and got major radio play in consecutive months and years.
Collaborations with Robin Thicke and Daft Punk only lifted his success as he continued pursuing music production and entrepreneurship on the side. Williams has been nominated for 2 Academy Awards and won 13 Grammys.
8. Janelle Monae
Though she had already released EPs prior, the decade of the 2010s was huge for Monae.
Her concept albums, including TheArchAndroid and Dirty Computer, garnered huge critical acclaim and launched her further into the realm of pop/steampunk crossover. She has publicly said she is a believer in and proponent of time travel, adding to her image as a dystopian sci-fi figure.
Monae’s quirky style and unusual musical output make her hard to compartmentalize. She goes beyond a mere singer and presents as a consummate entertainer.
Her imaginative songwriting and funky rhythms often draw comparisons to Prince, with whom she collaborated for her most recent hit, “Make Me Feel.”
9. Frank Ocean
Born Christopher Breaux in California, Frank Ocean spent most of his formative years in New Orleans before moving to Los Angeles to pursue an artistic career.
He is another singer-songwriter who evades classification, incorporating elements of R&B, hip-hop, adult contemporary, jazz, and funk into his music.
Both Insider and The Wall Street Journal claim that Ocean “dominated” the decade of the 2010s. All of his available studio albums hit during this era, each with its own distinct and innovative sound.
His lyrics deal with love, loss, ambition, and the human experience, making it accessible to any listener and further redefining boundaries within the industry.
10. Lil Nas X
LGBTQI+ icon Lil Nas X may have only been 19 in the last year of the 2010s, but he sure made up quickly for his late arrival onto the scene.
In 2019, his enormous pop hit “Old Town Road” went viral and earned diamond status, spending 19 weeks on the Billboard Top 100, a record in the list’s history since 1958.
The rapper’s burgeoning popularity endured not just for his quirky music but also for his unabashed queer identity and overtly sexual stage presence.
He is one of the first black musicians to publicly define and market himself as LGBTQI+, an anomaly for the predominantly cis rap and hip-hop community.
11. The Weeknd
The Weeknd, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye was born in Canada to Ethiopian immigrant parents.
His career began in 2009 when he released music on YouTube but quickly vaulted to fame due to ventures outside of the music industry, such as inclusion on the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack and a staggering entertainment budget as the Superbowl halftime show.
The Weeknd is perhaps best known for his early singles such as “I Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills,” though his writing has since veered away from pop hits and more into the realm of enigmatic crossover sounds. He is notoriously private and does not take interviews.
Aubrey Drake Graham, who goes by his middle name professionally, began his career on TV in the cast of Degrassi: The Next Generation, which ran until 2008.
By the 2010s, he had made the transition into music and was developing his unique style, a combination of melodic singing and rapping.
A succession of mixtapes in 2015 and 2017 contributed to his success, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time.
13. Donald Glover
The talent known as Childish Gambino has his thumb in many different pies. Like many others on our list of black singers, Glover has experience in multiple artistic ventures.
Aside from music, Glover also has forayed into acting, with his most notable roles being Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story and the bumbling jock Troy Barnes in the TV show Community.
Glover had two albums in the 2010s before he released Awaken, My Love! in 2016. His track “Redbone” off this album won him his first Grammy and spent significant time on the Billboard charts.
He continues to make innovative music that combines elements of many different musical styles, with a versatile voice to match his eclectic songwriting.
Born Solana Imani Rowe in St. Louis, Missouri, SZA is an American singer who started her craft in the early 2010s. She released her debut album CTRL in 2017, which reached number three on the US Billboard 200.
Her success eventually led her to acquire the Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for her collaboration with Doja Cat for “Kiss Me More.”
Known as Beyonce’s younger sister, Solange Piaget Knowles was a backup dancer for Destiny’s Child before releasing her own debut album Solo Star in 2002.
She did not make music shortly after as she decided to focus on co-writing music for her sister and participating in minor acting roles such as Bring It On: All or Nothing.
She began recording music again in 2007 with the release of her second album Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams. In 2017, her single, “Cranes in the Sky,” won her a Grammy for Best R&B Performance.
Summing Up Our List Of Famous Black Vocalists Of The 2010s
Black singers have been integral in music of all genres for nearly a century.
They’ve traveled from the early days of R&B, blues, and rock n’ roll, to the top of the pop charts today.
Each one of the singers on our list deserves accolades for their contribution to the industry, some not only as singers but also as songwriters, producers, dancers, and entertainment titans.
If you’re unfamiliar with some of the names on this list, we encourage you to give them a listen! You never know what you may find that could be your next favorite black artist.
Who do you think we missed off this list? Let us know and we’ll add them!