Behind The Beat

African Americans influence music


AP Newsroom/Invision/AP Newsroom/Chris Pizzello

Beyonce gives her acceptance speech after receiving her 32nd Grammy. This award was given to her for best dance/electronic music in her newest album “Renaissance.”

From Ella Fitzgerald to Beyoncé, the past century has gifted this country with several talented singers. American music has evolved over the years and a major benefactor is African Americans.

One of the most influential times for music has to be the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement that boosted Black culture in America. It changed how the country viewed Black music, art, poetry, dance, and theater. African Americans moved to the area for a better chance in life. Harlem was composed of Black people from different backgrounds. Throughout this time several black musicians were able to start their careers and perform a new style of music. A significant hotspot for this was the Cotton Club.

The Cotton Club was a nightclub located in the Harlem neighborhood. It was a place for Black artists to sing, read poetry, and perform. It also exposed white people to Black culture and style. This was the only place in Harlem that white people would enter. Jazz music was so moving that even the rich socialites were rushing to watch it live. Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, and several other iconic black artists performed at the club during its reign.

Hip Hop has been a staple in the music industry for years. Its roots started in New York City during the ‘70s. The music featured heavier beats, rapping and Djing. Hip-hop and rap music provided a platform for black people to share their stories and passion in a new way. The music sometimes covers harder issues or fights, which causes outsiders to view the music as ‘ghetto’. Regardless of stereotypes and assumptions, rap music is thriving to this day. The style of music has brought up many greats such as Missy Elliot, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac.

“The famous lyricist and songwriter Tupac has influenced my overall perspective on society,” senior Tatiyanna Lee said. “I admire the way he describes the hardships and events that has happened in the world and how he changed it into beautiful stories. Tupac has definitely been one of my favorite artists since I was a young child. He changed the whole rap industry especially since many people looked up to him. I believe he was such an influential person.”

Another style of music that was developed by Black people is R&B. The style comes from jazz, blues and gospel music. It usually features bass, slow beat and keyboard instrumental. It is also referred to as soul music because the artists sing in a way that shows deep emotions and a connection to the song. This genre gave us Jackson 5, Lauryn Hill, Sza, and Ella Mai.

“I love Lauryn Hill so much,” senior Cate Lovelace said. “Her distinct style and voice has influenced so many artists and music genres over the past years. Her music is super powerful and is always inspiring. She is such a great role model and is an amazing artist!”

Black musicians are still striving in the music industry. At the 2023 Grammy Awards, Beyoncé broke the record for the artist with the most Grammys. She has gained 32 Grammys within the past 23 years and has received 88 nominations. This ties her with her husband, Jay-Z, for the most Grammy nominations in history. Beyoncé is arguably the most influential female artist of the century and has consistently inspired upcoming Black artists.

“You changed my life,” Lizzo said to Beyoncé at the 2023 Grammys. “You sang that gospel medley and the way you made me feel, I was like, ‘I want to make people feel this way with my music.’ Thank you so much, you clearly are the artist of our lives.”